Ramadan is halfway over... alhamdulillah! I am settling into a sort of routine in Dar el Barka, and it's really good. I am staying at the mayor's sister's. She has the largest and most beautiful house in the village, with a mosaic-tiled courtyard and flowering gardens, but I've yet to meet her because she evidently spends very little time here. I haven't even been inside her actual home -- I'm staying in a little guest house, one room with a large storage closet.
One of the nicest things is that the courtyard is all enclosed within a six-foot wall, so I have some privacy. This is more or less my life these days:
7:30-10:00am. Roll out of bed, because the sun has peeked above my courtyard wall and is shining in my face -- I always sleep outside. This is the most glorious time of day, when it's light but the air is still cool. I take a bucket bath, maybe do some laundry, tidy/sweep up my room. Eat a granola bar. Treat myself to a fruity drink mix in my water bottle.
10:00am-1:00pm. Stay inside my room because it's getting hot by now. Write in my journal, study some Pulaar. Inevitably someone will come to "greet" me. This involves them strolling into my room uninvited, doing the typical extended Pulaar greeting ritual (Peace upon you! Did you spend the night in peace? How are you doing? Are you healthy? How are you with tiredness? How are you with the heat? How are you with work? Thanks be to God, may you live long -- etc.!), and then after all this commotion, the guest just plops down on the floor and we both sit awkwardly for a few minutes of complete silence. Finally he or she will abruptly stand up, say, "Ey-oh! Thank you," smile, and leave.
1:00-2:00pm. I gather my things and wander next-door to the mayor's house, where I can use the kitchen. As far as Mauritania goes, it's incredibly nice, with a Western stove and (almost always) running water. My meals are slooowly getting more adventurous. I don't have a lot to work with! Also, I have to be careful to make exactly enough for one meal, because there's no way to save food for later. I was really proud of myself yesterday for making some semblance of French fries -- peeling & chopping the potatoes with my pocket knife, drenching them in oil, throwing in a ton of heavenly garlic & black pepper, and voilà! Not too shabby. (That being said, I have added to my wish list at right some kitchen-y things that would make my life much easier!)
2:00-4:30pm. This is when the sun is so oppressively hot that it's hard to do anything, so I usually just rest. At 3:00 I listen to the BBC Focus on Africa on my treasured shortwave radio.
4:30-6:00pm. More reading, Pulaar, crosswords, singing to myself. Set up my net tent for the night. (It takes three trips -- one to drag out the tent, then my foam pad mattress, and finally my pillow and sheet.)
6:00-7:00pm. Evening RUN! I figured I needed to start exercising since I just sit around all the time. My courtyard is big enough for me to do laps around the inside, without being gawked at by the villagers. The temperature has dropped enough by this time of day that I don't die of heat exhaustion, although I immediately douse myself in a bucket bath. Simple joys.
7:00-9:30pm. Head over to visit my fam on the other side of the village. The old man is the guard/gardener for the mayor's sister, so his family just kind of adopted me. I couldn't be happier because they are so friendly and generous! I still haven't figured out everyone's name or how they're related, but we hang out, and they always want to learn English. "Sank you, Raky!" They make me an excellent dinner, for which they even give me my own individual bowl and spoon.
9:30pm Wander back home -- down the narrow dirt path, over the tree root, through the herd of 70-something resting goats, past the abandoned tire, past the World Vision compound, past the house that has a TV (I think they have solar panels, or maybe it runs on batteries), and finally my obnoxiously large two-story house comes into view. See if you can guess which is my yard:
I collapse happily into my net tent. Doing nothing is certainly exhausting! ;)
(P.S. On phone calls: several of you have said you've tried to call my new Senegal number without success. I know it is frustrating! I don't always have great reception, plus the networks get clogged at night when many people use them. I can only say try, try again -- thank you!)