Across the Generations: Mother Latifa

A post by Peace Corps volunteer Barbara Klein:

I’m joining your friends for the ride!

Old age may not be as golden as they say, but we OBGs  (Old but good) have much to grin about. My husband Martin says, “It’s been a good ride,” and I like to add, “But it ain’t over yet.”

When people talk about wishing that they were young, I say that I do not want to live my life over again, but would just like to have the strength and well being that I had at 75.

Some can’t believe that I am older than 75. Others say, “75 wasn’t a year to remember.”


Peace Corp, Hergla, 1989.

I was 59, and my husband Martin was 61.

The volunteers, in training all had mattresses on the floor, but as the oldest married couple, we were given a queen size, off the floor, bed.

I don’t think the Peace Corps management gave too much thought to housing arrangements other than available space. We shared a villa, one story house, with two wonderful Tunisian language teachers, Lamia and Latifa, and two younger volunteers, who were not very friendly.

Lamia was  petite, dynamic, and wore mini skirts, while we volunteers were instructed to cover our knees and wear sleeves.

Hergla did not boast the services of a barbershop, so Lamia gave Marty a haircut.

Latifa was good looking with freckles, and had a great sense of humor.

Both teachers  helped me celebrate my birthday with lovely presents.

Latifa, was concerned that we needed a change from PC rations and put a few mullets,( small fish), and lamb chops, in the freezing compartment of our frig.

One day she left a box of delicious fig filled pastries, about 2 kilos, on the kitchen counter, and told me that I must eat this. I kind of understood what she meant, thanked her and explained that it was a lot of cake which I couldn’t eat alone or at one sitting.

The chore of taking out the garbage fell to Marty, but Latifa was always there to help him tie up the bags.

We attended prenuptial festivities of a double wedding for brothers living in the town. Latifa sat with us, introduced us to the family, and gave us a crash course on Tunisian wedding customs.

At one  cross- cultural excursion, we were treated to a meat stew which we ate with our hands, for lack of utensils, and lopped up the gravy with bread. Just like a mother, Latifa served me meat and gravy with less fat.

I can’t imagine why it took me so long to realize that Latifa brought  goodies to the house for Marty and me, not for all of the occupants.

Was it respect for older people, hospitality, or did she like us ?

Doesn’t matter!

mom_dad_ tunisia

More About Barbara:  Barbara  Klein and her husband Martin, lived in Killingworth, Connecticutt for 49 years in the house where their four children grew up. They owned a poultry farm in neighboring Madison. About 20 years ago they converted the farm to a golf range, which the Klein family owns and operates.

The Kleins traveled all over the world, at times for personal reasons and often as Agricultural Consultants with Aid for International Developement. Martin and Barbara have both been involved in local politics. Barbara has degrees in Biology and in Health Cate Management. Martin has a degree in Poultry Husbandry.

Barbara is now blogging!  Check out Best of Barbara.

Best of Barbara

Top Photo:  A resident of Hergla shows Barbara the technique of  spindle weaving.

Middle Photo:  Barbara  and Marty with Latifa during a pre-nuptial gathering held in the courtyard of the groom’s home.

Bottom Photo: Barbara and her family today.

Want to know even more about Barbara Klein? Check our Cycling Grandma, Barbara’s daughter Lisa’s blog,  and Tangerine Tango: Women Writers Share Slices of Life.  Barbara inspired many of Lisa’s essays.

8 thoughts on “Across the Generations: Mother Latifa”

  1. What a touching story! I’m going to share it with one of my daughter’s friends that is serving in the Peace Corps in Africa. It certainly gives you something to look up to!


  2. Thanks for the link to Barbara’s blog. I already like the first post about little girls liking construction equipment, too!


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