I just got back from a week long hiatus at Marc’s place. My arrangement with M is that when she’s got guests, I’ve got to vacate her guestroom. She had someone in for the last week, so I was temporarily deplaced.
It was really nice. It was like being at a ClubMed. Not in the accommodations so much; I was living out of a backpack and sleeping on the floor. In the atmosphere though. Marc is really laid back and the most bismillah person know here.
I suppose I should explain “bismillah.” Bismillah means literally in Arabic, “in the name of God.” You say it when you are starting anything, especially something you’d like God to watch over. It is always said before eating or setting out on a long car ride. It is also used, more so by Peace Corps volunteers than Mauritanians, as a form of invitation. For example you’ve cooked something and there are people sitting around, you might bring the pot in and say “bismillah.” That translated to “come, take, this is available for taking.”
The usage makes sense and Mauritanians use it as well, just not as much. Giving is just something you do here. I was walking around with a bag of crackers the other day and ran into one of the network admins. While we were standing there talking he took the bag out of my hands without asking and grabbed a handful for himself. He can do that by rights. If I didn’t want to share I wouldn’t have been walking around with them. We also have a pecking order pissing contest going on, or at least he does.
I’m pretty sure he has confused my insecurity speaking for unfriendliness. It is normal to greet for a couple minutes, especially someone I want to show respect to. I just can’t do it. I run out of French words in about twenty seconds and even though I know it is allowed, I feel like an imbecile saying the same thing over and over again. Most people have gotten used to it because they know I only to speak anything, but this fellow I don’t see often enough for it to sink in.
So, anyhow, Marc is bismillah in the “come and enjoy” sense. M has a really nice house, but I am always acutely aware of being a guest. I’d never flop out on her couch and take a nap like I did a couple times at Marc’s. I dunno what it is; maybe it is just how nice the place is. I don’t like being the messiest thing in the room. ☺