End of Ramadan and a new house!

Trip Start Jun 2008
Trip End Aug 2010

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Flag of Mauritania  ,
Sunday, October 12, 2008

Alright.  It has been a while, but I am back in Ayoun to restock and catch up.  A lot has happened since my last update...Ramadan has ended, people are starting to return to Awaynatt Zbill, I have a house, and we are starting to make some progress with the GMC.  Yeah!
Upon our last return to Awaynatt...and much to my chagrin... my house was not ready.  I had given it a 50/50 chance....  Patience is now one of my virtues. Ha ha.  I did, however, meet my landlord and get the lowdown.  His name is Shek, and from what I could pick up he and his family are from Awaynatt, but spend most of the year Nouadibou, as he has something to do with the fishing industry.  They usually only return to Awaynatt once or twice a year for a bit of a respite, which is why I was able to rent the house.  Honestly the house is much too big, but I really didn't have any other options.  The mayor had scoured the town and pretty much everything else livable (and I have low standards) was taken.  Not that I am complaining, the house is pretty sweet!  I have a spare room for guests, a big yard for a garden and an umbar (like a permanent tent) to hang a hammock!  It looks pretty spartan at the moment and the masons still have to remove all their extra supplies from my yard, but I should have it up to par in no time.
Ramadan was a good experience, but I am glad everyone is back to their normal schedule.  The town is definitely a lot livelier.  People were always friendly, but now that they have drink and full bellies they seem more interested in the conversations and more enthusiastic about our being in their town.  Just about everyone wants Jackie and me to teach them something or other, so we are in the process of trying to work out some sort of system outside of our commitments with the GMC.  I am pretty sure I am going to hold general English lessons a few evenings each week for the adult men.  I told everyone I was going to hold off on the lessons until we have the GMC in order and I know my schedule there.  Really though, I think these sessions will benefit everyone.  Many of the men who approached me are well educated and own businesses in town.   Jackie and I were thinking we could do a bit of exchange with the adults we teach: we teach them English, and they agree to give one or two sessions at the GMC.  The boutique owners can teach about management skills, the pharmacist can teach about health, the  co-ops can teach about varirous trades and money management, etc.  Sustainability was always the word of the day when we were training in Rosso and this seems like a good way to get the community involved with the center. This is all a ways in the future, as we need the get the GMC running, but I will let you all know how it works out. 
Now that we have been at site for a while, I am amazed at how much I have learned about the language, people, and culture, but it is undeniably intimidating because I realize I have barely scratched the surface.  Pretty much everyday is a mixture of highs and lows.  One minute I communicate perfectly and leave smiling, other times I barely pick up a word and depart not knowing if they are laughing with me or at me... There are times I want to spend the morning chatting away and there are others where I just want to lock myself in my house for some good old American solitude.  Mauritanians are by nature communal.  Whole families live in one room together.  The all eat out of the same bowl and they all drink out of the same cup.  When they are not doing anything, they sit in big groups of either men or women in the shade and drink tea...out of the same glasses.  At times it is comforting.  At other times, it is a little too much.  I don't really know where this all comes from, but one Mauritanian told me is all derived from the lifestyle of the nomads (which was not very long ago).  These large groups of people shared everything and effectively lived together for their whole lives, moving from oasis to oasis.  While I feel as if I am taking it all in stride, I know I still have a long way to go.
Now that my bags are officially unpacked, I definitely feel settled and much more comfortable.  School starts in about a week, so everyone should be back in town in a few days.  It is going to take a while to meet all the teachers, but once we do that, we can start working on an action plan for the center and start recruiting and training some mentors. 
Alright!  Check back in a few weeks for another update!  Oh, and check out these pictures.  A few are of my house, a few are of the market, a few are just around town.  I put up two short videos as well.  I took a 360 shot on top of the Hakim's house right before a dust storm and the other was of the lightning storm shortly thereafter.  More pictures next time, and I will be sure to put a few up of yours truly.
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