December 4, 2008
So folks, get ready, this is going to be a long email! I haven’t written a real honest to god email in ages so grab a cup of tea, curl up in a blanket, and get cozy because this ones going to take awhile! I say that because rumor has it its getting cold there now, I mean, that’s what the word on the street is, it’s getting cold here too. Yeah, very cold, we were all shivering all night and most of the morning…goose bumps and all. Yeah, freezing, just like where you all are, this morning, in fact, it was all the way down to 70 degrees. Yup, jusssssssssssst like home folks, a real Vermonter here, freezing her heiny off in 70 degree weather, but there you have it. Hey when did it get to be December anyway? What is this? One minute its Halloween and we’re eating donuts off of strings in the backyard at our harvest party and I blink my eyes and everyone’s back for thanksgiving dinner eating ourselves into coma’s and now its December? At this rate folks I’ll be home in no time!
So I’ve been here 5 months and it feels like so much and so little at the same time! My French is improving but I still have a longggg long way to go, but now I at least have the language skills to tell people that I have only been here for 5 months and barely spoke French at all before I came so they should be thankful that I can say the things I can. My Pulaar vocab is improving too, I have a whole library of insults, and the standard “I’m leaving”, “I’m home”, “When night comes, come home” because that’s what my host dad says to me every time I go anywhere in the evening. My Pulaar teacher has accidentally (we hope its an accident!) forgotten our Pulaar lessons 2 weeks in a row now, so I’m just going on what I learn from my other “Pulaar Teacher” our neighbor and my brother’s friend Musa, who comes over and talks at me in Pulaar and I talk right back at him in English and then he yells at me in what he thinks sounds like English but really sounds like gibberish and then I yell back at him in actual English lovely little phrases like “you’ve lost your mind! I don’t even know what you’re doing right now you raving lunatic! You’re totally crazy!” and everybody laughs. Ahhhhh good times and fine memories from
At any rate, that’s been my life lately, weighing babies, learning languages, and getting made fun of by my ridiculous family here. In the last package I received my parents sent me a
This was about a month ago, since then it has spiraled out of control, last night I was walking home not even close to my house yet, and a man who was basically a complete stranger (he lives a house or two over from me but I don’t think I have ever talked to him in my life) walked past me and instead of greeting me with the standard nalleejam (good evening in pulaar) he busted out “Kaa demba nedDo!” with a big smile. Yes folks, if for some reason you decide to pay me a surprise visit here in Selibaby and you get all the way here and can’t remember my Mauritanian name just ask around for the scarecrow and surely everyone will know just who you’re talking about.
What else can I tell you about? I have lots of time on my hands, Monday is a fete so naturally no ones going to work or doing much of anything at all until at least Wednesday, in fact we even left work early yesterday because “the fete’s coming.” Of course I only ever work from 9am to noon, but it seemed completely normal to leave at 11:15 yesterday because there is a fete in 4 days. “See you Wednesday….or maybe Thursday…” said my coworker as we parted ways, leaving a touch of doubt in my mind as to whether or not I’ll work at all next week given that Thursday is the Mauritanian equivalent of Friday and if you are a Mauritanian and you don’t go to work on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, the chances of you coming on Thursday are not exactly very good. So I have at least the next 6, if not the next 10 days off, which would be exciting if when I worked I was actually busy or tired and in need of a break, but when I work I work no more than 3 hours a day and no matter how hard I try I actually have very little to do but read or write letters home when I’m at work. Last night I was so desperate for a cause as a health volunteer that I stole my host brothers cigarettes and promised to dole them out one at a time until he quit. The standard African’s answer to an American trying to get them to quit smoking: “But American’s are the ones who make cigarettes!” They say that as if its my fault that they smoke…grrr, I’m not a fan of that line of thinking! Its interesting to me that the best selling brand of cigarettes here are called American legends and they are manufactured in the European Union…so at least those aren’t my fault even if they do pretend to be American! So here are my health volunteery plans for the next few months: Anti-Smoking campaign, because its not my fault you smoke damnit! Nutrition seminars in Tabatha’s village for the skinny little kiddies, sex-ed and family planning at the health center for young mommies-they just learned about the female condom here when an NGO gave them a bunch to distribute, only they can’t seem to distribute them because no one knows what they are so Emily and I are going to have the awkward job of telling them, yes I enlisted back-up for this one because I’ll be red as a tomato explaining contraceptives to a bunch of women younger than me with 3 or 4 kids each. I have also been making pretty health posters for the hospital and 2 of them went up on Sunday, one more to go, photos as soon as possible I promise! And finally I’m hoping to organize a series of health talks at the girls mentoring center starting with one about skin-lightening cream because I absolutely hate the stuff. Look up skin lightening cream if you have a minute, its pretty disturbing stuff. So there you have it, all 5 months of my time here have lead up to this plan, wish me luck! Soon though I head to the capital for more health training and when I come back I’ll be on my way to some more projects that will hopefully look a little more impressive on my resume! Anywho that’s all for now, I’ll put pictures up on facebook soon and hopefully be full of amazingly exciting stories by my next email because I hit the road for Nouakchott for Christmas in about 2 weeks, followed by new years in St. Louis, Senegal on the beach baby! Then back to Nouakchott for Early Term Reconnect and In-Service Training and finally back to Selibaby, refreshed and ready to get back to my busy life of whatever it is I do here, except I’ll have spent so much time with other Americans I won’t remember how to speak any French or Pulaar anymore. Oh well, c’est la vie! Learning languages gives me something to do so I should be thankful. Love ya’ll, I’m sure I’m be online once or twice before Christmas but just in case I wish a Very Happy Holiday Season to you all!
Hugs and kisses!