Saturday, April 19, 2014

Today I attended a Peace Corps event for a send off to 30 or so San Diegans ready to head off for their Peace Corps service.  I felt smug because I had earned the right to be blaisse to their angst about their not knowing if they would be accepted; if nominated, where they were going; if invited, what to pack.  I didn’t have the heart to say, don’t worry what you pack, if it gets there, and it might not (Nick), you won’t use half of it anyway. 

After the lovely East African lunch, the 30 or so men and women, young and old were brought onstage to introduce themselves and tell where they were headed to: Cambodia, Togo, Uganda, China, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Thailand, etc , etc.   As I was sitting there I was saddened, disappointed that there was no possibility of anyone heading to Mauritania.  Not a one who I could share/impart a bit of wisdom.  

After that we broke up in to groups, by Region, so that they could ask us (RPCVs) questions about the place.  Then we rearranged by sector again to share a little about our experience.  In my SED group there was a young woman with SENEGAL RPCV on her badge.  I had a spark of excitement that another person in that room might have a slightly similar experience we could share.  She had been in Southern Senegal.  Not the same but close.  She had been searching for another Pulaar speaker.  I have been searching these long 5 years for some Theiboudjeun.  She laughed and said her too longed for Cheb or mafe .  

What she said next broke my heart.  When she was in Senegal, the Mauritania program had been long closed.  Long closed.  If felt as if she were speaking of someone who had died.  How could something that had been such an intense experience, great joy to despair, no longer exist?  It was bad enough when Stage moved from Kaedi to Rosso; but now, the whole thing didn’t exist.   All that work and history of years of volunteers sitting dusty somewhere or probably, more likely, still blowing around with the winds of the Adrar stuck on fences or piled deep in empty lots.   

A sad day indeed.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Peace Corps Suspends Volunteer Program in Mauritania

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 12, 2009

Peace Corps Statement on the Suspension of the Volunteer Program in Mauritania:

The Peace Corps has suspended its Volunteer program in Mauritania due to safety and security concerns. All Peace Corps/Mauritania Volunteers are currently in Senegal; they will not be returning to Mauritania. Although it is the agency’s position that the Volunteers are relatively safe in their communities and villages, it is potentially dangerous for them to travel safely in the country.

Both the Peace Corps and the U.S. Embassy in Nouakchott will continue to monitor the safety and security situation in Mauritania. The Peace Corps will continue to assess the situation and determine when the security conditions on the ground permit the safe return of Volunteers. The Peace Corps office in Nouakchott will remain open and all staff will continue to report to work.

All Peace Corps/Mauritania Volunteers, if eligible, will be given an option to continue their service with Peace Corps in another country. They can also elect to return to the U.S.

The Peace Corps has enjoyed a long history of successful partnerships with the communities of Mauritania since 1967.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

African al-Qaeda 'killed' US man BBC

Al-Qaeda's North Africa branch has claimed responsibility for the killing of an American aid worker shot dead in Mauritania, al-Jazeera TV reports.

The Arab satellite channel said it had received an audio message in which the group said it had killed 39-year-old Christopher Leggett on Tuesday.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said it had targeted Mr Leggett for allegedly spreading Christianity in the country.

Al-Jazeera said it could not verify the authenticity of the message.

"Two knights of the Islamic Maghreb succeeded Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. to kill the infidel American Christopher Leggett for his Christianising activities," the group was reported to have said.

Unidentified gunmen ran up to Mr Leggett in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott, on Tuesday and shot him several times, witnesses said.

Mr Leggett, who grew up in Cleveland, Tennessee, taught at a centre specialising in computer science and languages in a working-class neighbourhood of the city, the Associated Press reported.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is most active in Algeria, where it grew out of the remnants of the country's Islamist insurgency.

The group has also been blamed for attacks in neighbouring countries such as Mali and Niger, including the killing of a British hostage in northern Mali earlier this month.

In Mauritania, the former government said the group killed four French tourists in December 2007 - an attack that prompted the cancellation of the Paris-Dakar car rally.

The authorities also blamed the group for attacking the Israeli embassy in the capital, Nouakchott, in February last year.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/06/25 09:33:50 GMT

Sunday, June 21, 2009

On the Road Again

I am finally back in Atar after taking a little farewell tour across the RIM. I scored the best ride ever. I got to tag along in a Peace Corps vehicle all the way out to Aioun and back. They always have A/C, personal space, seat belts and terrific drivers. Given the scorching heat and humidity we encountered, I consider myself quite blessed to have traveled in the big white Land Rover.

However, I concluded my tour with one of the worst travel days ever. Carl, a region mate, really, really wanted to try to the new ,daily, a/c bus that has started between Nouakchott and Atar. It is the same price as a taxi and you are guaranteed your own seat, AC and free, unlimited luggage. I was skeptical. This is Africa and a guarantee works quite different here. A guarantee usually comes with an Inshallah. We might advertise one thing, but you can't really expect to get it.

Shockingly, there was no working a/c, just a warm fan slightly blowing. That coupled with a mild sand storm and record heat, made the trip just a little slice of heaven. For some reason, tons of sand was coming through the crevasses of the bus creating a mini sandstorm within, for the entire 7 hour trip. I was coated with a layer of crust by the time I finally made it home. About mid way, I had no clean area of skin or fabric with which to wipe my eyes. I am still trying to clear my sinuses and lungs today but my exposed skin is soft as silk. To be fair, I did have my own seat and all of the luggage I could carry at no extra charge. However, at one of the police stops we had to pull out all of this unlimited luggage for the 55 people on board so that they could search most of it (during a mild sand storm).

Have I ever mentioned the power of a Peace Corps ID card? Towards the end of this search, the policeman finally sauntered over to me and asked me which bag was mine. Surprise, surprise it was the one and only REI backpack aboard. Everything else was packed in either rice bags or those big plastic bags that are ubiquitous in travel through developing countries. He asked me to open it. Actually he had to ask me twice because I couldn't understand his French with his howly (arabic head wrap) wrapped around his mouth. Naturally, I complied. I unhooked the top slowly and reluctantly as I really didn't want to unload all of my dirty laundry out onto the sand. I was searching my brain for the french translation of "dirty underwear" because I was sure he was going to ask me what was in the plastic sacks. Then he asked me for my identification, twice, because again I couldn't understand his french under his 6 meters of fabric wrapped around his mouth. All he did was glance at my id and he immediately stopped his request to search my bag and moved on to less well connected folks. (I'm sure gonna miss my quasi-diplomatic status) 1.5 hours later, we were back on the road.

The bus cleared out a little at Akjoujt (5 hours later) so that our next 2.5 hours to Atar was far more comfortable. Of course, this trip was exactly what I expected (less the sandstorm within the bus)...It was hot, miserable, and long. But I will admit the other 53 passengers on the bus behaved rather uncharacteristically. They were calm and quiet. Possibly they too were miserable as they melted and were being sandblasted for the long voyage. There was little praying and nearly everyone kept to their assigned seat (truly astonishing). Usually there is at least one person praying, which I find disconcerting, and blaring arabic prayer calls from a scratchy cassette during the entire ride. I feel ill at ease whenever I am in a situation that calls for constant prayer. I assume they are appealing to Allah so that she won't strike them dead in an accident. Or maybe they pray so that if they are indeed struck dead by some idiot driver in one of the thousand deathtraps on the roads, they will be called directly to paradise. I am not sure which and not sure I really want to ask.

Anyway, I am alive, no worse for wear and have exactly 14 days left in Atar.
Cheers from here

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Countdown

94 days.

I should start making a list of all of the things that I am going to miss once I leave. I could go on a big appreciation rampage. That ought to make the time go a little faster. Of course, an appreciation rampage will be hard to muster up while I am swimming in a pool of sweat. But I'll try.

Cheers from here

Friday, April 17, 2009

Things are Winding Down

My service is nearly complete. I've just a few more months left. My official Close of Service (COS) date is August 6th. There are a couple little projects I want to complete before I leave, but otherwise, I am done. I will be traveling through Eastern Mauritania into Mali which will take most of June and July will be spend packing up and closing down, then I leave. So really I have only whats left of April and May to accomplish anything. I want to get some more footage of the making of CereAmine so that I can piece together a little movie. Hopefully my ladies will be accomodating and I will be able to do that towards the end of this month. Actually, I guess that is the only little project I want to complete.

Now I suppose it's time to focus on my trip home, which will be long, and my job hunt, which I pray will not be long. For anyone trying to pencil in my arrival in San Diego, don't. Where I will end up, what I will be doing is unknown. I am trying to embrace the undertainty. The only thing I know for certain is that I am going to have to mouch off my dear, dear friends as I make my way home. If you've got a spare bed, a comfy couch or a pulled pork sandwich with a side of broccoli (don't let me get started on menu's) let me know.

Cheers from here,

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Remis is an understatement

Yes, I know it has been a long, long time since I have posted anything. I'd wish I could say that I have been so overloaded with work that I haven't had time. but that would be a lie. Just take a look at my Books Read list....I should add a "movies and series downloaded" list as well. God bless utorrent.

So, in the spirit of St. Patty, my favorite Saint next to Nick, I will not only chase the snakes out of Mauritania, I will make a new post soon.

Cheers from here.