Saturday, February 10, 2007

Planet Nomad

The dusty trail winds up on the edge of the Sahara Desert at Planet Nomad, which "Nomad" describes:
Sometimes, it’s like another planet–one filled with nomads, where sandstorms are a part of life and where things just look a bit different. We’re an American family living and working in Nouakchott, Mauritania, located where the sands of the Sahara Desert meet the waters of the Atlantic. This blog chronicles the various aspects of our lives, from university students to leaking water heaters to the kids learning Arabic in the French school. I am wife to Donn and mother to Elliot, 11, and boy-girl twins Abel and Ilsa, 9.
Nomad's blog is one of many "expat" or expatriot blogs, which are blogs written by Americans living in other countries. There's a whole directory for you to puruse, if you like reading about how life goes on for some Americans in other parts of the world. Culture shock is often the least of what they routinely deal with.

Here, Nomad shares insights from one of her friendships:
I love my friend Aicha for many reasons. We have that soul connection that makes friendship possible across the boundaries of culture, language, political and religious views, and even diverse topics like race, or what constitutes beauty. Why are we good friends? We just like each other, in that mystical way that happens when you find a real friend. We like being together; we like talking about things. We may disagree, but we listen to each other.

One of the many things I appreciate about her is the way she has, more than any other single person, introduced me to Mauritanian culture. She has opened the door to me. Aicha comes from a very conservative tribe but she is university-educated. Her traditional background makes her a great source of information. The culture was always somewhat divers, made up of various tribes each with their own oddities and special areas of expertise--the scholarly tribe; the warrior tribe; the tribe of
griots, or singers. Different tribes have embraced modernity to varying degrees. Aicha's tribe is well-connected and educated in general, but they have also fiercely held on to their traditions. Talking to her, I get a glimpse into another world.

Here, she chronicals the "simple" adventure of taking a trip to a conference in a post entitled: You Never Know What Skills You'll End Up Needing.
Debbie and I decided to attend a conference being held in Dakar, Senegal. Neither of us wanted to drive, because when driving cross-country in Africa it’s handy to have some men around; to deal with police checks (police relate better to men), to change flat tires or deal with engine trouble, to scrape locusts off the grill in the event of an invasion, to deal with the myriad problems that can arise. Flying is expensive. So we decided to take bush taxis.

The ride from Dakar to Rosso takes about 8 hours. We left about 6 a.m. The taxi whizzed along, stopping occasionally in tiny roadside villages for cold drinks and snacks. By about 11 a.m. we were in dire straits. The taxi had stopped in a really remote village, and Debbie and I crawled out to stretch our cramped limbs. We were desperate for a spot of privacy, so in great determination we crossed the road, heading for a field with some lovely big tall weeds. We soon discovered, however, an obstacle; a deep ditch full of fetid water, too large to leap, extending as far as we could see alongside the highway. What to do? We glanced back at the taxi and saw that it was ready to depart, waiting just for us, a taxi full of men glancing our way. Some of the villagers were also out for a glimpse of the white women squished in the back of a taxi. We looked at each other in despair. There was no way we could get back in that taxi and wait any longer to relieve ourselves.
Nomad writes with insight, humor, and compassion, while giving us more than just a peek at life on the Sahara.

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