Coup d'Etat and cultural ramblings
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.