Archive for November, 2003

day one hundred fifty nine b

The day after Thanksgiving was another of those lie around, read a little French and then sleep some more days. Unfortunately I had the bright idea of going to the bureau around 5p.m. and ended up killing most of the night there. By the time I decided to go home it was too late to so I just kept working.

One of the things I made was a cover for a CD label:

Then about 9a.m. I got a call from an ex-PCV from Morocco named Xerces. He had spent the last couple weeks up in the Adrar and he was in town looking to find some souvenirs before leaving town.

So, being nice and what not I forwent sleep to take him around town.

We started with the African fellows, but that was all stuff Xerces had seen in Guinea where he was the last year. Next we went over to the Marché Capitol and wandered through the row of guys there selling stuff. We looked at pipes and teapots and some boxes. Then out to Cinquieme where we visited Carl’s new house and had some tasty chub-e-jen. We wandered a bit with Carl, but didn’t find anything particularly Mauritanian other than the fabrics and Xerces didn’t want those.

From there we went to Racey’s to ask if she knew of any good places. On her recommendation we went over to some artsy sort of shops. We looked at alot of the same stuff from Capitol, but better made. We went back over to Capitol for one more check there and finally ended up in the artsy shops again.

Xerces bargained hard for about half an hour and eventually got a wooden chest about 3.5’x2’x2′ for 9000um (starting price 18000um) and a little ebony box with silver work for 10000um (starting price 15000um). He worked hard for it and I was glad I went with him because I can have some idea of what to shoot for now.

From there we had dinner, I went home and slept til 1:00 today. It is midnight again so I am going to go sleep.


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day one hundred fifty nine a

Thanksgiving was nearly all I could have hoped for. It was lacking my family, of course, but I did stuff myself until I couldn’t move anymore.
There were about 30 of un at Obie’s so there wasn’t a quite place to take a nap, but there was alot of interesting conversation. Also there were no pineapples and cheese (since this country is without cheddar), but there were finally chocolate chip cookies.

I had my grandma’s pineapples and cheese recipe on the web and I appear to have changed it into a poulty rub recipe. A google search returns my mom’s poulty rub as the second result on a search for “pineapples and cheese.” I guess I meant to copy it and overwrote it instead…

Ok, I fixed it, go make, eat and try to psychically communicate the experience of:

We had about a dozen chicken. No turkey, but I wasn’t complaining. One thing I had never had for Thanksgiving but which was my favorite part of the meal was biscuits and sawmill gravy. I didn’t know it, but I think I was suffering a grave gravy deficiency. =)

I made a cookie and saved it for my landlord. I forgot it though and it is probably still nicely wrapped in aluminum foil sitting at Obie’s.

I also learned what happens when you screw up yogurt. It was shortly before I learned where cheese comes from and just how gross a bucket with two gallons of spoiled milk is. It is also true that really no quantity of sugar can make spoiled milk taste like a yummy treat.

The whole next day I didn’t eat at all. It was great.


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day one hundred fifty six a

Today has been fun. I picked up Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. I read quite a bit last night and then lay around until I finished it this morning. A cool book and definitely worht a read. I like the personal philosopies of Vonnegut’s characters. They’re always interesting.

Today is still a part of the post-Ramadan holiday, so nobody’s working yet.

I went over to Marc’s to discover that they had eaten all but five of the sixteen bags of yogurt I made yesterday. So, after we went out for mafe (a peanut sauce and rice dish) I got the stuff and made a extra big batch. I think I ended up with about six liters which is about two gallons. That’s a bunch of yogurt, but it is looking like we may well have thirty people at Thanksgiving.

The stores were all closed, so I am still sugarless. I still have hope though and think I will eventually triumph and bear some chocolate chip cookies.

I felt guilty today which doesn’t happen often. I was walking out of my house and my landlord met me outside. He asked me about the fete and why I didn’t come visit him. The holiday is generally spent wandering around visiting with various people. He took me over to his side of the house and I saw the food he had set out for guests. He gave me some cookies and some fruit and dates. I was going out to the salon and he stoppped at the door. I wasn’t quite sure if he expected me to go or not, so I went over to my side of the house.

Once I got there I ate the cookies which were really good and felt bad. I am really intimidated by the old guy. I don’t know what to talk with him about. The fact that he is sixty years older than me puts up enough of a barrier and him speaking French and I not isn’t helpful either.

I’m going to get Matt and take him by with me. I’m also getting on the French thing. It is easy to stay and play with computers which I am good and which is easy. I’ve got to get off my butt though and suck for a while at French.

The only times I feel guilty are when I feel like I didn’t do my best. The French is hard and I’ve been avoiding it. As a result I’ve been neglecting pretty much all of my Mauritanian relationships. It is immature and I’m gonna change. I’m planning on taking him some cookies tomorrow provided I can find the stuff to make them.


Our evening was passed playing pool with various wagers. Marc will be saying a very patriotic prayer tomorrow at Thanksgiving in his Christopher Walken voice, Erin will be speaking in brogue and Marc now has a picture of me in my underwear holding a pool cue. An interesting evening all around.

Anyhow, it is 3a.m. here and I have much cooking to do tomorrow. Hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving.


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day one hundred fifty four c

I am in the process of going over the old website and prettying it up and bringing it in line with newer web publishing practices. It is going to take a bit, but an interesting page that I discovered is:

This is a series of articles written by Maite Uranga who was a health volunteer in Toulde between 2001 and 2003.

I’ve only read a bit, but her perspective seems to be a decently realistic one of life here.


P.S. I had a couple people ask me about pictures after the Halloween party. I was going to respond that I had a camera and I would make a point of using it more. Unfortunately I discovered in Chinguetti that while I did indeed have a camera I don’t appear to have a working one. Uncle Ted has been kind enough to offer and try and get one to me and I think I’ll take him up on it. In the interim, I have managed to make it on the web in a couple places:

On Miriam’s site there’s a picture of me with my host brother Omar from stage: (I got a call from Mousa (my host father) asking about a letter of invitation when I go home. Amazingly my French gets awful and I can no longer communicate well when an awkward situation presents itself.) =)

Carl and I were also captured making our peanut butter sandwiches for out end of stage luncheon:

She got one where you can see my pretty gregre (charm) that the Senegalese guy who sold me the tye-dye gave me. Unfortunately the strap broke and not it is on my keychain and not nearly as cool:

I mentioned drinking with Mark Hitchcock, that was photographed by Marc Valentin:

I have a couple of photos from Tergit (the oasis coming back from Chinguetti), but they’ll have to wait on a scanner. There are Halloween pictures somewhere too…

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day one hundred fifty four b

I don’t know how much publicity this got back home, but the Dayton Daily News did a series called “Casualties of Peace” that painted the Peace Cops in a fairly negative light.

It particularly focuses on the issues of safety and security. At this point I am pretty much without comment. I can say that I feel safe here, but I am a male in a relatively calm country.

We went to see Bowling for Columbine the other night and I thought that Moore’s characterization of our society as one in fear was an interesting one. I didn’t feel especially nervous back home, but that there certainly were enough reasons to do so.

Here is pretty much the same. We have had robberies and the State Department just released another general world wide warning for the end of Ramadan. “Watch out, wherever you are, it isn’t safe.” I suppose that if I wanted to worry I could find reason. All in all though it doesn’t seem like it would do a whole lot other than make life less fun.

Anyhow, I said I wasn’t going to comment.


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day one hundred fifty four a

Today was the first day of the end of Ramadan. The way it works is you wait until you can see the tiniest sliver of moon and that means that a new (lunar) month has begun. In theory last night one could see some moon and so Ramadan has ended. So we are now in Shawwal, the first day of which is Eid Ul Fitr or international visit your friends and party all night because we aren’t fasting anymore day.

I say in theory because supposedly a good deal of Senegal is still fasting today because they couldn’t see any moon. According to the internet though Mauritania ought to be right though. I didn’t look last night because I didn’t know what I was looking for.

The internet also told me that the Muslim calendar is 11 days shorter than the western calendar and consists of twelve lunar months. It is called the hijra because it starts on July 16, 622 C.E. when Muhammad fled Mecca which is also known as the hijra.

(Another calendar note… I suppose most everyone knows, but if you have not seen it before alot of people use Common Era (C.E.) and Before the Common Era (B.C.E.) instead of Anno Domini (“In the year of our Lord”) (A.D.) and Before Christ (B.C.).)

For me it was national make a little yogurt, eat Chinese because it is the only place open, take a nice nap cause there’s nothing to do day. =)


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day one hundred fifty three a

I used to be pretty good at the whole introspection personal development growth enlightenment sort of thing. I feel like I’ve lost my edge in the last couple years. Went off into town to try and become a businessman, in so much as programming is my business. Unfortunately I couldn’t fast, wasn’t especially good at waiting and my thinking seemed to bring more problems than it solved.

I think part of the reason that I’ve been sort of leveling off is my drive is gone. When I got to college I was a pretty sad kid. I didn’t like myself and didn’t see any good reason for other people to like me. The thought of just being happy once in a while was enough of a carrot to get me moving. And besides it at least made me feel like I was doing something which makes shitty circumstances more bearable in general.

Now, I’ve lost alot of that fuel. I’m not necessarily actively happy all the time, but I’m generally content. I could certainly live like this for the rest of my life and other than it being a bit boring I’d say it wasn’t a bad run.

When I was in Huntsville. (Fowler talks about creating the myth of our lives. Huntsville, if you haven’t noticed, is a particularly mythic bit for me.) Anyhow, I did the whole meditation and seeking challenging experiences and growth bit in Huntsville and after a bit I started to really like the way things were going. Not just the sort of defacto not disliking that I’ve got going on now, but to really be entertained by pretty much everything that was going on. (I ended it by nearly working myself to death and fighting with Steph alot, but that’s a different myth.)

Since I am here though and have newfound copious spare time, I figured maybe I’d start easing back into some of the patterns that I was holding then. Just little stuff like waiting until I’m really hungry to eat and exercising regularly. Little stuff to pay attention since paying close attention to the experience of life seems to make it better for some reason. I guess it just keeps me from glossing over so many of the details.

So Jay had some random growth oriented book and I borrowed it. Not really looking for any deep insights, but just wanting to sort of have something to focus me on that sort of work. The title is The Four Agreements and I agree with Jay’s characterization of “nothing really new, but not a bad summary of good stuff to remember.”

One bit I did like is that he uses the metaphor that we are dreaming. That’s common enough, but rather than taking about “waking up” he talks about changing the dream. I liked the expression of the idea that we can’t stop playing the game. We can see it and we can choose to respond to it in different ways, but there are certain aspects of living life that we can’t change.

The book reminds me a big of Casteneda, but without the supernatural bit. I suppose that’s alright. I always liked to dream of having magic powers when I’d read Casteneda. It is probably best that I don’t have magic powers.

There is a rooster who lives somewhere near my house. On TV you see the rooster waking up and giving a hearty cock-a-doodle-doo “Good Morning Mr. Sun” to the sun crests the horizon. Real roosters aren’t like that. They start calling to Mr. Sun a good hour before he arrives and continue for a good hour after he is shining brightly. They manage somehow to keep the same fervor the entire time.

I say that it is good that I don’t have magic powers because I’m pretty sure that one of the first things I’d do with them is reach out and choke the life out of that rooster.

Ok, that’s it for me. The rooster joke is all I had really. It took me an hour (between 4:30 and 5:30a.m.) to come up with that. I am off to find some falafel. The French Cultural Center is showing Bowling for Columbine. Maybe it’ll be in English so I’ll understand some if it.

Go enjoy the autumn. Play in the laves for me. Palm trees don’t loose their leaves unfortunately.


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day one hundred fifty two b

John Kerr wrote:

> A question that I have is what is the work environment there for the > people that live there. Do they have Friday, Saturday and Sunday off > since Fridays is prayer day?

I am going to answer this publicly since I think it is an interesting question…

The way it works is Friday is the holy day, Saturday is the relaxation day and then the work week starts on Sunday. They have the French influence though and many people do the month long vacation during August. They go “en brusse” out to the desert somewhere and hang out in a tent drinking tea. And there’s Ramadan of course and one can only do so much work when you’ve not eaten all day…

Have you ever seen the movie Office Space? “I’d say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work.” There is actual work done here, but the pace is certainly more relaxed.

> How many hours a week do most people work?

It varies widely of course. A boutique owner is usually in his boutique pretty much all day. A guardian for a house seems to generally be divided between a daytime guy and a nighttime guy. At the university people seem to show up around 9a.m. and leave around 4p.m. I figure most people are running around 35-40 hours a week.

> What is your work week like?

Currently nonexistent. I get up around 9 and come to the university around 10. I fix computers here or occupy myself with whatever the project is for the day. I usually wander off anytime between 3-8p.m.

We should be doing our instructor training (8 hours a day for 10 days straight) in December. (Have I mentioned that it doesn’t rain, but it pours here?)

I’m not sure exactly how our teaching schedule will work since the university is theoretically starting today. They told us to not expect students to come by before next week though. This Tuesday is the end of Ramadan which will be a big party. Then people need a day to recuperate and after that it is already Thursday, so why work just one day?

I’ll also hopefully be helping them set up a server to do some computer networking stuff. They are getting the labs set up now and will probably be needing me in about a week. (Once my class has started of course.) =)

> Also when I respond, does everyone else on the list get this > response?

No, the only time it goes to the whole list is when you send it to jsfromtherim. Just replying should send it to only me unless you choose to “respond to all recipients.” When in doubt, just check who it is going to and make sure jsfromtherim isn’t there.


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day one hundred fifty two b

I discovered some useful study tips yesterday. I had opened all of my packages and had them lying around my bed. When I woke up the only things within reach were the French books that Grandma sent me. Unfortunately the only food within reach were the jelly beans that Stephanie sent me. I ended the day with a better working knowledge of French, no jelly beans and a stomach ache.

Not getting out of bed until 4:00 in the afternoon was nice. I’ve been keeping pretty busy as of late and some downtime was definitely called for.


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day one hundred fifty b

I just wanted to post a little bit on the randomness here.

I’ve mentioned before the dirty fellow who comes up to me sometimes and tells me about his sick baby and tries to get me to go to the pharmacy with him to buy medicine.

He has found me a few times and he is generally one of the dirtier people I’ve seen. I gave him 1000um the first time jut because he really did look hard on his luck and convincing.

I have run into him a couple more times (over the course of a month) and his story is the same. I figured he was just scamming me after a bit because his kid would either have gotten better or died by this point.

Well, yesterday I am headed out of my house and he comes up to me again. This time he has a bona fide child complete with dried snot on his face. He proceeds to show me the kid and emphasize the snot so that I can fully understand the extent of the child’s illness.

He let me go with a surprisingly small amount of effort. I told him I had to go to work and that I didn’t want to give him money. He just let me go. I was pleased not to go through the usual “not today,” “but my baby is so sick, he goes ‘cough, cough’ all the time,” “not today…”

He revealed to me that he is a foreigner as well. That is why it has been so hard to get a job. (Which I believe, so much here operates based on personal relationships.) It turns out he comes from Western Sahara.

Well, I’m gonna go take a nap. I stayed up too late last night playing with math.


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