Sunday, December 30, 2007

Link to photos

This will link you to photos sent December 2007.

Christmas greetings from Mauritania

Merry Christmas All!
So I'm a couple days late, but for all I know it's actually September, so oh well. Apologies that this is the first email I sent in mass in many months. When you live in a town with no elecricity, suddenly sitting in front of a computer becomes really difficult. That and I've forgotten how to type...
So basically I'm still alive and well in Mauritania. Right now I'm in Nouackchott, living it up with a real bathroom and bed. We spent Christmas at the Country Directors House. It was really nice, with all sorts of food and drinks. Unfortunately, I got really ill the morning of Christmas Eve, so I really couldn't eat anything. It looked delicious though!!!! In a couple days I'm heading to Senegal for New Years where I hope to be fully recovered and really be able to celebrate...
I'm not really sure where to start off, since I don't think I've written since swearing in. I'll start around there I guess. So I live in a really great little town right on the Senegalese River called MBagne. It's a Pulaar town, meaning lots of Black Africans, very few Moors. It's about 3000 people, very liberal, small enough so that I always know someone somewhere but big enough to get great luxuries like vegetables and soda. Again, no electricity, but I really don't mind. You adjust to things like that rather quickly. I have my own house, and if you saw the pictures yes I have a puppy as well. House is really basic and essentially serves no purpose other than storage. No really, its hot in the summer and cold in the winter. I always sleep, cook, eat, drink outside, so I'm not really sure why I even have it other than a place to throw all of my junk on the ground (some things never change). I have an enormous yard and tree. I'm hoping to start a garden next year, was a little late this time around. As you might have heard, living conditions here are pretty tough. It's hot, and dirty. A total lack of all things luxurious, and by luxurious I mean like, broom with a handle, not BMW luxurious. Total lack of variety in food, with lots and lots of rice and bread and tea. That being said, it's really bizarre because my happiness here is much different that in the US. Such trivial things like cappuccinos, a good movie etc in the states make me happy, where as here it just comes from a sense of well being and friendship, acceptance, success, etc. It's overwhelming. Not to say I wouldn't love a cappuccino here too...
Everyone in my town is really kind, as Peace Corps has been there for so long, they are used to crazy white people running around. The children are generally terrible little devils, but that's the case every where you go. My "family" is the lady who shares my Mauritanian name, Kolle. Shes really amazing, partly because shes Senegalese, and automatically much cooler than everyone else. She's my age and has three kids. She laughs all the time and love to eat lettuce, which is really rare. Her husband works for the police and he's a good person to have around. For example my phone was stolen the other week and he spent all day calling and yelling at the person, and trying to find them. We just celebrated Mohammed's Birthday here, so we slaughtered a lamb at their house. It was pretty funny, cause he knew he was going to die, perhaps because Ive been telling him that I was going to eat him for many weeks now, and ran off at the last minute. He was caught and very tasty...
My girl's center is going fairly well. It's what I love the most and hate the most all at the same time. It's just shocking to see some of these girls sometimes, sixteen years old, married with three kids. They are still in school though which is very very rare. My village serves lots of other towns totaling around ten thousand people, and in their equivalent of a high school they have 26 girls. Terrible. I just really hate men here, they are useless pieces of junk. They just kind of lie around and do nothing but drink tea. The boys go to school, while lots of girls are forced to stay at home and cook and clean and work. Girls are married very young to very old men which I still find very disgusting. Anywhooo, enough man bashing, thus far we've done some English classes, computer classes, goal setting, arts classes etc. Hoping to get some more professors involved next year....
Going to New York with Mehdi in January for a week. I'm really, really excited to see him, eat some real food, and freeze my butt off for a week. Good Times!!!! I hope to hear from you all sometime, and I'll try to get better myself at this mail bussiness... And I'm just gonna put this out there: I love letters and packages. Like even if you mailed me a stick of gum I'd probably be moved to tears... So if you get inspired, my address is:
Lauri Dunn, PCV
BP 66
Kaedi, Mauritania
West Africa
Again, Merry Xmas all. Lots of Love!
And while this seems like an odd thing to put at the end of a letter, yes, some French tourists were just killed in RIM. Word is a very small amateur Al Qaeda group. Don't worry though, I feel very safe here, not to mention I,m in the very liberal south. And I think my villagers would sooner carry me to Senegal than let anyone even say not nice things to me or hurt me. So just disregard that news...


Monday, December 3, 2007

December update


Once again, it is Lauri's dad writing. Lauri is getting into the swing of things with her assignment. Testing of the girls took place in late October. 22 of the 26 girls in the town high school enrolled in the after school program. It is difficult for many of the girls to get to classes. Some of them are already married and have young babies of their own. Lauri is at times disappointed at low attendance rates.

She seems to enjoy life outside of her assignment. Several of her fellow Peace Corps volunteers got together on Thanksgiving and had a great dinner. No turkeys in Mauritania, but they did cook 2 chickens along with several other dishes. Mauritania's Independence Day was a couple of days later and the town of Mbagne celebrated all day long. Lauri watched several of the events and took lots of pictures. While taking the pictures, she was approached by the local gendarme. He told her that the town manager wanted to invite her and her fellow volunteer to dinner that night. Lauri said that it was the Mauritanian equivalent of the red-carpet treatment. There were about 25 guests that night. Lots of good food. She said that she ate about as much meat that night as she had in the previous 3 months.

She is looking forward to the next several weeks. The country's Peace Corps manager has invited all volunteers to his house for Christmas. This will necessitate a trip to Nouakchott, the capital city. This is quite a travel adventure in itself, as is any travel in the country. Of course, she does not have a car so must rely on others for rides. Several times she thought she might be stranded in another town, only to have someone approach and say they are traveling back to Mbagne and ask if she needed a ride. The people are friendly in that way. Imagine that happening around here. Seen many hitchhikers lately? The volunteers are finally free to travel outside their home region in a few days, so several are planning a trip to a market festival in Senegal this weekend. They also have New Year's plans.

Lauri is going to New York in January to visit her boyfriend, Mehdi. (Alas, our visit with her will have to wait until June when we hope to meet her in Morocco.) I am hoping to exchange digital memory sticks with her and finally post some pictures on this website.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Life in Mbagne


This is Lauri's dad writing for her. We call her almost every week and get the latest news. She has access to a computer only every few weeks so she asked me to try to update everyone on the latest happenings.

Ramadan ended last week and everyone has a big party when it ends. Lauri joined with some of her American friends and participated in a big eating fest. She ate from 10 to 4 and was absolutely stuffed and had to go back to her house.

Although Lauri was sworn in to the Peace Corps a month ago, she has yet to do much significant work. They plan to open the center next week. She worries about her ability to speak Pulaar, the local dialect of Arabic. However, she said later when she thinks about how little she knew 2 months ago and even 1 month ago, she knows that she has made lots of progress. I am sure that when she starts working with the local girls in the classroom her abilities will grow rapidly. Her mentor tells her not to worry and everything will be fine. The mentor has probably gone through this with other PC volunteers.

It seems that the young boys like to harass her by throwing sticks and rocks at her door. Lauri grabbed one of them and took him home to his mother. The mother said to call the police next time and give him a good rap on the head. I reminded Lauri about some local boys here who liked to throw rocks at her. Seems that some things do not differ around the world. I remember getting into rock fights when I was a boy. Good thing no one was hurt.

Lauri is enjoying herself in Mbagne. The time flies by during the day because the days are getting shorter. She gets up in the morning, tidies up the house, visits others for tea, and goes to the market to get the day's food. She has termites in her house and spends some time each day trying to kill them by pouring salt water on them. An exterminator is a possible future option.

That's it for now.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

My assignment

August 9. So I got my site assignment and I love it. I will be in Mbagne, about an hour and a half from Kaedi. Still on the river, about 3000 people, much less trash and random animals in the street. It's really pretty and has lots of trees. I use the words pretty and a lot rather loosely though.... still third world. I have my own house, it was saved by the previous volunteer for me. It has two bedrooms, living room etc. I can sleep on the roof, and it has a really high fence. It's the cheapest rent yet at 24 dollars a month. I am really excited now, and actually looking forward to going back to language class.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Life in Mauritania

July 26, 2007

Ok, so here goes my description of Mauritania. and yes rather busy, still love you. Houses are adobe like with tin roofs, windows are made of metal. We have one paved road here, it’s about a mile long. The trash is definitely a problem as it’s everywhere. Lots of donkeys, goats, horses, and cows around. I think it’s really funny, goats just crack me up. Not really funny though because I eat them. It’s bizarre to see how my definition of good food has changed. We eat a lot of rice, starch in general actually. For breakfast I have bread and tea. For lunch it’s rice, veggies, and fish, but mostly rice. Dinner varies a lot like last night it was just saucy rice, but last week we had half a chicken. It was so good I almost cried.... we eat off one big plate with our hands. It’s fun and I feel like a kid again. It’s really quite easy to see malnourishment here. Although a lot of women are obese, they are also malnourished. I take prenatal vitamins...... Pulaar is really, really hard. I keep trying to explain why it’s so hard for me but there are so many reasons. It’s not a written language so the alphabet is just made up. It’s not like any other language, so you can’t say oh yeah I’ve done something similar to this before.... and my all time favorite part is that they are big on doubling up letters so you can say cooce or coce, one meaning cheap and one meaning vagina. This happens a lot. No, that wasn’t actually Pulaar but you get the point. The only way I think will learn Pulaar is because I really like haalpulaars, pulaar speakers. They are the south of Mauritania which has suffered a lot from slavery and racial hatred the rest of Mauritania. They are also much more liberal than the rest of the country. And our clothes are much cooler..... The rainy season is struggling to arrive; it’s about three weeks late. I get my site placement this weekend, keep your fingers crossed for Rosso....

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Dirt and Donkeys

OK the pressure is on to have the first blog entry be fabulous: here goes....
So Ive been here for about a week and a half, and i am still having a hard time finding words to describe this place. Poor. Its not poor its insanley poor. and chaotic, with very little structure. Its hot to the point that if the world bank was like heres a million dollars to get rid of some of the trash in town Id choose to take a nap because a lot of the time it is simply too hot to work. And I dont know who at the cia said there might be slavery here because there is slavery, and its very apparent and very real.
With all of that said I am still glad I am here, hopefully to have some sort of impact on this place.
Its bizzare because even when i wake up in the morning i never have that o god where am i? its just like this very normal oh yes i am in my families yard, in a tent, in west africa. and it all feels very normal... Right now Im really struggling with this culturally appropriate bussiness. Its one of the PCs ideas on how we actually help our communies is by integrating. It partially makes sense but at the same time who are we trying to kid. I will never pass as Pulaar, and I also thought part of the PC was to represent America, but we have to hide a lot of the things like smoking and our forbidden calves??? How can you be an agent of change if you are just trying to blend in?
Send jolly ranchers and a bottle of whiskey..... thats supposed to be funny but i cant find the cexclamation point....