We still haven’t found a house, but we might have. We did get a phone. For a while, I was an adult American without phone number or keys. That felt weird. I still don’t really have keys; the place where we’re staying has one key, so we share it. My cool Moroccan sandal keychain remains empty.

We have the loan of a car for the year—YIPPEE!!

We don’t have time to go berry-picking properly, but we did stop by a fruit stand and stock up on peaches and blueberries. Also, since the house where we’re staying abounds in wild blackberries, I send the kids out at regular intervals to fetch me some. Yesterday I made two blackberry-apple pies, and we ate one of them with vanilla ice-cream.

This is how I make pie, in case you want to know:

First, make a crust. I use real butter, not Crisco, because I think Crisco is gross, but you do what you want. Please do not tell me if you use the ready-made kind you buy at a store.

Then, peel 2 or 3 or 4 (depends on size of pie pan) Granny Smith apples. (Yes, use another kind if you prefer, certainly, but I like this kind). Save the peels for Ilsa to eat or she will fuss at you. Slice thinly into bowl.

Dump in a lot of berries; however many you like.

Add some sugar, flour, cinnamon and lemon juice. Stir. Taste for accuracy.

Add all this to your pie crust. Dot with butter. Put on top crust. Cut slits, etc. and decorate if you like. Bake as normal.

Eat while still slightly warm with a good quality vanilla ice cream and strong coffee (decaf, if necessary because you are old now).

If you are so inclined, you may eat the cold leftover pie for breakfast. I’m not so inclined, but Donn is. I suppose it’s not much worse than cereal.

I thought I was doing well with my culture shock, but the last few days have felt strange. I’m not sure how much to write about this for public consumption; I’m afraid of sounding judgmental when what I feel is just confusion. I know I don’t need more stuff; but I sort of do, especially since I don’t even own any shoes that aren’t sandals, much less any furniture. I know I both want more and don’t want more at the same time.

In Mauritania, I am considered rich. I am someone who owns so much that it’s immediately apparent to anyone that there’s no way I could possibly need, use, or keep track of all that STUFF. This is sometimes why Americans are robbed by their househelp; they won’t even notice, goes the reasoning.

I narrowed that stuff down recently, fit everything into either a friend’s garage or 8 suitcases. A lot of what’s in the suitcases is junk; stuff the kids were attached to even though I knew once we were here they would get so much new stuff that they wouldn’t even look twice at their old stuff. We sold our car; I gave up the key. We left our house; I gave up my keys. I gave away my cell phone. There’s something very freeing, scary with that swoopy feeling of flying like on a roller coaster, about being an adult with no keys, no phone, no address, and hardly any stuff.

Already, two weeks later, I have a phone and a key.

In Mauritania, there aren’t really any stores. Oh there are—when you are there, you think that. You can go to Orca, and buy plates and furniture and cheap toys and towels. You can go to Ecomarche, and buy European coffee and ice-cream and once, this spring, Honey Nut Cheerios and Starbucks bottled Frappucino, with all-English labels so we knew someone had gotten in a shipment from America. Once the things were gone, they didn’t reappear on the shelves. The boucherie (butcher) there is the cleanest in town; sometimes, in a fridge with blackened doors so that only the initiated know to look, you can find pork products brought down from Spain, chorizo sausage and thin-sliced bacon and Danish salami. (Remember that Muslims don’t eat pork)

Then you come to America, to your home culture. You walk into Safeway, just a neighbourhood normally-sized one, and it’s 8 times the size of Ecomarche, and everything looks so good and fun and different and colourful and clean and you just want it all. And then you don’t. It’s confusing, this push-pull reaction, this attraction and revulsion at the same time. I don’t know what to do with it, but one thing I do know: I don’t want to get to the point where I think I need it all.

It ‘s different, being home for an extended stay instead of a flying, 2 month visit where every evening is filled with friends and family and food, and we spend the entire time living out of suitcases in Heather and Paul’s basement. Then we sort of skim along on the surface, buying up stuff to take back; Christmas presents, make-up to last the year, Pirate napkins for birthday parties, books, a couple pounds of coffee, etc. But now, we need beds and tables, cleaning supplies, winter clothes; we bought fun mustard and chutney on sale; we’re overwhelmed with the stuff that makes up everyday life. Excuse my spluttering; I’m relearning how to swim.

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