Some of you may be aware that my Google account was recently hijacked by some company, since said company was sending out spam from my address. I wasn't able to access my account at all, and I thought this blog was lost forever, but I contacted Google yesterday and they restored everything (so it seems) in record time. Props to Google for proving once again how awesome they are. And sorry to those of you who thought they had gotten a nice email from yours truly and opened some nasty spam instead.
I was just looking back at my last post and thinking, if I thought the end of October was madness, I don't know what to call the past couple of weeks. Busy, to say the very least. Stressful also, but it feels good to be doing work. Last week I held three needs assessment meetings with different groups from the community: college (middle school) girls, co-op women, and teachers. Basically, these meetings are a chance for me to formally introduce the GMC concept (I now have an awesome DVD that explains in all in Arabic!), to interview people about how the program can address specific community needs, and to (hopefully) recruit mentors and other community members to help get the GMC open and keep it running.
I came into Atar a few days ago to work on my proposal. GMCs and other gender-related projects are funded by Gender and Development (GAD) grants, which come from USAID and World Education (an international NGO). I have to request money for every item I want in my GMC (tables, chairs, floor mats, computers, water jugs, pencils...you get the picture) and send it to Nouakchott for Peace Corps to approve. So I've been working on putting that together the past few days. My APCD (the Mauritanian woman who coordinates all GEE activities) arrived in Atar the other day to make sure all the GEE volunteers in the region are doing alright. She's coming out to site with me tomorrow.
The last couple of weeks have given me the chance to really start developing a concrete idea of what my GMC program should look like. It's a good feeling. Of course, I won't have the whole thing planned out until I have a set of committed Mauritanians, even just a few, to sit down with me and plan out the particulars. Unfortunately, there's a lot of pressure to just open the thing and get it over with. We were lectured incessantly during training about the need for sustainability in whatever projects we implement, so I was surprised to get some of this pressure from the same direction those lectures came from. Creating a sustainable program takes time, getting acquainted with your community, gathering the language skills and cultural knowledge to develop an appropriate project. In all honestly, I still don't have the skills to do that to the best of my abilities, but I'm only going to be here for two years and I'm here, after all, to work. Like I said in my last post, it's been trial by fire, but it's a great learning experience.
Also, I may end up with internet at site! I'm not sure how I feel about it. On one hand, my life will be a lot easier in terms of work. I'll be able to get in touch with people whenever I want and unrestricted access to information for planning lessons, etc. On the other hand, I'm going to be tempted to use it all the time. And everyone in the village is going to want in on it, and I don't know how I'm doing to handle that.
On another note, my birthday was last week! I was at site, and while I didn't make a fuss about it, I had a great day. The happy birthday wishes were overwhelming. I wish I could put into words just how much it means to have such wonderful people in my life! Thank you, all. Mauritanians included, even though you probably will never read this. Memorable moments from my birthday: teaching the Happy Birthday song to my english class, being swamped at the wedding I went to immediately afterwards, and trying (unsuccessfully) to make birthday pancakes for myself and a few Mauritanian friends. They were unimpressed with my cooking abilities, which is unfortunate cause I'm trying to promote good nutrition. Oh well. I thought they were good, though decidedly unpancake-like.
I'm not sure what my next couple of weeks will look like. I'll be in Ain tomorrow but may end up coming back up to Atar with the Peace Corps cars to finish my proposal. I still have some things to price, and I'll need to email it to Nouakchott. My APCD wants it in by the weekend so it can be approved by Tuesday's meeting. Not that it really matters, since my GMC probably won't be open for another three months. But anyway, then it'll be Thanksgiving! We're planning a feast here in Atar, should be a good time. :)