Saturday, February 20, 2010


While attending our "Mid-Term Reconnect"/"Consolidation Conference"/"Transition Conference" in Thies, Senegal, prior to our evacuation we had a training session entitled Mauritanian Folktales/Stories/Folklore led by a few Mauritanian teachers who shared some local folklore and symbolism with us and a few illustrative tales. This morning I found my"interesting" notes (Mr. Sisco, I imagine you know exactly to what I'm referring here...). At any rate, I read through them for old times sake and stumbled upon the folklore page, on which I had taken the time to paraphrase two of the Mauritanian Folktales; I thought perhaps some of you out there might be interested in reading these, especially those PCRIM folks who unfortunately happened to be on vacation during this conference and missed out on this session. I'm sure I tried to write as close to what was being dictated as possible, so the wording is a little odd, as it is directly translated from French, either in my head, or the head of the teacher telling the story. Enjoy!

"A hare (symbolizes honesty, intelligence) had a cow and a fox (symbolizes cunning) had a bull. The cow became pregnant and the fox insisted on being the herder for the day of the birth. When the calf was born the fox said said it was his bull's calf. The hare knew it was his cow so they went to the judge, a squirrel (no idea what this symbolizes...), who said to come back tomorrow for a judgement. When they came back the squirrel made sounds like he was in labor. The fox said that was impossible because the squirrel is a male so the squirrel said 'okay, so give the calf to the cow.' MORAL: Calves are for cows, kids are for moms."

"Once upon a time a turtle (who represents patience, wisdom) worked at a blacksmith and he tells everyone to keep their mouth shut or he'll burn their mother, but a guy just says 'wow! a talking turtle!' and runs to the king and says 'look! a talking turtle!' The king says if he's lying he will be killed so he tries and tries to get the turtle to talk but he won't. They hang the man and right before he dies the turtle says 'keep your mouth shut or i'll burn your mother!' MORAL: Keep your mouth shut about other peoples business."

Yay for Mauritania!!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

New Blog!

Hey Everyone!

I'm updating everyone on my existence at a new address these days:

Chronicling my adventures and misadventures seeking employment on a blog for all interested parties to enjoy! Please check it out~I'm looking for suggestions. If you know people who are hiring, send me their info! I'll apply and if the opportunity doesn't work for me I'll throw it up on the blog for others to check out!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you continue to do so!

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Dear Followers of my blog,

For the past 14 months I have been posting the emails that i send to my friends and family on this blog in case i missed anyone on the email list that might be following the blog. I have to say that the comments have surprised me at times, i never thought very many people would see it or read it and i never thought it would be people who didn't even know me. I wanted to make one last post for you guys, the parents of other volunteers, other volunteers themselves, "future" RIM volunteers from the group that didn't quite make it ( so sorry we never got to meet guys, we were looking forward to it just as much as you were, but hey now you can be thankful because it would have been pretty miserable to get there only to be evacuated), and any others who read/are reading this.

Thank you for letting me tell you my story, it always feels good to have a story to tell that people want to hear. I will not be posting on this blog any more unless I decide to re-enroll in the peace corps and go somewhere else, but at this moment the chance of that seems pretty remote. I was immensely attached to my family and life in Mauritania and moving straight out of there and into a new community just doesn't feel like something i'm strong enough to handle any time soon. I know that I would be comparing these relationships to the ones i made in Mauritania and its not fair to go into a new community with that outlook. I was very lucky in the two host families that i had in mauritania, both during training and at site I was made to feel welcome and like a member of a family within moments of my arrival. I can't express how much this meant to me and i wouldn't trade these experiences for the world.

To all the prospective Peace Corps Volunteers out there that might be reading this: I know the application process is so drawn out its painful, there are people in my class who had been waiting 2 or 3 years for a placement. Just know that Peace Corps itself, the whole experience, will be long, drawn out, and sometimes discouraging and exhausting, just like the application process, but when you get there, if you have the right attitude, and your open to whatever might happen, i promise it can be the best decision you have ever made in your life.

Finishing Peace Corps, whether you're ready or not, is not like leaving any other job you will ever have. I may have left my heart in Mauritania but the pain of leaving is nothing compared to the joy of the experiences and memories that i brought back with me.

Good luck to everyone applying/transferring/continuing/debating service! I know I'll do Peace Corps again some day, but not until I'm good and ready.

The group of people I served with were all amazing in their own way, and so talented and motivated that even though this feels like the end of something big for us (well, it is) and is also the beginning of something even bigger! Good luck everyone! Especially those that direct transferred and are continuing right now, I admire your strength and dedication.

To the parents of direct transfer folks, I bet you wanted them to come home at least a little bit, but I bet you're just bursting with pride in your awesome child for their decision to continue(Tim's mom, that ones for you!).

To Anyone Else who might be reading this: Does anyone have a job for me? Just kidddddding! I love you all, but I most likely won't write anymore.


Shelby Perry, RPCV
Health Education Volunteer/Water Sanitation Engineer
Selibaby Mauritania
June 2008 to August 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

some highlights

oh crap.

10 August 2009

Dear beloved friends and family,

It has been wonderful corresponding with you all through email over the past 13 months, sharing my experiences with you and hearing your reactions has been such a rewarding part of all of this for me. I have missed you all dearly but i never could have done what i have been doing without your support and understanding and love. With that said i would like to give you the latest bit of bad news in a string of bad new-es...after a few security threats came to light on friday (confidential, they can't even tell me) and then suicide bombing in nouakchott on saturday night (that didn't kill anyone but the bomber himself in case you're worried) the United States Peace Corps has decided to suspend the program starting immediatly and continuing indefinitely. What does this mean? First that i am very very sad, we all are, i have cried a great deal all ready and i used up all my phone credit so i can't even call my parents of my host family until i go out and buy more but when i do i will cry some more. As long as we are continuing our career with peace corps we are forbidden from traveling in, passing through, or visiting mauritania at all. I have many options ahead of me, exactly what they are i will find out tomorrow morning in detail but they involve transfering to a different program, completeing my service and leaving, signing up for peace corps response, or interrupting my service, leaving the option to return open if the program reopens. I don't know what i'll do yet but i will know by friday because thats all the time i have to decide. This bomb was dropped on me just about an hour ago and i don't even really know how to process it yet but i will say this, i respect the decision of the peace corps, i will respect their wishes and not return to mauritania, but i want everyone to know completely and truly that this has nothing to do with mauritanians as a people, nor does it have anything to do with muslims, this is because of an outside threat that has been brought to the attention of peace corps. The director of peace corps herself, Jody Olsen, came here to break the news to us and she is a huge supporter of the mauritania program and told us how much our relationships and families mean to us and it was obviously very hard for her to break this news to us, so i can completely respect the peace corps side of things, and i know you all will too.

I know you will all be supportive to me in whatever capacity i choose to continue or discontinue my peace corps service and i hope you all know how much this has meant to me. Start planning my welcome home party, i could be out of here as early as friday and i want to see you all as soon as possible! Ann, tubing? Becky...i'll pay for half your flight up if you can come see me...Mom and Dad call me! i ran out of phone credit...i want to talk to you! Cory...thank you for everything! and i mean everything! all the packages, the harddrives, the phone calls, the support, the everything, you are the best brother imaginable and i know you had more to send and were going to keep supporting me through it all and it was your birthday even when we were talking about it so i just wanted to say thank you and i love you and thank you!

I love you allllllllllllllllllllll with all my heart, see you all so soon i can't even believe it. I have been evacuated. crap.


Monday, August 3, 2009

J'ai de la chance!

August 3rd, 2009


Bet you’re all curious where I’ve been huh? Well okay maybe not but I’m going to tell you anyway! I’m on my little vacay, in Senegal, at a posh establishment enjoying all of the beer and cheese and ice cream Senegal has to offer in the company of 50 of my closest friends on the continent. So what have I done? I feel like a kid at camp…some days we have technical sessions, training activities, and other times we have trips to various attractions in the area including a company that hand weaves famous African art into huge tapestries the likes of which hang in the UN, the Atlanta Airport, and other rich folks home (they cost ~$1000 per square meter) and I vowed someday I’ll come back when I’m rich and buy one. The artist that scales them up or down for the patterns is waiting for me, he has faith, I’ll be back. The tapestries themselves are all woven by local women and though I went on a weekend and was unable to see them weaving, I saw photos of them working on huge looms and it made me think of Birdi (you would have just loved this place, I wish I could have shared it with you! What an amazing place!). We also visited a local artisan’s village but I found them to be way too used to tourists and seriously over priced…they wanted to speak to me in their broken English even though its much easier for both parties involved to do the bargaining in French, they tried to trip me by dropping the price and then when I counter they would ramp it back up and say it all excitedly like it was a fantastic deal for me to pay 2000 more than the price I just turned down, I’m guessing it works for them with tourists but I told them that I wanted to think about it and then peaced out, besides, my friend Dame tells me I should save my money to spend in Mauritania anyway, that’s where I live and work and I owe it to them to inject my money back into that economy, so I held off on purchasing. There was a little drum that tempted me a great deal but I couldn’t get the man below 5000 cfa (roughly $10.00) and I felt like it was a little bit much so I waited and found it from another woman that knows and loves peace corps Mauritania for 2500 cfa so I’m pretty glad I waited.

In the artisans village I met a gentleman named Booboo who spoke a good amount of English but was not exactly fluent and he kept calling me back to show me his wares, I told him I was just there with my friends and I wouldn’t buy anything so I didn’t want to go look and he relented but then called me back over later and asked “excuse me, can we do the friendly?” which I think meant that he wanted to be friends. Just to be sure I asked what he meant and he clarified with “you know…for….possibility.” I’m still not exactly sure what this entails but I said no just to be safe.

Yesterday we were bussed as a group out to a monastery to tour the gardens and watch the service if we wanted, and sample their Besop wine and goat cheese, it was beautiful there! We walked through grapefruit and avocado and cashew orchards, in vine-draped, tree-lined paths around the whole property. After that we boarded the busses again and took a driving tour around Lac Rose, a pink salt lake where men in dugout canoes were scooping salt off the bottom like sand and filling buckets that women carried to piles on their heads. It was really neat to see, especially the goats climbing the 10 or 20 foot high piles of salt. When we came out the other end we continued on to the beach and had a picnic with chicken sandwiches and apples and then swam in the ocean and played was fantastic. So clearly folks, I’m living a very rough life here and deserve your sympathy! Oh, hey and thank your Mauritanian government because the delay in visa processing for the security team has extended our vacation and we will be spending a long weekend staying on the shore at another beach community where other volunteers have offered to give surfing lessons and huts on the beach sell cold beers. I’m really suffering…seriously.

If all goes according to plan we should all be back in Mauritania by the middle of the month with our noses fitted snugly to the grindstone, trying to catch up on all the work we’re NOT doing right now. I feel like one of those people that join the army picturing the deserts of the middle east and ends up getting stationed in Hawaii...pinch me, this is surely too good to be true!

Okay I’m running out of computer battery but love and happy thoughts too all, I’ll write more when I know!


ps. Puppy had 6 i'll have that waiting for me when i get back too!

Friday, July 24, 2009

PANIC ATTACK! (just kidding)

July 24, 2009

Helllllo Friends and Family,

Here I go, playing with your heart strings some more! So I’m taking a little...umm…trip. To be exact it’s a country-wide peace corps excursion to Senegal! BEFORE YOU FREAK OUT I AM NOT BEING EVACUATED AND THERE IS NO SECURITY THREAT THAT CAUSED THIS TRIP! Okay, now that I have that out of the way, heres what happened:

I had big plans for this weekend, I hopped on a taxi late yesterday afternoon and headed out to Tabatha’s village, Coumba N’Dao, and we planned mosquito repellent making sessions, moringa powder demos, a pilgrimage out to the Pulaar village to visit some mutual friends, and some world map painting, plus some good old fashioned duck duck goose with the eco-health camp girls. Unfortunately, as frequently happens ‘round these parts, all of my big plans were foiled. About 2 hours after arriving, Tab and I were wandering from house to house in the town greeting every one of Tab’s friends that would be offended if we didn’t greet them the moment another volunteer arrived in town, me stumbling shamefully through Soninke greetings and Tabatha yammering away in her nonsense language as I like to call it (just kidding Tab, you know I appreciate the importance of Soninke, I’m just jealous because I can’t speak a local language!) and we get a phone call from Emily in Selibaby. Phone service was spotty at best and through the static, this is what I understand Emily’s side of the conversation to roughly have sounded like:

Sshshshshshsh(static)shshshsh very important news! Shshshshshs(static)shshshsh going to Senegal shshshshshshshshsh by the 27th shshshshshshshshshs probably coming back shhshshshshshs bring everything shshshshshshshshsh……(dial tone)

So naturally Tabatha and I had a panic attack, finished our greetings, because not doing that would be unspeakably rude, especially since we had already greeted some people and playing favorites is not a good idea, and then climbed up on the roof at her house and held our cell phones up in the air until we could get through to our APCDs and to Emily for more information and we learned that the panic attack was entirely unnecessary and a little over the top, but oh wellll. The “evacuation” is a test of the emergency action plan, we’re “evacuating” to the PC Senegal training center (apparently a 5 star establishment compared to our lovely Rosso spot) and hanging there on peace corps’ dime for roughly 10 days to discuss the future of the Mauritania program with our dramatically diminished volunteer population, which will probably involve consolidating sites that have only 2 or 3 people left in the region and a general, shall we say, coming together of peace corps Mauritania! As if we weren’t the closest most awesome group of peace corpions that ever there were…

Anywho, whilst we are gone a special crew of security evaluators are going to go through our country with a fine tooth comb (as they will be doing with all the sahel countries as a routine thing) to make sure all is well and good and that way when we all get back to our sites all of our parents can rest easy that our current living conditions are probably not sanitary or healthy but at least they are not in anyway threatening our personal safety and we can feel good and happy and maybe get some work done and stop playing games with your hearts. So there you have it, think of this as putting the lid on a big container that has all that crap that happened this summer in it and MOVING ON! Back to Peace Corps Mauritania business as usual!

After finding out what all of the hullabaloo was about, Tab and I canceled all of our plans, packed up all our things, said some goodbyes, and grabbed the first taxi back to Selibaby this morning. Now all 6 of my region mates are here, hanging out at my house, and tomorrow we move en masse to Kaedi and then Nouakchott where we’ll be meeting up with everyone else and taking a big ol’ bus down to our humble lodgments for a 10 day surprise vacay in Senegal. I went to my host family’s this morning to try my dandiest to explain what this all means in French and they didn’t really seem concerned at all. I brought them a baby mango tree, told them I’m going on a surprise trip to a Peace Corps conference in Senegal and I’m not absolutely positive when I’ll be back and they, being much better adapted to Mauritania’s tendency to mess up anything planned in advance, said “okay…safe trip! Hey wouldn’t it be funny if it rained tonight and you couldn’t go anywhere tomorrow?” (no….it would not.) And then they added “Hey! Lets braid her hair!” So that’s brings us to now, with a throbbing head full of very tight braids, packing my “most important things” to depart on an “evacuation” drill first thing in the morning, watching the horizon get darker and darker with threatening clouds and crossing my fingers that it won’t rain.

To those of you that know that when I moved into this house I inherited a VERY pregnant dog, no, she has not had any puppykins yet, and I have to leave her in a time of need, but I found her a very dependable dog sitter, and I’m quite confident that she’ll be fine. To those of you who get a hold of me on a regular basis, starting the 28th of this month I will be reachable only by my orange number, which I don’t know off the top of my head but I’ll text it to you. To those of you who are curious, I have not seen a giant spider since I moved in to my new house, and am being haunted only by the occasional mouse in cleaning up after me in my room and funny little toads that make weird old man noises hopping all over the place. And finally, to Tabatha’s Dad, Tab tells me you enjoy reading this, so I wanted to say thanks for letting me know that’s its worth posting these on my blog too…that and you’re daughter’s awesome, but I bet you knew that already :o)

Love and hugs all around,