This afternoon a friend and I bought a big melon and went to the beach. We walked past the harbour and all the people carrying fish and dragging the long banana-boats onto the sand from the ocean. An endless job which they carry out twice a day, ten people (a few not older than ten) pushing and pulling, putting the boat onto tanks rolling a meter, then lift the boat and replace the tank… you can imagine. It takes them a long time to get one boat onto the sand, and there are hundreds.
We walked to a calm place and sat down, talking and eating melon. Earlier in the day we had a talk with my host about Mauritanian ways, she said it’s very impolite to say “thank you” to someone who is your friend, because it puts a distance between the two of you. And to become friends here takes very little. Also everyone shares everything, what’s mine is yours.
As we ate the melon a young boy came up, asked if he could have some. We gave him a piece, and he walked off without saying thank you. We found it very impolite, but figured maybe he already see us as friends. Who knows? Anyway, more people came up and wanted some melon and we gladly shared. A few of them said thank you and a few did not. It’s a special culture here indeed.
Some boys were swimming in the ocean and we regretted we had no swimming-clothes with us. What to do? We dove into the waves with our clothes on.
The young boys were thrilled and we had a lot of fun in the water, jumping through waves and swimming, getting full of salt. Suddenly one of them called on us, saying we should watch our stuff. We looked to the beach, and a man was walking towards our bags on the beach. We got out of the water and sat down by our stuff, and he stayed for a long while saying nothing to us or anyone else.
A guy in about our age came up and talked, his friend had a ball. Someone drew some lines in the sand and put up two small heaps of sand symbolizing goals. And we started playing football. I teamed up with one of them and my friend with the other one.
I tried to remember what my friend taught me in Hassaniya yesterday and said “Starri! Schärlek? La-bas?” Which was ok but pretty wrong. It’s hard to write Arabic in western letters, but it’s supposed to be something like “Starri! S-h-ärlik? La-bas?” (Wzup! How are you? Good?”).
After I had scored three goals, and he none, I believe I won his respect. Later on as we sat down and talked an older man came up, after a while he asked what age I was, “23” I said. “Et vouz?” (And you?). Since he was much older I obviously wasn’t supposed to ask him that, but I asked with a smile and we all laughed, then he told me he’s 54 and asked me if I am married. The one boy pointed to the ring on my finger, and then my friend showed her hands. She had three rings. “Wow! You have three husbands? Cool, in Mauritania it’s the other way around, we have many wives, you have many husbands. Haha” whereupon the older man asked if I wanted to marry him so I could have two husbands. “NO haha I do Not want to marry you, I’m sorry but No.”
It was a really good afternoon with a lot of laughing, ending now with another lesson of Hassaniya. A told me he would have a class with me every day, many hours, so in five days I will speak fluently. “No way, that’s not possible,” I said. But sure, we’ll give it a try. Life is too short to waste.