Sitting on the thin mattress, surrounded by light purple walls with cracks and holes, spider webs in the ceiling and a metal bowl with hot peanut sauce and a plate with cold rice in front of me, there was no other place I would rather be.
My camera broke today. The shutter won’t close quickly enough, leaving the photos white from over-exposure. It left me with a heavy feeling in my heart. I was just telling my friend Seidou as we shared breakfast in his home how the camera was my passion. Five minutes later I shot a picture of him entering the room after giving his friend outside a glass of tea. The photo came out good, but the one that was shot a second later came out white.
I spent the day reading, and contemplating on nothing at all really. “Monica. Would you join me for an evening walk without camera?” Suzanne asked an hour before sunset. I quickly got to my feet, “yes, I need something to cheer me up.” And off we went. Into the dessert. We walked pass the area that the kids and Just has cleaned up from all the trash, pass the camels that stood as cool as always, smiling, resting. They were lying on their knees on the ground, front legs tied together by the owners. The one camel stood by the side on three legs, one front leg bent upwards and tied so he could not run away.
“I love camels. I’ve surely seen a thousand, but still when I see one I get happy in my heart and whole body.” I told Suzanne. “But it’s terrible how they are treated by humans.”
“Yes indeed. Some people say they are stupid, but they surely aren’t. They are very clever and how would you say it? Nose up. Yes, they always walk with their nose up.” She said.
We walked up to the small dunes, talked about this and that and were quiet in between. It felt good not having the camera, even though knowing that I won’t have it tomorrow either left me with a wound.
I walked into town alone, entered the small restaurant where I ate last year and also this year made my evening habit. I was the only guest there, as usual. “Salaam aleikum.” I called, walked behind to the kitchen to find someone. I stuck my head out the door to the inner yard and called again. Three pots stood resting on fires. Two stood by the side. The old woman in charge of the cooking came to her feet and hurried to greet me. “Waleikum asalaam, oui oui, rest ici” she already knew what I wanted and asked me to sit down on the mattress inside the restaurant. As the food was served I thought about the authorities. Many say that Mauritania is a police state. But what is not Sweden? The authorities would never approve on this restaurant, the health ministry would complain on the spider webs, on the cold or lukewarm rice, on the dirty mattresses, the dirty walls, the way they cooked and the way they stored the water. “Guest can get sick!” they would say.
I thought of people at home who are terrified of getting dirty. Dusty clothes are to be thrown into the washing machine immediately and to eat anything but pizza or tacos with your hands is not to be thought of. No wonder people get sick from nothing. They never expose themselves to life. Or am I being too harsh again?
Note this was written yesterday, but from the lack of internet it’s published today.