Thursday, January 20, 2005

Counting Countries

Looks like I'm running the table here.

The whole reason for my mad, uncomfortable dash to Noakchott was that I needed to get my Mali visa before they closed for the holiday weekend. So I was up at six thirty this morning, with five hours of sleep, to get over to the Embassy bright and early.

Except that they decided to close a day early. Which means that now I have to re-route my trip to go through Conakry, Guinea, and hope that there are no problems there.

Not only that, but because of Eid tomorrow all the transportation will be shut down, so that instead of resting here for a day I have to immediately head off for Senegal.

Where hopefully milk and honey will flow.

Those who have been here before me say that you either love or hate Mauritania. Fittingly, I'm kind of neutral. The 23 men and 1 woman who shared my tin can with me yesterday were pleasant enough. Everyone seems pretty honest. They say that there's racial tension between the Africans and Moroccans who share the country, but to me it seems like a spectrum of inter-marriage.

On the other hand, it's just a big, ugly sandbox. Noakchott seems like a very large, rather poor Mexican town, with no discernable center. Most of the roads are unpaved and sandy, most of the buildings shabby, with a fair amount of litter and goats walking around.

Not the sort of place you want to hang around for three days for the Mali Embassy to re-open.

So off I go...

On a lighter note, did you know that there exists an actual club for people who have been to more than 100 countries? According to their definition of 'country' I've now been to 130 of them.

I have a stricter definition, but I still include places like Scotland and the Isle of Jersey (both technically and legally countries), Hong Kong and Zanzibar (since you have to have to go through passport countrol to get in), and Puerto Rico (since they have their own Olympic team). By my count, I'm at 115.

Using the strictest definition--UN representation--Mauritania is my 100th country.


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