Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I got my first piece of Mauritanian clothing today! It's called a mulafa (see photo) and is usually worn by Moorish women. It's insanely more comfortable than anything I brought to wear cause it's really light weight and we can wear tank tops and capri pants underneath. You don't know how excited I was to wear pants today; legs tend to get really sweaty in this heat under long skirts.

So in the photo is myself obviously, and two other girls I went to the market with to buy our mulafas. I've been walking around town a lot more the last couple days, and it's really interesting. I'll have to take some pictures and post them cause there's no way I'll be able to describe it properly.

Yesterday we had our language exams and I'm pretty sure I placed out of French, which means I'll get to start learning another language immediately. Woohoo! I really want to learn Hassaniya, which is about 70-75% Arabic. I feel like its the language I'll find most useful outside of Mauritania. Unfortunately, I don't get to choose what I learn, but ultimately I'll be happy with whatever I end up with. It's going to be awesome no matter what!

Some PSAs: I'll be heading to my homestay Friday, which is the day after tomorrow. I'll probably be out of touch for a while, at least online, but I do have a cell phone now! Email me if you want the number and you can Skype me whenever you want. Hopefully. It depends on whether or not I get service wherever I am, but at least I have one, right? Also, I would really like to have your all phone numbers so I can get in touch with you. So email me that info too.

If I have time to post tomorrow night, I'll let you know where I'm going to be staying and what language I'm going to be learning (we find out tomorrow). If not, wish me luck (I'm definitely nervous about living with a family), and I'll post again in a few weeks. XOX

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Assalaam Aleykum!

Hey all! Bet you didn't think you would be hearing from me so soon. I definitely didn't think I would have internet access this early in stage, but there's actually wireless here at the training center. Go figure. It's a little weird being able to contact people after preparing myself to be cut off, but this level of communication is not going to be maintained over the course of stage so I might as well take advantage while I can.

Just something quick for now: we got to Rosso yesterday after about 24 hours of travel. I've been covered in a thin (sometimes thick) layer of sand and sweat since then, despite showering last night. We're all just getting used to being constantly dirty, and some other fun little things like no toilet paper (we have something called a makaresh instead; picture a tea pot). It's been awesome. I didn't really know how I would handle being in a place like this, but my trip to China was a great way to ease into living like this.

Despite all these major adjustments, my being here hit me in the simplest of moments. There is a large tent in the "yard" of our compound (it's basically a sand pit). It's pointed like a circus tent, white on the inside and stitched with this really amazing, vibrant quilting on the inside. Underneath the tent are rugs and some thin pads we use as mattresses, and people tend to hang out under there during breaks. The wind picks up clouds of sand and blows it over the rugs in the afternoon. So I'm sitting under this tent, watching the sand blow, and I was just like, wow, I am so in Africa right now.

Ok, I have to run to an interview now. They're getting a feel for where they might want to place us, so this should be interesting. I'll post again soon though. Bye!

First Guest Post

Hello everyone. Just a quick note from Andrew. I heard from Elise yesterday - she made it in country just fine. I think that's about all anyone wants / needs to know from someone other than the official administrator of this site.

On a side note, I just discovered that the picture Elise is using for her profile picture is of me. Or, to be more specific, my feet.

Also, I've searched for something embarrassing to put up here, but nothing has presented itself. So in the meantime, enjoy a picture of Elise in Times Square, my future place of employment.

Best to all,


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Day One

So I just posted yesterday, and not all that much has happened since then, other than the whole arriving at staging and meeting the other like 80 volunteers I'm heading to Mauritania with and going through my first full day as an official member of the Peace Corps thing. You know, the usual. Ha!

In all seriousness, the past 24 hours have been a trip. I left DC last night around 5:00 after a fairly upbeat farewell to my family and Andrew, who all came with me to the airport. I just wanted to say that my last few days at home were really wonderful. They weren't sad or tearful, as I was a little afraid they would be. To be sure, the weeks before then had been stressful, with all the preparations and good-byes, etc. Which is not to say that the last few days weren't, but there was a certain calmness in between all the crazy packing that surprised me. I can only attribute that to the awesome people I had around me, and of course the awesome people who are just as much a part of my life but weren't able to physically be with me. You keep me sane.

Like I said, my staging group is about 4 times bigger than I thought it would be. Craziness. Everyone seems really nice, and just being around and talking to people with the same anxieties and hopes has been a bit of a relief. Now I know I'm not completely insane!

Last night people formed random little groups and started getting to know each other. A bunch of us bought some six packs and just chilled in one of the rooms for a few hours talking and watching the basketball game. We were up this morning for 8:00 AM registration, and tomorrow we're meeting at 6:30 (ew) for immunizations. Needless to say, I'm probably going to take it easy tonight (West Wing, perhaps?).

I'll say bye for now, since I don't know if I'll have the chance to post again before we leave Friday morning. Wish me luck with the load of shots I'm going to have to endure tomorrow, and I'll be in touch from Mauritania!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Last Day at Home!

Today I leave for staging! It's been a busy week or so, and I still had a million little things to make sure I took care of today, but I made it. Phew. I feel slightly unprepared (though I'm pretty sure I would feel unprepared no matter what), nervous, excited, a little sad/sentimental, and probably a few other emotions that are getting lost in the jumble of things.

I know I haven't had the chance to get in touch with everyone I would have liked to. And chances are, in my eagerness to make sure I saw everyone before I left, I saw you such a long time ago that it barely even seemed like a good-bye. I'll have my cell phone with me for the next few days (I'll be in Atlanta, Georgia for staging until Friday) so I'm going to be making some last minute calls in whatever free time I have. Procrastinate much?

Peace Corps will be sending an email to my mom when I get in, and I've asked her to get in touch with Andrew, who has generously offered to post here and let everyone know that I made it. So check back sometime over the weekend.

I know I've said it more than a few times, but I will miss everyone! Your phone calls and emails and best wishes, etc. have been a source of courage and comfort, so thanks! I wouldn't be able to do this without knowing you all are behind me. Love you!

Monday, June 2, 2008


So I'm sitting on Andrew's porch, enjoying my first real day of NOT WORKING! I have to say, I could get used to this. Waking up at 10:30, strolling over to Whole Foods and/or Starbucks for breakfast, reading the paper in the sun...pretty much heaven.

It finally hit me while I was walking back from breakfast this morning that I'm leaving for staging two weeks from tomorrow. I'm starting to get really excited! Part of me has been making a concious effort not to romanticize what I'm about to do. I've been focusing on how hard this experience is going to be, and it's been keeping me from getting excited about it. Then I stopped working, and I've been meeting a lot of people lately who are returned volunteers or are thinking about joining up or know someone who has. And for some reason, walking back today, everything just came together and I was amazed and overjoyed that I'm going to be spending the next two years of my life doing something as cool as this! I'm not going to be sitting in a cubicle in some windowless office in southeast DC. I'm going to be in Africa!