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.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Update by numbers

So a lot has happened since the last time I updated this blog. I guess it makes sense that a lot would happen in the past two months or so since this last post given my glacial writing pace. Anyway a brief run-down of major events is probably in order.

1- With the organization “one laptop per child” and the local Tidjikja school district last april-may we had planned a distribution of 100 child size laptops in Tidjikja for this summer. That plan was foiled by the Mauritanian government who denied visas to the two people who were actually going to implement the project one of which was my brother Eli.
2- Thus the project was moved to a small town in Senegal where the teachers were happy but also surprised to have this project fall into their lap. I spent a couple weeks in Mboro Senegal helping out with the project mostly by showing teachers informally how to use the computers. I also got to visit with my brother in Senegal as he suffered from the hardships of life in Africa including cold beer brought to the school every afternoon, eating heaping plates of chebbougin (the delicious Senegalise rice and fish dish) as well as eating freshly caught fish on the beach.
3- Since the Mauritanian Government stopped giving visas to Americans the incoming class of Peace Corps trainees was cancelled. Usually every June there is a new class of 60-70 new volunteers so losing an entire class was a huge emotional and logistical blow to the Peace Corps Mauritania program.
4- And then to top it all off an American was killed in the capital city of Nouakchott prompting Peace Corps to offer all of the remaining volunteers “interrupted service.” This means that if any of us were worried about our security we could leave the Peace Corps and receive the full benefits (there aren’t too many) of returned Peace Corps volunteers. Out of the 70 or so people in our class about 20 decided to leave. When the class who is about down with their two years of service leaves Mauritania, Peace Corps Mauritania will have about 50 volunteers down from over 120 during the past year.
5- This all may have been a blessing in disguise as for the 50 of us that are choosing to stay we were all forced to take mental stock of our service and make a decision to stay meaning that we are all excited to be here for the next year and ready for the challenges that await us.
6- After making the decision to spend another year in Mauritania, I went to Kankossa a village in Southern Mauritania to help out with an environmental health camp. Girls came from all over Mauritania to spend three days in Kankossa, doing health and environmental lessons, planting trees, playing sports and making friends from all over the country. I think everyone, the girls, their chaperones and the volunteers all had a great time and hopefully learned a thing or two.
7- Now is the “geytna” or date harvest in Tidjikja. Moors have basically two traditional food sources their animals for meat and milk and dates so the date harvest is something that they take very seriously. Many families in the Tidjikja area have their own personal palmeries. Many native Tidjikjans who have moved on to bigger an better things (like say driving taxi’s in Nouackchott) come back to Tidjikja to spend time with their families and/or sit around and eat dates. So for now I am back in Tidjikja sitting around eating dates doing the occasional computer or English Lesson and waiting around for the next school year to start in October.

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