Peace Corps Part deux: Moroccan Nights

Mandatory Disclaimer: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or people, the Mauritanian government or people, or the Peace Corps.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Final Countdown

As I write this entry I am getting ready to undergo a radical change in my life. On June 17th I will be flying from Newark Airport to Atlanta where I will spend a few days dealing with the Peace Corps bureaucracy before flying from Atlanta to Dakar Senegal on June 20th. From there a bus will take me to Rosso Mauritania where I will have three months of technical and language training before beginning my actual Peace Corps service.

It's funny to think about how different my life will be in about a week. I have spent most of the last four years in Ithaca, NY a land of beautiful waterfalls, monstrous hills freezing cold temperatures, and free-flowing kegs. I will be moving to the sands of Mauritania where the land is flat as far as the eye can see, the temperature rarely drops below, "unbearably hot," water is a scarce and treasured commodity and the sale of alcohol is forbidden. That's right I'm moving from the land of keystone light and kegstands to a place where foreigners are forced by circumstance to make their own wine in buckets.

Many people have asked me how I will be able to make it two years away from friends and family (not to mention frisbee). If you are reading this entry than you are a friend and I will miss you but it's that the difficulty of being away from everyone pales in comparison with the opportunity I have. The opportunity to travel the world, to live with people from a different culture, to learn languages (j'espere) and to try understand how a different group of people view the world.

Mauritania is a country that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry describes as la terre des hommes (land of men) for it's harsh conditions and other Peace Corps volunteers in West Africa often recite the phrase, "at least we are not in Mauritania" whenever they are struggling. Despite the harsh climate and sometimes difficult working condition I am excited to be going to what appears (at least from what I can find on the internet to be a fascinating country with a unique history, several diverse cultures sharing the same plot of land and an exciting future.

As soon as I found out I was going to Mauritania I searched the Cornell Library and the internet for information about Mauritania but couldn't find much. I soon realized that as a former part of "French West Africa" almost all of the writing about the country is in French. If I want to learn more I guess I'll just have to improve my French. I did manage to find two great books about West Africa. Blue Clay people about a frustrated AID worker in Liberia and an awesome book called "Riding the Demon" in which the author just rides bush taxis around Niger and writes about the culture and chaos of the road.

Here are some links to some information about Mauritania:
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mauritania

New York Times page with lots of interesting articles covering Mauritania from a variety of perspectives: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/mauritania/index.html?8qa&scp=1-spot&sq=mauritania&st=nyt

Also I will be doing environmental education work. Here is a link to the Peace Corps environmental education page: http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=learn.whatvol.env.enved

I won't get my actual assignment and location until sometime in the next few months. The first three months in Mauritania will be training both technical and linguistic and during that time the Peace Corps staff will assess my strengths and weaknesses and pick my actual location based on that. Once I am at my site I will choose a project based on my skills and the needs of the community.

5 Comments:

Blogger Adrienne said...

Hi Seth, This is a wonderful set-up for a blog. I hope you can keep it going even when the going gets tough. Many wishes for safe travel to your site...and beyond. I'll be checking "801 Nights" often. Love, Adrienne

June 13, 2008 at 10:51 PM  
Anonymous Barrett said...

Seth,

I'm very impressed you're going through with this and I'm sure your experience is going to be like nothing else. I can't even imagine doing what you're about to embark on. Good luck and hope to hear good things from you in the future.

June 17, 2008 at 3:37 AM  
Blogger Rocketmn33 said...

what up seth it was good seeing you for a week or two. I know you will have a great time (obviously some shitty times) but remember the legends of Rockland and you will make it.

Peace Bro,

Ritter

June 17, 2008 at 2:53 PM  
Blogger Bernardo said...

And the first result on google for Rosso, Mauritania says:

"Few of Rosso's population would ever suggest that it is a beautiful place. One storey houses..."

Good luck, Delux.

June 20, 2008 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger Bernardo said...

And, of course, the first story in your nytimes link has the description: "To Mauritania’s men, fat is sexy, so women resort to force-feeding and steroid use in pursuit of obesity."

Way to go, buddy! I'm proud of you.

June 20, 2008 at 11:08 AM  

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