|           It all started
simply enough, with a plan to visit PCV Lisa in Nouadhibou, on
the northernmost coast of Mauritania. The appeal for me to do
so had to do with Nouadhibou's being the coolest place in the
country and this is one of the hottest times of the year.
helping out with the training of our new group, and was then
going to return to Nouadhibou after the trainees swore in as
Volunteers. I was going to travel with her when she went home.
When I asked her about specific dates so that I could make the
flight reservations (it is that far away!), she told me, "Erin
and Chris asked me if I'd go to Tunisia with them. Why don't
you come along with us?"
Several of our PCVs have been to Tunisia for vacation and have
come back raving about its wonders. When I told our Country
Director that I was thinking about going there, he said, "You
must go to Tunisia." (He served there in the Peace
Corps for two years. The country advanced so much that it no
longer needed Peace Corps help, so that program was closed down.)
the reservations was fraught with problems and I don't want
to bore people with the details. Suffice it to say that travel
agencies in Mauritania are still far from being able to make
guaranteed reservations by computer. Getting the tickets for
this flight meant going to the travel agent, paying in cash,
and then having somebody from the travel agency hand deliver
the money to Tunisair, where he had to wait in line with everyone
else who was buying tickets. It's the very picture of inefficiency
weekend, we had three reservations for four people. To begin
with, I made my reservation along with Lisa's. The problem was
that her money was in Nouadhibou, so she needed to go there
to get it so that she could pay for her ticket. When I paid
for my ticket, that somehow resulted in her reservation being
cancelled. There was no aplogy on the part of the travel agency,
no offer to help find another flight, and no suggestion to route
somebody through another carrier or another itinerary that would
eventually lead to Tunis. There are limited flights each week
and they all seem to be full during this time of the year.
a phone call on Sunday afternoon: if one of us were willing
to buy a seat in business class (about $120 more), we could
have that fourth seat! Done! At least we can all go together!
The other possibilities were starting to look grim: somebody
going through Casablanca and spending a night there or somebody
going anywhere from two days to a week later than the others.
The heat is
cranking up again. There are some days when I lose track of
how many showers I have taken. I do get some relief by walking
directly from the shower to stretch out on a matala in
front of a fan. There are some nights when I have to use the
go-to-bed-wet method: walking straight to bed from the shower
- do not pass GO, do not collect $200, do not dry off. There
have even been nights when I woke up in the middle of the night
to take a shower. That helped. Annika and Jigar bought a nice
fan when they were here, and they left it with me, since there
is no electricity in Annika's village. Sometimes it helps to
have a fan going on each side of me: stereo-fanic!
On Sunday night, I was surprised to see a locust. My first thought
was that it was very far behind the group that came through
here last month. How did that happen? It turned out that we
had a new infestation. They were swarming the city this morning
when I got up. The sand under the trees looked like lawns because
of the leftover foliage that they locusts left behind.
I had a
close-up view of them at work, in that there is a tall tree
in front of my house, so I was able to see them congregating
on the branches and chomping on the leaves. The birds didn't
seem to be paying attention to them, as they left the locusts
unmolested as they ate.
was shorter than the last - fewer than twenty-four hours.
I probably won't have much time to read during the next two
weeks, since I will be traveling with other people. That makes
now a good time to file my "book reports" for what
I have read so far this month.
A Drinking Life, Pete Hamill chronicles his childhood
and beginning of his career as a newspaper writer and columnist.
He is the son of an alcoholic, which factored into his becoming
the second generation alcoholic. He writes well and, above all,
candidly. I was especially delighted to see that at the end
of the book he meets Shirley MacLaine, since that's whose book
I had lined up to read next.
All in the Playing is the last of a series of books in which
Shirley MacLaine writes about her metaphysical musings. I had
read most of the other books many years ago. This one ties them
all together, as she writes predominantly about the way she
worked on the putting together of a television mini-series based
on the earlier writing.
Barry's Book of Bad Songs was a quick and enjoyable look
at much of the music that I grew up with. I think I am about
the same age as the author, which meant that we had enjoyed
or at least listened to much of the same music as we grew up.
He's funny and perceptive in his writing.
seems that many of the stories I have read on the Internet -
heartwarming ones about the goodness that we find in each other
- were originally published in Chicken Soup for the Soul,
written and compiled by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen.
I especially enjoy being able to use these stories for my English
of Purchase: How Shopping Changed American Culture is an
incredibly well-researched work by Sharon Zukin, a professor
of sociology. She explains the processes through which shopping
has changed over the course of the recent centuries - from open
air markets to enclosed department stores to specialty stores,
and then online. With the eye of a sociologist and the curiosity
of an anthropologist, she makes some insightful observations.
Hudson wrote Travels in Mauritania, which I read during
the last year. I was pleased to find this book, after having
enjoyed the other one. In looking at the title - Two Rivers:
Travels in West Africa on the Trail of Mungo Park - my first
question was, who or what is Mungo Park? I thought it might
be a place in West Africa, but it turned out to be a Scotsman
who was among the first non-Africans to explore (in the late
18th century) this part of the continent, mostly in what is
now The Gambia, Senegal, and Mali.