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The kids are having fun with pavement. I mentioned that everything in Southern California is covered in asphalt, but in many ways, that is true of this country as a whole. In Nouakchott, only a few streets are paved. I don’t know anyone who lives on a paved road. The unmarked sandy routes twist and wind their way past houses and shops, embassies and businesses. More and more streets are being paved, but even now the headquarters of the European Union are on an extremely bumpy unpaved road, where taxis daily bog down in the soft sand.

Sand is fine as far as it goes, but it’s not so great for toys like scooters, skateboards and bikes. (It’s also not so great for electronic equipment, but that’s another subject) We have a short paved walkway in front of our house, so they ride up and down there, but it’s not great practice. Friday evening we visited friends and the kids had a blast, riding up and down the cul-de-sac on bikes and scooters.

Saturday, we took them to see Superman Returns. They were very excited, as this was their first American theater experience. Nouakchott has 2 sort-of theaters. One is at the French Cultural Center and is sort of like a big school auditorium, used to show movies, but also for concerts, for ballet recitals, etc. The other, the Galaxy, is the closest thing to a real movie theater. It shows second-run (or third run) French films, and one English film a week. The movies are, well, unusual. We saw Two Towers there and it was obviously a pirated version; every time Legolas came on-screen, FOR CONSIDERATION would flash at the bottom. We theorized that it was a version for a member of the board that chooses the Academy Awards, as it was a couple of months after that. The Galaxy also showed the Passion of the Christ (a lot of Muslims we know were interested in anything touted as anti-Semetic). Evidently, someone had gone to a theater in
France with a camcorder and filmed the screen, as every so often a head would appear!

So we were very excited to go to a multi-plex. Abel couldn’t believe how many showings there were per day, and that you could go in the afternoon. He’s a huge Superman fan, and in fact is planning it as a career option. We hurried the kids past the concession stand ($5 for a small drink??? In our part of the world, that’s a day’s wage!) and settled into our seats to enjoy the 30 minutes of commercials (What??? Since when?) and previews. Then, the movie started. The kids quivered in anticipation. Suddenly, the screen went blank, the lights came up. The electricity had gone out!! I had been whispering to my friend how unlike Mauritania this was, and I had to back-track quickly. This was exactly like Mauritania!

Fortunately, the generator kicked on, and we were able to finish the movie. It was LOUD, exciting and larger-than-life. We all enjoyed it immensely.

July 2006
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