Friends in Casablanca: The Tunisian Veterinarian
September 11, 2007
Another person that I am delighted to have become acquainted with in Casablanca was the Tunisian Veterinarian. He told me his name but I could not understand it enough to reproduce the sounds, let alone remember them. But names are about as useful as a blender in the traveller world.
We met in the Youth Hostel in the Medina, and struck up conversation right away. He was from Tunisa but received his education in Quebec and has also travelled in many other countries, including Mauritania and Mali- my proposed route.
He was a big hulking man, but was very much into books. He had an intimidating presence, but a quiet disposition. He was 46 years old, and was not married. He also spoke English fairly well, although he occasionally stumbled while looking for words. But as he spoke over five other languages fluently, his faults in English are more than excusable.
I was sitting on my bottom bunk and he was on his, and we spoke across the distance of the small dormitory room.
“What do you do for work,” he asked me.
“I am an archaeologist,” I responded.
“Oh, so you make lots of money then?”
I laughed at this and told him that it was not true.
“But you dig up treasures,” he continued, “and you get to sell these treasures, am I correct?”
I could not help laughing at what his response would be if he knew what contract archaeology actually consisted of.
“No,” I assured him, “all the “treasures” that I find are promptly sealed into tupperware crates and locked away in dark basement vaults.”
We then began talking of travelling in Africa and he told me about how he travelled across West Africa from Noukchott through Mali. My ears perked up and I began asking him dozens of questions about it. He gave me these points of advice: don’t try this route in the rainy season, watch your pockets in Bamako, and that there is a train that goes from Senegal to Mali.
The way that he described the landscape there directly collided with my notions of what it would be like. From hours of map-gazing, I was picturing an environment that was empty expanses of wind swept desert. But from what the Tunisian Veterinarian told me, it seems as if the southern regions of Mauritania and Mali are full of green forests.
“The south is the only place where people can live. The rest is desert,” He added.
This came as a surprise to me, as I was not expecting to travel in green Africa for a while. It is foolish to expect anything in the “vagabond world.”