Sunday, February 22, 2009

WAIST - The Return

WAIST - all I can say is wow. First and foremost, check out the pictures. Nothing that I write here will be able to convey the ridiculousness of this event. WAIST was talked up by all the second years beyond belief, and it completely defied expectation. More than 100 PC RIM voluteers met up in Rosso about ten days ago to head down to Dakar together. The bender began before we left and didn't stop until we got back to Mauritania. We left Rosso around 7 AM and stopped off at a little hole-in-the-wall little bar as a pit stop. We must have been quite a sight to the locals at this little road-side Senegalese town, piling off of two big chartered buses. It was after 5 PM when we finally pulled up to the Club Atlantique in Dakar, the site of the softball tournament and our future debauchery.

The Club is a little bit like a country club back in the States, but without a golf course. It has basketball/tennis courts, a volleyball court, a restaurant/bar, a little food stand (the Shady Shack, without which I would have lived on a completely liquid diet the three days we spent in Dakar), a pool, and a number of softball fields. One of them, the field where the final game was played, is directly on the cliffs above the ocean. Gorgeous.

PC RIM completely dominated WAIST, in every way possible. We rolled up at least twice as deep as any other group there. We were loud, racous, mohawked, and ready to win us a championship. Team C was the party team. We managed to win a game against Senegalese PCVs, but in general we concentrated on the music playlist and the next beer run. One of our PCVs walked around literally the entire three days carrying a giant old school boombox, which kept the party going.

Those of us on teams mostly stayed in the homes of American ex-pats living in Dakar. I had about ten PCVs staying with me at a house about five minutes from the Club. Every morning, we headed over to the Club, played our games, cheered for the other PC RIM teams, and then went out for the night. Our A team put on a fine show, winning the tournament with ease and grace, supported by the rest of our constant cheering. I'd say about half of us, including myself, lost our voices from all the screaming. I still don't have mine back; all the Mauritanians back at my site think I'm sick.

(To be fair, they also don't really get that I was just in another country. Life beyond Mauritania is very difficult for them to imagine. Actually, even some places in Mauritania are very difficult for them to imagine. Some volunteers have had to explain to their host families that the US is not, in fact, south of Senegal, but on a completely different continent. They don't get the continent thing either. Some Mauritanians couldn't even tell you what, let alone where, Africa is.)

The tournament lasted three days, after which I was so exhausted I had to peace out. Some people stayed to check out Dakar, and I do feel a little guilty that I didn't see more of the city than the house, the Club, and a random bar or two. Next time I will have to stick around and explore. Dakar is huge and definitely the most like an American city that you can find here in West Africa. That in itself was a little mind-blowing: highways and traffic lights and grocery stores and office buildings. Weird. Even weirder to think that I'm sitting in a mud brick one-room house as I write this.

So after Dakar, Zach and I and a couple of friends made our way north to St. Louis and chilled out on the beach for a day or two. We like to travel in increments, a few hours here and there, since its so uncomfortable/tiring/can sometimes take three times as long as it should. After a couple days of detoxing in St. Louis, we finally made it back to Mauritania, where we split up to head to our respective sites. Parting was a little sad, but luckily we will all be together again in a month or so.

I'm going to Morocco at the end of March, and after that all the PCVs in Mauritania are getting together in Atar (my regional capital) for a marathon and some environmental work. The environmental work is productive but also just a good reason to get everyone up here. We're so out of the way, it takes too long for most PCVs to make it up to this part of the country, so this is a good opportunity for them to check out how aweomse the Adrar is.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

WAIST - Where All Insane Scallywags Travel!

Ok, not really. WAIST stands for the West African Invitational Softball Tournament, and its where Ill be heading on the 8th! Ok, not really, I'm technically not leaving Mauritania until the 12th, but I'm leaving site the 8th. Chelsea and a couple of other friends are meeting me in Ain, and we're heading down to Akjoujt to celebrate yet another birthday as only Filipino miners can: with booze and karaoke!

I'll hang out there for a day or two, after which I'll meet up with some other friends (Pablo and Amanda, for those of you who are stalking other PC RIM blogs...ahem :) in Nouakchott. They're visiting their host families from training for a day and invited me to come along. They had really good experiences during training, so I'm gonna go see what all the bragging was about.

On the 11th, all the volunteers heading to WAIST (probably about 100 of us) are meeting up at the training center in Rosso. Weird. We have a safety and security session, and the next day they ship us all down to Dakar, Senegal on buses.

I have no idea what to expect out of this "softball tournament". I've heard stories about crazy partying, but its also apparently a family event. We formed three PC RIM teams: A team (Pirates), B team (I forget) and C team (Scallywags). I'm a scallywag (its a pirate themed event for PC RIM - arrrr)! Note: I actually had to try out to be on the C team. We pride ourselves on our dancing skills, our pantsless inning, and showing up the 12 year olds we inevitably have to play at least once (and who inevitably beat us). The A team is actually really good. They've won the tournament something like 4 out of the last 5 years. Its a point of pride for PC RIM. Actually, its THE point of pride for PC RIM. Apparently there's a decent amount of healthy competition between the regional PC programs over WAIST. People take it pretty seriously. But for those of us not on A team, its a chance to hit some balls, drink some beers, and check out Dakar.

In the meantime, my GMC will remain open for classes. Supposedly. We'll see how good my teachers are. If they manage to keep things up and running, I'll be amazed. Ultimately thats the goal, but considering that I just opened a week ago, I'm expecting some drag while I'm gone. Let you know how it goes!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Itchy Patches, a Stray Puppy and Tyrannosaurus Rex

It's been a rough week for the animal kingdom in Ain Ehel Taya. This morning, I identified the mysterious circle-shaped itchy red patches on my collarbone and rib cage as ringworm, undoubtedly given to me by my streetcat, Petey. According to WebMD, ringworm is not, as I previously thought, a worm, but a fungus, and unfortunately, not the yummy kind. More like the itchy, gross, get it away from me kind. My first course of action: applying liberal amounts of anti-fungal cream, wisely included in our medical kits for sappy do-gooders who can't seem to leave the animals here to suffer in peace, to said itchy patches. Second course of action: ditching the cat. I carried him as far away from my house as I could, and then set him "free". He stood there on a pile of rocks and garbage and watched as I walked away. I haven't seen anything that sad since I watched "The Hurricane" last night (which had me in tears for the better part of the three hour long movie). But before that, not for awhile. Sigh.

This post is so uplifting, isn't? I promise, I'll finish with something silly. Anyway, the day before yesterday, I'm walking down the street and see this kid standing in the middle of the road, staring at something on the ground: a puppy with his eyes barely open. I ask him where its mother is, and he points in the general direction of about half the village. So I ask him whether she's far or not (the only question used in this country to determine location, to which the usual responses "far" or "not far" are frustratingly subjective). He says she's not far, and I pick up the puppy to take back to his mother, naively assuming that she belongs to someone. After a 20 minute trek across the village and up the side of a mountain, we find the mother hiding out among some rocks. She's obviously a stray and won't come anywhere near us. My first course of action: climbing down off the mountain, followed by finding a comfortable looking goat pen in which to deposit the little guy. He's not there anymore. Maybe him and Petey will find each other and make friends. I just hope I don't wind up seeing either one of them dead on the side of the road.

As promised, here's a little something to take the edge off: I discovered a new constellation last night! My evening routine consists of dinner around 8 or 9, followed by a movie/a few episodes of whatever TV show I happen to be addicted to at the moment/reading, followed by facewashing/teeth-brushing/sitting around outside and looking at the stars. During the hot months, I slept outside and became very well acquainted with the phases of the moon, when it rises and sets, and a few easy to discern constellations, such as the Big Dipper. After a while, I realized that the Big Dipper is a pretty boring constellation. Seriously, a spoon? Unfortunately, I know very little about the stars, so I started coming up with my own constellations. My newest discovery: T-Rex. His head is those three stars known as Orion's Belt (I get the belt thing, but I have never been able to see the guy supposedly wearing it). His body extends down and out to the left. That's not a very astronomical way of describing him, but hopefully you'll be able to make him out. 100 UM if you do!