So I now own a set of tye-dyed African threads. How I ended up with them is an interesting story…
I have recently added the people from another journal group to the list of people who get these journals. It just about doubles the number taking it to near sixty. I’ve had something of a writers block for the last couple days because I want to find something interesting to write about so as to entertain my new audience.
I was walking and thinking about it and realized that most of my writing to date has been bitching about various things. I’ve also realized that, particularly now that I’m living in Nouakchott, I’ve not got much to bitch about. I decided this in itself was noteworthy and was planning on writing a bit on the plasticity of the human mind and how many things that I had previously thought were so strange now seem mundane.
I was walking along thinking this as I was headed to pay Matt’s rent (since he is in Nouadhibou). I noticed a line of guys selling African art. There were carved masks and little sculptures and drums and stuff. It was cool looking and the guy who saw me looking told me about a couple and said some of them came from KaÃ©di and the wood was from the garden at Rinjau (which I can’t remember if I mentioned).
Down at the end though there was a fellow who started talking to me in English. He said that he was from the Gambia and that he’d like to have some tea with me.
(As a side note, my current barometer for how well I am integrating is how often I drink tea. Expat’s drink almost none and nearly any Mauritanian social function will include some.)
I am always up for a little bit visiting, so I sat down and had some tea with him. Since you have to boil the water in the little teapot each time and it is impolite to stay for less than two rounds this is an investment of at least twenty minutes.
I sat and chatted with him a bit. I could largely understand his English and was only really tripped up when he asked me if I were Christian or Muslim. He used the French “ChrÃ©tien” and something slurred for Muslim and I thought he was just asking me if I were Christian, so a couple times I answered “yes.”
At the end I was checking out some of his wares. He had some more “African” looking patterns. Most of the fabrics here are either tye-dyed or very intricate “busy” patterns. He had some stuff that was the bolder lines and primary colors that I think of as African.
I was looking at a pair of pants when he showed me a tye-dyed outfit that was green and black. It was nothing special, but the colors looked alright and I told him as much. He said I should try it on, and I told him that didn’t have any money. He insisted a couple of times and I acquiesced. Once I tried it on he wanted me to come out and see it. When I did he told me that I couldn’t take it off now since that would be bad luck. =)
I reiterated that I didn’t have any money and he said that was fine. “We are brothers, we are friends. You can pay later. You can pay what you think it is worth; 500 or 5000.” At this point I was largely alright with how this was going down. I was definitely being pressured into the sale, and I definitely couldn’t walk away since I was now wearing the clothes. I sort of liked the clothes though and I figure I can go away, learn a good price and come back. It forced me into making a purchase I was uncomfortable making.
So, now I have a new suit. =) I’ll have to get a picture taken so everyone can see it.
On the subject though of getting integrated I do think I will be in for a period where the newness is worn off, but I’m still not integrated enough to really be at home. Hopefully enough interesting things will happen to keep my audience entertained. So far Mauritania has been more than willing to provide interesting things.