put your arm around me baby

Was people watching the other day, from the car, as we drove around town. (Sometimes I dream about hiding behind a veil...just for one day, so I can watch without being noticed.) Was struck by the physicality of the relationship between young men here. Women too, but Constantine is a man's paradise and, especially after a certain hour (we call it the unofficial "curfew" for women, slightly before dark), 99% of the people you see in the street are men.

A common sight is that of boys or young men wrestling with one another. Another equally common sight is two friends walking down the street, arms entwined. Yesterday I saw two 20-somethings walking with arms linked, each with his free arm holding a cellphone to ear, talking away, another pair arms around one another while one fixed the other's collar with the utmost tenderness. On the same trip I saw dozens of kisses, one on each cheek for the standard one, or double cheek kisses for an especially happy greeting. And then there's the quick touching of hand to heart...a gesture I find so ineffably endearing. I only wish that women were allowed to use it...I would love to add it to my repertoire of gestures.

The freedom and sheer joy and innocence of spontaneous touching among friends is delightful to see, albeit difficult to get used to for a westerner.

There is time for friendship here. People hang out together for hours over coffee, or just on the street corner, in a way that you just don't see in the U.S. where we are always rushing, always stressing. Perhaps it's unemployment, but the "hittistes" who hold up the walls make me a bit jealous. They clearly relish in the art of friendship and conversation. "Dinia hania," as they say in Morocco: "Life is Good."

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