Thanks to the internet, I am somewhat updated with what is going on around the world. This year, I have read with amazement stories about women kicked off airplanes for breastfeeding (I still can’t figure this one out; it makes absolutely no sense to me), and a toddler removed for saying “Bye-bye airplane,” which, to be honest, sounds like urban myth to me—anyone who would view that as a threat obviously has been living in an igloo in the Artic, removed from all human contact except for a constant diet of vague threats and alarmist news stories. Because of course a toddler would say “Bye-bye airplane.”

I’ve also read, and written, of various airline horror stories—of airline personnel who don’t hide their view that, if you have children under 12, the proper thing to do is stay home with them and not thrust them on an undeserving public. These latter-day Victorians go a step further than their famously uptight ancestors—Children should not be seen or heard. And that is why I like living in North Africa, where people actually like children and support their right to exist and share breathing space with the rest of us selfish adults.

We usually fly African airlines because we are thrifty! Sure we fly at impossible hours, but we are getting from the west coast of Africa to the west coast of America for $1000, whereas flying Air France would have been $2200. (And remember, we are a family of 5) Royal Air Maroc lands in New York, so then we take some kind of American airline to the West Coast. The difference is immediate.

For a start, Royal Air Maroc is always feeding us, and their influence is French. They are constantly offering strong coffee, pastries, full meals that are surprisingly good for airline food. They wouldn’t dream of charging us $2 for those crummy little Otis Fakemeyer muffins, heavy on sugar and chemicals, light on flavor and nutrition, or of having children on a flight that leaves San Diego at 6:30 a.m. and flies for 5 hours nonstop to New York and not feeding them anything.

The airline attendants speak at least 3 languages, and they can tell your native tongue quickly from your accent. As Arabs, they are used to families. They expect children to be children—to cry when they are tired or their ears hurt, to have a hard time sitting still for an 8-hour transatlantic flight. They are sympathetic and helpful and don’t vibe the harrassed parents. I’ll admit, I don’t like traveling next to a crying baby—but at least I know it’s neither the parents nor the child’s fault. I hope I can always be gracious in that situation. My own kids are excellent travelers, but we’ve had our times where everyone was screaming and I’ve gotten my share of horrified looks from my fellow passengers.

A couple of years ago, we attended a conference in Spain. To get there, we took a plane from Nouakchott to Casablanca, a train to Tangiers, a ferry to Algeciras, and a bus up to Malaga. Coming back, the ferry crossing was a bit rough, and Ilsa was sick (as was nearly everyone else in the entire enormous boat. It’s not a good memory).

That night, Elliot threw up. I thought it was residual seasickness and didn’t worry about it—until next morning, when we were on the crowded train that runs from the city of Casablanca out to the airport. He threw up again, and I had nothing to clean it up with. The train was packed. People moved out of the way. If this had been in America, it would have bene horrible. People would have hated me and my child.

But in Morocco? Everyone was so nice. They felt sorry for my child, who didn’t feel well. I kept apologizing and making faces to show how bad I felt at people, and they kept reassuring me. One man said, “Why do keep apologizing? No one thinks it’s your fault. No one minds.” One woman, braver than I, actually kissed Elliot on the forehead, since the poor dear was obviously unwell and needed cheering up. I was impressed by the generousity of their spirits.

My kids are old enough now that I don’t dread long flights. They are good at amusing themselves; GameBoys and books and curling up to sleep in impossible positions. They don’t cry on take-off or need to be read to. They are actually helpful now with suitcases. Good thing—we’re leaving tonight and will be traveling over 28 hours total.

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