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We’re sitting in a taxi heading downtown when the taxi has to basically stop because there are so many children in the road. There are 2 schools that face each other at this particular point, and it’s obviously lunchtime as each school has opened its gates and spilled forth its inhabitants. I can tell at a glance which child goes to which school; the one on the right has white jackets worn as uniforms over regular clothes, and the one on the left pale blue.

The children are laughing and talking, hitting and chasing, flirting and kicking, as children do. They look to be mostly junior high aged kids. And yet they seem to have no idea of staying out of a busy street. Instead, they have swarmed into the road, exactly like those pictures you see of herds of sheep and bemused drivers, surrounded by white woolly backs and honking futile horns.

This particular road has a couple of speed bumps, and we are slowed behind one of those when I see the kid on roller blades swooping happily between the cars, spinning round in arabesques like a leaf twirling, falling slowly from a tree. He gets out of the way just in time as a large black sedan moves towards him, the driver obviously not taken by happy similes about leaves. He looks more like he’s considering ridding the gene pool of this particular bit of overconfidence.

Donn and the taxi driver look at each other and laugh in amazement at the audacity of these children, who have no thought of risks taken on this sunny autumn afternoon.

Later that day, Donn and I sit in a little restaurant downtown. On Mondays our children all have a short lunch break, so they take sandwiches to school and stay all day. It makes it a long day, 8 to 5, but that bothers me more than it does them. They are quite happy to stay. And we’ve been taking advantage of this by going out for lunch on those days, especially since we usually seem to be out and about anyway.

The restaurant has sidewalk seating, all taken, but we get a table by the window, where we can eye passing people with subtlety. Downtown Rabat is a fun place to people watch. There are people dressed very fashionably, yet interspersed with them are plenty in traditional dress. This doesn’t seem a barrier to friendship, as it’s not uncommon to see a covered girl strolling arm-in-arm with a girl in a mini skirt and knee-high black boots.

I’ve written before of traffic here, and how drivers don’t slow down for you but they will swerve. So when I see a woman wheeling her chair slowly into an intersection, I catch my breath a bit, wondering what will happen. I’m picturing cars piling up one after another, as they all swerve and crash. But I’m wrong. The cars slow to a stop, and she makes it safely across, wheels herself up onto the sidewalk, and then out of my line of vision.

Later again, in another taxi with my boys, I tense as I see two small children, about 7 or 8, holding hands and looking one way on the busy street but not watching to see us advancing on them. The driver honks, they turn and look, but instead of stopping, they run! I close my eyes, dreading what must surely be an inevitable thump, but the taxi swerves in time and they make it safely to the other side.

October 2008

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