Today is the end of Stage for our new group. Sometime around noon our number of volunteers should have gone from 40 to about 80.
Everyone is getting sworn in at the high school in Ka?di. We, the old volunteers, wanted to do a little something special for our new brethren; namely, get them drunk. The problems though are twofold.
First and foremost Mauritania is a dry country, or at least mostly. As an Islamic republic there is no distinction between religious and secular law. It is therefore against the law for Mauritanians to drink. We heathens are permitted to do so, but only in the confines of private residences or restaurants. It is illegal for us to give Mauritanians alcohol or to even transport it.
You are supposed to do any transporting of alcohol in private vehicles. Our not being allowed to drive presents difficulties in this arena. We have actually had a couple of volunteers picked up and driven around by the police under threat of arrest for carrying alcohol. They police would wait outside of some place where you could buy alcohol, like the Congolese Embassy, and search their bags when they came out. The point was for the foreigners to get scared and bribe their way out of going to jail. Unfortunately for these police, the foreigners they got were impoverished Peace Corps Volunteers and so after driving them around for a bit they gave up and let them go.
A second problem is that the administration doesn’t like the idea of a bunch of drunken volunteers wandering around Ka?di, and so they have further forbidden alcohol from the party.
Being Peace Corps though has taught me little if not a marked flexibility toward the following of rules. I was not surprised therefore when I got a call this afternoon asking me if I was coming down to Ka?di and if I could bring some booze. Unfortunately I’m on a pretty tight schedule (and budget) until I go to Mali in two weeks, so I had to say no.
A little while later I got a call saying that one of the female volunteers had a friend at the embassy who was going to help them out and I was to act as courier. I went to a really nice house and met a man completely uninterested in me (didn’t do anything other than shove some bottles at me), but who told me in a lascivious voice to let my female friend know that she “owed him.”
I took my stash of whiskey bottles over to Jay’s house and tried to package them so as to disguise the nature of my parcel. For, besides being illegal, whiskey holds a special place in the Mauritanian mind. It is something along the lines the mythos of marijuana during the times of “reefer madness.”
Ofttimes when you will hear mention of “the whiskey” when someone is talking about any general sort of moral turpitude. For example, “she was cheating on her husband… and they were drinking the whiskey.” Or perhaps, “if I drink the whiskey I will get in fights and kill people.” Sidi Habib, during Stage was sure that if he ever even smelled the whiskey it would make him drunk and he wouldn’t be able to walk.
(Completely off subject, did I mention Sidi has been sent to China by the ministry of culture. He is taking classes in computers. The twist? The classes are taught in Chinese, which he doesn’t speak. So he is learning “mostly by gestures.” I find this revelation surprisingly not surprising. Have I mentioned life here being similar to being on some serious drugs most of the time?)
After Jay’s, with my highly dangerous supply of the whiskey well concealed in not one, but two plastic bags, I delivered the bottles to a fellow at the garage to Ka?di who told me they’d arrive tonight, inshallah.
I did that at 4:00ish and it is 10:20 now, so, inshallah, the newest volunteers for Mauritania are getting a little more grove in their dancing thanks to the whiskey. Makes me wish I coulda been there. =)