Nice is a four-letter word
During the flight back to Paris yesterday, I was thinking about my trip to Morocco and the common theme of it - so many people told me how "nice" I was. Over and over again, I kept hearing "Tu es trop gentille, Samantha". It was also something I heard repeatedly in Bulgaria and in Turkey, over and over about how nice and smiley I was.
Now I don't know about you guys, but "nice" and "smiley" are not two adjectives I would use to describe myself. Maybe the American me used to be, but French Ksam is pretty closed-off and often slightly suspicious. What? You just wanted directions? Too late, I thought you were going to ask me for money so I am now hurrying away from you.
Nowadays, I would use a lot harder words to describe myself - things like ambitious, self-sufficient, assertive. All qualities I needed to succeed in a man's domain. But nice? That doesn't really get you very far in my world. So it got me thinking about how I could come across that way to these people, and I think it comes down to the situation. I have so much compassion for the folks I meet in these sorts of places, who often have to make do with so little. It literally hurts me to see how some of them live, and I think the niceness is just my way of trying to make things a bit easier for them.
I tweeted yesterday that my driver for the week was chiding me about not having any children, and saying I needed to stop traveling and start birthing. It's a common topic of conversation in these sorts of countries, and I never have a satisfactory answer to give them. In their minds, women should be at home and not at work. And certainly not traveling to foreign countries without their husbands.
I asked him in return if he had any children, and he said yes - a 9 year old and a 5 year old. As he showed me pictures of them (while weaving through a road full of multiple lanes with cars, people and sheep all crossing at random points), he explained that his wife had had five miscarriages, all at seven months, before the arrival of these two. And I swear, my heart just about broke. I just can't even imagine the pain of carrying five different babies so far along, only to have the pregnancies terminate when you think you are in the home stretch.
When he dropped me off at the airport yesterday, I did the cheek kisses with him, and I think he was a bit taken aback. Maybe I broke protocol, but the courage of this man and his wife touched me. And I mean really touched me - I don't even know how one has the strength to keep trying again and again, after so much heart ache? None of this really has anything to do with where he lives however, so maybe it's more their willingness to share pieces of their lives with me, a complete stranger. And if that doesn't merit a little extra niceness, I don't know what does.