Sunday, May 6, 2012


There are a lot of children living and playing on my street. Mostly, the boys drive me to distraction with their rough play, loud voices and destructive behavior. They are kind and friendly one-on-one, but get them in a group and a kind of pack mentality takes over. Sometimes it’s all I can do to keep a civil tongue in my head. I don’t always succeed. But the girls are a different story. And one girl in particular has captured my heart. Her name is Doha.

Doha is just learning French in school so it helps us to communicate. But even without this common language, we seem to be able to communicate rather well. The combination of gestures, facial expressions and the desire to communicate make us get along rather well.

Not long ago, the utility company replaced all the water lines in our street. This took place over an extended period of time and plastic hoses (our new, bright blue water lines) protruded from the walls of every building. Gaping holes where the workmen had hacked away at the boxes housing the water lines marred the walls and debris filled the empty spaces … empty yogurt cups, stale bits of bread and the occasional broken bits of Styrofoam made each compartment look like an abandoned icebox in a tenement building. But finally, one day the workers arrived to connect the hoses and switch on the meters once again. It would eventually take another few weeks for the holes in the walls to be closed up with cement and sand but everything was eventually put back in working order.

One day I answered a loud knock at the door. The RADEEF man wanted to know where my water meter was. It was sitting next to the front door because after the workers had ripped off the door to our water line, the meter had seemed too tempting to just stay there and wait for the next step in the process to be undertaken. So, in the interest of protecting our meter, we had stored it safely in the house. Proud of myself for understanding him, I produced the meter. I noticed Doha lingering in the background and we greeted one another. The RADEEF man had more questions but this time they were beyond my comprehension. Noticing that Doha and I seemed to be on a first-name basis, he asked her to pose his questions to me. She tucked in her chin, gave him an incredulous look and then a light bulb went off in her head. Turning to me, she proceeded to communicate that he wanted to know if I had two water lines. I told her that indeed I did have two water lines. The RADEEF man grunted and mumbled something as he returned to overseeing his minions and the matter seemed to be settled.

With Doha, communication seems to come easy simply because we want to communicate and we keep things on a very basic level. When she greets me on the street, we inquire about one another’s plans for the day … she asks if I’m going to school and I ask her the same. She loves to take my keys from me when I return home and open my front door for me. Occasionally I give her a dirham or a piece of a candy bar I bought for myself. She never asks me for these treats, which makes our relationship seem more equitable.

Whenever I pass through the medina and hear her young but strong voice calling my name I always stop to look around for her so that we can exchange kisses. When we part, she inevitably says “yallah, bye-bye” and merrily skips away.