Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Good Life

Finally updated my posts (see below). Enjoy!

I got into Atar yesterday to pick up some English lesson plans. School is supposedly starting Sunday (the teachers here ended the last school year striking, so we're not really sure what's going to happen - also, school rarely starts on time in general). I'm still working out the details of the night classes I'll be teaching. My Hassaniye is coming along, but it's still a major issue. Also, I discovered that my counterpart and the mayor of my village have some misguided ideas about how money factors into my work. Long story short: the mayor doesn't think he has to pay the electric bill at my GMC and my counterpart thinks she can make money off of my teaching to pay the bill (and probably make a profit as well). My language skills are not quite up to the task of working this situation out, so I have to get in contact with my APCD (supervisor, of sorts) in Nouakchott to explain what is and is not allowed.

Other than that, life is going really well. This past week, I've absolutely loved being in my village. I can't remember the last time I had the feeling of being isolated and adrift I used to get sometimes the first few weeks at site. My work still overwhelms me when I think about it too much (both the extent of it and how effective it will actually be), but I'm just taking it one step at a time.

I've fallen completely in love with my family. My relationship with my family in Rosso was cordial and generally friendly, but a little distant. I realize now that was because they kind of sucked. My mom was polite and I never needed anything, but she didn't put much effort into making me part of the family. She was always yelling at and smacking around the kids, who were always screaming and crying, understandably. It didn't exactly make for a happy home environment. But my family here is totally different, and like I said, they're awesome.

Hadrami is my host father. He's probably about 55 years old, but he looks like he's 90. He owns a boutique on the gadrone, but his kids have been keeping it going recently because he's been sick. I'm not sure if he's going to go back to work at all. He's pretty old school, and since women and men traditionally don't interact casually if they're not in the same family, I think he doesn't really know what to do with me.

Zeinabou, his wife, is the cutest little lady you've ever met. She's the matriarch of the household, and generally oversees the housework (but her daughters do most of it). She's always laughing. She surprises me with random words in English sometimes, so I tease her about how she secretly knows English better than I do. She's incredibly patient with me. She always seems to know how to explain something to me when nobody else can get a point across.

Rouqaya, their oldest daughter, is my counterpart. She's married, but her husband lives and works in Nouakchott. She helps me the most with my Hassaniye. She's surprisingly receptive to my strange American ideas about girls education and nutrition and health. Her daughter, Tikber, is about 6 months old and is adorable. I make faces at her, and she giggles and scrunches up her nose at me. So cute!

Rouqaya has two younger sisters: Fatimetou and Aichetou. Fatimetou is about 14 years old. She's kind of shy and she studies every day, which is almost unheard of here. Especially for a girl. I've told you a little bit about Aichetou. She's married, and sometimes I forget she's only 12 years old. Girls here take on a lot of the household responsibilities at a very young age. But she still gets to act like a little girl from time to time. She's really playful, and totally infatuated with me. She likes to come in my room and just sit and watch whatever I'm doing, which is flattering but a little annoying at times. Still, she's a sweetheart, and we get along well.

I also have a few host brothers, which I didn't discover until recently. One of them, Dahmoud, lives with the family, but he's never around. He seems really nice, and he always smiles and responds when I talk to him, but I think he doesn't really know what to do with me, either. He's maybe 20. I think there are two other brothers, but I'm pretty sure neither one of them lives at home. Still figuring that out. Obviously, I don't know any of them very well yet.

Family time is best when it's just the women. We sit around making fun of each other and bickering and being bored and entertaining each other. Having never had sisters, it's a little foreign to me (ha), but it a good way.

I've been so focused on establishing myself socially, it's hard to switch gears and start thinking about work. Especially since most of the people I've been hanging out with (women), don't do work in the general 9-5 sense. They don't understand when I tell them I can't sit around by the side of the road all day and chat because I actually have things I should be doing. But now the holiday is over and I'm going to start being productive. I can't believe it's already almost half way through October!

1 comment:

Nicole said...

So glad things are going well!

Your blog has become a great distraction during my 3 hour editing lectures. I feel like I'm rotting away inside a grammar book but I'm glad to hear you're thriving in the desert.