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!

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