Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Just a quick note

Hey everyone! I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. Here in Kiffa, our table almost resemebled an American Thanksgiving (minus the turkey). Seriously, there was even pumkin pie!

Okay, anyway...the real purpose of this posting is just to give you the address of the place where my site mate, Mike, posts his pictures. He is much more deligent with picture taking than I am, so I thought some of you might like to see them (especially because he'll post pictures of things like our new puppy that I would never post about).

Anyway, enjoy! Only three weeks until Christmas break!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mike's Photos

Sunday, November 16, 2008


These are some pictures of my family here in Kiffa. Enjoy.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

So it Turns out, I Do Have a Job!

Hey all! So I know it’s been a while, and the reasons for that are as follows.

  1. We haven’t really had power for the last two or three weeks, but as of yesterday, it seems to be back.
  2. I have been working like crazy.

Reason number one needs no further explanation. Reason number two gets into the fun stuff. As I mentioned earlier, my partner Eric and I have been trying to move the Girls’ Mentoring Center to a new location. As it turns out, we have the perfect place. There is a youth center in the middle of town that had a room available. As it stands currently, the youth center attracts mostly boys who go there to play soccer and volley ball after school, so they were pretty happy at the idea of doing something to attract more girls to use the center’s resources. So Eric and I have been working 7 days a week trying to get the thing open. Luckily, last Tuesday, we had our first group of girls come and it was amazing!!!!!! We have 20 junior high girls who are super excited about doing just about everything: English, French, sports, theatre…they want to do it all. We’re also helping to get about 15 high school girls to come. In total, we’ll open Monday through Thursday afternoons for academic lessons for the girls, and on Friday mornings we’ll do fun activities. We’re also going to be open a couple mornings a week to hold classes in finance and such for women in cooperatives.

So yeah, that’s pretty much been my life for the past couple of weeks. It’s finally gotten a little cooler, so my life doesn’t revolve quite as much around trying to avoid the sun. And now for my favorite part of blogging: writing about things that would never happen back home.

Story 1
: I am currently having a lot of trouble sleeping. It’s not because of stress, and with the power outage, it’s certainly not because people are playing their music too loudly. Instead, it’s because I sleep on the roof and there is a full moon, and it’s so bright it’s like trying to sleep with a spotlight in your face. I know: life is tough.

Story 2
: There is this lady who “works” at the women’s ministry (I’m not actually sure if she works there or if she just hangs out). One day a little while ago, she took off her ring (which glows in the dark and is now my absolute favorite piece of jewelry) and bracelet and put them on me and then told me I had to come visit her at her store. I told her I didn’t know where her store is, and she assured me that I did. I then assured her that I didn’t, and then she said “Raasik digdig”, which means “Your head is broken”. She then wraps her hands around my neck and pretends to strangle me. Then she spends 5 minutes singing in Hassaniya and leaves. I should have probably mentioned first that this woman is at least 80 years old and is missing some teeth, if that helps you picture the scene at all.

Well, now I see this woman all the time. She’s always just kind of hanging around the office. A couple of days ago, she was angry with me because I still hadn’t gone to her store. So after we were done with a meeting for work, she grabs me by the hand and pulls me, along with my friend Eric (not the Eric who I work at the GMC with, but the other Eric), down the street towards her store. She has mentioned several times that she would like to marry Eric, but that is not the point. Anyway, so we finally get to her store, and it’s all stuff that has been hand painted by women from the co-ops, so it finally made sense why she was at work all the time. Then she starts looking through the store for gifts to give to Eric and me. By now, more and more co-op women start piling into the store to watch the freak show. She found a very nice purse for me (seriously…hand painted leather), and bunch of women started putting bracelets on me. Then, the old woman finds a hand painted gun holder for Eric. Just what he wanted! But they weren’t done…she still hadn’t found what she was looking for to give to the man she wants to marry. Eventually she pulls out this straw hat that must be a foot tall and puts it on Eric’s head and tells him it will help him keep the sun out of his eyes. He tried to just say thank you and carry it, but no, they wanted him to wear it home.

I only walked with Eric in that hat for a block or so before we parted ways, but seeing the reactions of people on the street to the white boy wearing a massive multicolored straw hat was enough to make it the best block I’ve ever walked!

Story 3:
I have one other female site mate, Edna. Edna is Mexican-American, which is a key piece of information for this story. One day we were “spending the day” with my host family (people here never ask you just to come over for lunch. They ask you to spend the day with them, which usually means between 4 and 5 hours). Anyway, Bébé, one of my host sisters, turns to Edna and says, “Are your parents toubabs?” We both looked at each other and started laughing. Edna’s reply was “Not the same way Becky’s parents are toubabs”. Surprisingly, that was enough of an explanation for Bébé.

Story 4:
I was eating dinner at my host family’s house the other evening, and was playing with one of my favorite kids in the world, Baba Tucksill (I’ll post pictures of him soon, and I know you’ll fall in love with him too). So Baba Tucksill was jumping and dancing around as usual, when one of my host sisters, Rama, starts yelling “Veda” at him, which I’ve heard them call him a lot. So finally I asked why they call him that. She points to his butt, and says “Because this is not big. It’s flat like a mattress.” First, I laughed so hard I cried, and then I decided that I will now only call him Veda because it is just too funny that his nickname is “Flat Butt”. So now if you were ever curious how to tell someone they have a flat butt in Pulaar, you can call them “Veda”.

Okay, now I’m really done. I’ll try to get some pictures up soon. I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving if I’m not in touch again before then. Thanks to all of you have sent letters…they are always a nice surprise.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Scariest Night of My Life!!!!!

I know I said I would tell you about work stuff soon, but that’s just really boring compared to all the other stuff that goes in the crazy world that is now my life. So instead of talking about going through the process of trying to move the Girls’ Mentoring Center, I will instead tell you about the scariest thing that has ever happened to me.

In the U.S., you usually have to have an invitation to go to a wedding. Not so here in the RIM. If you know of a wedding going on, you just show up. On Wednesday, Bébé and her family were all going to the wedding of a very close friend of the family. Naturally, as I am seen as a family member now, I was expected to go with. Bébé and her sisters had tons of fun dressing me up like their little Barbie doll in all their Pulaar clothes (I’ll have pictures eventually, and there is a video, but we’ll get to that later).

So anyway, the wedding is broken up into an afternoon and evening part. The afternoon was pretty crowded, with all the women and their kids wearing their best clothes. I got paraded around to meet everyone, at some food, and generally had a pretty good time. The afternoon session, while open to everyone, seemed to be mostly people who at least knew the bride (the groom wasn’t there…he had to work and couldn’t make it out of the capital).

We went back to Bébé’s house to hang out for a bit, and then made our way to the evening part of the wedding. I was in no way prepared for what this meant. It was in this huge outdoor courtyard with a stage filled with what I estimated to be 300 people. However, because I was with people who were close to the bride, they were not content to just blend into the masses, as I would have preferred to have done. Instead, they wanted to go sit on the stage with the bride and her family. So here I am, surrounded by 300 Mauritanians, wearing Pulaar clothes that don’t fit me, sitting on stage. That, in itself was pretty terrifying, but as I got used to, I started to enjoy watching the wedding and watching all the Mauritanians getting up to dance.

If that is where the story ended, everything would have been okay. Unfortunately, Americans in Mauritania don’t get off the hook that easily. Towards the end of the wedding, and what actually ended up being the last official song, the DJ/Singer guy comes over to me and tells me he wants me to dance. I declined his offer because a) I don’t know how to Pulaar dance, and b) I don’t really like dancing in front of a courtyard full of strangers. This man, however, was not going to take no for an answer. He grabbed me by the arm and literally dragged me across the stage, giving me just enough time to grab Bébé’s arm and pull her along with me. So Bébé starts dancing and do my best to copy her, because hey, once you’re already in front of 300 strangers you have to do something (there was a video camera in my face, so there is a chance I have the horrifying event on tape).

So the song ends and sit back down and I couldn’t stop shaking. I yelled at my friends for a bit for laughing instead of helping me, but I was able to see the humor of the situation. Okay, still not done. The official party was over, and they kicked out a good chunk of the strangers, but that still left about a hundred people there. The drummers start the music back up again, the singer starts singing songs about different people, trying to get them to get up and dance (which they all did). Eventually, I hear him start singing in French, which I knew did not bode well for me. Yet again he grabbed my arm and dragged me across the stage again. Luckily, this time he kind of showed me how to dance.

After that round of dancing, I was done for real. But seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared in my life. In the last four days, I’ve become a celebrity in the neighborhood. EVERYONE was at this party, and now there are always strangers who stop me as I walk down the street telling me they liked me dancing. Really, they mean they liked it in the way people like the circus, but I’ll take what I can get. There is another big family wedding coming up on the 30th…I’ll be practicing everyday until then.

So anyway, as you can tell, I’m fitting in quite nicely here in Kiffa. I hope you’re all doing okay and enjoying the cool weather. By the way, this entry was kind of long so I’m not going to proofread, so please just overlook any errors.

Monday, October 6, 2008


Pictures from my first month in Kiffa.

End of Ramadan

Ramadan has finally ended! The biggest thing this means is that we can finally start working. In fact, on our boss’ first day back into town she took us to go see the Wali, who is kind of like the governor of the region, to ask him for a new location for the Girls’ Mentoring Center. The end of Ramadan also means we celebrated a lot, and that is probably the most entertaining thing to share with you right now (work stuff next time, I promise!) I’ll keep this entry fairly short because the pictures are way more interesting.

As you may recall from my last entry, there was a new baby born at my house. His baptism happened to fall on the first day of the Ramadan celebration, and that meant that we killed three goats and ate meat all day. Now for those of you who don’t know me, which I know is a lot of you because my mom has told everyone in the Chicago metropolitan area to read my blog, I was a vegetarian for over ten years before coming here. Not any longer! I’ve transformed into a hard-core carnivore. All I can say is that those goats tasted good.

The house where Bébé, my host sister, grew up is about five minutes down the street, and most of her family still lives there. On the day of the party, she saw that we had way more meat than we could ever eat, so she asked me if I would mind bringing some over to her family’s house while she cooked lunch. I told her I would, and she started piling raw goat meat into a bucket. After it was all packed and ready to go, I picked it up, and I’m pretty sure it weighed around ten pounds. Just as I’m about to leave, she stops me and says, “wait”. She then proceeds to pick up the goat head, fur, eyes, and all, puts it in the bucket, and then tells me to leave.

So here I am, the girl who became a vegetarian because of the movie Babe, walking down the street with a bucket full of meat and a head. I couldn’t help but laugh at the situation all the way down the street. Needless to say, her family was very happy when the saw the bucket. Then I went back home, changed into my fancy Pulaar party clothes, and ate a protein filled meal.

The end.

Anyway, I hope you’re all doing well. Enjoy the pictures!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

New Mailing Address

Hey everyone! I hope you’re doing well. Today I have just a quick note, but promise to write more and post pictures next week after the big end of Ramadan party. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks mostly just hanging out with the people at my house because they’re super cool. I’ve taught the kids how to play spoons and go fish, plus we play soccer and any other game that can be played with a soccer ball. My partner Eric and I even managed to do some work with this week and met with presidents of all the local women’s co-ops. When Ramadan ends, we’ll be able to work for real.

The main purpose of this posting is to let you know that we got a post office box! This means that I should get mail faster than waiting for the Peace Corps to bring it us (if you’ve sent any letter recently, I probably won’t get them until the end of October). The new address is:

Corps de la Paix
BP 47
Kiffa, Mauritania
West Africa

Don’t forget to write “Par Avion” on the envelope, otherwise it will get stuck on a boat and then you never know when I’ll get your letters.

I always like to end with a little anecdote, so here you go. The lady who lives in the room next door to me had a baby boy yesterday (which means wild baby naming party at my house next week!) Anyway, I saw her at around 9 in the morning kind of just laying there, but she seemed okay, so I didn’t worry about. Then I came home at around lunch time to eat with my family, and my host sister told me that the women had gone to the hospital. I asked if she had gone for the baby, and she said yes. At about 2:30, she walks in with a bunch of other women and a baby in her arms. She then proceeds to make lunch for her other two children and her husband went back to work. This morning, she up doing chores like normal. Crazy! I’ve never gone through the whole giving birth process, so I don’t really know what it’s like, but I’ve only heard from American women that it’s pretty tough. But this lady took about four hours to have a baby before going back to her normal life. Mauritanian women are hard core.

I hope you’re all doing well and enjoying the nice fall weather. I’ll write more soon.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My First Week at Site

Hello, fom Kiffa Mauritania! First of all, thanks to all of you who have posted on my blog or e-mailed me. I usually just forget to publish the comments, but I do enjoy reading them and enjoy knowing that people back home are following my life here!

Things here are going pretty well. School doesn’t start until October, so it is I can’t really start working until then, but that gives me plenty of time to get to know the city, as well as meet people who can be potential work partners. I’ve been living in my new house for about a week now. I live in a multifamily unit where I have my own room, and the other people here are really respectful of my privacy. My original plan was to not have a host family in Kiffa because I wanted a little more independence. However, my landlord’s wife adopted me, and informed me that I would be eating with her family whenever I was home. She also gave me gift on my first night there. It was a pink lacy bra, but hey, it’s the thought that counts. Even though I didn’t originally want a family here, I’m so glad with the way things have turned out because they are super cool.

My landlord is Mohammed. Just a little side story about Mohammed…this is the most common name in the world, so you can imagine that in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, it is VERY popular. So during site visit, I had met Mohammed with one of the volunteers who had already been here a year and had discussed my moving into an empty room. Then when I came back last week, surprise surprise, with my amazing sense of direction, I had no idea where the house was. I knew what side of town it was in, so I set off with my friends Eric and Adam to find Mohammed’s house (I didn’t know his last name, in case you didn’t see where this story was going). So picture these three white kids walking down the sandy streets of Mauritania looking for Mohammed’s house.

We find some women on the street and I explain the problem: “We are looking for Mohammed. He lives in a big house with many families, and he works for the electric company”. They look at me like I’m crazy, and then keep asking me for his last name. After about five minutes of this we leave, hoping that if we walk around for long enough, I will recognize the house. Then one of the girls comes running down the street saying they found someone who knows the house of Mohammed who works for the electric company, so we follow the guy who says he knows, because hey, we couldn’t be any more lost than we were to begin with. Turns out, he did know Mohammed who works for the electric company, and it was the right Mohammed! So that is the story of how I cam to live with Mohammed Diallo (my new last name) and his family.

Okay, I’ll wrap this up briefly, if you are still even reading (it’s Ramadan, and I’m bored enough to write really long posts). So yeah, Mohammed’s wife is Bébé, and she is super nice, and a great cook. Both she and Mohammed are fluent French speakers. Their baby is Papa (yes, the mother is Bébé and the baby is Papa). He is at that really adorable age when is just learning how to walk. Mohammed’s sister and her baby also live with us. She doesn’t speak French, so she is a really good person for me to practice Hassaniya with. There are four or five other families who live in the house, and they include an nurse, a man who works for the forestry department, a man who used to be a language teacher for the Peace Corps, and a whole pack of kids for me to play with. So yeah, basically the perfect situation. I love it!

Okay, I’ll let you go. And as always, for those of you still leaving, I’ll leave you with a quick this-is-Mauritanians-make-me-laugh story. My host family has a TV with a billion channels, and they usually watch in French or Arabic (except when they’re watching Bollywood), and I sit and read or play with the kids. Last night they were trying to really nice and they turned on English channel so I could watch. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that we were watching an infomercial for a bathroom organizer.

Okay. Miss you all. Sorry for all the typos but it’s too hot to proofread. Keep in touch!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I have finally posted some pictures of my host family and swear-in. Let me know what you think (or if this link doens't work).


Fun Stuff

So I’ve finally uploaded some pictures, and there should be more coming soon. Thanks to all of you who have sent letters and packages. You have no idea how much hearing from home can brighten up a Peace Corps Volunteer’s day…speaking of which, I am officially a volunteer and am no longer a trainee.

Swear-in was great. We all got dressed up in Mauritanian clothes, and the U.S. Ambassador came. Then we all cooked an American dinner and danced the night away!

My Site

I have moved into Kiffa and I love it. Everyone I have met has been super friendly. I officially signed my housing contract yesterday, and slowly started moving my stuff into today. Today was also the first day of Ramadan, which so far hasn’t really changed things much, except that I will eat lunch with Americans and only dinner with Mauritanians. I’ll post some pictures soon of my house and all the awesome people that live there.

Things I think are funny…

I think language generally reflects the priorities of society. For example, in Hassaniya, the words is-subh means not only morning, but also tomorrow, making it very difficult to say things like “tomorrow morning”. But, this makes sense in a country where time is a much more elastic term than in the U.S.

However, other terms are much more precise than anything we have in English. For example, “aana sabat” means “I’m full”, in terms of food, but “anna narwa” means “I’m full of drink”. Apparently what you’re full of is very important. There is also a phrase with the direct translation of “going through tea withdrawal”. I can’t remember the phrase because I’ve never used it. I’ve had more mint tea in the last two months than I ever expected to drink in my whole life.

Probably my other favorite difference between Hassaniya and English is when it comes to insults. In English, we have some tried and true insults that one might yell if they were angry (I will refrain from typing these phrases as this is a public site). Hassaniya insults, though, are so much more creative than our own. Here are some of my favorites (in their direct English translation):

  1. May God burn your father
  2. May Gad send you snakes
  3. May God shorten your life

So next time you are angry, try saying this to someone and seeing what they reaction is.

Ok, that’s all from here. E-mail me to try to set up a Skype chat time in the next couple of months. Stay well and I hope to hear from you soon.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ways My Life is Different

Hey all! I just wanted to write you all a quick note. I swear in as a volunteer in about a week, and on Semptember 1st! Anyway, I wanted to give you some peices of my life here that are slightly different than back home.

  • We eat every meal with our hands. You ball up a bunch of rice, and mix it will fish and vegetables (or whatever is on the plate) and then pop in in your mouth. My family likes to make fun of me because I'm horrible at doing this. Lately, they've been making the rice extra oily so it balls up pretty easily, but that also means I have oil dripping everywhere. I'm also supposed to lick my hand when I'm done, but I have not taken this step. I prefer just to wash, and my family has accecpted this as just a strange thing their white girl does.
  • I sleep outside pretty much every night. This is pretty much the only time of the day when my body temperature feels slightly normal.
  • I am constantly covered in sweat, and then when the wind blows, the sand sticks to it. So even though I prefer to be clean, it is phyisically impossible to not be covered in a layer of sand all the time.
  • Everyone on my street knows my name and expects me to say hi to them when I pass (the fact that I've never seen them before doesn't matter). Though there are a bunch of Peace Corps Volunteers living in my neighborhood (just for training, not for my permenant site), we continue to be like celebrities. Everyone knows strange facts about us, pay attention to the close we wear, and know where we live. Especially for children, toubab-watching is an acceptable pasttime.
That's all about that for now. I'll leave you with a my-family-is-crazy-supersition of the week:
I pulled out a pillow to sit on it. My sister told me not to because if I did, I'd have a headache when I woke up in the morning. In this country, pillows are only for leaning on. Who knew?

Miss and love you all. I promise, pictures are on the way...it will be one of my Ramadan projects.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Full Update...Finally!

I know I’ve promising to update you for a while, and now I am finally following through. I’ll try to keep it kind of short, so I don’t bore you. I promise pictures will be up by the beginning of September. It’s just that the internet is so slow when all the other trainees try to do it, that I don’t have the patience. Stories will have to tide you all over until then.

Site Visit

First things first….my permanent site is in Kiffa. On a unrelated note, on the drive out, we passed a bunch of herds of camels, and had those “Oh my gosh…I really live in Africa” moments. Kiffa is a regional capital towards the eastern side of the country. I like it a lot. There is one volunteer already there, and five of us just starting, plus another 6 who will be at other sites in our region. I actually have a work partner, Eric. We are both doing Girls Education and Empowerment, so I’m really excited about the amount of work we can get done together. The city itself is pretty big, and is on the road from Mali, which means we get a lot of cool products that pass through to be exported out of the Mauritanian capital.

Though it is a big city, it is much cleaner and prettier than Rosso, where I am doing training. With about a half hour walk, I can be out in the dunes, and during our site visit we went out there. I’ll give you more information about Kiffa once I officially move in the first week of September (it will be Ramadan, when most people don’t work, so I’m sure I’ll be bored and e-mailing more than usual).

Home Stay

My home stay is still going well, although I’m getting antsy to live on my own, and especially cook for myself. Here are just a few more of those fun stories about the ridiculousness that is my life here.

Sickness…. So all Peace Corps volunteers get sick. It’s a generally accepted fact that during your first few months you will get sick quite frequently. I was very lucky my first month, and was generally pretty healthy, but we all knew that I probably had some terrible illness coming my way to make up for my good fortune. When I got back from site visit, I finally got the dreaded illness, which is basically generic stomach problems and a raging fever (don’t worry, the story ends well, and I am currently healthy). I’ll spare you the details of the illness itself, but I thought you’d all enjoy knowing the things my family here tried to give me to make me feel better. They are, in order (remember, I was already feeling incredibly nauseous):

  1. Sour milk with corn
  2. Dairy products of all kinds
  3. Spicy food
  4. Lemons

It was the first time I refused food they offered me, but I had to do it. No sour milk and corn in this toubab’s system!

Stars…I tend to spend a lot of time looking at the stars at night. There aren’t any street lights, or much light at all for that matter, so they’re really bright and beautiful. Sometimes my sister star gazes with me, and she told me she is the only person in Africa is likes looking at stars, though I’m pretty sure this isn’t true. That actually has nothing to do with the story.

Anyway, on one particularly good stargazing night, I mentioned to my host mom how beautiful the stars were. She replied by saying (remember, I now live in an Islamic republic with a fairly pious family)

“God gave us these stars” Okay, I guess I can be on board with that.

“And all He was in return is that we are pure of heart…” Seems reasonable

“That we don’t lie” Fair enough. Maybe we finally understand each other…

“And that we pray five times a day. That is the most important!” Oh, so close!

That’s all for now. I’ll be responding to all of your e-mails within the next week. I promise!!! I hope to hear from the rest of you. Also, in Kiffa, I’ll have pretty regular internet access, and will probably be able to use Skype, so e-mail me your Skype name and we can try and set up some time to chat.

Miss you all!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I'm alive!

Hi everyone. I know I've been totally MIA, so I'll give you a quick update. I promise when I get to site, I'll post for real with pictures (plus, it will be Ramadan, when no one does anything, so I'll be bored out of my mind).

First things first, I know many of you have probably heard that there was a coup d'etat here this morning. I want to let you all know that I am totally fine. It was a bloodless coup, and while we have to wait and see how things pan out with this new president, it seems like things will continue to go smoothly. I want to assure you, if there is any danger at any point, the Peace Corps will move us out.

Next...I know I told you I'd update you on my site placement and then I never did. Anyway, my site is in Kiffa, a rather large regional capital in the Assaba region, towards the eastern part of the country. There will be five of us there, and I'm super excited about it. I'll give you more details on this later.

Lastly, we have three weeks left of training before moving into our sites for good. Things here are great. I'm still loving my host family, but I'm ready to be on my own and to eat something besides oily rice everyday.

That's all from here. Please e-mail me. I haven't heard from that many of you, and I'd like to. Besides that, I've posted a wish list, mostly because I know some people have asked what they can send. Mostly, I just love mail, so letters and cards would really make this feel more like home (I've also started my letter writing, so if I have your address, I might grace your mailbox with your presence).

Anyway, that's all from here. I miss you all.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Site Announement and Mermaids!

I know it’s been a while since I was in contact, and I’m sorry. I’m currently back at the Peace Corps center, and we will all be taking a week to go visit our permanent sites, which they’ll tell us about on Monday. I’m super pumped to see everyone again.

Things with my host family is going great. We get along really well, and my host sisters and I have become really good friends. It will be sad to leave them in a month, but I’m ready to settle in at my permanent site and stop bouncing around so much.

Other than that, things are going great. I’m having tons of fun, learning a lot, and can’t wait to start working.

I promise, pictures are coming soon, but the internet moves so slowly, I have to wait until I develop the patience to do it. Here is a little story to tide you over until I write more! I miss and love you all!


I showed my sisters some card tricks, and then when they asked how I did them, I told them that it was, of course, magic. The 19 year old told me that she did in fact believe in magic. She then asked me if I believed in vampires. I told her I did not, and she agreed. Vampires are not real.

Next, she asked me if I believed in mermaids, or more specifically, a water creature that is half woman, half fish. I could tell by her voice that she most definitely believed in mermaids, so I decided to not flat out say that I didn’t. Instead, I just asked her many questions about their existence.

Where do they live? Mauritania mermaids live in oceans, rivers, and lakes. How do they breathe underwater? With gills of course.

I then told her that we had a movie about mermaids, and she said she had a seen it. I said that you can’t always believe everything you see on TV. She said she knows, because she sometimes sees American TV shows where unmarried couples live together, and she knows that can’t be true.

Moral of the story….


Mermaids- real

Unmarried couples living together- unthinkable

Saturday, July 5, 2008

My First Post from the RIM

Oh man, I know it’s been a while, so I’ll give you all a quick update. Everything here in Mauritania is going great. It’s really hot, but other than that, I love it. The other Peace Corps trainees are really nice, and I love my host family. Here is my basic routine: everyday I have about 6 hours of language class trying to learn Hassaniya, which is a dialect of Arabic. In between that, I’m usually with my host mom and sisters speaking French/Hassaniya, eating with my hands, and taking bucket baths.

So far the best part has been my host family. I have a 19 and 13 year old sister who are helping me learn Hassaniya while I help them learn English. We play a lot of UNO and have a dance party at least once a day. They’ve also taught me how to wear a mulafa, which a big sheet that you use as a dress/head covering (pictures to come). Basically, they’re awesome.

A few other notes, just for amusement…

Every day when I walk down the street I am greeting by various children yelling “Bonjour toubab”, which means hello white person.

My sister really wants me to find her a toubab husband, and if I do, she is going to name her first child Becky.

We have three goats and two sheep that sleep next to the room. Since there is no trash disposal system here, the animals pretty much eat any garbage left on the property.

We had a pretty bad storm the other night. My family all sits in a room together in the dark (they made me turn off my flashlight) and they chant for the whole storm. This was probably one of the weirdest experiences I’ve had here.

Ok…that’s all for now. I promise to write more soon and post pictures! I miss and love you all, and hope to hear from you soon!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Less Than a Week!

Hi everyone! First, I'd like to thank everyone who came out to my house this weekend to say goodbye. I had a great time and I hope you did as well. I've posted an album of pictures. They're aren't that exciting but I just wanted to make sure I knew how to do it, and I've been promising some of these pictures to you all for a while now.

So yeah...the basics are that I leave on Tuesday, and until then I'll be with my family and finally trying to pack. Thanks again for all your support, and I can’t wait to hear from you all!

Monday, May 19, 2008

My First Post!

I would like to start by saying that this is my first blog. Having never been on Facebook or Myspace, this a little strange for my, but since deciding to join the Peace Corps, I’ve had many requests for life updates, so I figured it was about time I moved into the 21st century. I’m not sure how often I will have internet access once in Mauritania, but I will do my best to keep everyone up to date, and just let you know that I’m still alive and well. I expect that in return you will keep me posted on your lives.

Now, for some Frequently Asked Questions! (Feel free to e-mail if you have any others that I did not answer)

I’ve never heard of
Mauritania. Is it in Eastern Europe?

No, Mauritania is not in Eastern Europe. I did not know much about Mauritania before receiving my assignment, so here are some basics I have learned since then, although, at this point I’m probably not much more useful than Wikipedia. The official name of the country is le Republique Islamique de Mauritanie, (aka the RIM). It is in the northwest corner of Africa, surrounded by Morocco and Algeria to the north, Mali to the east, and Senegal to the south. Mauritania is large, and I won’t know what region I will be living in until I’ve been in country for a few weeks. The majority of the country is desert (Saharan Desert to be exact), with slightly more fertile land on the west coast, as well as running along the Senegal River in the south. As you may have guessed, the weather there gets pretty warm.

is a predominately Muslim country. Business and other formal interactions may be conducted in French (so finally I can use those six years of class I’ve racked up), but the majority of people speak one of four languages: Hassaniya (a dialect of Arabic), Pulaar, Wolof, and Soninke. My first two and half months in the RIM will be spent in training, with a heavy focus on learning the language.

What will you be doing?

The program I am a part of is called Girls Education and Empowerment. Most of the job revolves around the Girls Mentoring Centers. Some of these are already created, in which case I would be working in creating programs for young women, which include tutoring and other extra curricular activities. I could also be helping to start one of these centers. I’ll know more after I’ve been in country for a bit, and promise to post more details then.

And now for the most frequently asked question….HOW ARE YOUR PARENTS DEALING WITH ALL OF THIS?

The answer is, better than expected. They have been incredibly supportive, despite the fact that they are worried. So for those of you reading this who are my friends, if you’re in the Chicago area, either because you live here or are passing through, give them a call and come eat dinner with them (my mom is an excellent cook). I am the youngest child, and they are now officially empty nesters, and may need some company. For those of who are friends of my parents, make sure to call and check in regularly, and make sure to take them out and distract them every so often.


That’s all for now. I’ll probably try to post at least one more time before I leave. I’ll be heading to Atlanta on June 17th for two days of training, and then my whole training class to head to Mauritania together. I’m looking forward to seeing and/or speaking to most of you before my departure date. Thanks so much for all the support you’ve all given me. I really appreciate it.