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Shannon (Rocks in my Dryer. My connection is so slow that I’m just happy I’m able to post, much less actually LINK) just tagged me for a word meme. So I’ll do this quickly before I’m off to have birthday cake with my kids, and I’ll write a proper post tomorrow.

I’m supposed to tell you the first thing that pops into my head when I read these words:

Candle—oh no! the electricity’s out again. Where’d I leave them last time?

Finger—one of those fake rubber ones with the bloody gash that little boys think are soo awesome and realistic

Grow—What I hope my twins do some of! They are tiny for their age. It’s Donn’s fault, naturally—at 5’2”, I can’t be held responsible. Ilsa’s teacher told me yesterday she’s the smallest in the class, but she holds her own very well. (Not surprising, considering she has a twin brother plus one 20 months older)

Wrap—presents of course 🙂 I’m glad I got this meme today. If it had been yesterday, I would have muttered curses under my breath at how ANNOYING it is to have to wrap EVERY TEXTBOOK the kids have (5 each) in clear plastic wrap, when it’s so humid that it sticks to my arms and fingers but the tape won’t stick, etc. etc. The wrapping has to be taut and well-done, and even now at the (gulp!) dizzyingly-high age I’ve reached, I still manage to produce things that look like they were wrapped by a 5-year-old. We all have different skills—I’m not a bad editor and make a decent apple pie and a great lamb korma. Why can’t the teachers see this?

So what are the odds? I have 3 kids in 3 classrooms, and all 3 teachers have chosen Thursday at 5 p.m. for their class meeting with the parents.

I’m used to having to make a choice. The twins are always in separate classrooms, even though no one could ever mistake them for each other. Usually I go to Elliot’s meeting and then I alternate between the twins, each year going to the other. The plan is always that Donn will attend one, but something always comes up. Last year he spent 50 minutes trying to get our car out of the shop. I forget what it was the year before that.

This year, the twins are in CM1 and Elliot is CM2. But the school is doing something new this year—they are offering a fifth CM class, a mix of 1 and 2. Ilsa’s in that one. I suppose not many parents are in my situation, but really, a bit of variety would have been nice.

Class meetings are always a blur of rapid French and I always leave with a headache. Although you really need to know French to function here, I use it surprisingly little, given that I’m an English teacher and everyone I know wants to practice English with me. Even my French friends (moms of the kids’ friends) take classes at Oasis. So evenings like this are good for me, but a little discouraging as well. I usually start slow, hit my stride after about 5 minutes, hang in with the teacher for about 30-40 minutes, then start to slow down again. This year I’m going to Abel’s meeting and his teacher strikes me as one that will be brisk, to the point, and not go overtime. Last year Ilsa’s teacher went on for nearly 2 hours! But this year I also have a nasty rotten cold, which makes my head thick and my accent even more unintelligible than usual! Should be interesting.

All 3 started Arabic this year. The boys especially love it and are always practicing their writing. Hope they keep it up. I’ll be thrilled if they get reasonably fluent. The funny thing is that they were dreading Arabic. This year, the school added 2 extra hours of language a week, and gave a choice of English or Arabic. The kids were all excited at the thought of an extra 2 hours of English! They love being the best students in class and having better accents than their teachers. So they tried to persuade me to let them take English! “But Mo-om,” they said, “You want us to go to university in America!” As if they’d get university-level English at a French primary school, where they learn colours and numbers and not a whole lot more! They still get an hour of English a week (c’est obligatoire), but I’m glad they’re getting the Arabic as well.

I myself have learned the Arabic alphabet several times now. It just doesn’t seem to stick, although every time I learn it a few more letters stay in there. If I know the word (coca-cola, for example), I can figure it out, following the swoops and curls of the writing. My advice for all who wish to learn Arabic is to start young, before you have children, before the prattle of little voices and the patter of little feet have combined to give you Teflon brain, where everything put in just slides easily back out. Non-stick, that’s me.

Alhumdudillah (Praise God!), the weather has been much cooler since I last posted. There’s been a refreshing breeze at night. The wind rustles the sugar-cane in my garden, which is not even remotely native to Mauritania, but a result of much effort on the part of my Hawaiian-bred husband. Thanks to him, our yard is our “petite coin de Paradis,” our little corner of Paradise. It’s colourful and green, and a refreshment to the eyes after unmitigated desert brown.

Last night, our local mosque, newly completed and right across the stretch of sand that passes for the street in front of our house, went off at 11 p.m. and kept broadcasting for about 25 minutes. Since this isn’t one of the normal call to prayer times, I knew what this meant—the local imams had seen the sliver of new moon in the sky at sunset, signifying the start of the holiest month of the Muslim calendar—Ramadan.

During Ramadan daylight hours, from sunrise to sunset, the devout swallow nothing, not even their own spit. Their fast is complete. Once the sunset call to prayer sounds, they pray and then eat. Usually, first on the menu is dates dipped in crème fraiche (which is wonderful), followed by soup and bread. Then, people stay up all night, or most of it, eating and talking, visiting, etc. Many visit the mosque every night, and some mosques broadcast a chapter (sura) of the Quran every night, finishing the entire book in one month. (As I write, our mosque is reciting the first sura). Everybody eats a big breakfast right before the sunrise call to prayer, after which another day of fasting has begun.

Friends explain to me that this time is good for the health, as the stomach has a time of rest from digestion during the days.

Ramadan is an interesting time. Shops and businesses tend to operate with a skeleton staff; the shopkeeper yawns behind the counter. It can be hard to get things done, and if your phone goes out it might stay out till the month is over. On the other hand, once the sun goes down the city wakes up. Boutiques are brightly lit and open until the wee hours, and everyone is happy and chatting and visiting—especially as the end of the month approaches, when everyone needs gifts and new clothes during the 3-day feast to celebrate. Women get elaborate henna patterns dyed onto their hands. The proper way to greet someone at the end is not just “Happy Feast Day!” but “Congratulations.” Muslims also believe that the 28th night of the month is a Night of Power, and prayers offered during that time are worth three times as much as normal prayers.

You take your life into your hands if you drive between about 5:30 and 7. Everyone is in a desperate panic to buy bread for the evening meal and get home before the sunset call to prayer, and the roads are complete chaos. But, if you happen to be out around 7:30, your isolation will be total—the roads empty of all but sand and wind. Soon, headlights begin to appear, and another night of feasting has begun.

Congratulations to MARY MARGARET!! She earned a whopping 7 out of 8 right answers. Her comment was that she just went with the opposite of sanity. Now MM, you won’t get far overseas with that attitude—things aren’t wrong, just DIFFERENT! 🙂

Also, my goal with this quiz was to show some of the quirks and wonders of Mauritanian culture. I find stuff like this really interesting (ok, sometimes frustrating, but at least we’re never bored). What would be worse than going to all the bother of selling your house, quitting your job, and moving your family overseas only to find that everything was the same as back home? So I hope you enjoyed it too.

I also realized what a truly horrible teacher I really am, as the most common answer was C. Fortunately I usually give essay questions.

  1. The following is rude to do in public in Mauritanian culture:
    1. Pee on the tires of someone’s car
    2. Pick your nose
    3. Touch your wife on her shoulder, briefly

The answer is C. It is not rude to empty your bladder, or your nose, anywhere really. You can be having a conversation with someone and he will pick his nose. You can be teaching a student with his pen up his nose. A woman you are chatting with might blow her nose into her muluffa. You can be walking down the street and there will be a man crouched against the wall, peeing. It’s common to see streaks on your tires.

  1. If you are in a long line of traffic, you should:

a.    Wait impatiently, sighing a lot but being polite

b.    Honk your horn a lot             

c.    Drive into oncoming traffic and create a traffic jam

The answer again is C, although we also see a lot of B. There are a lot of pointless traffic jams around town, as you can imagine.

3.    If you are married and you live with your in-laws, it’s expected that you will:

a.    Sleep in their bedroom

b.    Eat meals together

                  c.    Avoid them at all costs and never let them see you

This is a fascinating part of Mauritanian culture. It is a great shame for you and your spouse to see your spouse’s parents together, yet extended families often live under one roof. The husband of one of my friends has never met his father-in-law; he saw him once from a distance in a public place and that’s it. You can eat with your inlaws, but only if your spouse isn’t there. It’s also bad to let your father see you with your child. Why? Well he might flash on the fact that you’re not a little girl anymore. After all, do you know what you did to get that child? Yeah. So it makes a lot of sense.

That’s why I love the scene in Steve Martin’s “Father of the Bride Part II” where his daughter tells him she’s pregnant and he has an image of his son-in-law as a playboy, cad, laughing evilly, etc. It so perfectly fits this culture!

4.   If you ________ and are caught, the shame will be so great that you will never want to see the people who KNOW again. If you are engaged, your fiancée will break it off:

a.    Blow your nose into your sleeve

b.    Steal

c.    Pass gas

Again, not what you were thinking. Shannon was the only one to get this one right!! Stealing is a deep shame but perhaps not the ultimate shame. Yes, blowing your nose is not a problem (after all, my friend said, it’s just dirt) and even digging in to get those really recalcitrant boogers out is okay but passing gas is the deepest of all shames and can never, ever be lived down. It’s odd for us, who think that boogers are disgusting and gas is, well, just air when all’s said and done. It’s also a challenge, in a place where sometimes you get intestinal parasites from the water.

5.   Basically, all adults drink:

a.    coffee

b.    beer

c.    milk

Only Meredith got this one right. It’s milk. Coffee doesn’t really exist in this culture (although it does in this house!!); in fact, I’m sorry to say that people think of Nescafe as coffee, when of course it is only a vile sludge masquerading as an instant coffee-flavoured sort of drink. People drink strong mint tea in little cups, complete with thick heads of foam on them. The tea is very good. It’s 100% Muslim here so no one drinks beer. But all Mauritanians love milk. The crème de la crème? (Pun so totally intended) Fresh camel’s milk out of a big wooden bowl. Mmm-mmm.

Me, I don’t really like milk. Never have. When I feel the need to increase my calcium, I start drinking double lattes instead of straight espresso. But I’ve learned to knock back part of a bowl with a smile.

6.   It’s polite/impolite to enter someone’s house without knocking or ringing their bell.

I think everyone got this one right. This is a culture that until recently was nearly entirely nomadic, and of course no one knocks on a tent wall. The proper thing to do is walk right in and call out “Salaam Alaykoum!”
Note: this one is hard to get used to, especially when you’re in the bath.

  1. In a university classroom, the following behaviour is frowned upon by your fellow students:
    1. talking on your cell phone during the professor’s lecture
    2. coming to class 45 minutes late
    3. doing homework for another class, quite openly
    4. all of the above
    5. none of the above

Well maybe this was a little unfair. The correct answer was e, none of the above, because all this behaviour happens regularly in university classrooms. But not all the students are like this, and I’m sure it bothers some of them.

8.    Marriage proposals can be made within 5 minutes of meeting a woman. T/F

I think everyone got this one, too. True, and even with my wedding ring, the significance of which is not understood in this culture, I’ve gotten several of them. If you take taxis you get a lot more. But this was again sort of a trick question, as these proposals are really just to proposition the woman with the golden American passport. Within traditional culture, the families talk about marriage, and a wedding ceremony as we understand it doesn’t really happen—it’s just that the men of the two families get together and sign a contract. This contract can include length of duration, as well as money owed and other things.  Meanwhile, a group of friends gather outside the house. When the contract is signed, the women all trill, and then everybody eats then leaves.

Thanks, everyone, for participating!!

All day the sky was low, about 10 feet over our heads, and made of bronze. The air was heavy, without a breath of wind. The leaves hung limply in the garden. By nightfall, it was, if anything, even hotter than it had been during the day.

We always get at least a couple of nights like this during the year, so I knew what to expect—the electricity would go out. Sure enough, about 11:30, I was writing an email to my husband when suddenly I was plunged into darkness.

I fumbled my way into the kitchen and found matches and candle. Leaving a trail of blue wax drips behind me like I was Gretel trying to find my way home, I turned off what lights I knew were on and tried to find the kids’ water bottles. This year, 2 of 3 don’t have insulated ones because I haven’t gotten around to buying them yet, so their bottles need to be ½-filled and placed in the freezer overnight. I completed this task mostly by feel and optimistically, with faith that the lights would be on before 6 a.m. (Hey I’m an optimist! Didn’t you notice that bit about ½ filled?)

By midnight, I mounted the stairs, leaving my signature blue drops behind me, the candle and I both dripping. Our room was a tiny bit cooler than the rest of the house. By some miracle, I could get a driblet of water from the tap (when the electricity is gone, the pump can’t get water into the house), enough to brush my teeth. I cleverly stuck the candle to the side of the taps, to leave my hands free, choosing that spot because a. I would have the light and b. it would be easy to clean the wax off the smooth porcelain later. There was plenty of room between the candle and the plastic shelf above which holds toothbrushes, soap, etc. I washed my face, careful not to let the water splash onto the flame, since I’d left the matches downstairs in the kitchen. The flame heightened in the still air and licked quietly at the underside of the plastic shelf… Oh well. I never really liked that plastic shelf much anyway, and if I put my scrunch spray over the hole, no one will notice. And who else goes in my bathroom anyway?

I lay down on top of the sheet and tried to relax. I could feel the heat descending upon me, the heaviness of the air, as the last of the coolness evaporated. I dropped off quickly, only to wake again gasping for air a few minutes later, drowning in a puddle of my own sweat. (Gross, I know, but we must face facts if we’re going to help you feel you were living it too) I walked slowly, hands outstretched, feeling with my feet to avoid stepping on my daughter’s face, and groped until I found a hand fan, and fanned myself till my arm was tired. I waved it over the kids. (I think I’m addicted to parenthetical remarks: we have only one AC so all the kids are sleeping in my room these days. Privacy? Well I don’t get much of that at the best of times!) I gulped down a glass of water. I wandered out onto the balcony, but it was just as hot out there.

Elliot woke up, gasping. He was dripping wet. We chatted a while about the lack of electricity and how much darker it was. There’s a hotel near us with a generator, and we could see their light reflected off the sandy air, like fog.

Soon all the kids were awake from the heat, and inclined to be whiny. It was about 1 a.m. by this point. I sang songs, I told stories, about children who lived in ice caves and went to school by sleigh, about a little girl who lived with her family on a cedar-covered island in the middle of a cold grey sea. I thought of hell and said I imagined it might be like our current situation, which made my daughter cry. (Although it didn’t take much to make her cry at that point) Finally about 2 we all wandered out onto the balcony, which was gritty with sand. Everyone liked standing there staring out at the darkened city. We felt the teensiest breath of air sigh across our faces. In hope, I dragged two mattresses out, but the mosquitoes were terrible for such a sandy night, and the night seem disinclined to loose any more sighs our way, although I sent a few its way, in hope. We went back in and opened the windows. We tried to sleep.

The night dragged on. Around 5:30, the electricity came back on, just in time for the call to prayer to blare from the mosque across the street. When it came on, we all cheered! We all slept in, too. At school, the kids’ teachers said that everyone was tired but let’s still try to get some work done.

No one in the city slept last night. I compared notes with French mothers, Senegalese house-workers, Mauritanian friends—all had the same experience, although some were lucky enough to get a nap in later.

The morning continued hot and still. The air was still sandy, but the light was brighter. Suddenly, the sky went dark red and the windows rattled. Sand and wind mixed together hit the house with a bang. We were in for a really bizarre sandstorm—more like a sand blizzard. For about an hour the storm raged, disrupting traffic, downing trees and electric wires and fences and streetlights, lifting plastic bags into a wild frenzied dance in the air, filtering through even closed windows to leave a film on every surface in the house. I stood on the porch, looking out. Visibility extended only as far as my next-door neighbour’s, but amazingly enough the wind was cooler.

I went out towards the end. The house was still muggy and hot, which made taking my sticky skin out into a sandstorm something special in the way of exfoliating options. Also, it saves me money on that rub-on tan stuff—my way is all natural, no weird chemicals. Come visit me and you can try it too—for FREE. Optimistic and generous, that’s me.

Eventually the sand died down, so we opened up the house for the cooler breezes. But they went away too. Now we’re back to where we were before—still and hot.

But the electricity is still on! I’m going to bed, where I can enjoy that AC while it lasts. I hope to dream of ice caves.

PS Quiz answers tomorrow! If you haven’t taken the challenge, there’s still time!

PS2 I hope everyone remembered to celebrate International Talk Like A Pirate Day! What did you all do?

According to Yahoo–exclamation point Weather, it’s 108 degrees F here, but it FEELS like 104. Oh yeah?  Who are these Yahoo–exclamation point Weather people and where are they? I’m right here, and I think it really does feel like 108!! It’s stifling, and the air is full of dust. Yahoo does mention it’s blowing dust; they got that right.

As I settle back into my host culture, I was thinking of how all cultures share certain things in common and yet how, at the same time, so many things are totally different. So, for all you non-Mauritanians out there, here’s a quiz on Mauritanian culture for my readers (all 3 of you).  See how many you can guess!

Give your answers in comments. The first person to get them all right will get a special mention on….this blog!! (Sorry, I don’t know how to do those little buttons that you can post on your own blog) I will even put exclamation points after it! I don’t know what more you’d want.

Ready?

 

  1. The following is rude to do in public in Mauritanian culture:
    1. Pee on the tires of someone’s car
    2. Pick your nose
    3. Touch your wife on her shoulder, briefly

 

  1. If you are in a long line of traffic, you should:

a.    Wait impatiently, sighing a lot but being polite

b.    Honk your horn a lot

c.    Drive into oncoming traffic and create a traffic jam

 

3.    If you are married and you live with your in-laws, it’s expected that you will:

a.    Sleep in their bedroom

b.    Eat meals together

                  c.    Avoid them at all costs and never let them see you

 

4.   If you ________ and are caught, the shame will be so great that you will never want to see the people who KNOW again. If you are engaged, your fiance will break it off:

a.    Blow your nose into your sleeve

b.    Steal

c.    Pass gas

 

5.   Basically, all adults drink:

a.    coffee

b.    beer

c.    milk

 

6.   It’s polite/impolite to enter someone’s house without knocking or ringing their bell.

 

  1. In a university classroom, the following behaviour is frowned upon by your fellow students:
    1. talking on your cell phone during the professor’s lecture
    2. coming to class 45 minutes late
    3. doing homework for another class, quite openly
    4. all of the above
    5. none of the above

8.    Marriage proposals can be made within 5 minutes of meeting a woman. T/F

Good luck!

PS  Can you tell my husband’s gone and classes haven’t started yet? 4 posts in 3 days, I think it is. My personal best.

Dear Post Office,

Why-oh-why are you now, as of 2006, refusing to ship m-bags to Mauritania? This is so bizarre. Do you think Mauritanians don’t want to read? Or shouldn’t read? Do you want Oasis Books to not be successful? Are you being paid off by the other English centers in town, none of whom have libraries or bookstores? We’re the only option for English speakers in the country! The university students count on us! And why is it any of your business?

As you know, an m-bag is when you ship books for $1 per pound, or media rate. Until last year, we could ship ourselves boxes of books. It’s true that you would always tell us to expect them in 3-4 months, whereas we once had one come after 18 months, but that’s ok. It was better than this. Now, just when a troop of Girl Scouts collected 2000 books for our kids library, and a friend promised to send us several boxes, and someone gave us a huge stack of old Reader’s Digests which are WONDERFUL for ESL students because of shorter articles and simplified language, you up and decide to stop service. And frankly, it doesn’t make sense. Why would you care about the destination? Even if you charged more, say $1.25 pound, that would be ok. But instead you are insisting on us paying the normal (as in exorbitant) postage rates, which are not an affordable option.

Please respond.

Puzzled,

Planet Nomad

Edited to Add: I wanted to clarify that the Post Office still ships m-bags to other African nations; for example, Senegal, our neighbor to the South. That’s why it’s just so weird that they’ve suddenly stopped shipping here! Any ideas? Why would they care where something ended up?

I’m sure that this phenomena has been noticed by all who travel—the habit of referring to a hotel room, or a guest bedroom in a friend’s house, as “home” as in, “Let’s go home and change before supper” or “We got home really late last night.” It is possible to refer to as many as 3 different locations concurrently as home, I’ve noticed.

Even though I live in Nouakchott, and have a house here filled with my books and matlas and espresso machine, with my kids’ drawings and school schedules on the fridge, I still refer to going to visit friends and family in American as “going home.” I don’t refer to returning to Africa in the same way. But really, this is home now. My way of life is here. I’m not a guest in someone else’s home, I’m not an outsider welcomed back, temporarily, into my friend’s lives.

A lot of people (ok two, but I take what I can get!) have asked me if I’m dealing with much culture shock coming back, how it feels to return to your host culture after spending time in your home culture. I have to say, it feels hot and sticky. But we weren’t gone long enough for this culture to become strange again; unlike my little breakdown in the vast fluorescent glimmer of Wal-Mart, I’m used to it here. Apparently, no one in the city has popcorn or oregano; that’s ok, we survive, the spaghetti sauce isn’t as good, we don’t have as many snacks for the beach. I’m used to this. What was strange was being able to find everything I wanted in one store—now that’s bizarre.

First we were frantically visiting people we hadn’t seen yet, doing last-minute shopping, and not sleeping in general.

Then we were driving down the long I-5 corridor from Oregon to Southern California.

Then we were flying to New York, to Casablanca, to Nouakchott.

Then the room where the computer is was locked and the key could not be found. It never was. I had to hire someone to break in and install a new lock.

Then the phone was not working. This time I got to spend an entire morning going from office to office at Mauritel. The bill was 4 times higher than I was expecting! AUGH!

Then the phone was working but not the internet. (That’s actually the current situation, but by the time you read this, of course all will have been solved)

So I realize it’s been a while since I last posted.

It’s Thursday evening, September 14, in Nouakchott. It’s the hot season, which is to say that it’s not that hot (in the 90s) but terribly, horribly, humid. The air is heavy and wet; you struggle through it rather than walk. Anytime you are out of reach of a fan, which is to say most of the time unless you are sitting down, you begin to literally drip. If you are me, you will start a heat-rash within about half an hour of this.

The kids and I came back in time for school, leaving Donn to spend some extra time with his father, who is doing remarkably well considering he was diagnosed with 2 forms of fatal cancer last year.  Our journey was a pain, but we had no trouble. Nothing got confiscated. We’d remembered to pack the mini-Leathermans and sunscreen in the cases. Thinking of our long layover in Casablanca, I smeared a tiny bit of toothpaste on our toothbrushes and put them in a Ziploc in my carry-on. At least we’d get one brush in the 45 hours it took us to get from San Diego to Nouakchott. I also tucked our suits into a pocket of Elliot’s backpack, hoping we’d get a hotel with a pool. I realized that I was the only one who cared that I couldn’t bring my make-up in my carry-on; no one else was worried at how haggard I look au naturel.

We left the in-laws at 4 a.m. for the 1 ½ hour drive to the airport. The kids slept all the way in but I didn’t. I stared out at the hills and moon and shreds of fog and worried a bit. San Diego airport was fine. We got our 8 bags checked, said good-bye to Donn and his dad, took off our shoes for the stern-faced security officers.

American Airlines charged us $2 EACH for those crummy little chemical-laden, over-processed Otis Whatshisface muffins; or we could pay $5 for a minute square of turkey sandwich. I choked paying for 3 muffins but I had to—by this time, the kids were starving. I got by with my free juice and airline coffee. I was unimpressed with American Airlines—this summer I flew Royal Air Maroc, Delta, UniTED, and American. Everyone else served us plenty of food, gave us free newspapers and games for the kids, and was generally a lot more helpful.

JFK sure was a lot of fun, with 3 kids and 8 bags. I got 2 carts and Elliot and Abel, with great enthusiasm, dragged our bags off the carousel. We loaded up the bags, added on 3 very overstuffed backpacks, and set off on the maze that is The Way to Terminal One. We  went up elevators and down elevators, we took the Skytrain, we stood in long lines to take our shoes off once more. Often the elevators were so small that I’d send the 3 kids and one cart on ahead, with instructions which floor to get off on and to WAIT FOR ME RIGHT THERE JUST OUTSIDE THE ELEVATOR. We made it; our stuff got checked in again, we got to the terminal with only 90 minutes to spare! Sigh… Did you know that they charge $4.50 for a tiny bag of peanuts in JFK? This time, I made them be hungry, even though we hadn’t had lunch. Royal Air Maroc takes its cue from the French, and always serves you several courses—a salad, smoked salmon with lemon, 2 rolls and butter, cheese, dessert and the main dish. It’s airline food, but not bad for such, and the coffee is stronger than American airline coffee.

None of us really slept much. Ilsa and I watched “Akeelah and the Bee” on one overhead monitor—the boys couldn’t really see it from where they were, and the one close to them was broken. I lift all electronic limitations for long travel, so they took advantage and played Game Boy for hours and hours.

It was 6:30 a.m. local time when we arrived in Casa and it took us till 10 to get to the hotel. We had a 17 ½-hour layover, so Royal Air Maroc got us a hotel in the city. The hotel was probably gorgeous when it was built in the 70s, but hadn’t had a lot done to it since. It’s right on the waterfront, right across from a McDonald’s, but we were too tired for these enticements. We went to our room, cranked the AC, and slept for 7 hours. We woke up, went for a swim, went to dinner, and then packed up and waited for the bus to take us back out to the airport.

We left at midnight. We were supposed to land at 2:30 a.m. The ‘fasten seat-belt’ sign was on, the crew had prepared for landing, but we just kept not landing. 5 minutes passed, then 10, then the pilot announced that due to a thunderstorm we were being diverted up to Nouadibhou, a city to the north. We sat on the runway there for 3 hours. Abel played GameBoy; Elliot and I read. None of us slept, although most people did. We got into NKC at 6:30 a.m., to a relatively cool, wet morning and an airport crawling with cockroaches, which made it difficult to rest your bags on the floor while waiting in the long line at customs. Thankfully, our colleague was there to meet us. We came home to a house strangely empty and echo-y after American homes (it’s the tile floors). It stunk of dust. We crawled into the dusty sheets and slept.

Now, 5 days later, I’m beginning (only just) to lose that dazed feeling.

UPDATE: Hooray! I’ve got internet again, dead-slow after that American wi-fi, but I’m just thankful. I’m looking forward to catching up on everyone else’s blogs, too—I got woefully behind this summer.

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