Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dunes look like dinosaurs

Saharry Nights

Saharry is a desert nomad. He is two-and-a-half feet tall. He has bright green hair and green eyes. He has six toes on his hands and feet. Stare into the desert and you may see him. He walks with a bounce. He is known to be a trickster. He can steer you away from your destination with a friendly wind but he can also set you straight when you are completely stranded. I can't say that I have seen him but I also can't swear that I have never crossed his path. Can you?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Giving Thanks to the Ancestors

Thanksgiving is a celebration of family and friends. This year I decided to honor my beloved Grandma Marjo by continuing our family tradition of making orange rolls. I used a basic roll recipe from the Internet, which was my biggest mistake. The rest of the recipe I followed from memory. After finishing the first batch, I called my sister in a panic to confirm that I was on the right track. I was proud of myself for not missing a beat. 

Next year I will plan ahead and get the recipe right. This year it didn't matter that the rolls were doughy, burned, or dense, things that my Grandma never would have allowed to happen. It only mattered that my house smelled like hers for this one day. 

On the other side of the globe, my twin brother was making orange rolls for the family dinner. Our family was united in orangey-wonderfulness. I am thankful that I can always feel close to my family just by mixing together some simple ingredients that can be found anywhere. Even though I am far from my family, I always keep them close to my heart.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dada ya Moyo

This month one of my best friends visited me from New York. I was so delighted to show Shannon around this country and do more exploring myself. Most of all, I was just over-the-moon excited to be able to spend time with my sister from another mister and be as silly as can be. 

Our adventure included visiting two national parks, exploring ancient desert trading towns, spending an afternoon in an oasis with hot springs, and living the sweet life in Dakar.  The true highlights were singing ridiculous songs in the back seat, late night dance parties on the dunes on the cape, eating endless batches of popcorn, and seeing an amazing array of wildlife including warthogs, jackals, monkeys, dolphins, tortoises, flamingos and hundreds of other bird species. 

Since my chica chica hopped on the plane back to Brooklyn, I have felt an emptiness. Of course I have an incredible group of friends in Mauritania and I am exceptionally grateful for their friendship. Yet there is nothing comparable to the bond of old friends who know me better than anyone. Shannon and I lived together in two cities and traveled the world as true sisters. 

Today I am thinking about how incredibly lucky I am to have found a huckleberry friend as sweet as this dada ya moyo.  

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Digging for Treasure

Yesterday I went to the fabulous market and got a little carried away buying gorgeous printed wax fabrics. Now I need to make a visit to my favorite tailor! This is what happens when classes are cancelled- extra time for shopping! I should be lesson planning but really can you blame me?

Monday, November 1, 2010


Last week was the first week of classes. I genuinely missed my students all summer. I was delighted to issue a book to each one as part of our first assignment: A class book club. 

Six students not only missed the first class but also the chance to get their books to read before class the next week. One student called me to collect a book and I marched to campus on Sunday morning (a work day) at 8:30 am to deliver it to him. The assignment is due tomorrow. Only this evening I received a call from one of my students who politely asked if we had class this week. My first response was a resounding, "YES, of course we have class!!!" Then I remembered. T.I.A.: This is Africa. I retracted my statement, and returned the question to my student. "Do we have class tomorrow?" 

My student then explained that they had all gone to campus this morning and saw a notice announcing that all classes were cancelled due to some reason or another. I thanked my student for this valuable information and told him I would find out and get back to him. I called the head of the department and learned that classes are cancelled. Oh students, I would be lost without you!!! At least in this case, my thoughtful student's courtesy-call saved me time and money.  Our book club will have to wait until next week!

All That Glitters

It started with a drum beat. A small crowd gathered as they watched the car approaching. Finally, a woman in white emerged from the car, led in the arms of two women- her new mother-in-law and her sister. She arrived only yesterday from Gaza. She is eighteen-years-old and came here to start a new chapter in her life.

I am thankful to my friends for inviting me to join their celebration. Since the festivities ended, I keep wondering if life in Nouakchott will be better than life in Gaza. I guess our new bride will soon find out the answer. 

I hope that it will be a resounding YES. With a ceremony overflowing with gold, diamonds, and icing, it seems that things are off to a magnificent start.