“Welcome to poverty,” Bobo said as we stepped off the pirog in Demeth.
“Don’t say that,” I said.
“But it’s true. Look around yourself.”
The houses were small and mostly made of clay, there was no asphalt or concrete. The paths between the houses were of stamped mud and sand, and everywhere small fires were being lit as the darkness wrapped itself around the little village. It’s from here my friend in Atar comes. Suddenly I could understand what the job at the auberge really has given him; a well paid job that changed his life. I could now see why the capital is flooded by people looking for a job and I could see what it means to only have each other. I understand that many of them want to be somewhere else, but I was also struck by the beauty in their way of living.
Bobo’s family welcomed me with open arms and we sat down on the big mat beside the cooking-tent. The neighbors had a small square television from where concerts were played loud; Tiken Jah was performing. “Ouvert le frontiers” (open up the borders) echoed throughout the neighborhood and we all sang with.
Five days later I was in a big house in Nouakchott with a swimming-pool and a garden filled of embassy-people and Europeans with nice titles. On tables there were buffets with hummus, guacamole, bread, nuts and salads. On the other side a man served drinks, all from wine to coke, water and vodka. We danced to Spanish music and I couldn’t help thinking about mama Fati and grandma’ Korka where we stood on a row, dancing to the choreograph to some old Spanish little tune.
To be thrown between the worlds like that tears on my mental health. The night after the party I hardly slept at all. In moments I feel hopelessly helpless. I’m born in Sweden: one of the best countries in the world. Still I have so many friends who complain. Never are they happy with that they’ve got and always searching something new. As my friend Guiomar said: “everyone should go here at least once in life. Everyone should see the other reality. The poverty.”