Trip Start Jun 2008
Trip End Aug 2010

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Flag of Mauritania  ,
Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!
About 20 of us are in Aioun to celebrate the harvest in good American fashion.  We have birds, pies, stuffing, mashed potatoes, libations, and pretty much anything else we can get our hands on... It is nice to get a taste of America every now and then.  Don't get me wrong, I am making the most out of my time here, but it is stillface nice to celebrate something very American with a bunch of Americans every now and again.
All has been well in Awaynatt.  We had our official opening and it experience...  Unfortunately, the mayor was out of town, but we had an excellent turn out none the less with the hakim, vice mayor, town administration, teachers and school directors all present.  All of the girls, as well as few family members were there as well. I served as the MC, the vice mayor gave a nice opening speech, Jackie thanked the town for their support (in excellent Hassaniya) and one of the girls gave an explanation of our goals and a summary of our activities.  After the speeches, I gave a tour of the GMC to the community leaders and answered a few questions.  Up until this point, the opening really could not have gone better.  We were, however, in for or a surprise.  A few days before, the hakim let us know he was going to bring a few of the Mauritania National Guard with him for event security.  I liked the idea, only because I thought it was cool we were going to have a security detail.  Little did I know we would need them...and the reinforcements they had to call....  After the tour and before we offered the food and refreshments, I had explained we would need to for a lines behind the tables.  These directions were intern retranslated in better, more stern Hassaniya.  However, as soon as we moved away, it was chaos.  People were trying to walk off with whole trays of drink and food and stuffing anything they could grabs into their bags.  The guard came to the front to hold people off, but it really was of no use.  Unfortunately, a very disheartened Jackie and I had to end the event early.  We took what remained of the food into the center and let the GMC girls have what was left. 
At first I was a bit upset and even angry, but after things settled down, I really could not blame them.  While there are some well off families in Awaynatt, the vast majority have very little.  In addition, virtually nothing (except maybe air) is free here.  The opportunity to enjoy a Fanta or a handful of cookies is just not an option for a lot of people here, especially when someone is giving them away.  What little money they have is spent on food.  And while I have become accustomed to the diet here, it is meager at best and by no means one would I like to continue with after my departure.
What is reassuring, though, it that everything else went extremely well.  The town is behind the GMC. We are still being approached by women who want to become members of the GMC, and we are starting to see a number of women showing excellent leadership skills.  We really could not ask for anymore (except maybe for some fruit or a dirty gin martini...).
Check out the pictures (taken before the mayhem).  I am not sure when I will be back in Aioun, but make sure to look for an update in a few weeks.
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