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My friend Nancy, aka Wacky Mommy, is one of the main reasons I have this blog. We’ve known each other since we were student writers at the college newspaper, and I was drawn to this tall redhead with the hearty laugh and the larger-than-life personality. I haven’t kept in touch with many people, but I’m really glad we’re still friends.

Last time she tagged me in a meme it was 2007. We were living in Nouakchott and I used her meme to announce that we were moving, first a year in the US, then on to Morocco.

She’s tagged me again.

When we moved to Morocco, I got a lot of comments asking how long we were going to stay in Morocco. This surprised me. We were moving here for real; we were going to be here for at least 6 years, probably more. The kids would finish high school here and then we’d re-evaluate, decide whether or not we’d stay, but we probably would.

This is a case of the best laid plans of mice and men ganging aft agley, as it were. Or to put it another way, I am yet another victim of the Great Global Financial Crisis. Poor me.

So, without further ado, here is the meme. 7 Things About Me.

  1. I am a nomad, but I don’t want to be one any more.
  2. I move far too often. I could use some stability in my life.
  3. I hate packing.
  4. The other day we were at the Chellah with the inlaws. I stood there under the blue sky and light winds and looked across the expanse of wildflowers and ruins and I felt angry and unhappy and completely at odds with my surroundings. I like it here a lot. I don’t want to leave. This is my hardest move—every other time, I’ve been excited, ready for something new. This time I’m not.                                                                                                                          I stood there and stared out at a silver olive tree with a spiky palm tree behind it, swaying in the breeze, and listened to the incessant cawing of the egrets and creaking sound the storks make, and I realized: If I was here on holiday, for only three weeks, I would be ecstatic. Instead I am stressed and miserable because I only have another three weeks. Live in the moment, I told myself sternly, and set myself to enjoy the golden afternoon, the pleasant sea breezes, the spiky palm and the creaking storks and the ruins that speak in an unknown tongue of ages past.
  5. It worked. At least for the rest of the day.
  6. We’re going back to Oregon.
  7. But I don’t know how long we’ll stay. I get itchy feet. I hope to still be a nomad.

* title of Wacky Mommy’s post. Ironic, no?

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Before we moved to Africa, we got a lot of shots. We went to a travel clinic and pretty much got everything they recommended. We even considered getting rabies shots, just in case, because of the packs of wild dogs that roam the streets. I’m glad we didn’t, because it wouldn’t have been necessary. This is also how we found out I’m allergic to thimerosal, and the resulting puffiness and red welts on my face are why I can’t wait for my current passport to expire.

We also bought enough malaria medicine to last us for a while. As is our wont, we read the information on it, and were somewhat amused and horrified to find out that the side effect of that particular kind of medicine is insanity. That’s not an exaggeration. Paranoia, hallucinations, and some suicides were mentioned. Nonetheless, we bought quite a lot of it and then never took it. We ended up donating it all to a clinic in Nouakchott.

There isn’t a lot of malaria in Nouakchott, where it’s dry enough most of the year that mosquitoes aren’t a huge problem. The doctors I knew who lived there took prophylactics all the time, but they’re doctors. Doctors are paranoid anyway, even without being on malaria prevention meds. We only took it when we went to Senegal or to villages in the south of Mauritania along the river, buying the medicine in syrup form for children, this really nasty coffee-flavoured syrup. As they got older and as more medicines have developed, we got to the point where we only had to take one pill a week for a month after returning from an affected area. No one in the Nomad family ever got it.

But I’ve seen plenty of others who did; enough to know what a horrible disease malaria is. It kills, quite unnecessarily, 1000s of people every year, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa; people who, unlike us, can’t afford to pay a few dollars for medicines to cure this preventable disease. The UN declared Friday, April 25, as World Malaria Day, and has started a big push to get treated mosquito nets into the hands of those who can’t afford them. This simple step goes a long way in preventing the disease. Compassion International is joining the effort, and announced Bite Back, a program to get these mosquito nets into the homes of the poor. For only $10, which you must admit isn’t much, you can donate one. And, if you donate one while thinking of Shalee and her birthday, and then leave her a comment and let her know, she’ll enter you to win a prize. I mean, not only can you help the poor, but you can possibly get a prize for it.

$10 for a treated net. If you were at risk, you’d get one in a second.

I spent some time over the last few days writing a blog post comparing the polygamous Mormon sect down in Texas with the Mauritanian view of marriage, but I couldn’t pull it off. Maybe I’ll keep working on it. Right now, the two things only link in my own mind, and the post feels awkward, swerving between being too bland and “culturally sensitive” and being potentially offensive, or just plain boring. I’ll keep working on it. I need a good ending, and a better beginning too. Not to mention an improved midsection.
It’s been a quiet week; lots of rain, lots of time with friends. Today Ilsa took me to Starbucks, in spite of my supposed boycott of the place. She got a $5 gift card as a birthday present and wanted to treat me and have a “special time.” It was fun. I got a coffee and she had lemonade and a cinnamon roll, and we talked about her plans for Morocco. We’re leaving in about 3 months, and yes, I am beginning to stress, thanks for asking.
Ilsa has a dream garden; we talk about the possibility of it being actualized. She wants to grow strawberries, lemons, and flowers; she wants it to be somehow enclosed so that it’s a bit secret, walled. She has planned an elaborate entrance system, made out of cardboard and yarn I believe, as most of her inventions are. I am allowed to share this garden, she tells me; I can have part of it to plant as I wish. I have no idea if our future home will even have a garden, I tell her, again. I don’t know if it will be a house or an apartment, or how many rooms it will have. Our future is unclear; a fact that, while always true, is most visible at times like these.
In the meantime, Michelle at Scribbit interviewed me today. You can go find out about the job I almost had, at a time when scheduling meant even less to me than it does now, and see a fun picture of a camel in the back of a pickup on the streets of Nouakchott.
I leave you with these thoughts from Elliot. This is a cautionary tale about what happens when you let your feverish son read too much, especially a son who received this very cool book from a favorite aunt.
Elliot: I was insane last night.
Me (smiling): Did you have fever dreams? When you have a fever, you often have really vivid dreams. Do you know what vivid means?
Elliot: Yes. But these weren’t dreams; I was there.
Me: Uh, yeah. You see, vivid means…
Elliot: It was really weird though. I was at the Battle of Stalingrad, and I was a Russian fighter, but I had a German gun instead of a Russian one.

Really, it’s obvious that I’m watching the wrong movies. Or it’s proof that, even after deciding to do a movie meme, that my mind goes blank. All I know is that after publishing this post, I thought of better movies that I could have used. Although, I must admit that I avoided some (Philadelphia Story, Waiting for Guffman, Princess Bride) that others had used.

Oh well. Life does actually go on. And I had a lot of fun trying to think of quotes.

Movie # 1: Casablanca. Donn and I love this movie, which has the right combination of snide comments and perfect one-liners and yet has romance, not to mention being beautifully lit and photographed.

I couldn’t find a clip with the line I quoted, so here’s another scene:

Movie # 2: Better Off Dead. This is an 80s high-school movie, one of John Cusack’s first, about a young man who’s very depressed after his girlfriend dumps him for…you guessed it…someone “better-looking, more popular, drives a better car.” I thought it had a more universal humor, but when I showed it to some young people who were only one or two when it came out, and they not only didn’t laugh but looked at me like I was really, really old, I realized that perhaps it is a bit dated. Fortunately, my kids think it’s funny.

For me, this movie has so much history, so many memories of watching it with Paul and Heather and others back in the day, that it’s just really really funny.

This is kind of a long clip, but the line I quoted is about in the middle, around the 4 minute mark.

Movie #3: The Producers. We’ve only watched this movie once, but this scene stuck in our heads, especially Will Ferrell spitting out, “Filthy British Lies!”

Movie #4: School of Rock. Part of what made this so funny is that we all know people like Jack Black’s character, only possibly not quite as manic. This line has passed into our family’s lexicon: “You’re not hardcore unless you live hardcore.” Words to live by. We also like asking, if something is forbidden, “What about verbal abuse?”

Movie #5: Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Well, I rather screwed up on this one. Because this movie is so popular, I tried to find a obscure quote to make it challenging, so I went with the silly subtitles during the opening credits. You know, the ones about the moose (A moose once bit my sister) that segue into Ralph the Wonder Llama? But I ended up actually quoted a line from a Flying Circus sketch (The llama is a quadruped), which is why I should have checked with Donn, I guess. This also means that several people actually got it right. Oh well. Here’s a clip of the Insulting French.

Movie #6: Buckaroo Banzai. This cheesy sci-fi flick is lots of fun. I hadn’t seen it in years until recently, but I always remembered the line, “No matter where you go, there you are.” Very apropos for a nomadic family like ours.

Movie #7: The Manchurian Candidate. This movie’s been remade but I’ve only seen the original, which is well worth watching. This quote was obscure, I admit (although Mad got it right off). But I love the political and psychological suspense of it. Angela Lansbury is really scary in this movie–if you’ve only ever seen her in her bumbling “Murder She Wrote” role, you will enjoy seeing what a good actress she can be.

Movie #8: I had to put a Woody Allen movie in here. I love Curse of the Jade Scorpion because it has what made Woody Allen so funny–lots of really funny one-liners and insults. Helen Hunt finds Woody Allen rummaging through her desk and he tells her, “You’re a really suspicious person. I doubt an Amish person would be so suspicious.” Or something like that.

Movie #9: This one I put in for Donn. He’s the only person I know who would actually admit to watching an Elvis movie. But this one’s better than most (at least I guess; I refuse to watch most)–Elvis imagines himself as an actual surfer, only with a little tummy on him. The music is awful, the “plot” is corny and sexist and not what one might call subtle, but it’s still kinda fun, offering a glimpse of Hawaii in the 60s. Plus, it’s got some funny bits–including Angela Lansbury as a mindless, politically incorrect Southern-belle housewife. (Sample line: Tourists aren’t people!) I really am not a huge fan, but I like her in these two roles.

Movie #10: Stephanie actually got this one, almost. It’s not Destra, Florida, but Vernon, Florida. It is an eminently quotable movie. It’s a real documentary–Errol Morris went to a small town in Florida in the early 80s and just filmed people talking. It’s the funniest thing.

It was actually really hard to pick just one line. Here’s the one I ended up choosing, where 3 old men are discussing a friend’s suicide and arguing about how he did it.

But I’m also including the turkey hunter, who is priceless. This dude is REALLY into turkey-huntin’! Here he is, describing how he killed each bird.

We also love the lady who was told of the problem of desertification, but who didn’t quite understand it. She proudly shows off her jar of “growing sand.” Donn and I sent friends a Mauritanian box full of sand, telling them it was growing sand and had only a few grains when we sent it. You really should watch this movie.

Thanks to all who played!

Do you read Scribbit? If you don’t, you should. She’s a very talented woman who lives in Alaska and blogs about everything from recipes to rainy-day activities to travel to motherhood; she’s also extremely organized and gives great blogging tips. She’s the one that put together all the mom blogs in one easy-to-find location. She also sponsors a monthly writing contest, with prizes!
This month’s theme is Going Home, and I’m the judge. Details are here. If you’re interested, get your entry in soon. And although it might be possible to sway me with gift cards from Amazon or Starbucks, or with bouquets of spring flowers, I probably should mention that the entries are sent on to me anonymously. So go ahead and try to bribe me, but I make no guarantees. My preferred form of chocolate is dark, 72% cocoa, just in case you were wondering. I don’t mind things in it either, like nuts or espresso beans or bitter orange peels.
In the meantime, here is a post I wrote on this subject in June 2006, right before we left Mauritania for a summer trip to Portland.

You Can’t Go Home Again

first published June 2006

The other day, we were talking about our upcoming American summer with a Mauritanian friend. “Will you go back to your old house?” he asked. We shrugged. We sold it when we moved here—figured it would be WAY too much hassle to have to worry about renters, leaky roofs, backed-up toilets, etc from half a world away.

“We have that idea,” he told us. “We call it atlal and it’s very important in our culture. There’s a lot of poetry written about it.” He went on to describe a nomad passing by an oasis where he spent time several years previously. Maybe a bit of his old fence is left, uneaten by animals, and he sifts through the sand to find the 3 stones on which he balanced his cooking pots over the flames and the ashes of an old fire. This is good. He sits there in the sand, enjoying the evening breeze on his face, thinking of the past. Maybe he makes a pot of tea, balancing his pot on those same stones, remembering. Bouka atlal—tears on the place where you had a good time.

It is actually painful for me to visit our old house. I lived there the longest I have lived in any single house—6 years. It is where my children were babies. It is an older house for America, and it had issues, but also ancient, fragrant roses, original hardwood floors, the biggest camilla bush I have ever seen—it was more like a tree. The morning light through the windows was beautiful. Leaving it was difficult. But now others live there, have filled the garden with new plants, built a different fence, made new memories.

Unlike the Mauritanians, we say, “You can’t go home again.” “You can’t step in the same river twice.” We don’t even try. We, as a people, tend to look forward. We glorify youth, and want always the latest things. We move on. Seek closure. It’s over now.

Going back to a familiar place after several years away is strange. Memory has shifted, solidified, and the layers are no longer discernible, so that I may remember things—not as they were when I left them—but as they were several years before that. Does it have more to do with building those layers, with seeing a particular building on a particular corner over and over again until it is fixed in the mind? So that if a building was changed only a few months before I left, I won’t remember that. Chronology can also be abstract.

I have started packing. We leave tomorrow night; our flight takes off (insha’allah) at 3 a.m. After traveling about 31+ hours, we’ll arrive at my in-laws in Southern Calif. We’ll go to bed around midnight their time; 7 a.m. for our body clocks. A few hours later we’ll get up, dazed and groggy. Happy Father’s Day Donn! I’m planning on giving him a nap, and maybe some Thai food later on.

First I saw this at Mad’s place, where I correctly identified Heathers (she said modestly).
Then I saw it at Beck’s and Veronica’s, where I was too late to play.
Then I saw it at Piece’s, where again, I correctly identified Philadelphia Story (although it was an easy quote)
So I thought, I want to play too.
The problem is that I am biologically incapable of saying, “These are my favorite movies.” Also, I have the memory of a swiss cheese. So, here are some movie lines from some movies that I have watched and enjoyed and REMEMBERED these lines from.
Here’s how you play. Each person gets to guess ONE movie. When you get it right or within 72 hours or so afterwards, knowing me like I do, I will cross it out and credit you.
Sound like fun? Hope so!

Movie #1:
I’m here for the waters.
What waters? This is a desert.
I was misinformed.
This, of course, is from Casablanca, which may be our favorite movie after all. We were always planning to do a little video about the joys of language learning with this scene spliced in. Suburban Correspondent likes it as much as I do!

Movie #2:
I just think it would be in my best interests if I went out with someone better-looking, more popular…drives a better car… Veronica knew instantly that this was Better Off Dead; one of the more quoted movies in my life, I must admit. (What does that tell you about me? Actually, the better question is, what does that tell you about who my friends are? I knew I missed them when I learned how to say, “Sorry your Mom blew up, Ricky,” in Hassiniya.)

Movie #3:
Hitler! Now there was a painter. He could do an entire apartment in one afternoon–two coats! TsunamiBomb (the link to your site doesn’t work) got this one–The Producers. I’ve only seen the newer version with Will Ferrell, but this scene in particular cracked me up. You should hear Donn do the German accent on “Filthy British Lies!”

Movie #4:
You’re not hardcore unless you live hardcore. Lonie Polony got this one right off–School of Rock.

Movie #5:
The llama is a quadruped. YAAY Nan! Several people knew this was Monty Python, but she was the first to correctly identify the actual movie it came from.

I picked this line because Donn used to quote it often when we were first dating. Yeah I know…I don’t know why it lasted either.

Movie #6:
No matter where you go, there you are. My sister-in-law, Kris, knew this one. It’s Buckaroo Banzai, a truly cheesy sci-fi 80s movie.

Movie #7:
It’s been decided that you will be dressed as a priest…to help you get away in the pandemonium afterwards. I was worried this one might be obscure, but Mad has got it–The Manchurian Candidate.

Movie #8:
So, did you tell her who’s boss?
She thinks she’s smarter. Just cuz she graduated from Vassar and I, I went to driving school.

Movie #9:
My baby‘s home from the Big House!
Oh, Sara Lee, would you forget those old movies?

Movie #10:
I saw him that very day. He always said last thing he’d ever do is shoot himself…which it was.

UPDATED TO ADD:

I can’t believe no one’s gotten #5, which is very popular in a certain set.

Movie #5: Here’s another line.

I’m FRRRRRENCH! Where do you think I got this outRRRRRRageous accent?

And, more clues for the last 3, which are somewhat obscure, I must admit.

Movie #8: This movie was set in the 40s and has a lot of GREAT insults traded back and forth between the two main characters.

One more clue? Ok. Constantinople!

Movie #9: This movie is set in Hawaii. I hope no one else has ever had to sit through it. Possibly your parents liked it, assuming they were WAY MORE HIP than mine.

Movie #10: This movie is a documentary. It’s really funny, especially if you don’t mind laughing at people instead of with them.

CCE at MadMarriage has tagged me for a meme, a perfect thing for a rainy Monday when I don’t have much time to write. This is a meme that asks me to look back at my old blog posts and tell you my personal favorites.
Isn’t a good writer not supposed to have favorites? I did a post about that, but I’m not going to include it in the list.
I am actually biologically incapable of choosing favorites, but I figure it doesn’t really matter, does it? The point is, you can read some things about me. Me! The whole point of a meme, which, of course, you have noticed is basically me to the second power.
I actually quite like this meme. Normally I protest memes because I can’t imagine that people want to really know about ME. But this one is about my blog. If you’re here, you must care about my blog. Right? Right.
I’m supposed to choose an old post about each of the following: ME! (well obviously), family, friends, things I love, and a wild card.

I spent way too much time on this last night, rereading old posts, reliving old memories. I don’t think this meme is supposed to be quite as much about navel-gazing as I made it. Worst of all, I had a hard time picking. Am I that arrogant? *goes into falsetto*–oh they’re just all so fantastic! *makes depreciating hand gesture with wrist.*

Yeah. Apparently.

I like to think that it’s really the memories I’m reliving. How do I choose, for example, between making you read about our camping trips in the Sahara (and which trips? The crocodiles? Part two of the crocodiles? Or the baboons?) For the one about me, do I tell you about the university? You’ll be pleased to know that I relived all the memories in choosing, so now I’m wallowing in nostalgia.

Ok, here we go. I will be serious now.

For family, choose one of the following: Ilsa the Spy, Donn’s return, or the shark. Discuss your choice in comments.

For friends, I have to write about Aicha. But now I feel unsure–should I have done one of the weddings? Present the pros and cons of each.

For the wild card, I pick my “favorite” (clue: when favorite is in quotes, it means it’s opposite) thesis student, Romeo. Discuss: can the author change the meaning of terms by the simple use of quote marks?

I can’t think of posts for things I love or ME!, but that’s okay, since I’ve already chosen more than I was supposed to.

Don’t worry–we both know you’re not going to go back and read my old posts, and that’s ok–I already did! But at least I posted.

I tag Veronica, Beck, Pieces and Meredith, since I would love to reread those posts they consider their favs and see if they’re the ones I would have chosen.

I get so many of these and it seems only fair to share them with you. Some of them make me wonder about the crazy people out there who nonetheless know how to type, and some of them make me wonder about the wisdom of google, because these topics have nothing to do with me and life here on Planet Nomad. An example of both might be the poor lost soul searching for “an event that happened uneventfully.” Get that person a Thesaurus! Besides, here on “red sandstorm planet” (another search, and not only a great description of Mauritania, but a great name for this blog) ALL events happen eventfully!

Where are camptown ladies?” At the camel races, of course.

windows were made by soaking cloth in this oil in the colonial days.” Apparently the web thinks Mauritania is still stuck in the 1700s. Hey the web said it, not me!

idiom of knots in stomach” Um, isn’t this already an idiom?

explain the idioms said by scout to kill” Ok, I know google considers me the leading expert on idioms. But killing idioms? Isn’t that like a cutting wit—in itself an idiom? Oh my head hurts.

reasons for reading romeo and juliet.” Oh they are many. But if you have to ask the web, well, perhaps classic literature is not for you.

antique nomad surfboard” Worked great on sand dunes, presumably.

browning nomad arm” What I do a little of every day.

jellyfish sting tan tights” Ok, I get the first 2 words. And the last 2 work together as well. But all 4? Nope. I get nothing.

obsessed with Mona” As are we all, to some degree or another. I mean, I guess.

Why do we have to drink camel milk?” This one struck a deep chord with me. I’ve asked myself that same question a few times, although I’ve never asked the web.

smoked salmon parasites facial rash” Have I ever mentioned any of these things? No. This sounds like a problem for my husband, who recently started his own NGO—Doctors Without Formal Education. That is, assuming the irascible Dr. House is too busy to deign to pay attention to this cry for help.

where can you buy dolphins milk?” I have no idea. Sounds like traditional medicine here, which states that drinking lion’s urine can cure diabetes. But, how do you know it’s really from a lion, not a donkey? I’d be skeptical of any so-called dolphin’s milk.

debbie, wife of tabby from neighbours” Sometimes it’s best not to know.

popular nomad desert tribe.” Maybe we could have a contest to choose. I’m voting for Aicha’s tribe.

And, last but not least: “mauritania everyone birthday december 31” I know about this. Until recently, people didn’t know when their actual birthday was. When they put in place a system of national identity cards, they just automatically put everyone’s birthday on either Dec. 31 or Jan. 1. So it would seem that everyone over about 30 was born on one of those days. If this is confusing to you, ask the web!

I’ve been collecting some of the strange ways people have found my blog for a couple of months now. Here are some of my favorites.

fast thanksgiving desert (why spelling is impotent)

slurpee sand spike groundwater (yummm—EE)

idioms using decapitate (cuz you never know when you’ll need one)

women formal ready made evening dresses (Mauritania is all about formal)

ducks in the wind idioms (all we are is ducks in the wind)

describe what elizabeth 1st looked like (like a nomad, of course)

dryer buzzer won’t stop (???This has to do with my desert life how? I don’t even OWN a dryer.)

styrofoam eaten by my dog (My styrofoam was eaten by goats. And it was actually cardboard.)

redo africa song bad (Not to mention grammar bad)

how do I pronouce the work Ibuprofen (“thuh werk I-boo-pro-fen”)

how dolphins came from another planet (I can see how the web would be the place to find this information…)

“is just a handshake” (I feel sorry for whoever’s been getting this pick-up line)

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