My week in Chefchaouen is full of these snapshots, vivid in colour and deeply etched in my mind. But none is as close to the surface as that moment when I opened my eyes to a group of children, staring at me with total discombobulation. I smiled slowly and the eldest came forward.
“What are you doing?” He asked in French
“Because I want to remember.”
“Because I think your town is beautiful, and I want to capture that beauty so I don’t lose any of it later.”
“But how are you writing?” he asked, more forcefully this time.
“How…” he said gesturing to my notebook impatiently, “HOW?”
Impasse. I wasn’t sure what he was asking me. Was it a permission problem or a question about what I planned to do with those words? I closed the notebook carefully, not wanting to lose the memories I had already jotted down. The children all stared at me, foreheads knotted, until a smaller girl came to the front and plopped down in front of me on the stoop, staring up at my face with wide eyes. She took my pen and mimicked what I was doing, then stopped and stared up at me for approval. I gave her a hug, still concerned that I had somehow offended my impromptu hosts.
“How?” He asked again, more softly.
A man walked by, slowing down when he saw the kids surrounding me and pausing entirely when he caught a glimpse of my baffled state. He spoke with the eldest in Arabic, and then he said what stuck with me ever since:
“Often, the women here cannot write. They think you are in your teens, and they want to know why you, as a woman, can write but many of the women here cannot.”
from Vivid Memories in Chefchaouen, Morocco, by Jodi of Legal Nomads.