09 September 2009


Q: How many modes of transport can you find in this picture?**

On our last night in Mauritania - maybe for good, at the very least, for a long time - I can't help but notice a strange coincidence. We are spending our last night in NDB in the same place (the very same room in fact) as our first night.

It's very odd to think of all the circumstances that had to occur to make that happen. I won't go into all the minute, butterfly-effect details that brought us to our current position, but I will relate about a common thread between pretty much all of our adventures here: taxis. Taxis are an ever present fixture of our Mauritanian life.

In this last week alone a taxi has been instrumental in closing our affairs:
- a taxi took us to break fast with 4 different families 6 times
- a taxi took me from one end of the city to the other far end (over 20 km) to say a sad and short goodbye to many friends
- a taxi drove me to the Mauritel office to pay a bill and consequently led me to have my most awkward Mauritania conversation in French (saying a lot) about erectile dysfunction (ask me when I get home)
- a taxi drove us away from our host family for the last time as we both cried and waved from the backseat long after they could hope to see us (also quite awkward, for the taxi man no doubt)
- tomorrow a taxi will deliver us to Morocco on the onset of the longest over-land voyage I have ever undergone

So it is taxis that are the subject of my last PROM, number 9

NDB taxis: 80UM as long as you stay on the main road
100 UM if you turn
100 UM to Cansado
Double the price after midnight
3500 UM to NKT
11500 UM to Dakhla
And except the Dakhla trip, it's always 4 in the back, 2 in the front passenger seat, and the driver in a late 90s model Mercedes; sometimes a Peugoet station wagon in which 9 people are crammed.

Katie and I were riding in the back of a taxi once with a rather large white moor woman. Every time the taxi took a sharp turn or stopped short or drove off the road etc. etc., a knocking noise would come from the trunk. Often, it would carry on much too long to be the shuffling of luggage.
Periodically, this knocking noise would be accompanied by what seemed to be indecipherable speech. "What is going on here?" I kept thinking.
Finally, one block from our house, a goat head suddenly popped through the speaker hole in the back seat of this taxi not 6 inches from my own shocked cranium. It looked around and then gave a nonchalant bleat with its thin protruding tongue.
Noticing my baffled interest and acting as if nothing in the slightest was out of place, the moor woman proceeded to ask me how much I would pay for the goat. Not wanting to offend, I simply replied that my closet at home was filled to the brim with goats as it was and I just did not have room for her fine specimen.

Just one small memory from a taxi. However, my strange cannot outdo the disgusting of a fellow volunteer. Similar scenario: taxi + goat = good story. This friend was making the long trek from NKT back to site. On this long journey he fell asleep in that all to common head-cocked-back, mouth-open position. Goats (notice the 's', plural) were tied to the roof of the Mercedes. I think you can see where this is going. Let's just say nature called for the animals, and my friend had a window seat, an open-window seat. Ba-boom, ching!

**A: 67. There are 67 modes of transport. Oh...you forgot the bucket didn't you? What?
You've never traveled by bucket before?


karen yunghans said...

Mike and Katie, Just finished viewing your last entry to the blog. Some how I feel I am feeling the wrong feelings about your return to Kansas. I an thrilled but even stronger then that feeling is the feeling of sadness I am feeling as I know the two of you must be very torn. I just want you to know my heart achs and I wish I could ease that for you in some small way. Our hearts and prayers are with you both at this time. Safe travels!! Love Mom (Karen Yunghans)