The other day, I received a call from my ex-professor. When I heard his name through my screen reader on my phone, I was delighted to reconnect, hoping that he had changed his views. Outside of a few random acts of kindness, I really struggled in Morocco. My professor was hard on me and forced me to do translation work but he never paid me. He also threatened to fail me if I complained and made him look bad. But now that I have accomplished so many things I truly thought that he might see me as an equal. That is the main reason that I answered his call. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that was not his intention.

Me: “Hello”
Him: “How are you? How old are you?”
Me: “Ahh…..I am 31 why?”
Him: “Good… good, you are still young.”

I was speechless. My heart started beating so fast, my mind lost in thoughts of being scared that my professor who is in his late 60s was going to ask me to marry him because that is how things go in our culture. He took my silence as encouragement for him to talk.

Him: “I have a son; he is handsome not blind and he can help you have children. He can guide you and be your eyes. He also fears god and will never betray you.”
Me: “I am very sorry but I am also sad that you are calling me to use me and my disability. I have no need for your son. I can have children on my own if I want to. I don't need a guide and I am not in need for your godly son.”

Frustrated and wanted to end the call. I told him something that I thought would make him hang up.

Me: “I am an atheist”

This didn’t affect him at all. He already had in his mind a plan.

Him: “We are going to bring you back and teach you how to be a good wife and the true Islam. You just had a hard life that is why you don't believe in God. You will one day.”
Me: “I will never forget this call. Please do not call me again because I left religion and I will never go back. Aren't you ashamed of being an asshole? Go and teach your son how to be a successful person on his own. Don't try to use other people, Ok!!? Enough of misogyny. Women are now free; we are no longer sex objects nor baby machines.”

Out of breath from speaking, I paused. My face felt flushed with heat from the frustration and disappointment.

He still wasn’t embarrassed or put off by my words. He continued from another approach.

Him: “Can you please find him an American? Please tell her we are good people. We will take care of her and she can come to Morocco for the wedding then they can go back to America together.”
Me: “You idiot. Never call me again Ok?!”

I hung up and blocked him.

My overall thoughts are that I am very disappointed about a situation that keeps repeating itself. I am unhappy that my Professor didn’t respect my boundaries or see my accomplishments but instead he thought that he could exploit me as he could before. There are many who have tried to deceive me for their own gain. Under the guise of marriage proposals, religious ideologies or pity. But I choose to make my own decisions. I am responsible for my life.

Some only see me as a lonely, blind and weak womb. Isolated and desperate for help in a foreign country. But I am not alone. There are those that respect, value and appreciate me as a human. I have all my needs met and more thanks to education through accessibility and my support network. I am growing, learning and challenging myself with no need for a Prince Charming.

Updated: May 31, 2020

Friends are the shelter in the storm.

Friends are light in the darkness.

Friends are a mirror to see our own reflections.

Friends are the water that quenches our thirst.

The secret to be a successful person can require many things. As for me, I would not be a successful person without the strong support that I receive from my friends. The gift of friendship is wonderful and is the key to succeed. When I lost my sight, I was scared that I would not be able to go forward. However, when I made friends, I started to understand the importance of having supportive people in my life. They have helped me see the world far beyond the blackness of no sight. My friends have gone beyond what my eyes could provide me with.

We all have limits, whether through disability, experience, culture or knowledge. Yet in my case, my friends have helped me overcome all the limits that I have been facing. For example, I enjoy having books read to me, nature, and beautiful art. All of these things, I can’t see with my own eyes, but I can still appreciate them through the eyes of my friends. Some of the hardest trials that I have faced. I have overcome it with the help of my friends. At first, I struggled with college, but I never felt completely alone or lost because my friends were there to both enjoy and struggle through the process with me.

As the Corona Virus outbreak affects the world, I still feel hopeful, positive and optimistic. Some people have been surprised by this, since I am what could be considered at-risk due to my physical health issues. Those same people who contacted me, were surprised that I do not even feel lonely during the lock down. The reason is because I have never felt excluded, alone or isolated. My friends have always been by my side even if just digitally. For example, one of my friends walked me through a workout using a video call on WhatsApp. Unfortunately, not everyone has been able to make friends, the way I have.

An acquaintance of mine was honest with me about their feelings during the lock down. They said that they felt alone, depressed and isolated during the pandemic that they didn’t have anyone to talk to or to even share their concerns.

The real question is why do I have a very supportive community of friends when some people do not? The truth is that friendship is an exchange. You can't just have friends only to talk to during a pandemic. To have a supportive friend, you must be a supportive friend. Friends are not only for our needs but those who are always by our side through the good and the bad. We must also try to be supportive of our friends through their rough patches. I am thankful to have that kind of community in my life. We support each other by believing, encouraging and helping each other when we can. We value our friendship by accepting our differences and working through any problems. We are stronger together than apart.

I hope that my experience of being a successful disabled person through the support and love of my friends will help you as a reader to reflect on the meaning of friendship.

Updated: May 31, 2020

In my small city of Meknes, I had to rely on my senses. Blind since the age of 17, I would use my walking stick to navigate the busy streets and broken sidewalks, and enter the grocery store with my nose held high. I followed the smells to the fresh food section where I breathed in bundles of cilantro and parsley. Grocery shopping in Morocco would be impossible for a blind person without the sense of smell.

Coming to Fayetteville, Arkansas to study on a Fulbright scholarship three years ago has meant liberation. I can rely on the Wal-Mart personal assistant to pick up my food and the free “Be My Eyes” app in which a sighted person volunteer helps me find the aisles and items I need.

Covid-19 has changed everything. To grocery shop, I must rely on my friends, as social distancing and masks that cover my nose have made it impossible to shop alone. Online shopping has experienced huge growth as big corporation implement changes to meet the demand. But in the rush, they have made mistakes that have left the disabled community bewildered. For a blind person, the hastily uploaded images on sites such as Amazon are not always as described, and buttons are not labelled for screen reading software that reads text and screen images using a voice synthesizer.

And then there’s my cane. For 13 years my cane has been my guide to the world. Even new places were not frightening, thanks to the magic of the white walking stick. Armed with my cane, I had felt fearless and ready to explore many destinations. Then, when WHO announced Covid-19 as a global pandemic, I was frightened because my cane could not distinguish the 6 ft distance required for “social distancing.” Suddenly, even asking someone to help me cross the road has become uncomfortable because of the fear of physical contact that the virus has imposed. The white cane that was a silent friend now lies untouched in the corner of my room.

The pandemic has also deprived me of my ability to touch. The gloves were soft and cozy as I slid them onto my hands. But I no longer feel the touch of the braille books that brought me a vast array of knowledge. I can no longer access the touch screen on my phone, so it has become nothing better than a rock in my hands. As a result, I have lost the concept of time.

Lost in my own world, I have thought deeply about the value of senses and have wondered how anyone could cope without them. I never appreciated them as much as when I became powerless. I am impatiently waiting to re-connect with them again, and thus regain a measure of independence I lost to Covid-19.

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