It was a bit after 8 a.m. and I was slowly making myself presentable for the day. Despite a hard run, I had little motivation and simple tasks, such a brushing my teeth and choosing earrings, took more effort than I was willing to give. I was missing my friends and family and wanted to feel sorry for myself by spending the day in my concession, not worrying about what I can’t understand or how foolish I look. I just wanted to be.
My host family often checks up on me if the 8 a.m. hour passes and they haven’t seen me. It’s sweet, but I was on my way to greet them and a little annoyed at their promptness. As I approached the door, I heard a man’s voice, one I didn’t immediately recognize.
Ugh. I am not in the mood for this, I thought as I opened the door.
It was Mustpha. My very first friend in village.
He was home from school for the holiday and made my house one of the first he visited. He arrived the night before, at 11:30 p.m., and wanted to come then but his mom told him I would be sleeping. She was right.
During the next two days, we had tea and he’d visit my house at night. We’d have conversations through broken French and English. I told him that my friend died; he told me he left Islam for three years to be a Christian.
He only had two days to catch up with family and friends before going back to school. While out for walks, I’d see him sitting with friends and he always offer a warming, encouraging smile.
In a place that I often feel very alone, it was nice to see a familiar face and, for a while, I forget that I didn’t know him three months prior. He was a piece of comfort when I needed it, but what calmed me more was that I could find comfort in something or someone who wasn’t American.