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, August 6, 2008

Coup d'Etat and cultural ramblings

In case you haven't been reading the Africa section of Mauritania had a Coup d'Etat last night. Don't worry it was completely non-violent nobody was hurt and in fact the only effect it has had on my life so far was delaying a training session. A fellow trainee even commented that there was more violence after the Red Sox won the world series than with this Coup. If you are interested in learning more here is a link or just search Mauritania on your favorite news website. The only local insight I can contribute is that in the session immediately before we found out about the coup one of the Mauritanian Peace Corps staff members told us that trash management in Mauritania was improving in the past year due to more democracy in the country making politicians more accountable.

Completely changing subjects I would like to recount a brief anecdote from my training. For a homework assignment we had to gather a group of Mauritanians from our community, split them up into men and women and ask them to draw a map of their community prioritize what they thought was important and then make a list of things the community needed. Beforehand I thought that the event would be incredibly awkward and it certainly started out that way. I showed up at 4 with my host sister when the session started at 5. A few other Mauritanians hung out to the side while we had our usual Hassiniya language class. After the initial awkwardnesses it actually went reasonably well. The Mauritanians got really into the map and the men even started arguing or perhaps adamantly discussing the map. One minor snafu that we can chalk up to either language or cultural miscommunication was the women deciding that the most important thing in the community was the direction West. For comparasions sake the men chose the mosque followed by the school.

Peace Corps has told us probably a thousand times that the most important thing in cross-cultural whaterverness is being aware of one's own culture. I've noticed that my fellow trainees and I say thank you or shukran a million times more than Mauritanians. We thank every one for everything it's especially noticeable while drinking or three cups of tea with Americans saying thank you for each cup and the Mauritanians not saying thank you at all. It's not rudeness it's just that small acts and minor things just are expected because they would do the same thing for anyone else. I am speculating that the the role of thank you in culture is replaced by $greetings which play a huge role in the culture with people constantly inquiring as to how your are doing, how your doing with the heat and how your morning is going. Or at least that's my uninformed stab at cultural understanding.

I will most likely be away from computer access until August 22nd but feel free to give me a call.


Blogger Rocketmn33 said...

Whats up Big Lux

Sorry I haven't commented recently. I have been real busy (or also called real tired from killing those mosquitos) Well I'm all caught up with your blog and amazingly it sounds like you are having a great time. I heard about the coup d'Etat by watching the olympic opening ceremony and hearing Bob Costas talk about Mauritania. Other then that this summer has flown by and I can't believe that its almost the middle of August. Right now I'm watchin some olympics and waiting to see ultimate added to the next summer olympics hahaha. Ight man I gotta go but We miss ya and good luck with everything bro. Keep in touch


August 13, 2008 at 12:48 AM  

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