Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Vous souhaite une bonne année et bonne santé!

We are gearing up for the big New Year's Eve party!

We are expecting a big crowd but yet not certain what to expect.

If it gets busy, Ruth and I will be helping to bus tables and bring drinks.

I continue to be amazed at the peacefulness of the country. And the people who work at Equinoxe have driven that reality home - it's an honor to be here and meet these people.

We are all more alike than we are different. The warmth of their generosity and genuine interest is overwhelming. Today Ruth and I had lengthy conversation with Hamdi about politics, religion and the similarities of our country.

See you next year!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Preparing for New Years Eve

Well, day two, we are doing well.

Today we worked with Pape Ngom, the master chef of Equinoxe, to create a special dish for the New Years Eve - Three Demi Burgers with coleslaw and frites - camel burger, sheep and beef. Bechir will be glad to serve you a dish tomorrow night.

Paul gave us a brief tour of the city today, went to the bank and then to the top of the hotel so we could look at the city with a view of the beach.

Jiddou showed me how to make Mauritanian tea today. It's on film. I can't wait to show it to you.

Monday, December 29, 2008


Wish you were here. Really. I have been in the country 16 hours.

There is sooo much to say! It's been amazing so far and my wildest dreams are becoming a reality.

Everything as gone well. And now you must wait to hear the rest for there are people to meet and things to see.

Check back later.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Each morning I wake up near or about 5 am. After using the restroom I tend to lay in bed attempting to revisit my dreams. For the last week, however, although my head rests on the pillow I lay awake thinking about the time ticking away.

Until this morning I have been under the impression that I had plenty of time to accomplish the tasks required prior to my departure. This morning that impression changed. Oh, I have pretty much completed everything I need to do in preparation for my trip. I started packing my own personal items four days ago. During those mornings when I lay in bed thinking I planned and ordered in my head. Now all I need to do is physically place those items in a bag, or ready to pack in one of the many boxes/bags that we are using to transport the items for Equinoxe.

And now it's Christmas morning.

The snow has thwarted our plans for holiday travel. The sense of urgency abaited, I feel peace. But in the morning, when the quiet is all around, my mind surges forward to Saturday, December 27.

Ruth and Jojo come to help pack tomorrow. We'll have coffee, restaurant supplies and a plethora of other items to organize. I know it will all come together. This trip is something I have secretly dreamed of for years.

Dream come true. Tick. Chance of a lifetime. Tock. Seeing my brother in his home. Tick. Meeting Brenna's friends. Tock. Riding a camel. Tick. Having lunch in a cafe in Paris. Tock. Embracing a country and a culture to foreign to mine. Tick - tock. I can't wait.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

White Sand

As I walked through the intersection of Mountainview and Main St. my eyes imagined that I was walking through white sand. I felt the warmth of the Mauritanian sun on my face and imagined the hot sand washing over my bare feet.

The sound of a truck approaching awoke me from my day dream. The warmth on my face was sweat (wearing layers and walking the dogs) and the sand under my feet was powdery snow mixed with dirt. I was walking on ice covered streets with a thick layer of snow. This was NOT Mauritania...yet.

The Pacific Northwest has been in a deep freeze for over a week now. Last week the mild part of this storm hit. School days were canceled giving kids an extra week of vacation. Holiday shopping was put on hold yet the worse was yet to come.

Fourteen some inches later, we are still under a blanket of white. It's 26 degrees this morning. Fahrenheit.

Travelers are stuck at plane, train or bus stations. For some this arctic blast is a pain. For others it is a welcome reprieve. You'll find me in the later group.

I am watching forecast with great interest. Ruth and I leave in 5 days. I've been blessed (thank you GFU) with an extended break as the university has been closed a few days and we are not required to come to work.

I continue to watch the forecast with great interest. Will our flight be delayed, canceled or postponed? Today it looks like a warming trend is due by the end of the week. Ruth has 4 wheel drive and is planning to drive out to my house on Friday to pack. Jojo will drive us to the airport in that 4 wheel drive vehicle on Saturday in the early morning - before the crazy traffic clutters the roadways.

There is lots to look forward to between now and then. Christmas at home. This fact alone has brought me great peace.

A week from today the ground beneath my feet will be warm. The warmth of the Mauritanian sun will be on my face. It's just a matter of time.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Getting it all together - Identifying with the Camel

Ruth told me she had a better plan for packing all the stuff we are taking to Equinoxe. Her commitment to the project took a huge weight off my shoulders.

Recently Equinoxe received a grant. Some of these funds will be used to purchase equipment for the restaurant. For the last few weeks the USP and FedEx drivers have beaten a path to my door. They probably think our Christmas is going to be pretty darn good!

The packages of incredibly various sizes are all addressed the same: Jere Witherspoon for Paul. Somewhere, someone thinks that my middle name is Witherspoon for. :) I'll know this for sure when I get junk mail to that affect.

After a few weeks I began to purchase plastic trunks in which to pack some of this stuff. Most of the items are small and they easily fit into one of the trunks. Other items have been left in their original boxes and will be shipped as is as excess baggage. (The topic of excess baggage will likely be discussed after arriving in Mauritania.)

I was feeling pretty optimistic once I found a trunk long enough in which to pack the French Fry warmer. Several other odd items neatly packed around the oblong box.

I don't plan to take much for myself. A few outfits and what not. I'll pack those items around the packages intended for Equinoxe.

With each day the burden of the packing lessoned. Till Ruth came over to discuss our menu items for our special events while in Mauritania. Now I am glad Ruth came up with a better plan. It will likely save Equinoxe a fare bit of money on shipping costs. But much of what I have together will likely be rearranged. And I am okay with that.

I still have moments of panic when I think of lugging all that baggage into the airport. I'll have to be prepared to tip. :)

At least I'll be able to relate to the camel when I ride him/her.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Giving Thanks!

Seems that Equinoxe has much to be thankful for.

Please take a couple minutes to read about it at Paul's blog - it's amazing to think that I am going to be a part of this outreach in just 17 days. PINCH ME!! :)

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Ruth Garvin met my brother, Paul, in October of 2007. It's somewhat of a remarkable story. You see my OTHER brother, Mark, and his wife, Sherry, live in a wonderful home on Vashon Island. They are experts in 'good times' so Wade and I wanted to take our friends to their place for the weekend.

Paul was early in the process of planning Equinoxe. He and his partner, Paige, were planning to be in Seattle during the time we were planning our weekend. Paige and Paul were making a presentation to an organization in hopes to procure funding for Equinoxe.

Realizing that our time on Vashon would coincide with Paul's visit I began to e-mail introductions to him so that he would know Jojo, Joe and Ruth when we all arrived.

In my e-mail I gave a brief description, explaining our relationship with each of them and what they did for a living. It wasn't until I received a return e-mail from Paul that I realized what 'providence' had done: Paul needed an expert in the coffee business. Ruth fit that order to a T.

Ruth used to own several coffee shops in the Portland area: Pappachinos.

Equinoxe was going to start out at a cafe, serving coffee and pastries and the like. Ruth had wanted to do something outside of the norm and was looking for a cross-cultural opportunity to share her skills.

When the two of them met it was like magic. Not only did they get along, but each of them were symbiotic. It was pretty amazing.

Last February Ruth made her journey to Mauritania. Her bags were filled with coffee, cups, lids, hot pots, etc....

Ruth trained Paul and the Equinoxe staff to make coffee - espresso - lattes. At the time coffee and coffee shop faire was the focus. Nearly a year later things have certainly expanded.

We will be taking coffee with us. Peter Miller is donating 30 pounds of coffee from Caravan Coffee in Newberg.

Ruth contacted her friends at Longbottom Coffee. They are donating 50 pounds.

It's interesting to see the similarities in the two companies. While Longbottom articulates their mission more clearly both establishments clearly value the environment and the local farmer's perspective.

Directly from Longbottom's website: "We service many different types of coffee-based businesses, from full service coffee bars, espresso carts, specialty shops, caterers and drive-thrus, to restaurants and offices across the United States. We pride ourselves on first class service, unsurpassed quality and people who are truly committed to your success."

Both coffee establishments like helping other businesses succeed in their own endeavors. Caravan boasts: "Local coffee purveyors started coming to us asking for us to help them create a proprietary blend to set them apart from others. And the word spread to where we now service coffee retailers from coast to coast."

So Ruth will find herself full circle - going back to Equinoxe to see the fruits of her labor. And she won't be alone. Just like a good cup of coffee is best when shared with a friend - so goes our journey.

Monday, December 1, 2008

One step closer

I received my Visa and Passport today. Phew!!!!

Although I wasn't really worried, I must admit I was relieved to have this step in my journey finalized.