844 days, 20,256 hours, 1,215,360 minutes, or 72,921,600 seconds. That is the approximate duration of my world tour. I never wanted it to end and now, in a manner of speaking, I suppose it never has to. If you wish to go by country do so by clicking on one above. They are numbered in the order I visited them, more or less. If you enjoy reading about it even a tenth as much as I enjoyed living it then you will not have wasted your time. Grab a refreshing beverage, settle in a comfortable chair, and make a journey across the world, experiencing it as I did. Then get off your ass and check it out for yourself. You're not getting any younger.

Lolly Gagging & Large Women (Nouakchott, Mauritania)

Dec 21st, 2010 (Nov 14th – Dec 5th) We arrived in Nouakchott after our desert extravaganza weary and depleted. Notwithstanding the 'Trials of Ahmed' the trip was truly extraordinary. The constant struggle with our desert sherpa was disappointing but not enough to spoil the experience. Although an antagonistic relationship with an individual you are paying to guide you is not ideal it does make for some comical and enduring moments. Really it does.

We spent over two weeks in Nouakchott doing very little. A week of that was spent waiting around for a package from the states. Inside was a shiny new ATM card to replace the one I lost via a pickpocket in Tunisia. So far I have to yet to find an ATM that accepts my card. Yes.

We also spent a fair amount of time planning our next move. We considered going to Senegal but decided to skip it as what we had read did not seem particularly appealing to us at this juncture in our journey. Mauritania is a hard act to follow. We knew we had to be in Mali for the beginning of January in order to attend The Festival in the Desert on the 6th, 7th, and 8th so we decided to arrive early to check other parts of Mali along the way.

Due to our extended lolly gagging we had to extend our visa in Mauritania for a bit. It was valid until November 30th but we knew we might need more time, especially if we wanted to check out Banc d'Arguin National Park (we neglected to do so when we discovered the cost was somewhere between a body part and a bazillion dollars). So we went to the appropriate office (Surete) to get the extension. Our visa expired on the 30th. We went on the 21st. We asked for two weeks. We paid around $17 US. Upon receiving our passports we soon discovered that they began our extension on the 21st, not the 30th. Muchas gracias. So we basically paid 17 bucks for an extra five days. In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, "Doooooooooooohhh!!!'. However, we returned the next morning and, after explaining our situation, were met with a smile and a quick fix. Mr. Visa Man simply drew a '1' through the '0' to turn Dec. 05th into Dec. 15th. Doesn't get any more official than that.

We squeezed in a Thanksgiving dinner with some American expats (no turkey but delicious none the less). There are a number of American women working in various NGO-ish related capacities that were extremely kind to us. Jacque and Melanie prepared sumptuous malts with The Magic Bullet (I had chocolate) at their apartment. A little taste of home in Nouakchott. We are eternally grateful.

We also assisted a woman named Sophie with a carnival event at a local private elementary school. Leslie manned the 'Knock Over Cans With A Ball' game and I took photos for the event organizer. Not a bad way to spend a day. A few days later Sophie invited us to her place for a pancake breakfast. She even prepared grits. A little bit surreal but delicious.

We managed to acquire a Malian visa with practically no hassles to speak of. That was a refreshing change. We took turns feeling ill and fought off boredom with movies and episodes of Dexter. We laughed. We cried. We ate overpriced food. Such is the nature of a journey through West African without a prearranged plan.

It was time to leave Mauritania even though both of us felt like we'd barely scratched the surface. There is much more to see but getting to the areas we wished to visit would require either copious amounts of cashola or a few more folks to share the costs. Personal body guards couldn't hurt. Tourists in Mauritania are about as common as polar bears (at least while we were there). Time to move on. A 40-hour-bus ride to Bamako, Mali? Oh yes. We were not looking forward to it. We thought it might be hell. Although not quite 'hell' it was close enough to hell to be in the same zip code.

There is a phenomenon in Mauritania that, in the abstract, is ridiculously amusing but, in reality, more than a little depressing. Fat women. Really fat women. Men in Mauritania, especially the White Moors, love females with a lot of meat on their bones. They like big butts and they can not lie. You other Moors can't deny. That when a girl walks in with a big fat waist and a round thing in your face. You get sprung and wanna pull up tough. 'Cause you notice that butt was stuffed. Deep in the mulafa she's wearing, I'm hooked and I can't stop staring. Oh baby, I wanna get with you and take your picture. My homemoors tried to warn me. My anaconda don't want none unless you've got buns, hun. So, ladies!{Yeah!} Ladies! {Yeah}. If you wanna roll in my Mercedes {Yeah!}. Then turn around! Stick it out! All White Moors got to shout. Baby got back!

The idea that large women are attractive is not the disturbing part. It is what women do or are forced to do that reeks of depravity. Although not what it once was the practice of force feeding is making a steady comeback in Mauritania. Obesity is a sign of good health and increased wealth. Slender is a badge of poverty. A trophy wife is one large enough to play defensive tackle for the Green Bay Packers. It proclaims, “I'm a man who takes care of his wife.” Apparently, the fatter your wife is the more you love her.

Through some Americans we met in Nouackchott we befriended a local guide named Sidi. He described the time he was stuck in the back of a truck between two large women on an extended trip as 'heaven'. His facial expression underscored his veracity. In your heart you know its not funny but stifling a laugh in that scenario is physically impossible. If it were a conscious decision to put some junk in the trunk that would be one thing but many of these girls are forced to consume excess calories well before the age of ten. There are even bizarro fat camps established for the purpose. I get the sense that who ever coined the phrase “stranger than fiction” probably visited Mauritania at some point along their life journey. For more info check out the BBC News or The Guardian. A Google search will also yield a large volume of information.

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'Love me or hate me, but spare me your indifference.' -- Libbie Fudim