Sunday, January 11, 2009

People of the Sahara

We live by the sun and the moon.

Our boo boo's billow in the wind.

When I see the moon, I know it is night.

The rising sun tells me day has come.

When I feel pain in my stomach, I eat my couscous, then.

When my eyes no longer open I lay beneath my tent.

What is time?

We have no need for time.

We live by the sun and the moon.

We are people of the Sahara.

(by Ruth Garvin and Jere Witherspoon - inspired by our experiences in Mauritania.)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Leaving Mauritania

It seems like we only just arrived and we find ourselves leaving.

Paul took us out to the airport to check in our luggage at 8:30 pm. Our flight left at 11:55 pm. Ruth and I were packed and ready to go in time. I could not say the same of our new traveling partner, Jon Shadid. I will give him some slack though as Jon operates on Mauritanian time.

Security is so much more strict at Nouakchott International Airport. Each of my bags was individually checked by a guard. I wasn't strip searched, but fairly close to it.

These actions gave me a confidence that I am lacking traveling in the US. Oh yes, the technology is 'smarter' in the US. But nothing is more secure than a real person making sure I have not weapons in my suitcase.

As the plane leaves the runway I look out over the city. I see lights with my eyes. In my minds eye I see the people that I met over the last two weeks.

I leave behind my brother: But I have met his Mauritanian family.

I bring with me a lifetime of memories that will forever change and shape the way I think about the people living in this region.

The warmth and kindness that the people of this land share is something that is missing in my home culture. It's as simple as the greeting: a kiss on each side of the face.

We are more alike than we are different.

A Mauritanian Princess for a Day - thank you Fatma!

Today I was a princess for a day. Paul's friend, Fatma, invited me to have 'henna' drawn on my hands. Paul took me to her house where I was immediately given the royal treatment.

First I was given Mauritanian tea - three cups. Fatma and I had a delightful conversation. Paul and Fatma worked together in the 90's when Paul was the country director for World Vision. Fatma speaks very good English and we were able to communicate clearly. Fatma is an amazing person. Her story has really changed some of my thinking. After reading "A Deadly Misunderstanding" Fatma's story really needs to be told.

Then, when the henna artist arrived, I laid down with pillows under my feet and head. Fatma worked with the artist to create my design.

After I had one had completed and wrapped in paper and plastic, and the other hand was half way done, I was told it was snack time. Sure enough, Omar had brought in a tray of baguettes and roasted sheep. Since my hands were 'occupied' I was feed like a princess. You have not tasted lamb until you have tasted Mauritania roasted lamb. Fatma offered me a piece of the liver. Yum. It was perfectly cooked: not dry and a little underdone.

The best part was the roasted fat on the outside. Fatma prepared my bite and asked if I like fat: YES! The taste memories will last me a long time.

Once snack time was over I returned to my position and the henna artist completed her work.

About this time Ruth, Paul and Sonsoles arrived. Now it was lunch time. Omar brought in a tray of roasted lamb, vegetables in a red pepper peanut sauce over the best rice I have ever had. This meal was eaten with hands! But not for me!

My henna was not to be washed off for 24 hours so I was given a spoon! :)

A lovely meal, more tea - three cups - and we finished with wonderful stories and coke.

So I have met our brother's Mauritanian sister - Fatma. And she gave me an experience that will linger for a very long time.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sitting on an Un-professional Camel

Apparently it is NOT professional camel season right now. The professional camels are out, away from the city right now. The best that could be done was the camel market. Wow! Really, a highlight of this trip.

Professional camels are for riding. It was obvious by the sound emitting from my camels throat that she did not want to be ridden. I couldn't blame her.

But the entire tour of the camel market - which included goats, sheep, and beef cattle - was out of this world. Our host, you will see him in the pictures when I post them, was very generous, and I might add, ready to be my son or husband, whichever I preferred. :)

In these pictures: the farm with a view, me riding the camel (sort of), me meeting a baby camel, Our host and Sonsoles.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Parc National du Banc d' Arguin

Oh, I have pictures...but as I am writing this I don't have time to post them. We headed northwest towards the 'Big Dunes.' We arrived just in time as the tide was getting higher, making it difficult to travel by beach.

In the heat of the day we unloaded the Landrover and set up the tent. Wow! It was hard work, especially in the deep sand.

Lot's more to tell but I am being summoned to speak English with the Turkish Teachers.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Meeting Aisha

When Brenna was in Mauritania she was introduced to a family. Aisha is one of Moktar's three daughters. Aisha loves Brenna. Brenna loves Aisha. Moktar is a friend of my brother's and important because he is the regional director of labor. Paul needs friends like Moktar in order for Equinoxe to be successful.

Tonight we were invited to Moktar's house for dinner. Wow! Just Wow!!

We had so much wonderful food and we laughed so hard....the warmth and love of this family poured into our hearts.

Tomorrow we are going to a national wildlife preserve, there are tons of migratory birds there now. It will be another amazing experience. Today we purchased food to take on the trip. ANOTHER amazing experience going to purchase the wood, coal, fruits and vegetables all from different vendors that Mbye know. Mbye has been putting it all together. We will leave first thing in the morning. Paul, Ruth, Sonsoles and Mbye will be together camping for three days. I'll be sure to post pictures when we get back.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The fishing village

Today Paul, Ruth and Sonsoles and I went to a fishing village west of town. I wish I had time to post the pictures. It was truly amazing. From the horseman that nearly ran over Paul, twice, to the salesmen walking on the beach and in the was an unforgettable experience.

The meat grinder arrived today from Paris. Praise be to God. Now Equinoxe can save lots of money by grinding their own meat.

Tomorrow we will go to Moktar's house for dinner. His daughter LOVES Brenna. I think I will get special treatment.