Hopefully you’ve had a chance to see Part I of this adventure-seeking young diplomat, posted in Mauritania (by choice I might add). Here is perhaps even more exciting second half!
Most difficult about living in current post:
The terrorist threat, which has rendered in-country travel difficult. The time when we would go camping in the middle of nowhere and not worry about getting kidnapped is long gone.
Biggest adventure at post?
There are so many! But the one I will always remember is my trip to the ancient trading post of Oualatta, a UNESCO world heritage site near the border with Mali. This isolated town with distinctive architecture – its mud houses are decorated with colorful geometric designs — is really in the far corner of the world and its inhabitants live in a time warp, exactly like they did centuries ago.
When did you realize you were far from home?
When you are posted to Mauritania you know by definition you will be far away from home. However, it really hit me when I drove in the city for the first time and realized that I had to share the road with an army of donkey carts, goats, and the occasional camels.
What’s the most important thing about re-creating your home at post?
Surrounding myself with traditional arts and crafts acquired during my trips. The Berber carpets, Moroccan furnishings, Mauritanian leather and metal work, and West African carvings give my government-furnished quarters a warm feeling and are constant reminders of carefree moments spent in exotic places.
Three things you can’t live without at post?
Weekend getaways; my friends; and Internet access.
One thing you thought you couldn’t live without but have had to?
Western civilization as we know it…
You’re having guests over on Saturday night, what’s on the menu?
A typical diplo-menu may include:
Chilled asparagus soup amuse bouche served in Moroccan tea cups
Lobster tail salad with shrimp and calamari
Moroccan prune and almond tajine with raisin couscous
Mini pears poached in hibiscus juice with raspberry sorbet and a splash of champagne for those who drink alcohol
Puerto Rican coffee and oriental mignardises
Dream post for next assignment? Why?
I am going to Khartoum. As my second posting with a K on it, I am already a member in good standing of the exclusive K Club. Next time around, I am game for Kabul, Kigali, Kinshasa, or Kuwait City.
“One cries twice about Mauritania: once when one is told to go there, and once when it is time to leave”
|The road to Oualata. Located 1,200 km (745.6 miles) from Nouakchott, on the north-eastern border with Mali, the ancient city of Oualata was a trans-Saharan trade hub during the 13th and 14th centuries.
Nema-Oualata road, August 2009
|The Obama t-shirt is a popular clothing item in Africa, even in isolated Oualata. Oualata, August 2009.|
|Ornamental details of a typical Oulata home. Oualata, August 2009|