What Will the Berbers Think?

Yellah, Yellah!” Mohammed, our tour guide, repeats from hundreds of yards away. I feel as though I can no longer keep hiking. Yet, out of the corner of my eye, I see my sneakers, now plastered with a brownish tint from the dust of the Atlas Mountains, follow in line of the beaten path. As the mounds of African terrain slowly pass me by, I cannot seem to focus on the beauty that surrounds me.

It is not the sweat dripping down my nape, where eventually the tiny droplets dissolve into my cotton tee shirt, that is overtaking my brainpower. Nor is it the burning of my calf muscles as the incline of the peak intensifies. My brain is engulfed in an entirely different notion. We are soon approaching an unfamiliar village where we will break for the night. We will be welcomed to briefly witness first hand the daily life of a Berber citizen.

I am uncertain of what to expect. Will the people of this village accept our large, eager group to experience and learn from their daily tasks? Or will they reject the idea of affluent, white tourists probing into their less fortunate existence to go back to America to tell of all the misfortune they witnessed? I imagine they have to be resentful that I am coming solely for a visit and the next day will leave the village. They, after all, don’t get to leave. Will they be envious at the fact that I am not bound in dress or in religion? Or they may laugh at the fact that my dress and features seem outlandish to them.

I want to be able to relate to these people on so many different levels, yet, the language barrier will surely hinder my ability to succeed. I want them to know that I am a compassionate person and would like nothing but to help them. I can’t openly show that because I do not want them to think that I pity them. To judge their happiness based on my own preconceptions is naïve. It is the unknown that I dread.

As my friend tries to get my attention by heaving large gravel pieces in my general direction, I regain consciousness and I realize we have arrived at our destination. “Yellah, Yellah,” I hear Mohammed call again.

—Marcelle McCune

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