I was kidnapped for tea (and by tea, I mean an afternoon tea, not just the drink) on my way home today. As I was walking up the stairs to my apartment, my downstairs neighbor rushed out of her apartment, grabbed my hand and pulled me into her apartment. “Come in! You’re welcome in my house! Come and sit. Drink some tea!” she told me as she drug me into the salon, barely giving me enough time to toe my shoes off. Moroccans are incredible hospitable and they love to eat, so the only surprise was that it took my neighbors a week to catch me.
They had just had tea and there were already two types of bread, a plate of cookies and a plate of msemen on the table, but the mother and eldest daughter immediately went about brewing a fresh pot of tea and bringing out a plate of cake wedges, something that tasted like friend wontons, cheese and oil for the bread. Then we sat in the salon and watched TV while I had tea. The wife watched me like a hawk and every time I stopped eating, whether it was because I was drinking the tea or because I WAS CHEWING THE FOOD ALREADY IN MY MOUTH, she would urge me to eat more. “Kuli, kuli!,” she demanded. Eat, eat! When I left, she told me that whenever I was hungry, just come downstairs and she would feed me.
It was incredible kind, and I always appreciate a free meal, especially since my kitchen it still distinctly non-functional (tomorrow, I will buy a frying pan!), and there are certainly greater trails in life than being fed hot fry bread with cheese (seriously, msemen is so. good), but captive hospitality (to steal a phrase from a fellow PCV) can be exhausting. It’s not that I don’t want to get to know my downstairs neighbors who, except for their occasional habit of deadbolting me out of the building in the evenings, have been good neighbors, but between my downstairs neighbors and my host family, who lives next door, I’m almost guaranteed an invitation to socialize every time I leave my house, and unlike in the US, there’s no real way to get out of it. I was lucky today was a holiday (Happy Moroccan Independence Day!) and I didn’t have work, although, come to think about it, in Morocco, “I was invited to tea at the neighbors” might be a legitimate excuse for being an hour late to work.