Thursday, September 11, 2008

Back to Reality?

I can't believe it hasn't even been two weeks since I left for site! Time moves very slowly here. To be more precise, the days go by very slowly. Weeks and months seem to fly by.

Anyway, I'm in Atar right now for a little decompression time. Here's some of my initial thoughts on life so far as a PCV:

Moving to site has been easier than I thought it would be in some ways and exactly what I thought it would be in others. Living with a family hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be. They’re pretty good at giving me space, and it’s been a lot easier to socialize and get acquainted with the community because of them. My counterpart, Rouqaya, specifically. At first I wasn’t sure whether she would get involved in my work other than introducing me to people, but lately she’s been explaining why I’m here and discussing my possible roles with the community, which makes my life a lot easier. For one, my language skills are limited at best, and my ability to assess what the community wants from me is equally limited. Rouqaya only speaks Hassaniye, but she’s patient with me, and she knows what words to use so that I’ll understand.

The language barrier is probably the most frustrating thing for me right now. Last night, for example, I was invited to attend a meeting on development in Ain. All the community leaders were there, and I’m sure some really interesting things were said, but it was all in Hassaniye, so who knows. At the very least, it was a good networking opportunity. If I can’t do anything else in Hassaniye, at least I know how to greet people. :) I’m definitely learning, though, so hopefully in a few months I’ll be able to have a substantive conversation.

Things I miss about home: not waking up in a pool of my own sweat, looking pretty, the red line, book stores, happy hour (specifically, that little martini place by the Adams Morgan metro with the awesome Friday night special), burgers, burritos, Whole Foods, farmers’ markets, iced tea, cold beer, washing machines, live music, speaking English, tall trees, bagels and cream cheese, coffee, newspapers, bacon (apparently, breakfast in general), bodies of water, wearing pants, showers, grilling, football season

Things I don’t miss about home: having to look pretty, bras, my job, commuting to my job, being plugged in 24/7, CNN, alarm clocks

I thought that second list would be a little longer, but there’s a lot I like about being here that has nothing to do with not being at home: Mauritanian hospitality, the fact that life doesn’t revolve around work, the focus on family, the sense of community, not rushing around all the time, being able to read all those books I never got around to at home. On the other hand, the constant focus on people and being together can feel smothering at times.

I feel like I haven't done a very good job conveying what life in this country is like. I'm going to try to remedy that over my next few posts.

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