Written on November 18, 2007, Hotel de l’Amitié, Oualata, Mauritania
I slept on a mattress in the hotel courtyard under the crescent moon and the stars. The sounds are mostly the bleating of cattle and the chirping of birds with occasional human songs or chants as well. This magical place has already made its way into my novel. Aside from a few details, like plastic bottles, one has the impression of living centuries ago.
The walls of the hotel are a lush red-brown clay which contrasts spectacularly with the light sand of the hotel compound floor. Artisans here etch designs into the walls and paint them, yet each year the rains wash some of their work away, so each year they repair and renovate their dwellings and so continues the cycle of the seasons here in Oualata.
I was so stressed and exhausted, I took one day completely off yesterday, except for my writing. I might as well have done so, because it was Saturday and today is Sunday, so the only site I can see today is the old city. The library and the painted houses are open tomorrow and Mr. Moulay will give me a tour of the houses so I can see their painted interiors.
Yesterday, the woman who I assume is Mr. Moulay’s wife showed me how one of her boys has a bad burn from boiling tea water on his arm. I gave her some medicines to try to help him heal more quickly and to relieve the pain. Apparently, he slept much better last night than he has for the last eight nights, so we are all happier today.
Mr. Moulay just told me that some Americans are arriving today from Nema, which may mean that Brooke, one of the Peace Corps volunteers from Ayoun and perhaps some others are on the way here.