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Inspiring Women February 2023

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school. In 1979 we got married, and I returned<br />

to Tunisia to be the Medical Officer for the Peace<br />

Corps. I did this for 10 years during which time I<br />

also had a daughter and twin sons.<br />

International moves<br />

Then, in 1989, my husband’s career with<br />

Citibank meant we moved first to Dubai (two<br />

years), then Morocco (four and a half years), and<br />

London (three years). During this time I went<br />

Cynthia Smith-Ayed with her daughter<br />

and first granddaughter.<br />

back to school via distance learning, including<br />

some in-person classes in the summers from<br />

1988 to 1995. I completed my BA and then my<br />

MA in Health Administration. 1995 was a good<br />

year, as I also received a FAWCO Foundation<br />

Member's Education Award!<br />

In 1998, my husband took a position with a<br />

Moroccan bank and we returned to Morocco,<br />

but to Rabat this time. I went back to work at the<br />

medical office of the US Embassy for two years<br />

and became a member of the AIWA Rabat club.<br />

Dividing my time between two countries<br />

In 2011, after the Tunisian revolution, my<br />

husband returned to Tunisia and was the<br />

Finance Minister for a period of time. After that<br />

he stayed and started a tech company with two<br />

cousins. This was the start of my life living in<br />

two countries! Today I divide my<br />

time between Tunis, Tunisia and<br />

Casablanca, Morocco.<br />

Today, all my children are married<br />

(last one this year), my daughter has<br />

two girls (in Morocco) and my son<br />

has twin boys and a baby girl<br />

(in Tunisia), so I’m very busy as a<br />

traveling grandmother.<br />

Taking the road less traveled<br />

My most defining moment was taking<br />

"‘the road less traveled" and joining<br />

the Peace Corps in 1975 at the age<br />

of 22. I had lived my entire life in<br />

Maryland, gone to college in DC and<br />

didn’t even have a passport! To<br />

spend two years in a country with<br />

a different culture, language and<br />

religion required a great deal of<br />

adjustment and growth.<br />

Because of this experience and<br />

meeting my husband-to-be, I have<br />

spent all but two years since then<br />

as an expat. I have friends from many<br />

countries, my children are trilingual<br />

and have all married partners who are<br />

bi-cultural and bilingual like they are.<br />

I have learned to embrace the<br />

similarities in all the countries I have<br />

lived in and accept the differences.<br />

My FAWCO life<br />

I first heard about FAWCO in the 1990s, when I<br />

was living in Morocco, from AIWC Casablanca<br />

club board members who had attended the<br />

conferences. Then in 2003, when I was on the<br />

club board, I found out more about FAWCO, and<br />

in 2004 attended my first conference. I caught<br />

the “fever” and attended every year until 2018.<br />

I went on to co-chair the FAWCO Biennial<br />

Conference in Marrakech in 2011, then, in 2012,<br />

joined the FAWCO Foundation board as VP<br />

Communications for three years. I have been<br />

our club FAWCO Rep for more<br />

than ten years and Region 7<br />

Coordinator for several years.<br />

Becoming a marathon runner<br />

All my life I did various sports, and<br />

learned to play golf at 40, but at<br />

the age of 50 I met some other<br />

expat women in Morocco who<br />

were training for a race and joined<br />

their group. As a nurse, I am<br />

disciplined and appreciate a plan<br />

for training, so I followed it, and<br />

after five months was more or less<br />

ready for a marathon.<br />

My first race, in Marrakech,<br />

January 2004, was the hardest<br />

thing I’ve ever done, and I<br />

understood the concept of<br />

digging deep to finish. Crossing the<br />

finish line was such a joy that the<br />

next day I started researching for<br />

the next race. I had a sense that I<br />

could do something really difficult<br />

if I pursued it.<br />

As only one percent of the US<br />

population has ever done a<br />

marathon, and less than half<br />

of these people are women, I<br />

really felt a huge sense of<br />

accomplishment. From that<br />

point until September 2018, I<br />

ran either alone, with best friend<br />

Gwen and/or other ladies from<br />

the running group a further 20<br />

marathons (42 kms), 23 half<br />

marathons (21 km), two 100-km<br />

walks and numerous 5 and 10-km<br />

runs. I’ve not totally stopped, and<br />

recently I did the Shine Half<br />

Marathon Night Walk in London<br />

for cancer research; this was my<br />

third Shine race.<br />

Challenges along the way<br />

I have had several surgeries on<br />

my feet and now only run/walk<br />

a couple of times per week. I<br />

started Pilates six years ago<br />

and continue spin class, rowing<br />

machine and elliptical for cardio. I<br />

also started weight training in 2007<br />

and have continued. I want to live<br />

Several of the marathons that<br />

Cynthia participated in.<br />

20 INSPIRING WOMEN INSPIRING WOMEN 21

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