****Winner of the 2016 Host Stories Contest. Please note, this story reflects the original user submission. The content has not been edited.****
“Finding the Treasure”
I’ve hosted quite a number of guests from around the world. However, the experience had in hosting Calista and Shino from the USA, has been an experience that has surpassed all others.
Calista visited Meknes five years ago to study Arabic and living with a host family for one month. After her one month study program, she returned home to the US. Unfortunately she lost contact with her host family. After five years of not being in contact with them, she returned to Meknes last summer with her friend Shino with a desire to meet her host family that lives in the middle of the old Medina which is known for its narrow streets and buildings with similar designs.
It was like a “mission impossible” situation for Calista. Being that I am always willing to help my guests and assist in the best possible way to fulfill their needs, I offered to help.
We planned on a meeting time, had lunch together, then embarked on our mission. Calista still remembered some signs and landmarks, we basically spent the whole evening looking for her host family’s house. We passed by a shop that she had taken a picture with the salesman during her previous visit. When she told me about the members of her host family, I started to describe them to him in Arabic as he doesn’t speak English. Luckily, he because of his knowledge of the residents in the area, he was able to give us some direction. What an excitement! The way to find the treasure started to become obvious. We continued walking and as we came upon a tree, she spontaneously gasped, “Wait, I remember this tree, I used to pass it while going to school.” At that time, we started to sense our mission was now possible and very much in reach. We kept walking for a short while and suddenly she saw a small road with a shape that stuck out vividly in her mind because of its unique wall color. She jumped and shouted, “This is it!” It was an extreme emotional moment and I was moved by her getting misty-eyed.
On the verge of crying, nervous, with heavy pounding heart, she knocked softly on the door. Her host mom opened the door, surprised to see each other, they hugged and exchanged kisses, a scene that was quite emotionally beautiful. Indeed, her host family is a real treasure, they welcomed us and expressed to us their finest hospitality.
At that time, I concluded that sincerely helping others to experience joy increases your joy as well. This was evident by the great amusement on their faces and the feeling I was having.
At late night, we came back home still very exuberant because of day’s experience.
The following day, we hanged out and I showed them every “nook and cranny” of my city. I also helped them with shopping, especially for homemade products as they were fascinated by Moroccan traditional goods.
In the afternoon, Shino decided to visit another city as it was her first time in Morocco and wanted to discover more places. However, Calista who visited most of the gorgeous places in Morocco five years ago preferred to stay in Meknes while feeling nostalgic about the good memories that she had in the past. We had an enjoyable time for the rest of the day. I helped her with Arabic and she taught me some American slangs which I found pretty funny.
Calista and I were expected to meet Shino later that evening, but we didn’t hear from her. Calista and I stayed up waiting patiently for her because we knew that she was not familiar with the area and had no phone. We were very afraid that she might have been lost or something, when suddenly, my phone rang. “It must be her”, Calista blurted out. When I answered, I heard her voice and I felt relieved. She told me that she is calling from the cab driver’s phone and so I directed the driver to a point where we could meet her. At last we found her and while we were heading home she told us her evening’s story and what caused her to be late.
The following day, it was settled that we would prepare lunch together, a mixture of American and Moroccan cuisine. We went to the Moroccan traditional market to buy vegetables and other ingredients that were needed. After that, we stood like a team in the kitchen with the help of my mom. We ended up cooking a grilled chicken with Zaalouk as a Moroccan traditional side dish and salad.
After having lunch, Calista went to stay for awhile with her host family and to say goodbye. Shino and I stayed home and bonded with children in the family, drawing, singing and playing games. I noticed that Shino is a fantastic artist and that inspired a desire in me to ask about her profession, I found out that she is a photographer for major magazines and she insisted on capturing my place for free Because she was so grateful and felt welcomed.
When, it was time for farewell, Calista came back to pack, then I went with them to the train station by a private taxi, but due to the traffic jam, they missed their train to Casablanca. As a result of that, I opened my home to them and allowed them to stay one more night for free. It was funny that we put their luggage back in the home and went out and had a lot of fun getting juices, playing bumper cars, etc.
As they had the flight the following day, we woke up at 5 a.m. to catch the first train. I waited with them until they got on the train and bid them farewell, each of us expressing a desire to meet again. It was the kind of goodbye that you just kept quiet with very few words to express feelings.
Calista and Shino were the real treasure that I was looking for long time ago. They’ve not just friends but family members. The three days with them were the best chapter in my life book.
Since that time, I have been in contact with Calista and Shino, and exchanging messages every once in while to ask about each other.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude and thanks to Airbnb which gives us this opportunity to make friends from all over the world and getting to know about different cultures. I look forward to even greater experiences through airbnb.