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!