Our last time to the Atlantic Ocean near Nouakchott, last Saturday, was just about perfect. Even the jellyfish in the water, floating innoculously nearby, weren’t enough to spoil it.

We went late, around 3. Friends were already there, their tent set up (we were always the tent providers, but now our tent is sold and gone). Earlier in the week, we’d gotten notice that this week was to be a send-off for our family, but we wondered who would show up. Those who are here for the summer are mostly off camping somewhere, or visiting friends in a village, or down at a hotel in Senegal for a week. Although the turn-out was small, pretty much everyone who was in town came. The water was a perfect temperature—just a little cool, refreshing, the dark green waves rough and tumbly but not too bad. Schools of tiny fish flashed silver around us. The air temperature was pleasant too—hot, but not excessively so, and with a delightful cool breeze.

I have to say that the weather in Nouakchott this July has been extremely odd. If this is global warming, I’m all for it. It’s freakishly cool for this time of year. Mornings and evenings are downright pleasant—the kids, with their African-adjusted blood, are comfortable in jeans most days. Even though the humidity normal for this season has begun, it’s pleasant enough if you can be near a fan. I read news of heat waves in the NW, and feel a cool breeze blow in from an open window. It’s bizarre. One day, the predicted high for Nouakchott was 20 degrees COOLER than that for Portland, Oregon. I’m sure that’s a record.

I went for a long walk down the beach with 2 other women. We eyed the striped bodies of dead jellyfish cast up on the beach, and inspected the biggest, freshest dead bloatfish I’ve seen (Dead bloatfish are very common and their spikes really hurt if you step on one barefoot). It was so vile—it had a dead fish hanging out of its mouth, and what looked like very fleshy tongue and lips. Ick. Not to mention those huge staring eyes.

When we got back, others had started the fire and were grilling meat over the coals. Several people had brought salads to share, and we ate grilled beef, grilled red onions, and finished off with mango. It was dusk but no one was in a hurry to leave, enjoying the seabreeze, the stars coming out, the sliver of moon. Driving home through the desert, past herds of camels settled in for the night, seeing the brush lit up by our headlights, we felt very melancholy. Goodbyes are so sad.

We arrived home to the only dark house on the block. The electricity was out! For some strange reason, we could still get water in the house, but we stumbled around a bit in this unfamiliar dwelling, as we had no idea where our friends keep their candles. Eventually we found flashlights. The back bedrooms were hot, with no breeze, so the kids and I sprawled out on the matlas, hoping for a bit more air.

This morning I said to Donn, “Well, it’s just as well, really.” Because while there are many things about Mauritania that we will miss, terribly, there are also many things that we are just a little happy to leave behind. And Saturday represented both.

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