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.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Learning to speak

Life in P.K 10. has been going really well. I have developed a good routine. I wake up every morning drink three small cups of tea (shot glass size) loaded with more sugar than your average bowl of fruit loops. I eat a piece of bread made by one of my friend’s host fathers and drink a cup of milk (sorry not fresh but instead from a can). After that I go to language class to study Hassiniya from 8-12. Take a break from the heat from 12-4 , class again from 4-6 and then work on the garden talk to people, eat dinner and play dominoes until I go to sleep.

The class consists of 4 Peace Corps Trainees and 1 language facilitator. The class is a lot of fun as we improve our Hassiniya by insulting each other by calling each other mejnoom (crazy) and making phrases like Seth doesn’t have a head or figuring out how to tell Janna to shut her mouth. We’ve also made our share of mistakes as I accidentally said that I boiled myself (instead of water) and one of my classmates told her family that she was a story when she meant to say that she was sick.

It is also a really cool process developing language with my family. While my Hassiniya is still very limited and they don’t speak any French we have been able to communicate pretty effectively because we spend a lot of time together they are better able to understand my occasionally less than perfect pronunciations and they have a pretty good understanding of what words I know so I can understand them. We play dominoes almost every night, which is really cool for a couple reasons. We get to spend time together despite the language barrier, I am getting really comfortable with numbers in Hassiniya and finally I get to show that I am not an idiot. For all of my shortcomings in Mauritania, (take all of my flaws in the U.S. and then add not being able to eat, speak or dress myself) I can count it is surprisingly good for my self-esteem to be able to actually do something competently.

Part of living as an American in Mauritania is marriage proposals. One of my friends said that he was married to the rice fields to avoid proposals. My host family brought up my marital status and then brought up my friends marriage to rice fields. I then joked that I was married to macaroni. That has become a running joke with my host family and has been surprisingly effective in deterring proposals.

We discovered this beautiful spot just outside of town. As you walk away from the town there is a spot where the sand changes color from white-ish gray into a beautiful lush deep-red. The flat sand turns into rolling sand dunes as far as the eye can see and small trees dot the horizon. It is really incredible and only a 10 minute walk from town.

I went out to the rice fields with my friend’s host father the other day. We sat under the tent for a while and then this huge machine came (all of the people called it “the Machine) to cut the rice stalks. It was a really interesting combination of a very low-tech looking canal used for irrigation, little kids (and three crazy Americans) stuffing the rice into reused rice bags juxtaposed with a huge combine. It was also interesting to learn that they were using seeds that the farmers were buying pesticide resistant seeds which means that they were probably genetically-modified. It’s kind of crazy to think of how agriculture has changed to the point that small plots in Mauritania are using GM seeds.

I will post pictures of it as soon as I get around to taking my camera out. I have hesitated to take pictures thus far because taking out my camera would attract a lot of attention and I am trying to integrate into the community as much as possible.

If anyone has any questions or suggestions for what I should write about let me know or leave a comment and I will try and write about it in my next entry.

Also I got a phone and my Mauritanian number is 4598522 and the country code is 011222. I will leave my phone on Fridays and Saturdays and if you are reading this I would love to hear from you. It is pretty cheap to set up a skype account.


Anonymous Bill O'Brien said...

Hi Seth,
I have a suggestion on how you can be even more specific in your betrothal arrangements. Tell them you aren't engaged to just any macaroni, but to the finest mac-and-cheese ever consumed by thru-hikers ... Annie's Shells! They will be impressed we have a female macaroni over here. lol.
Best of luck. Looking forward to future photos,
-- Bill

July 22, 2008 at 4:40 AM  
Blogger Harry Levinson said...

Excellent content in your blog entries so I have no good suggestions other than some pictures. The writing style is one that your dad would be proud of...

July 23, 2008 at 2:21 AM  
Blogger Sloane Frost said...

cher selu!!

tu n'avais pas encore eu un 'shidech'? lol j'espere que non!!

si tu as 'skype', dis-le-moi, et on peux le faire!!! moi, je vais commencer AmeriCorps la semaine prochaine, et j'ai aussi des histoires pour toi :)


August 15, 2008 at 2:30 AM  

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