The Green Star is known as Solomon’s seal.
Immediately after leaving the hospital in Senegal, I went for Korean food.
I must confess, though I’m ashamed to say, I went to the same Korean restaurant in Dakar, three times.
Ashamed because Senegal, in its own right, is known to have the best food in West Africa.
But my body was aching for off the map flavour constructions.
Even language constructions.
Sitting there, surrounded by young Korean men boisterously enjoying their late dinner.
Anesthetized me of my Malaria blues and to a much greater extent, dissolved the mighty continent of Africa into the far away portal of Korea.
The peaceful one.
Maybe in that moment of complete Korean immersion, I found Mario’s whistle after all.
Buried in my second order of Kimchi.
World 6-3, A Korea-lly Hard Level.
How did Koreans come up with Kimchi anyway?
“Look at all this cabbage and spice!”
“Say, cabbage is known to have sugars.
Maybe these sugars would ferment if I left them to pickle in this jar.”
The guy was a genius.
The Korean Anthony Bourdain.
In the morning I left for Rosso Senegal, the last Senegalese town before reaching the Mauritanian frontier.
That felt good.
To say the very least.
When I reached Rosso Senegal,
I was easily stamped out of Senegal.
Nothing but praise for the entire Senegalese border authority.
My encounters with them were always fast, pleasant and free.
I didn’t want to get into this particular story, initially.
Alas, I wrote it anyway.
After getting my exit stamp in Senegal, I had a bit of an issue with a shady money exchanger, who took full advantage of my currency conversion app not representing the Mauritanian Ouguiya properly.
I lost unspeakable riches in that salty experience.
Just me in a dark room with over ten guys exchanging 150,000 CFA (330$ CDN) for a mysterious amount of Mauritanian Ouguiya.
“Hurry hurry” is not what you want to hear from a money exchanger.
After the dirty exchange the capitalist voyeurs all quickly vanished.
As though an adult hide and go seek was about to start.
Except two, they intercepted me as I was about to walk through what appeared to be a main gate.
They told me the ferry for the river crossing was down a narrow dirt alley.
That I should follow them.
I, despite my intuition suggesting otherwise, followed them to a small canoe port where I was thrown a life jacket.
Then told to pay.
What these hustlers didn’t know was that in my possession was a very rare and ancient guide book, that informed me, there’s a free ferry.
I was like Almanac Biff from Back to the future 2.
I had all the answers.
After repeatedly telling him I knew about the free ferry for foot passengers, he eventually, after telling me it didn’t exist, conceded.
Leaving me to walk back to the gate.
Following me of course, with a few others, close behind.
I felt uneasy here.
Not a feeling I’m accustomed to.
I had a lot of cash on me.
And it wasn’t a secret.
Strange how money can so drastically alter ones natural psychology.
In both directions.
Both offensively and Defensively.
Eventually, once I past through the gate, I recognized a much bigger, livelier port.
Before I could absorb the logistics of the ferry exchange, the hustler was calling out to a canoe brimming with frightened looking passengers, telling the captain to wait, I was going with them.
It was after four o’clock.
I was rushed to get to the other side of the river before the Mauritania offices closed.
It was a predicament.
So I jumped in, paying far less than the hustler tried charging me initially.
Life jacket, check.
Sitting next to a thousand year old man, check.
Hustler from the currency exchange and boat times, sitting on the canoe with me, crossing the river into Mauritania, check… but why?
This dude had a dubious air about him, I don’t mind saying.
When the ferry docked on the other side of the river I was corralled into a long line of people flailing ID cards and passports like they were at a racetrack, after betting it all on Seabiscuit.
Eventually I was taken to a hallway where I waited for my Mauritania visa.
Once I got it, I had to wait for a border cop to sign it.
That was painful.
The hustler dude, after all this time, was still lingering around me.
I exited the immigration park and was confronted by some guys selling bus tickets to Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania.
Fairly standard procedure.
Until the hustler, who was following me led a quick intense conversation with my new friends.
I’m linguistically handicapped here.
French retarded, if you will.
The four of us walked to a main street, where I decided to officially break-up with my boat times boy friend.
It got messy.
I told the group I wasn’t taking the “free” taxi to the bus station.
“Not interested guys, I’m taking a moto to the bus station”
“There is no moto” one of the guys in the group said, as a motorbike drove past us.
“We’ll see” I said.
Casually ignoring their (bullshit) seemed to offend one guy particularly.
I approached a nearby motorbike, then asked if he could take me to the bus station, he nodded.
Then homie from the “take our free taxi” squad stepped between us, says some french things that suddenly made the driver of the motorbike not so keen to take me.
This was aggravating me.
I told the guy lingering around me, cock blocking me from getting a ride to the bus station, to leave me alone and mind his business.
I was stern and specific.
Two of my weakest qualities, to be sure.
That’s when shit got heated.
“Don’t tell me where to go this is my town!”
“Don’t tell him where to go, this is our town!”
“You’re not welcome here fuck you”
“Get the fuck outta here!”
“Walk away, fuck off and walk away!”
“I’m trying guys” I said.
“But you need to fuck off.” My voice gaining baritone momentum as the words flew from my mouth.
“You especially, I said to my ex boyfriend, need to fuck right off”
It was the most ridiculous situation, my god.
Him: “Take our free taxi”
Me: “No sorry, I think you’re going to rob me.”
Him: “Let’s fight.”
Once the word “fuck” makes its way into an argument, ones ability to efficiency express information vanishes.
Thus, fist a cuffs.
One of the calmer guys in the group, a guy who I think worked for a real bus company, was like, “Oh shit! This tourist is about to throw down in front of my tourist friendly bus station“. He stepped between me and all the problems, leading me away.
If I was ever going to get physical in Africa, it was this moment.
There just happened to be a taxi waiting, with two guys standing against it.
The passenger side door was open, he just glided me in there.
The guy with his hand on my shoulder said, in my ear.
That’s when a big guy who was around the whole time, opened the rear door and sat directly behind me.
“Nope” I said out loud.
I got out, quickly crossed the street then asked a random guy in a parked car if he could take me to the bus station, he agreed, I got in.
The group of guys, mainly my ex boyfriend from the boat times, confronted the guy, through his window.
“Let’s go!” I said
He smiled then spun tires outta there.
Leaving behind a very irate group of hospitality workers.
I quickly arrived at the bus station, where a lone mini bus was parked on the side of the road, moments away from departing to Nouakchott.
As I was squeezed into the back of the van, my old friends, including my ex boyfriend, pulled up to say goodbye to me.
But it was too late.
Bobby was on his way to Nouakchott.
My theory regarding my ex boyfriend, Old Greg Boat Times, is obvious.
He, after seeing the currency exchange, intended to rob me.
He motivated others to help him, or participate, in Mauritania.
When 330$ walked away, he, and his squad got mad.
It’s an assumption.
But I can’t see anyone getting that upset about a tourist not wanting to take a free taxi ten kilometres to a bus station.
It defies my logic.
Once on the bus, I relaxed and settled in for a 7 hour ride to Nouakchott.
Driving through towns, occasionally stopping for pick-ups,
I learned you can eat a whole can of sardines and a half baguette in less time than it takes a driver to locate and dispense luggage from the roof of a packed mini bus.
The unfortunate side effect of this hurried talent is, smelling like a sea men.
Read it how you like.
I was surprised at how quickly the cultural shift occurred.
Suddenly men were wearing elaborate head scarves, revealing only their eyes.
Some wore long fabrics that hung from them with casual purpose.
The men wearing dark blue headscarves and light blue robes, were my favorite and most beautiful, to be sure.
One of the more chatty men sharing the bus with me (Dr Ahmedou) after abruptly asking such questions as, what religion are you? and, Do you have children? drove me around Nouakchott with his wife and small son, once we arrived, helping me find a hotel.
At 1 AM.
His wife and son, were no doubt tired.
But Doc was high energy.
“Are you hungry my friend?”
“A little.” I responded.
His wife rolled her eyes.
It wasn’t long before we were stopped at a surprisingly busy sandwich shop.
Where Dr Ahmedou bought me a delicious tuna sammy.
“Eat Eat” He joyfully screamed at me.
I crushed a tuna sandwich in the back seat of his car, while his wife and son tried to get some sleep in the front.
His kindness, in that moment, was overwhelming.
When my feelings of guilt subsided, the hard gold coin of gratitude remained.
After parking next to a hotel, Dr Ahmedou suggested he go in to confirm a price, knowing that after seeing me, the proprietor would amend the rate.
Reminds me of Celeste.
I went to sleep filthy and woke up filthy.
Showering was not a priority for me.
I was in that moment, moving through a fog that felt like water.
In its most extreme manifestation, it felt like paralysis.
But I moved.
A rare encounter with a mysterious determination that I believe exists separate from my conscience self.
Like an ethereal gas station.
Finding a bus in Nouakchott to take me to the border of the Western Sahara region, was easy.
Once there I stayed the night on the frontier of Mauritania and Morocco, or as I would later learn, a disputed region of the Sahara that Morocco claims.
Algeria and Mauritania, “Not agreed Dimitri”
I stayed in one of the two basic hotels.
My rooms ceiling peaked like a small circus tent.
Which I loved.
I ate biscuits in my room.
And had a Fanta.
Actually, me and my friends, the ants, ate biscuits in my room.
In the morning, when the border opened, I exited Mauritania then walked the 5 kilometres of no man’s land between the two countries.
The landscape was white rock and white sand.
The sky was a deep rich blue, that almost revealed stars.
It was an incredible moment for me.
After entering the Moroccan compound, I was greeted by a handsome man in full military uniform.
He quickly checked my bag, then played with my typewriter for a few minutes.
Then directed me to the nearby stamp building.
The border agent flipped my passport to the back page, the one that says don’t stamp this page, then he stamped it.
Rock and roll.
I fucking love Morocco.
I exited the compound, bought a 2 day bus ticket to Marrakesh, climbed a distant hill, where I collected some ceremonial sand.
Sand, that for me represents possibility.
I did it.
From Simien mountains in Ethiopia to Kingdom of Morocco.
By land, river and sea.
Like my foremothers before me.