Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cultural Connections

The lights in my train car don't work, so I sat for a while in near darkness. The train stopped and a few people got on. They filed down the aisle past my window until one man slid my door open and joined me. I couldn't see much beyond an outline.

"Hello," he said in Arabic.

"Hello... do you speak English?" I said in French.

"A little."

We chatted a bit. He sounded about my age, but I wasn't sure. He was on his way to the next town on the line where he would work through the night as the security guard at a gas station. He lamented how little he was paid, saying that wages were a problem throughout Morocco. "But I love my country," he was quick to add. He was extremely friendly; soft spoken, smiling and eager to converse in English - just like every other Moroccan I'd met on the trip.

I had my laptop out and felt a few pangs of white guilt about it once he mentioned how little he was paid (a mid-range laptop is worth around three months' salary to the average Moroccan). I was about to close it and put it away when he asked if I had any music.

"Yeah," I said, pleased that my self-consciousness had been misplaced. "But mostly American music."

"I like American music..." He thought for a moment. "Do you have Kenny Rogers or Justin Timberlake?"

I don't have any Kenny Rogers, but I absolutely have Justin Timberlake (I'm not even going to claim that as a guilty pleasure, by the way. Say what you will about his body of work, but 'Futuresex/Lovesounds' might be the best pop record of the decade).

Language barriers kept us from getting too far in the way of conversation, but we both had our heads bobbing in its absence.


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