Friday, May 29, 2009

On Language....

Hey, everyone ! I hope you’re all doing well. Things here have slowed down quite a bit (who knew that was possible ?). We have closed the center for the summer, I don’t really do that much work. I’ve been spending most of time reading, hanging with my fam, and of course, causing some mischief with my fellow Americans.

But anyway, to get to the point of this blog entry...I have a quick note on language. One of the great yet challenging things about Mauritania is the diversity here. In my house alone, there are Moors, Pulaars, Bombaras, Wolofs, and of course, me, the American. On a daily basis, I have conversations in English, French, and Hassaniya. Even more than that, people love it when you greet them in their native language, so on an average day, I greet people in five languages. Kind of crazy.

I was discussing this with my site mate, Edna, and we realized that Americans and Mauritanians feel very differently about language. Here in Kiffa, everyone can greet in Hassaniya, and can also probably do a basic greeting in French. Yet, even though they know I don’t speak Pulaar or Wolof or whatever other language they may speak, they insist that I greet them in their native tongue. With strangers, they expect us to look at them walking down the street and know what language to speak to them in. However, this is the opposite in America. As Edna and I were discussing, if I saw someone walking down the street and greeted them with a nice, friendly, “hola”, they would most likely be insulted. Why am I greeting them in Spanish? Is it because I am making an assumption just by looking at them that they are Hispanic? Or would it be my way of saying that I don’t think they are intelligent enough to learn English?

This is, of course, just one of many differences I have noticed since coming here, but it is also one of the biggest. In America, we are focused on creating unity between cultures. Here, people love to celebrate their differences. Both ways have their trade-offs.

I guess that’s all from here. I’ll be home in a little over a month! Yay! I’ll try to get some pictures posted soon. I hope you’re all enjoying the summer weather.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Sorry I haven’t written in a while. But, as of today, I am writing from my newly fixed computer which has been broken since November. But mostly, my lack of writing has to do with the fact that many of the things I used to think were worth writing about, such as cute children and weird superstitions, are becoming more normal for me and thus do not seem noteworthy. It was fun getting used to all of our cultural differences, but it has now started to get a bit boring. So in the spirit of boredom, I have decided to dedicate this blog entry to all of the things I (along with my site mates sometimes) in order to fend off death by boredom.

Peace Cops is good for many things including fulfilling work (depending on the day), learning a new language, cultural exchange and self discovery. However, one of the least advertised benefits of the Peace Corps is that it finally gives you time to do all the things that before, if you’d heard someone did it, you would say “you’ve got way too much free time on your hands.” Well, I do have too much time on my hands, and here is what I’ve done with it (this is just a sample)…..

  1. Read Warren Buffet’s million page biography
  2. Learned to make the following from scratch
    1. Cheese
    2. Pretzels
    3. Fermented juice we like to call wine
    4. Chocolate filled doughnuts
  3. After many rounds of watching, I learned to make three rounds of Mauritanian tea
  4. Watched almost four complete seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, something I never would have watched at home.
  5. Spent countless hours cleaning dirt out of rice (this one of the only jobs I’m allowed to do during Mauritanian meal preparation. I’m also allowed to smash the garlic from time to time)
  6. Translate songs from my ipod into French in my head, and then into Hassaniya if I’m feeling extra ambitious
  7. Taught my host sisters to thumb war and arm wrestle
  8. Perfected French braiding my own hair
  9. Watched Mauritanians try to sing along with English music
  10. Watching ants! Sounds stupid, I know. But have you seen what they can carry? If you kill a fly, within in two minutes there will be a clan of a hundred ants ready to carry that thing off and eat it. It’s amazing!

Things on my agenda for the summer are to learn to whistle and gut a fish for the first time.

Anyway, I hope this has given you a closer glimpse into my life. It isn’t always glamorous with crazy Pulaar weddings and empowering young ladies and all. I have plenty of time for nonsense. If you have any ideas for stuff you would do if you only too much free time, please pass the ideas along. I will try them and let you know how they go, so you don’t have to waste time from your busy lives in America.

Speaking of America….I will be coming back to the most wonderful place in the world in two months! Yay!