Archive for September, 2005


We are all beautiful. Beautiful beautiful butterflies. Some of us butterflies are just a bit more beautiful beautiful. Like Molly, Miriam, ammedley and I when we went out this weekend sporting our new spectacular duds.

It began a couple weeks ago when we were all out on a routine visit to the market. Little did we know the wonder and majesty that lay in store. I went to look at some nice wax print from Dakar because I wanted to make some clothes. I was headed to a Lebanese boutique I usually use for my cloth. Alas, on my arrival, I found his shop closed for the afternoon. We continued on our way and finished some other shopping when I thought to drop by one last time to see if he had opened. Praises be, he had in fact arrived in the interim.

We were coming in as I was struck by a vision in green and red. Like a shimmering iridescent watermelon it called to me. “Give me life,” it said. “Take me and let me walk. I am weak and cannot carry myself. I need a body to take my gloriousness into the world.” I sank to my knees as I choked back a sob. “Andrew,” I croaked, “you have got to make this into a suit.” (I said I was touched, not stupid enough to wear an iridescent watermelon suit.)

ammedley, showing an uncharacteristic fashion sense, was a bit reluctant to take part. He begged off saying hat he’d look foolish wearing a suit made of this wondrous fabric. Despite my best efforts he could not be disabused of this silly idea. In he end a compromise was struck and he would get one if I also got one and we would wear them out. I was willing, but I was of the opinion that our situation would be much improved if we had some lovely ladies to go out with us. By coincidence we happened to have some lovely ladies with us, but they unfortunately had no attire appropriate for wearing to accompany an iridescent suit. It was therefor decided that they should get dresses made to go with our suits.

Fortunately there were a variety of iridescent fabrics to choose from. Each was two toned and depending on the light, appeared to be different colors. We took a vote on the colors for each of us and at the end it was:

Andrew green red
Will gold navy
Molly rose teal
Miriam orange burnt umber

ammedley and I headed off to a tailleur known for his suits. After calling him and waiting half an hour we were being measured. A chill ran down my spine as I thought of giving this fabric life. At the end he told us that it would take a week and 16000um ($50), but he could do the job.

Two weeks pass and Saturday we were all together again from our various travels around Mauritania. There was a brief scare when he said he needed some more time. As planets we hearty four move in erratic orbits and that another propitious alignment would occur was doubtful, especially with my fast approaching disappearance from the scene. Fortunately, a night of hard labor was all that was needed. After an explanation of the seriousness of the matter and a couple thinly veiled threats of violence for good measure, Fall saw his way clear to doing the work.

The girls had a bit rougher time of it. They both looked stunning, but Molly’s had a slight cleavage problem in that there was a saddening lack. Not that she isn’t well equipped to provide, just the cut of the dress didn’t properly permit. In any case they looked really good and I was more than pleased to get to escort them.

We began the evening with a dinner at the Saharah Café where we’d gone in the day before and preordered a Lebanese feast. In honor of Molly’s birthday most all of Nouakcott’s volunteers gathered to celebrate. Plates of humos, baba ganoush, tabbouleh, some hushpuppyesque meatballs and other Lebanese delights came rolling out of the kitchen. I stuffed myself into a hummus coma just in time to head to Molly’s for the delicious chocolate cake adrianapublico had prepared with coffee. Scott was kind enough to bring one of the new five liter buckets of ice cream we now have and life was good. Chocolate cake, vanilla ice cream and coffee; was man meant to have it this good? Might we not fail to pierce the veil of soulmaking if he is too caught up in experiences such as these?

After our food those of us who are apt to do, set in with a bit of drinking before sojourning to the Salamander. To set the atmosphere a bit we head up to roof and lie about chatting. adrianapublico nursed a full liter of pastis and water while I worked my way through several whiskey and cream sodas. It was good that we were keeping the party fires burning because as we left to head to the club it ran a serious danger of going out. Our group of sixteen dwindled to six. People were tired, people were full, people had to get up early, blah, blah, blah… Only adrianapublico and the ever faithful Scott joined us in our pursuit of dancing. Lisa came along for a bit, but left fairly shortly after flipping everyone off.

Sufficit to say we danced into the wee hours. The DJ did his best to prevent it by playing nothing but Spanish music. We were nothing if not persistent though and I went to the guy asking for hiphop no less than ten times. In the end I spent my time wiggling my hips and hoping for a better song.

Our spectacular dress continued to evolve as the night went on. The girls’ hadn’t much to lose, so their dresses did little but darken with sweat. As for ammedley and myself though we rapidly lost our jackets and the shirt sleeves were rolled up within minutes of arriving in the club. My slide continued a bit farther and at the girls’ behest I was soon wearing naught save my gold vest and pants. Though they assured me it was a good look, I was dubious. I managed to reclaim my shirt and Miriam proposed that in order for me to share the shame we could simply exchange clothes. Somehow this seemed perfectly reasonable until I realized upon seeing us in the mirror in the bathroom that she in fact looked quite fetching in pants whereas I looked like a freak in a dress.

I was fortunately too large to drag from the bathroom and managed to get most of my clothes back. I continued the night without my shirt looking like a wannabe Chip-n-Dale, but after the amount of humiliation I nearly suffered it was a shame easily borne.

Round about 3am after a surprisingly strong showing my iridescent companions decided to turn in. Much to my surprise, adrianapublico wanted to go with them. Since this left me to party alone, I decided to call it a night myself.

About three hours later adrianapublico and ammedley headed off to their homes and I rolled over to sleep another five hours. ☺

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My previous statement about being able to effectively teach English may have been a bit hasty. Last night I tried to translate the idea of “against the grain” into French. The problem was that I didn’t know the word for grain and talking about the fibers in the wood wasn’t working. I ended up taking a coaster off the table and breaking it in half to demonstrate that going with the grain was easy and against it was hard. Still don’t think they got it.

To try and avoid this tonight I brought my dictionary. It definitely helped with forewarned (présagé) and nail (clou). When I got to expanding (accroître) after attempting to say it six times I had to just give up and write it on the board. French is hard.

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Been a while since I’ve written. I’ve been keeping busy. I’ve just gotten back from watching the newest group of volunteers take their vows down in Kaédi. They seem to be a promising group. Professional and culturally sensitive they also did a good job at their swearing in party. After the group after mine petered out at about 3am during their MTR party I was a bit worried that the illustrious history of debauchery would fall by the wayside. This new group which was on the dance floor en masse for most of the evening brightened my hopes.

I’ve been keeping busy with things in addition to partying in the last little bit. Right before I left I had perhaps the most flattering work days to date.

It began in the morning with a visit to Ecodev to work with their IT guy and getting the web account sorted out. He went on at length about how glad they were for the site redesign and me walking him through all this stuff.

Then I met up with a friend of Jay‘s to help him with some email stuff for his business. He told me that he’d been to the university and talked to people about me. They were apparently very complimentary and he said they liked my teaching alot.

After that I headed off to IMA where I’ve been doing an English class. I needed to talk to the director about what we’re going to do during Ramadan. Currently my class is right at sundown. This is nice for me since it means our two hour class gets a nice fifteen minute break when everyone goes out to pray. For Ramadan though everyone is gonna want to eat at sundown, so it isn’t feasible to do class then. So far as doing it during the day people are just about worthless when it is 115° and you can’t drink anything. So, he wants to try two long classes on the weekends. We’ll see on that.

In any case he spent about ten minutes going on about how much my students liked me. He said they’d been telling him I was the best teacher they’d ever had at IMA. Since I’ve had a couple of friends teach there it made me feel extra special. I do like teaching English. With the Cisco stuff I’d get stuck on the French sometimes even when I knew the technical stuff perfectly. With English I’m always the expert.

To finish off the day I helped a volunteer with some computer problems and made a copy of the mix CD with party songs from the last two years. So far I’ve had eight people ask me for copies including two Africans. One of my many aliases is now DJ Smoove. ☺

All in all I’m still feeling pretty mellow, but it is nice to have days like this which show me that I haven’t completely blown my last two years.

I’m embarking on a new endeavor now. I went out today to look at a room in a house with a family. I’m gonna try to move out of town a ways for Ramadan and do a meditation / focusing sabbatical sort of deal. I’ve wanted to do Ramadan, but not having a family to break fast with sort of defeats the purpose. As much as it is about individual purification it is about community. This way I’ll hopefully get both.

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I’m stuck at the bureau because I left my phone at home then lent my key to someone. To fill the boredom I am looking up card games. Molly and I have been playing a bit in the evenings but all that she knows are Skipbo and Egyptian Rat Screw. (I know nothing.)

I have been hunting for good two person games and one I remember playing before is spades. I couldn’t remember the rules though.

Start out with the dealing. You alternate between the players. Each draws a card and decides if they want to keep it. If they do then they look at the next card and discard it face down. If they don’t then they discard the card face down and take the next card off the deck. Either way each turn a card is taken and a card is discarded. When the deck is exhausted this will leave both players with thirteen cards.

Spades is a normal trump game where spades are always trump. Suit must always be followed. Spades may not be led until broken or until a player has nothing but spades in his hand. Spades are broken when played on a hand of a different suit (when the player didn’t have that suit).

After the deal each player bids, starting with the player that didn’t draw first, a number of tricks. If you don’t make your bid you lose ten points for each trick you bid. If you make your bid you get ten points for each trick up to your bid and lose ten points for each sandbag or overbid trick. Bidding nil (no tricks) is worth 100 points. Losing the bid though carries a penalty of 100 points. Shooting the moon (all 13 tricks) also has a special value of 200 points. The first person to hit 500 wins. If both hit in the same round, the higher score wins.

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I was born with two unfortunate penchants: melodrama and self-pity. These have gotten a pretty good workout in recent weeks with a couple rather disappointing set of interactions. I could see myself slipping into an unnecessary melancholy, but could find little recourse. The problem has been one of focus. With my job having disintegrated and my friends mostly departed, I had little to occupy my time other than reading, sleeping and ruminating in the torpid waters of my unshed tears.

(You’ll have to forgive me, I just finished Pat Conroy’s Prince of Tides whose spellbinding usage of the English language captured me and left me again wishing that I could weave so beautifully.)

In an effort to break this slump I’ve been teaching an English class for the last couple weeks. It is a little conversation class where I come in with an article and we go around the room taking turns reading and discussing. I began with banal and safe articles on subjects such as the growing rise in ethanol use. My students seemed bored though and more importantly I was bored. In an attempt to spice things up a bit, I brought in an article on Israeli settlements in the West Bank in opposition to Sharone’s disengagement plans.

I’ve run across more than a little anti-Sematism here. I’ve seen kids pull their bouboubs up over their heads and dance around chanting, “look at me, I’m a Jew.” I’ve also heard people resort to calling each other Jews at the end of a nasty argument. I was wondering how my students, who are all bilani (white maure), would react.

The first think one of my students said was, “we are cousins; we come from the same place: Jews and Arabs.” Another student, after asking me if I was a Protestant, told me all the religions of the sky (meaning monotheistic ones) were almost the same. He said those Buddhists and Hindus and whatnot were weird, but that we were all ok. (I had lied about being a Taoist. I was looking to spice the class, but that would have endangered its future I think.) He told me that he could marry a Christian woman or even a Jew if he wanted.

The word “apocalyptic” was in the story and we talked a bit about the end of the world which was entertaining as well. He said that in Islam there wouldn’t be a war or anything, just a breath of God and everyone would face judgement.

All in all I am liking the class a lot. My students only seem to recognize my authority in their frequent attempts to usurp it, but so long as I govern with a pretty constant rain of condescension I can keep them in hand.

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