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.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Stuck in the middle

I told Peace Corps that they could send me to anywhere in the world so they sent me to Mauritania. Then I told Peace Corps that they could send me to anywhere in Mauritania so they sent me to Tijidkja. Last week we received my site announcement that I will be going to Tijidkja the capital of the Tagant Region in central Mauritania.

The training coordinators drew a map of Mauritania on the sand outside our training center complete with buckets, rocks, leaves and a shovel to represent various features of Mauritania. All of my fellow trainees stood around the outside of the map as our assignments were announced site by site. Like captains choosing an elementary school dodgeball team our bosses read out our names as excited volunteers learned of their great locations in Naoddihibou or in a beautiful spot along the Senegal River. Like the fat kid in dodgeball I waited patiently for my name to be called as more and more of my friends were packed into Peace Corps dense spots in the South. Finally my name was called for Tjidkja and while the map was certainly not perfectly drawn to scale there was a lot of sand between me, my three region-mates and the next closest group. As far as I know there are three frisbee players in P.C. Mauritania and we are all within 4 hours of each other. Not quite the frisbee density of Ithaca but still good enough to keep my flick in shape for the next two years.

As part of the training we take a break from language training and spend a week in our permanent sites and so I got to spend a couple of days in Tijidkja. While the drive from Rosso was certainly not short and was definitely monotonous there were some really beautiful spots along the way. Tagant is on a plateau and the drive up out of the valley to the Plateau is beautiful and the first viewpoint from the plateau out into the desert is stunning. Tjidkja is actually a beautiful city, at least by Mauritanian standards. The city is divided by two sand canals and along the canals there are a lot of oases/ palmeries (it’s the same word in Hassiniya). My few days in the city actually went so well that I am worried that things are going too well. I met my counterpart who is the inspector for a few schools in the region and is really enthusiastic about me. He speaks some English and is really passionate about education in Mauritania. I found a great place with a teacher/ journalist right near the regional headquarters and I met a bunch of people. I was told that everyone would be aloof to us at first but everyone seemed to understand my position and be a good combination of patient and enthusiastic.

One of the nights in Tjidkja we had the sandstorm rainstorm combo that I am rapidly getting used to. The next day we had to get across town but the sand canals had flooded. Half the town was hanging out next to the canal watching the flood. We had to cross the canal so we did what everyone else does: jump on the back of a pickup truck going across the canal and then according to Mauritanian hospitality stay on the truck for as long as you want and then hop off.

Raves: Peace Corps Volunteers hospitality in Tjikja and Aleg, (great food, great booze, great hanging out, good times)
Palmeries: Beautiful and great places to relax in
Rain: The country is twice as green after the rains came.

Rants: French keyboards (the q’s and a’s are switched surprisingly difficult),
drinking coffee and making plans to change the world
Some links about Tijidkja,-13.897705&spn=5.240706,9.84375&z=7


Blogger Harry Levinson said...

Thanks for the google link. when I did it myself, it put me in the middle of the desert but there was no town display. It sure does look like you are in the middle of the desert. Enjoy reading about your insights...

August 22, 2008 at 5:17 PM  

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