Just before 2:00, my sister brought me a single bowl and spoon (Mauritanians all eat with their hands, and I do this on occasion to "integrate," but my family knows I prefer a spoon and they are great about providing me one). No one seemed to be joining me. Had they already eaten? I didn't question it too much because there are frequently things that I don't understand here, so I just started eating. It was a decent hunk of fresh fish, a slice of squash, cabbage -- and neverending rice. Whenever they give me a personal portion, it's absurdly huge. I ate a bit dutifully, and then they dutifully asked me if I was really only going to eat so little, and to please have some more. Finally they gave up and my sister Kadia started picking at it, and she called the smallest children over. I immediately felt bad that I'd eaten as much as I had, as they scrounged at my leftovers.
I sat there awhile reading the magazine I'd brought with me, even though still no one was around. The old man came and sat in silence with me. Finally he said my name. "Today is not good," he announced in Pulaar. Why, I asked? He looked tired. "It's not good," he repeated. Then he said something else in Pulaar, but I didn't understand. He gave a tight-lipped, wry smile.
I looked up the word in my dictionary when I got back to my room. It means "poor person." As in we're so poor today we couldn't eat lunch? But they still fed me...
Talk about giving poverty a face. It's not "somewhere in Africa people are starving." It's Kadiata Ann. It's Abdoul Thille. It's my favorites whom I love and who love me and love life. I want to give them all the money they need, I thought, so these children never have to miss another meal.
But they're only one family.
But still they are one.
But money doesn't solve the problem. That's such a typical Western response. Will education help you? I pray to God it does.
As I struggled with these thoughts in my journal, the sunset call to prayer came over the mosque loudspeaker. Haya ala salah -- come to prayer. Haya ala falah -- come...