As usual, on Saturday afternoon we went to the beach. The sky was overcast, the water just the tiniest bit cool as you got in, which was nice—2 weeks ago, it was like bathwater, just as warm as the air, and not refreshing at all. Cooler water signifies the change of season; the end of the humid, sticky, unpleasant season is in sight! The waves were big and breaking close in, and several times, in spite of my efforts to dive underneath them, they caught and tumbled me towards shore. Throughout it all, the kids played, undeterred by the rough seas and currents. They rode the waves on boogie boards, shouting and spluttering as they shot onto the beach and landed with a crunch in the shells.

Towards sunset came a shout. Dolphins in the water! It’s not unheard of to see them, but it is rare. These were so close to shore that if I’d still been in the water when they came, I’d have been in the midst of them. They were heading south quite quickly, about 8 to 10 of them, leaping and frolicking and diving. Abel ran alongside the shore, following them, and saw one leap into the air and catch a fish in mid-dive. They leapt into the air and flicked their tails; they did back flips and forward flicks. One little girl did cartwheels down the sand in her best imitation.

We followed at a slower pace along the beach, and came upon a treasure trove for small children—a heap of dead sea creatures, caught in nets, unusable, dumped. There was a small nurse shark, reddish in colour, that Elliot claimed (But WHY can’t I bring it home, Mum?), and a baby squid, complete with bulgy eyes and squishy tentacles, and several sting rays draped bonelessly over each other. I pointed out the sharp barbs on their tails to the children. Once Donn stepped on one in the ocean, and his entire leg swelled up and hurt for six weeks. Ick. Makes me not want to go swimming ever.

I love days like this at the beach. We usually go in a big group, our common link that we all speak English. We head north of town, to a deserted area; we occasionally see a few fisherman but that’s about it. Now that the road north has been built, we usually don’t have to get out of the way of four-wheel-drives crammed with people and boxes flying by on their way to or from Nouadhibou. We used to have to look both ways to go into the water.

There aren’t millions of people suntanning, frowning when your children run by. There are instead millions of shells, millions of translucent crabs scuttling by, in all sizes from giant to gnat. There are bloated dead blow-fish, and plastic trash that’s been dumped offshore by some passing ship, but you can also find bits of nets from the fishermen, once-in-a-while glass floats, ancient sea-turtle shells, dead sharks and squid. There’s plenty of room for an impromptu soccer game.

We drove home past the herd of camels, come in for the evening around the group of tents set up by the road. We debated whether or not to stop and buy fresh camel’s milk, but opted not to, since I really didn’t want any, just wanted to be able to tell you about it 🙂 But we saw others who’d come out from the city to buy some fresh camel’s milk to drink with their dates at the break-fast, the end of a day of fasting. At certain times of year, this little nomadic group is always there. We see their tents on our way out in the afternoon; their herds being watered at sunset and the light of their cooking fires when we’re on our way home.

In the evening, cool breezes rustled in the sugar cane behind the gazebo. We had what I called a Lifeboat party—women and children—since none of the men could come. Debbie and Karen and I ate our hamburgers and chatted while the girls whispered in the corners and the younger boys played super-heroes and the older ones played Age of Empires on the computer. The mosque recited an entire sura (chapter of the Koran) over the loudspeaker for about 45 minutes, like it does every night during Ramadan. We talked about life overseas and our kids and our summers, till it was time to get our really-mom-we’re-not-a-bit-sleepy children to bed. A good day.

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