I wasn't sure whether or not I was going to share this story, but decided to go ahead since the names and dates will be changed to protect this innocent.
So all of us trainees had some interesting homestay experiences. When my volunteer dropped me off at my host family to fend for myself there really was no apprehension on my part. I've been in the situation many times throughout my life where all you can do is say "Hello, how are you?" and then just nod and smile for a couple of hours. Maybe if you are motivated enough you can point and ask what things are, but that never gets a response of just one word, rather a sentance which is of no help you. No big deal right? Plus they had a kid and a TV that was on all the time so there were distractions from the stupid American in the room.
Dinner went well. It was meager, which was to be expected, and the women and children didn't eat with the host father and I, which I also expected. I just made sure to leave food for the rest of the family who would eat later. So we sat and tried to communicate but gave up after a while.
Many of you reading this blog have ideas of what it means to live within a Muslim society. Without sounding too much like a prick, I'm going to go ahead and lay it out there that most of those ideas are probably wrong. I'm not an expert, so the observations I make over the next two years are from my short time in Islamic Studies and my even shorter time living in Morocco. Among those ideas you have, I think most of you have an sense that there are very defined gender roles in Islam and that things such as sex before marriage are off the table. (Interestingly enough it makes our job as a health educator very difficult on the AIDS front) Now we "technically" have the same stigma amongst our Christian communities in the States, but we all know how that works out in reality.
Ok, now that I've laid that groundwork I'm going to tell two stories. The first is not mine, but one of our other female trainee's. The second is mine and is a story of one of the most awkward nights of my life.
So this female volunteer was talking with the women in her host family and after much hand waving and cross-cultraly communication attempts... ie more hand waving... she understood these women as trying to tell her just how big of a clearing you need to make in a field so you and your paramour can duck down and do what young boys and girls do. I got a kick out of that personally.
Now on to the most awkward night of my life. So after we ate and my host mom, the grandma and the little kid had gone to bed the host dad came back into the room I was supposed to sleep in, which also contained the TV. He proceeded to ask me if I wanted to watch a movie and being that it was still relatively early and you don't refuse things when you are a guest I said yes. Well, I shrugged my shoulders which apparently communicated yes. He then went to get a DVD out from a hole in the wall where it was hiding, put it on, and lo and behold I found myself watching a British porn (subtitled in French mind you... think about that a second and see if you can keep from laughing) with a 65 year old man who was mostly blind. Now since he was blind, he sat about 2 feet from the TV with his mouth wide open. Like I said awkward... but you have to admit simultaneously HILARIOUS!! So we sat there, me trying to write in my journal or draw (I've started drawing my experiences by the way... that's a new thing for me) while he watches his movie. Now when I say movie, I mean just that... it was AN HOUR AND A HALF LONG! When he decided he was done watching, he got up, hid the DVD again and told me not to tell his wife.
So yeah, awkward situation and amazingly funny situation. Now the moral of both of these stories, if you want to call it that... I do... is this...
... Whatever kind of society we live in with whatever kind of rules or restrictions, boys will still be boys and girls will still be girls.
DISCLAIMER: If you've never stolen away with your significant other in your life for some romantic tryst or have never had the more "carnal" (not a fan of that word) aspects of Co-Ed relationships on your mind, then I apologize... you are a rock. For the rest of us, it is somewhat of a comfort that through the cultural/ethnic/religious facade, we're still just people.