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.

1 comment:


Sitting in my hotel room in Nouakchott, first day of Ramadan. I came across Madame Toubab. I am a freejournalist and media trainer, visiting Mauritania for the first time since 2002. Back then it was reporting on food security problems. I visited Kiffa as well as Noukchott, but nothing further afield. Although I have worked in Senegal and Mali quite a bit, I had never got back. I had forgotten the circumstances surrounding Peace Corps withdrawal from Mauritania. What a mess. The Internet is still full of archive advice on where to meet up with other Peace Corps back from the interior and tips on best pizzas etc. I came up from Dakar via St Louis.Bar the overpriced visa all pretty smooth, but advice on travel in the interior is pretty off-putting. Liked very much what I saw of the blog. Best wishes, Chris Simpson Email: Facebook: CHRIS SIMPSON AFRICA