I began the week with a visit from Hisa, a Japanese traveler
who found me via www.hospitalityclub.org. He has recently
completed the third year of his around-the-world voyage, and
has two more to go!
The families of two PCVs came into town from the United States. I didn’t host any of them, but did have lunch with them,
their PCV daughters, and other Volunteers who were in town at
the time. Stephanie came in from Rosso and spent a night at
Château Jay so that she could meet the families.
It was fun to meet Natalie’s parents. At Kennedy Airport, on
the night that we left to come here, Natalie spoke to her parents
on the phone, told them that she had met me, and when she mentioned
that I had been a teacher in San Francisco, her mother asked
her to ask me if I knew a friend of theirs who had also been
a teacher in San Francisco; I did! So it was nice to meet these
friends of a friend.
Tarn, a first-year PCV was traveling around Mauritania with three friends of his
who are PCVs in Senegal; the party of four stayed with me for
I met with six people at ISERI, the Islamic Institute that has
asked the US embassy for an English teacher. They have approved adding
English to the curriculum and they were ready to schedule my
classes; I will be teaching there four hours a week. I had an
opportunity to see the computer lab that the embassy has furnished
for them: seven new computers on spiffy individual tables, as
well as shelves of books about American culture and the English
language. Much of the English teaching will be on the computers
– the first time I will be teaching English using computer programs.
I woke up on Saturday morning to find that I had no electricity
and, as a result, no water. Upon looking out the window, I could
see that the little boutique across the way had its light on,
so I knew it was not a general outage in the neighborhood. When
I investigated, I found that my downstairs neighbors had power.
When Abdellahi, the day guardian, came he checked to see where
the problem may be. There wasn’t anything that he could pinpoint
as the cause. He called an electrician who came out and discovered
that one of the wires leading to my service was not properly
connected, so he fixed it in fewer than five minutes.
As usual, it was my responsibility to pay for this, at a cost
of 3,000 ouguiya. The standard daily wage for a skilled
laborer in Mauritania is 1,000 ouguiya, so I found this
fee to be a bit steep, but paid it anyway, happy to have electricity
and water again, and I really didn’t have much choice if I wanted
the service back (I did!). When I forked over the cash to the
electrician – we’re talking about a little more than ten dollars,
so it was not a huge sum – I told him I thought that it was
When the electrician left and I went upstairs to take a shower,
Abdellahi knocked on my door to castigate me for telling the
plumber that I thought his charge was excessive. Abdellahi further
told me about one of the neighbor’s whose electrical connection
was “grilled” last week, and the repair cost 8,000 ouguiya.
I should be grateful that my cost was as reasonable as it was.
True enough: in the United States, a plumber’s call on a weekend
would certainly cost more than $10, wouldn’t it?
I have the opportunity and free time to show a few first-year
PCVs around town during the last week. On one of our walks,
I ran into an acquaintance who invited me to lunch at his house
on Saturday. While we were eating, I could hear that the television
set was playing in his salon, and it sounded like English, though
I didn’t recognize any of the voices from that distance. He
told me that he had been watching Oprah Winfrey.
After we finished our delicious homemade Lebanese lunch, we
went to the salon to watch the rest of the program, the theme
of which focused on thirty-year-old women around the world.
(I guess after you do as many shows as Oprah has, it gets increasingly
difficult to come up with new topics.)
When the show was over, Hussein clicked through some other channels,
and we came upon the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production of
Nutcracker. It’s a ballet I am extremely familiar with,
as I worked backstage for the San Francisco Ballet’s during
Nutcracker season for fifteen years, helping to chaperone
the children in the cast.
It was a joy to see it again and to hear the familiar and delightful
Tchaikovsky score. It not only brought back wonderful memories
of my backstage days with the San Francisco Ballet, but I very
unexpectedly found myself with tears streaming down my face
at the conclusion of the first act!
What was that all about? The only response I can think of is
that it was a manifestation of homesickness. The familiarity
of the choreography, the story, and the music brought back a
tidal wave of images of San Francisco, the Opera House, the
San Francisco Ballet, working with the kids backstage, the musicians,
the dancers, traipsing around the Opera House nooks and crannies
that most people never get to see, the enjoyment of the other
backstage volunteers, the heightened appreciation for the production
when viewed by watching the dancers from the wings – so much
that I had not thought about for a very long time.