Sometimes it’s a relief to know that I have that “dumb foreigner” card in my back pocket for occasions such as last night’s.
Let me first say that I’ve met a handful of Rotarians since I got to Morocco two months ago, and it’s difficult to keep track of everyone’s names, especially if I haven’t had a long conversation with them.
Last night a very friendly Rotary couple took me out to a Rotary soirée hosted in someone’s home in the very chic neighborhood of Californie. About 150 Rotarians and spouses gathered for an evening of poetry and music by a Moroccan poet, one Senegalese and two American collaborators. Performances were in Arabic, French, American, Moroccan Derija and Wolof, as were the side conversations among Rotarians. The atmosphere was congenial and, yet…well, I’ll just say that I’m glad my Rotary event outfit default is set to “fancy.”
I was chatting with some people at the party, who suggested that we go out in the back yard to get some fresh air and avoid the heavy traffic of Rotarians coming through the front door.
As we stepped out, I recognized the familiar face of a man who stood up to greet us.
I had on my Ambassadorial Scholar smile and my custom-made nametag, not to mention a little stack of business cards, so I went for it.
-Salaam! I’m Kathleen. I think we’ve met before! On se connait, je crois.
(I didn’t shout, I’m just using exclamation points here to show my enthusiasm, which now seems…ridiculous.)
I went in for a handshake, which he accepted, but the man looked at me with a mix of puzzlement and amusement. The handshake, at first enthusiastic (at least on my part) got limp as my confidence waned. The people I’d been chatting with chuckled.
Wait…what’s going on here?
-No, I don’t think we’ve met before.
-Um…oh…you look familiar, though…Votre tête me dit quelque chose, pourtant…
-He’s my Dad, said one guy.
Obviously I still didn’t get it, and an awkward silence reigned.
-And he’s this guy’s brother-in-law, said another with an ironic smile, pointing to someone else.
-Um, okay, I said. I started to laugh nervously while I racked my brain. And then I remembered. In fact I had a few seconds to think about how I had failed to recognize this man before he finally broke the tension.
–Je suis le maire de Casablanca.
That’s right, the mayor of Casablanca. Whoops…
-Oooh, that explains it, I said, turning beet red and laughing sheepishly.
Chuckles all around, in fact.
I can now say that I not only met the mayor of Casablanca, but that I made an idiot of myself by violating social conventions (probably) when I accidentally accosted the mayor of Casablanca at a private party. I can only hope that my “dumb foreigner” card bumped me up to “endearing” from just…”awkward.”
Maybe he’ll remember me next time?