Ok I’ve never been tagged before, but Meredith (or Poop-ith as her French friends call her; see her entry for May 23 as I can’t make this link to it) has tagged me to do something called a meme. (She’s an expat American living in France, and I enjoy reading her blog…especially as it makes me homesick for France! They’re picking cherries! They’re wandering through historic cobblestone piéton areas that are so common no one even notices them but the tourists! They’re dealing with those curiously ubiquitous rude old French women at the local markets! Sigh…) She wants to know what I have in my fridge! Honestly, it’s not that exciting, as I’m still American, even though I live in Africa. I’m supposed to list 5 things in my fridge, closet, car and purse.
Hmm..my fridge. Probably the two most unusual things are bissop—a local drink made by soaking some sort of dried flowers in water and adding sugar and whatever flavorings you fancy (it’s actually really good)—and my home-made mango chutney.
We also have several small cartons of milk. Here there are 3 kinds of milk: fresh, long-life, and powdered. Powdered milk is right out! You know why; it’s just yucky. Long-life milk is milk that is boiled to approximately 1000 degrees and then sealed in a box; it will keep indefinitely on your shelf. It too is yucky. Fresh milk is always whole. It is pasteurized but not homogenized, so it has to be shaken to avoid lumps of cream. It comes in pint-size (1/2 liter) cartons, so you have to buy millions OR not drink that much milk. We have opted for the latter, so our kids are no doubt calcium-deprived (although they make up for it in cheese and yogurt). Hey, maybe that’s why they’re short? I knew it wasn’t the coffee!
2 more things? Um, eggs and butter. Told you I was boring!
As for my closet, it is similarly unexciting. Clothes, hangers, junk on the floor that needs to be cleaned up. About the most interesting thing are our Mauritanian clothes. We don’t wear these very often, but we do own several outfits; most of them gifts or bought for special occasions.
Mauritanian men wear long flowing robes called dra:ahs in Arabic or boubous in French. They are wide—when Donn puts one on, it is wider than his outstretched arms. Then he folds it onto his shoulders. Boubous are open down the sides till nearly the bottom, so underneath men wear shirts (usually button-ups) and pants. Their long hems drag through the dust.
The traditional pants, called sirwaals, are truly amazing. They are about ¾ length, and like the robe, always blue or white. Again, the waistband is wider than I can reach, even when I stretch out my arms as far as they go. I’ve always wanted to put them on and take a picture, call it “before.” The thing is, Mauritanian men are SKINNY! They have tiny little waists, unlike their women. So these pants form folds that hang between the legs, creating a unique look.
To keep these pants from falling round your ankles, you need a belt. This is called the likshah, and, again, is not something you would have come up with on your own. You tie it round your waist, and since it’s leather it creates a big knot which, thanks to the voluminous robe, doesn’t bulge too much. The ends hang down to your feet. These create a handy little “whip” and can be used for camels or recalcitrant children, as need arises.
Why use so much material? They say a Mauritanian always has his tent with him!
In our closet, there are also several howlis, or turbans—long lengths of cloth that can be wrapped around the head and face. Donn likes to dress up in the whole outfit, wrap a black turban round his face, top it off with sunglasses, and visit an American airport! It’s fun for the whole family.
I have several muluffas. These are essentially one long strip of brightly-coloured material that you wrap round yourself, covering up from head to toe. They are often made of thin material. Right now the fashion is to wear coordinating colours of long-sleeved t-shirts underneath them, and of course skirts, or dresses.
Muluffas are beautiful. They come in rainbow-colours, hand-dyed, with splotches of various colours. The White Maure women have coordinating high-heels and tiny little handbags. They sparkle with costume jewelry and their make-up is carefully done. They mince down the street, confident in the knowledge that all eyes are on them.
I have a muluffa in orange and purple, and another in blue and green. Wearing them successfully has much in common with doing a giant scarf trick. I have never been good at wearing scarves. During the evening, Mauritanian women are constantly reaching out to adjust my muluffa, or even sometimes taking me somewhere in private to start all over. It makes me feel like I’m 5 again.
My car and purse have only normal, boring things in them—sand (everything in Mauritania, including the bread, has sand in it), shells, kid junk, etc.
But why ask about such normal things? How about a meme that asks 5 Places I Will Visit this Summer that You Have Heard Of? (Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, Old Navy, Powells, Starbucks) Or 5 Places I Will Not Go This Summer if I Can Help It? (Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Disneyland—oh wait I’m going to Disneyland—well, the It’s A Small World ride at Disneyland…) Or 5 Habits of Your Children that Make You Wonder Whose Children They Really Are? I am inspired by this by the fact that Ilsa just spontaneously made me a handkerchief from a bit of old sheet edged with pink lacy stuff. It’s lovely, of course, and I’m terribly touched, but where on earth did I get a daughter who likes to SEW?
I think this would be a great meme. I tag everybody that I know (borrowing a page from thesis students) to do that! I’ll look forward to reading about it on your blog. Be sure and tell me you are doing this. I will do it too.