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The Pronunciation of My Name

I am living in Rabat, Morocco, a place where I allow myself to be Rachelle instead of Rachel. It has a musical ring to it when my boyfriend and his friends speak of me: “Rachelle, the American.” This name enables me to be another person: one who spends days at the Prince’s swim club and nights in Rabat’s hottest night clubs. Rachelle does not teach Sunday School, as I did in America.

Before coming to Rabat, I was Reheleh who lived in Oujda, a small town in the Moroccan interior, where I stayed with a modest and strictly Muslim family. As Reheleh, I walked through the town in long robes concealed beneath a djeelabah, a ground-length cloak with a hood. Reheleh is a mystery to the men who pass hours in coffee shops and the women who rush through the marketplace.

But when the days became so hot I could hardly step outside, and the oldest brother of the family began to speak of marriage, I knew it was time to shed the robes and the name. I came to the coast of Morocco where Reheleh became Rachelle. But, somewhere, outside of Rachelle and Reheleh, stands Rachel surveying the scene and wondering what lessons she will bring from Morocco to Sunday School.