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May 21, 2008 Day II as a volunteer

I’m writing en route from SouqTown to BerberVille. I’m currently the most interesting commodity around; better get used to that. Ito, the woman on my right, says she wants to go to America, but only if I come with her. How’s that for making friends quickly? :) The man on my left is dredging up high school French to try to make conversation. Is my accent really that bad, that they’d rather speak a language they barely know than try to understand my attempts at their language? Or is it just habit for folks in this friendly, tourist-heavy country to assume that all Westerners would rather speak French?

I got to the tranzit station half an hour early, which turns out not to be enough; the bus was already i3mr – full. There wasn’t anyone sitting on it yet, but everyone knows how to reserve a place: leave something sitting on your seat. So since all the seats were spoken for, with jackets, handbags, etc, I set down my shesh (long scarf) on a plastic stool. Hopefully, folks will get off soon, and free up some seats. Of course, there are about five people who are standing in the back; I’m guessing that they have dibs on available seats before I do.

But my pinched posture aside, it’s a beautiful ride. The mountains – aHli – are gorgeous. And everyone is nice. They probably still view me as an odd and possibly dangerous foreigner, but they’re perfectly nice. :)

This wonderously austere countryside is inspiring geological rhapsody # 17 or so. See, yesterday I saw differential deformation on the way into SouqTown. As I explained to my friend (who was either interested or faking it well – thanks!), the top layer had been battered but the lower layers were flat and even, like the pages of a book. It’s either an unconformity that’s been completely overturned or else a weak layer that deformed before its neighbors – but is strong enough to resist erosion, and is therefore the highest visible layer of the stack, aka the resistant layer. Hence the rhapsodizing: Bend, slide, surrender to pressure…but endure. If pushed, give…and be here after the pusher has rifted away across the sea. It reminds me of bamboo, the wonder-plant: it bends and sways, but it can resist thousands of pounds of torque without snapping.

Grateful for: the tranzit driver, who recognized me from my visit three weeks ago, and was delighted to see me again. His boisterous greetings instantly transformed me, in the eyes of everyone around, from an awkward tourist into one of the gang. Llayrhim iwalidin. (Blessings on his parents.)

…for the mountains. When they are folded, they roll and rise like puppies at play. When they’re not, their extreme lateral extension is suggestive of infinity.

We just drove through – oh, hey, there’s more, we’re not through them yet – a herd of grazing camels. (Herd? Flock? Bunch? Knobble?) Those placid, llama-faced tan or brown beasties always look so calm. Maybe it’s the heavy-lidded eyes.

… that the cyber had my thumb drive!! I’d lost it there three weeks ago. I went back the next morning, but the morning shift of the 24/7 business didn’t know whether or not the night shift had found it. I told them I’d be back in 3 weeks, but I didn’t hold out a lot of hope. But I was wrong to doubt! They found it, kept it for me, and now I have it back! :D

…and the journey continues. March 1st, I met a roomful of strangers. Yesterday, I said goodbye to dozens of friends. And now I’m heading to Berberville, where I get to implement the advice of D**, my almost neighbor (he and his wife are 4 days’ walk away): “Love them. Let them love you. Drink lots of tea. Let them trust you. And then you can find ways to work with them and help them.”

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