On my way to Dakar!

Trip Start Jun 2008
Trip End Aug 2010

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Flag of Mauritania  ,
Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Greetings from Awainatt Zbill!
I hope everyone is well, as I am.  I fear our cold (well, cool) season has reached its end.  We had about two months where I actually had to sleep with socks and a sheet, but it has started to heat back up.  In month or so, it is going to be scorching. 
We have been busy with classes at the center and the girls are showing much improvement with their English and have come right along with their computer training.  We are working on getting a generator for the GMC, so we will have our own power source (right now we use our computers at the mayor's office).  We are also going to try to get the girls some more sewing machines and some tie-dye supplies.  They have organized themselves into a cooperative-type group, where they use the center to make clothing and crafts to sell in the market.  Jackie and I are pretty impressed, so we are going to help them any way we can, but mainly by bringing in some people teach them how to tie-dye, as well as give them the appropriate accounting techniques.
Last weekend there was a huge wedding near my house.  Well, it was pretty much in my yard.  Ha ha.  Family ties are fairly difficult to discern here, as everyone seems to be related somehow, but from what I gather the bride was the niece of one of my neighbors.  In any event, there is a hyma (tent) with a family to the immediate north of me and another to the immediate south.  The party was to the south, but my other neighbor and I offered our services.  Massive amounts of couscous were prepared in the yard to the north, we killed and grilled the goats (two) in my yard, and the ceremony and party was to the south. 
I wish I could have taken a lot of pictures, but some people in Mauritania are pretty sensitive on the subject, so I usually refrain from taking any when there are large groups of people.  I gave my camera to one of my buddies and told him to go wild, as he would know what was appropriate, but not of the pictures turned out too well.  There will always be another time for photos, though. In any event, it was quite a site.  They rolled out mats covering a space about 50ftx50ft and lined the perimeter with mats.  While the goats were cooking, people helped out with the cooking, made tea, and sat around chatting. When the food was nearly ready, the ceremony took place and lasted for about 25 minutes.  From what I gathered, the elders of the two families, as well as the bride and groom, sat together with who I think was an imam.  There was an intense discussion for about 15 minutes and then verses from the Koran were read to complete the ceremony.  After that, there were shouts of congratulations and the party began.  There was plenty of tea, couscous and grilled meat to go around.  I would say about 100-150 were there all together, talking and laughing.  Some musicians came and there was singing and dancing.  More than a few people tried to get me to play my guitar, which I am usually happy to do, but I didn't think this would have been the right occasion.  There were way too many people for me to comfortable being the center of attention, and I know there are a few old-timers who don't particularly care for my musical preferences. Ha ha. I gracefully declined and mingled around until I reached culture overload then said my goodbyes and retired to my house.
In a few days all the Mauritanian PCVs will be heading to Rosso  for a few meetings,  then most of us will head to Senegal for an annual softball tournament between all the West African Peace Corps Volunteers.  I didn't try out for the team, as I hope to try my luck at surfing the first day or two of the tournament, but we are all looking forward to the Mauritanian Pirates experiencing the sweet taste of victory, as we all know they will.  To Dakar!
All right.  I am off.  Look forward to some pictures of Dakar upon my return!  The pictures for today are just some random shots from around town, taken at about 9:00 am when everything is pretty calm.  There is also a picture of some of the party food from the wedding.
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