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.