The Folder

Rania Raji, Morocco

Interviewed by: Juliette Reyes  

Everyone was crowding around me during my first day of school. I didn’t know what was going on so I just nodded my head to all of the questions they were throwing at me. So they could’ve asked, “Are you retarded?” and I would’ve just nodded my head ‘Yes’.  

There were two folders in my first grade class in America. One said “Andy” and the other said “Rania”, my name. I was completely unaware of that fact, so I grabbed which ever one thinking that it was mine. For half of my first grade year, I wrote “Andy” as my name, I had no idea. I was actually surprised that I enjoyed going to school because back in Morocco I didn’t even bother with finishing Kindergarten. I would spend the whole day at the beach with my cousins, just going out and having fun. I didn’t want to spend my day in a classroom getting hit by a ruler. My mindset was I’m going to America, screw this!

It was a few days before I would leave my home, the only home that I know and in that moment, images began to recap of all of the countless memories I’ve spent here. Will I ever come back? I just fantasized about how different America would be… Then in a blink of an eye, there I was, flying solo on a plane to San Francisco. The plane ride was a drag because I felt like I was strapped to my seat for an eternity. But then I began to fantasize about seeing my mother’s face again, then I felt safe. My mother was in San Francisco waiting for me. She had left previous to my departure because of family problems. You know, problems with my mom and my dad, and my dad and my step-dad…it was all just confusing. As the plane landed I peeked out the window and was amazed at seeing streets and street lights. Back home, we didn’t have stop lights or lanes. Even crossing the street is crazy and dangerous because cars there won’t stop for you. That is one thing I don’t miss about Morocco.

As the years went by, I began to miss my family more and more. The last time I’ve been to Morocco was about…four years ago. I’m going again after my senior year! Spending time with my cousins, seeing familiar faces, and roaming through the dusty streets just seems like complete bliss to me. If I decided to barge into someone’s house her [in America], they would call the police for “breaking in.” But in Morocco, you’re welcome into anyone’s house…even if you don’t know them. They would always offer you food, and you have to accept it…you have no choice! The people back home are just really nice and homely, now I’m feeling a tad bit homesick.

When I got my first period, is started fasting for Ramadan. Ramadan is when you fast--restrict yourself from food--for a whole 30 days. I wasn’t allowed to eat during the day. I had to wake up extra early in the morning to eat before dusk, and when the sun went down I had my second meal. At first I didn’t know why I was fasting, but then my mom explained to me that it was a part of our religion, Islam. It’s tough having a religious Islam family where I live because when Ramadan comes around the corner, I can’t eat…which sucks because I would be tempted to have a bite of something at school. You see, girls usually start when they get their first period…and since boys can’t get their periods, they start when the begin puberty.

But none the less, I’m happy that my mother decided to move to California. One thing that I learned from my journey is that people move to another country in search of a better life for themselves and their family. Everyone deserves a second chance to get back on their feet and everyone has a chance to contribute something great to our country, my country…America.