Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Already Addicted

I think I might have lied in that last post. Its going to be very easy for me to keep in touch now that I have internet because I'm apparently willing to forgo sleep for it. I'm going to be up way past my old lady bedtime tonight!

I just finished uploading pictures to Picasa, which you can check out here. See, I'm doing better already!

And I figured I should post a bit on my non-work life so you don't get the impression that I'm a complete workaholic. Though, as I've mentioned before, work and non-work lives are inextricably linked here. Working has helped me feel more a part of my community. Not that I didn't feel comfortable before, but it's given me a firmer sense of my role within the community. I don't feel like an observer anymore. I'm doing something that other people can see, and they respond to that.

With many Mauritanians, I've had to reconsider my idea of friendship. I've learned that the ritual exchange of a passing greeting can also be friendship, when you come to not only expect but look forward to it on a daily basis. You don't have to speak the same language or share similar life goals or views of the world to enjoy a friend. Funny how when you adjust your definition of a friend, you seem to have that many more of them.

Of course, sharing those things does make it a little easier. Outside of my family, I've bonded most with the small Pulaar community here. Two of them speak decent English, and the rest speak French. They are all teachers affectated from the south, meaning that the government assigns them to different locations all around the country without much regard for where they're from and where their families live. They just pick up and go where they're told every school year.

The oldest, Sy, is like a second host dad to me. Actually, I'm not really that close with my first host dad (he's a pretty aloof, older Moorish guy), so Sy is really it. He's lucky enough to have his wife and two little girls living with him here. They serve as a surrogate family for the rest of the Pulaar community in Ain, which consists of five other younger men and one of their wives. They eat all their meals together and generally keep to themselves. While they're friendly with the rest of the community (all Moors), they're still seen as and feel like outsiders. The ethnic divide in this country is painfully apparent.

Lucky for me, I can kind of float between all the different groups here. My being here provides opportunities for these groups to interact more than they normally would and, hopefully, an example for some of the younger people. I'd like to think that seeing me accepting and being accepted by different groups gives them the chance to realize that they have more in common than they might have thought otherwise.

Anyway, back to the Pulaars: they're awesome. Tonight, for example, I ran into one of them on my way home. We stopped off at his place, and one of his roommates had a portable radio on him and was dancing in the yard while he did some chores. Moorish music can be stifled and oppressive, but Pulaars like listening to music from Senegal and other black West African countries. Pretty much what you typically think of when you think of African music. Its got that Carribbean vibe (well, I guess Carribbean music has more of an African vibe). Either way, I don't hear much of it up here in the north, so it was pratically impossible to keep from bouncing to the music coming out of that radio. It wasn't long before the three of us were having a full-on dance party in the yard. Completely randomly. We had to shut the front door, of course, because everyone else in town would think we were a little crazy at best, unpardonably lewd at worst. Which I respect, but its so nice to be able to cut loose once in a while.

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