Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween/The Madness that was the End of October

So can you believe I've been at site for two whole months? Crazy. And I've been in Mauritania now for...drum roll, please...five months! I have no idea where the time is going.

I came into Atar a few days ago for Halloween. About ten of us were here, and we had a pretty sweet little holiday bash. We got costumes at the dead toubab store. My outfit: neon blue spandex pants, a light blue, super sparkly collared shirt and a pink sash. I wouldn't say I dressed up as something specific; it was just generally ridiculous. Good times. :) A bunch of people went to a big party down south. Kinda wish I could have gone, but us newbies are not allowed to travel for another month!

What else is going on...since the last time I wrote, I went down to Akjoujt. Spent an awesome couple of days hanging out, eating good food (fried chicken! pork chops! BEER!), sang some karaoke, you know, the usual. And I got to pick Hayley's brain about starting up a GMC. Her situation was very different from mine. She's in a regional capital, with lots of resources (human resources, most importantly) that I don't have. Still, it was a good opportunity to see what I want to do with my situation, and what I need to do to really get the ball rolling.

In terms of work, I've had a rough couple of weeks. I've been trying to get some English classes started as a secondary project, just so I'll have something to do while I get the GMC up and running. And everyone wants them, so why not? What I thought would be a relatively simple process turned into a huge ordeal. Figuring out who to give lessons to (I obviously can't teach the whole village) and who to involve in that decision was complicated enough. On top of that, I had some issues with my counterpart, who was charging money for books and other supplies without me realizing it. And to complicate matters even more, I found out that the two people I work the most with are barely on speaking terms. Kind of sad that it took me two months to figure that one out, but it's not like anyone explained the situation to me. Everything here is very hidden, covert, almost. Relationships are masked by protocol and the necessity of formalities and respect for elders/gender differences/familial/tribal ties/etc. Needless to say, it's going to take me a while to learn the politics of my village and to figure out how to navigate them. Trying to get this English project off the ground made me realize just how ignorant I am of it all and how difficult that process is going to be. Trial by fire!

Anyway, I ended up having a big meeting with as many of the interested parties as I could round up and started signing girls up. When I get back to Ain, I'll finish that process (just need to hit up the local college - that's the equivalent of middle school) and get started!

I'm off to site tomorrow. I was supposed to go back yesterday but got a little held up, mostly because my best friend in region is in town and she only gets to come into Atar every once in a while cause its really expensive for her. I was going to go back today but had some issues at the bank, so tomorrow, finally, I will be back at site. Sorry this isn't a more substantive post; things have been pretty hectic and I've been more than a little stressed. I've been relaxing since I got in and haven't really had the brain power to write much. Also, my power strip out at site busted, so I wasn't able to type up any posts while I was there, but I bought a new one so I will get back on that.

Miss you guys!

1 comment:

Julia said...

ELISE!!! I think it is almost your official birthday Mauritania time! Happy Birthday!! We are watching football (Giants v Eagles...Redskins are off this week) and it is not the same without you. We miss you like crazy and we (Ben and I) apologize for being so delinquent in our letter writing and package sending. We will improve in the next few months. I love reading your blog! Especially when I'm in my little cubicle at my government job...I show my co-workers and we get very jealous:) Have a great birthday my dear!!

xoxox, Julia