Wildflower welcomes Tami Clayton, YA and Middle Grade writer with a passion for travel, coffee, all things dark chocolate, and reading everything she can get her hands on. Child and family therapist by day, writer by night, dreamer of far off lands and explorer of new cultures, Tami is the clever voice behind the blog series, Letters From Benedict. Tami can be found on Facebook, on Twitter, or Taking Tea in the Kasbah.
Where am I today? I’m keeping the Kasbah cushions warm. You know, in case John Cusack comes by for tea.
When Sherry first suggested I write a post about the women I’ve encountered on my travels, my first thought was ‘this is a brilliant idea.’ My very next thought was ‘Oh crap, can I do this brilliant topic the justice it deserves?’
Instead of letting the weeds of doubt (they’ve always been more of the weed variety than seed variety) take over, I set my inner Wildflower Muse Protector at the gates of my imagination, made a cup of mint tea, leaned back into the cushions in the kasbah and thought about the women I’ve met over the short time I’ve been traveling abroad.
First to spring up in my mind was Khadija, the Home Base Manager of the Cross- Cultural Solutions house in Rabat, Morocco where I spent a week volunteering in a children’s hospital. (You can read more about that here.) Khadija was warm and welcoming to everyone in the CCS house. Her laughter could be heard throughout the rooms when she would sit and chat with the volunteers. She offered her advice when asked, took volunteers on shopping trips to the medina, and always kept things running smoothly in the CCS house so the volunteers could focus on their volunteer placements or learning as much as they could about Moroccan culture.
Khadija is from the small town of Agadir (famous for the Argan oil it produces) and spent time as a Peace Corps volunteer before she began working with CCS. She is the only woman in her family to have continued her education and earn a university degree. This is quite an accomplishment given the low rates of literacy overall in Morocco, especially for Moroccan women since most girls don’t receive an education past the age of eleven or twelve.
What was most striking to me about Khadija was the confidence and strength that she exuded from beneath her hijab (head covering) or full-length djellaba (traditional robe-like garment worn by many traditional Muslim women), something that seems restrictive and stifling to my western way of thinking. For women in many parts of the world it is, but Khadija seems to effortlessly embrace both traditional and modern roles for women in a country that is just starting to protect women’s rights when it comes to education, marriage, divorce, custody, and property ownership. While I was there in Rabat, she and thousands of Moroccan women ran in the third annual Women’s Victory Race (8.5km) in hijabs, caftans and djellabas in 85 degree heat. Amazing and impressive on many levels.
The next woman I thought of was my friend, Anne. I met her when she was a teenage foreign exchange student from Germany here in the U.S. for the first time. She stayed with us after her initial home placement fell through and shewas left feeling alone and a bit lost. We quickly forged a friendship that has spanned over a decade and the many miles between us. I’ve witnessed her graduate from high school, then University, and then head out into the world to get her first job.
She’s traveled to more countries than I can count, often times going alone, and speaks several languages, though this is not considered extraordinary in Germany as it would be here in the U.S. Through Anne, I’ve learned that many Europeans travel extensively and many speak more than one language. To me, this cultural norm of experiencing other places, people and cultures is such an incredibly wonderful thing. I’ve often wondered how the citizens of my own country would benefit from such a diverse and multicultural view on the world. I’d like to think there would be less bias and more understanding of other cultures if we did.
The other women I’ve encountered that left strong, indelible impressions were the women I met in the many different cities and towns of Italy. From Venice to Rome, the women I met at the places where I stayed all had one thing in common: passionate confidence. The Italian culture is one of expressive passion through art, food and life and the women I met during my travels there last summer just exuded this kind of confidence that I wished would rub off on me just by being in mere proximity to them. Everything they said and did smacked of confidence and you knew while you were in their hands, everything was going to be just fine.
I found this to true of Italian women in general. You could see it in the way they walked down the cobblestone streets in their stilettos, just daring the stones to try to trip them. You could see it in the warm, good-natured laughs of the local baker as she handed you with firm decisiveness the best pastry in the case. You could see it on the faces of the women wearing the latest couture and heels zipping in and out of traffic on their Vespas.
What do all of these Wildflower Women from around the world have in common in spite their cultural differences?
Confidence and determination. Unwavering tenacity to do what needs to be done, to do what is important for themselves, their families and their communities.
Admirable? Yes. Achievable? Most certainly. And I would bet those of you here today reading Sherry’s blog are just like them.
So here’s a toast to all of the Wildflower Women of the World, those I’ve met and those I have yet to meet, those who know it and those who have yet to discover it within themselves. May you always remain wild at heart.
I remember the airport in Kuala Lampur, waiting for a flight. A woman with her child in her arms, pushing an empty stroller. Exhausted mother, cranky baby. She rocked the child, hummed soothing words in a language I could not even guess at, yet I understood every word.
Some things are universal.
The simple beauty of this post lies in the honest viewpoint of an everyday woman. Thank you, Tami, for sharing the journeys of a few of the women who have touched your life. And thank you for honouring my humble blog with your observations, your emotions, your respect, and most of all, your grace.
Celebrate the Wildflowers of the World with a cup of Moroccan Mint Tea! Or make a pot, and share with the Wildflowers in your life.
MOROCCAN MINT TEA
- 1 tbsp loose Chinese green tea leaves
- 5-6 cups boiling water
- 1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar (sweeten to taste)
- Garnish with mint leaves