We were eating s’mores, round a fire with another family. I’m right-handed, so I held the stick over the fire with my right hand and slid the marshmallow off between the graham crackers with my left. Then I started eating it. It felt strange to be eating with my left hand. It’s so very rude in Mauritania to do that. I glanced around, and noticed that no-one else was eating with their left hand!! Logically, I know that Americans don’t care which hand you eat with. Places that care have 2 characteristics: they eat with their hands and they don’t use toilet paper. But, I thought frantically, what if I’ve forgotten and it is a little rude? “Donn,” I muttered out of the corner of my mouth. “It’s ok to eat with my left hand, isn’t it?” He gave me the strangest look, and nodded, eyebrows raised. Sigh.

Elliot turned 11. “We’ll sing Happy Birthday, first in English, then in French,” I announced. Except no one else at this particular party needed to sing in French, or in Arabic, or the strange disco version (Happy Birthday to you—cha! cha! cha!) that shows up at every party in Mauritania, on tape. Sigh.

We needed to stop by the bank. It was about 12:30. “They’ll be closed for lunch; we might as well wait,” I said. Again, the strange looks. Apparently, businesses don’t close for lunch here, or on Sundays either for that matter. Sigh.

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