Locust iste

 

           I guess I had better begin by explaining my reference for the title. In choir, I once sang a piece in Latin, titled "Locus iste," which means, "This is the place." Add a "t" to the first word and you get the insect that made international headlines last week. I am making believe that "Locust iste" means, "This is the locust."

         The sky was thick with them when they arrived on Wednesday afternoon. At first it looked like we were inundated by flocks of birds. Upon closer examination, I could see that they resembled large grasshoppers, four inches long, salmon-colored, with two sets of wings that are speckled with brown.

         A news article such as the one on the BBC website said that one ton of these little guys eats as much food as 2,500 people; they eat their own body weight in twenty-four hours. On another website, I read that they descended on a tree and within a few minutes, flew away from it, having eaten all the leaves. I didn't see that happen anywhere. What I did see were several trees that had many leaves on the sandy surface beneath the spread of the canopy. There were still lots of leaves in the trees, though.

         By Thursday morning, they were laying dead by the hundreds around the grounds of the Peace Corps bureau. Additionally, some were writhing on the tiles, their little legs twitching and bodies jerking in last-ditch attempts to get up. There was very little open floorspace in which to be able to place a step without putting a foot on a locust.

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           Last week, I reported that a senior evaluator was visiting here from the Office of Inspector General. He asked me on Monday if he would be able to pay a visit to my class at the Nouakchott English Center. He came toward the end of the class last Tuesday evening and asked students about the benefits of having a native English speaker to teach them. They were all very complimentary and he was pleased with the answers to his questions.

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         The drama of the textbook drags on. I reported in the post of 1/26/2004 that M, a typist who works at IPN (the agency that publishes the textbooks) was concerned that my having done some typing would mean that he would be out of a job. This week, he has changed his tune: he is complaining that all the typing he has to do is not in his contract. He wants to be paid more to do the work.

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         There's a main north-south street, Charles de Gaulle, two lanes in each direction, with a median. Last Tuesday, as dusk began, half the road was closed down to allow for large trucks to come in to plant mature palm trees in the median. There is evidence that there had been some trees before, but I never saw them. In another part of town, near the Peace Corps bureau, many palms were planted before I got here, but they are much smaller, with their fronds close enough to the ground that the goats can nibble on them. The goats won't be able to get to the new ones, though!

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         When we arrived here and were being oriented to the restaurant scene in Nouakchott, we found out that there had been a Mexican restaurant, but it was closed, supposedly for a year. Sure enough, just last week, it re-opened. It was good to have a taste of a different cuisine for a change, but they didn't have any of the trappings of the healthy choices that are available in San Francisco, like whole black beans, whole grain tortillas, tofu as a burrito ingredient, or salsa. Their mainstay sauce is available locally and more resembles spaghetti sauce than anything authentically Mexican. Overall, the food tastes like what one might expect at an event such as Des Moines High School Cafeteria Celebrates Cinco De Mayo.