At the beginning of our journey in France, Kathleen, Zha, Catherine, Monica and Professor Toux took the metro to interview a Moroccan immigrant and his daughter. When we arrived, Monsieur Touna and his daughter, Fouzia, welcomed us into their home and generously shared their stories with us. Fouzia prepared the traditional Moroccan sweet mint tea, served in little glasses etched with beautiful designs. Looking around the room, we could see that the family had kept reminders of their father’s home. We sat on long cushioned benches covered in patterns more evocative of Morocco than France. On the wall hung passages from the Koran and images of Islamic religious figures. We wanted to know more about the Touna’s and their experiences mixing two very different cultures.
Before Monsieur Touna immigrated to France he worked on an American military base in Morocco, as a cleaner. When he first moved to France he worked on an orchard with 25 other men, and was responsible for the cooking. After leaving the orchard, Monsieur Touna worked in a factory that made perfume bottles. He proudly showed us a couple of the intricate bottles he had made. His family came to join him in France after he had been working for a few years. Because Fouzia was born in France and not Morocco, she called her sister to talk with us about her family’s first impressions of France. According to her sister, one of the first things the whole family noticed was how cold France was!
One of the most striking discussions we had was regarding the sisters’ perceptions of identity in school. Fouzia said that although she was born and raised in France, she never felt French. She identified more as the daughter of a Moroccan. The first time she really felt French was when she moved to the United States for a year to work as a nanny.
Just as we were leaving, Catherine asked Fouzia where she had been a nanny in the United States. Catherine was surprised when she replied, Montclair, NJ, a small town just 25 minutes from Catherine’s home, and where Sarah’s family plans to move after leaving Mexico. We were reminded of how small the world can be. We wonder if anyone in New Jersey had ever realized the stories Fouzia had to tell and if they had ever bothered to ask. Even after the mosaic is finished and we return to Carlisle, we hope to keep up our curiosity and to continue asking questions and learning from others.
Catherine and Kathleen