The feeling of guilt by Khadija Amahal, Morocco

When I was a child, I had a dream to go to France. I was simply in love with the country’s culture, food, and architecture, due to my direct contact with family members and friends who lived there. That’s why I was determined to work hard at school, and right after obtaining my baccalaureate degree, I would pursue my medical studies in France. My relationship with my dad is more of a friend to friend relationship, mainly because I’m the youngest at home and also the only daughter, so he was aware of my dream and constantly promised me that one day my dream would become a reality and I would be able to achieve it. When I was fourteen years old, and on a night where the moon was full in the sky, my father announced the happiest news of my life, he told me that our visa to travel to France has been accepted and in the upcoming month I would be able to experience one of my biggest dreams. Words are not enough to express my happiness at that moment. I was simply in a fantasy and the whole world seemed too small to carry my joy. During the whole period before the travel date, I was preparing myself to be perfectly ready for the best experience of my life. I read many books in French to sharpen my communication skills; I bought the right clothes for the chilly weather and googled all the beautiful places I could possibly visit. Simply, I had full energy, which allowed me to work hard both at school and get ready for the day I had hoped for. It was the first time I traveled by airplane, which in fact gave me goosebumps from excitement. The plane hosts were super gentle and took good care of my dad since the poor guy is blind. I witnessed how foreigners treated dad with more respect and humanity than how native citizens in my country usually treated him. I can’t deny how sad this scene made me feel. However, I refused to think negatively and gained my smile back. The view above the clouds was just fascinating. I had always wondered how the earth looked like from the top, and to be honest; it looked too small to worry about its smallest or biggest details. I resisted sleep most of the time because I wanted not to waste any chance and to enjoy my time. When we arrived at the airport, my cousin was waiting for us. It was freezing outside, but it did not matter to me, I felt warmed by the happiness of stepping in my dream country. I was having a blast until the moment dad told me we were invited by an Algerian family to dinner. I totally rejected the idea because I knew how much Algerian people hate us, the Moroccans. Since I was a kid, I was exposed to stories about how people from Algeria wish bad things for us and how their only interest is on the Sahara case. But my dad insisted, and my arguments to stay at home were not effective. Eventually, I put on my evening dress and took the back seat. I kept silent during our trip to the family’s house because I was not at ease. That was not on my list. When we arrived, and after knocking on the door, a beautiful young lady welcomed us at the front door. She kissed me on my cheek and hugged me as if she had known me for a long time. I was surprised by her attitude and thought she was just being kind. At the dining room, there were two other ladies, Aamria, the hosting lady‘s mother and sister. I was barely talking, as if at any moment, I could have been shot. However, I soon relaxed due to the smooth conversations the two ladies started. Although Aamria was very busy in the kitchen, her kindness kept surprising me. She made sure to sit next to me and talk to me about my studies, hobbies, and life in general. She was an active listener and never interrupted me before I finished talking. At that moment, I felt guilty about my prejudices, which almost prevented me from meeting these amazing souls.  The dinner was absolutely delicious, everything was well served and the table included all the possible plates one could think off. Whenever I finished my plate, Aamria would serve me more. To be honest, I didn’t resist eating because the food tasted like five star restaurant quality. At the end of the evening I decided to confess my prejudices with the family, at least so that they would understand why I was anxious and unfriendly at the beginning of the evening. From our long lasting conversation, I learnt that many relationships are destroyed because of the stereotypes we hear and absorb as if they were facts. Countless bonds weaken due us to allowing ourselves to be passive thinkers, and most importantly, gaps between cultures are inserted, which leads to hatred, violence, and extremism. I came home with another way of perceiving things; from that moment on, I became a more critical thinker who analyzes things before taking them for granted.

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