Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Hey Everyone!

Sadly Peace Corps Mauritania has been closed indefinitely, so I'm back in Seattle!

Much love,


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Summer in the Sahara

Can you believe there is such a thing as a "hot season" in the desert? It's three months where nobody can move between 11am and 4pm because the heat attacks like an ear-biting Mike Tyson. Yesterday I'd say it was well over 110 degrees. 
I've included pictures here of our women's day celebration that was on march 8th and a few other pictures from my trips to Atar in the northern part of the country. I jumped on a coal train with some friends to get from Atar to the coast. It was great except for when the train hit a camel in the middle of the night. 

Friday, February 6, 2009

Back to Business

Happy New Year everyone! I've posted some pictures from my Christmas in Nouakchott and New Years in Senegal as well as some pictures of the girls working and sewing in the center. I took one of my henna-ed hands because my family was adamant that before I traveled (I am going to Senegal again!) I would get henna on my hands. It's very common for women to get their henna done if they are traveling, getting married, or bored and want to feel
feminine. I just feel a like I have some kind of skin disease.
This past month at our center has been busy, the girls are sewing fabric to tye-dye and they're learning more advanced English as well as some health lessons and geography. The director of our program came for a short visit. The girls were able to talk to her about some of their hopes for the center and it was quite powerful to hear some of my friends vocalize why the center is important to them. Mike and I are lucky, we have a group of women that care for the center as much as we do and despite their own obligations (like raising children, taking care of their home (well, tent), and cooking often for large numbers of people twice a day) they stay up late sewing so that they can sell mulafas to put money in our center savings account.
Everyday I've been helping my friend water the garden that she and her family are growing. Growing a garden in the desert is no small task, but watering it is also a huge chore in itself. They don't have running water so we have to take to water out of the well and carry it
to the garden. To water the small garden with just a few plots takes about two hours but I really enjoy doing it. It has become time for us to socialize and joke and I love feeling like a part of the family. And more often than not a big plate of rice is waiting for us when
were done. Although it's beginning to get hot again (about 90F during the day) it was very cold in January. Because there is nothing to stop the wind and sand people got very sick. I started sleeping at my familys' house because it was too cold to sleep in mine, plus my friend makes
something like "cream of wheat" every morning and I love it! The holidays were a great break for all of the volunteers and Senegal was like a dream. After the break I felt healthy and ready to get back to site. But it looks like I'm leaving again, for all of the Peace Corps volunteers in West Africa are headed to Dakar for a Baseball Tournament.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pictures from the opening

AZ Opening

The Center is Open!

It's been a lot of work but our center is now officially open!
It was a chaotic morning. I'd say it went successfully, although I've learned my lesson about putting out free food. When we gave the go ahead it was a riot, we lost all four jars of jam and chocolate spread for the bread in the first thirty seconds. People were running off with whole packages of cookies. I hope that everyone has a great thanksgiving! And thanks for your comments. I'm sorry Zoe, I gave my green mulafa away so I don't have a picture of it but I guarantee it was amazingly ugly.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Nothing like fresh hot milk on a 100-degree day

I wished so badly that I could have been home November 4th. We stayed up late here and at 3am or so we knew that my boyfriend Barak Obama will be the next president of America! Hamdullilah! We celebrated with something like cinnamon rolls the next morning but I don’t think that can compare to partying in the streets of Seattle. But being abroad at this time is pretty amazing, even people who don’t have electricity know about Obama and some offer congratulations. To the global community the impact of Obama being elected is immense.
In response to Aunt Ann and Stu’s questions about the things I do daily, I’ll give you a little sample. A typical day for me begins by being woken up to morning prayer call, around 5:30am. I usually go for a run either into the desert around the town or along the road that runs through town (it is one of the two paved roads in the country, it goes from Nouakchott to Timbuktu). I bathe in a mud “room” with a tin roof that is about fifty feet from my house. I use a bucket and a cup. And soap. Sometimes.
We have class at the GMC four times a week where we teach English to about 25 women. If I am not teaching I am cleaning my house. You’d be surprised how many times I have to sweep the sand off my floors. Although there is not a whole lot to buy in the market, I often cruise around there before lunch or in the evening. I can always find potatoes and onions.
I typically make one meal for myself a day, either lunch or dinner and eat with a family for the other. The lunch and dinner menu don’t really vary, and there is always GOAT. I’ve even seen it eaten for breakfast. Lunch is goat with rice and dinner cous cous and goat. It is common for people to ask me if I like milk and cous cous. I get that question over three times a day. “Do you like milk?” Well….. before I drank soymilk, but now I love milk, if it’s camel even better, and if the milk has a little sugar in it OH MAN. I am not being sarcastic; I crave it when I haven’t had it in a while. Kack I know you are probably gagging as you read this. Usually I teach an English lesson in the afternoon and then prepare for nighttime back at my house. When you don’t have electricity and you’ve seen scorpions around your house, you don’t want to be searching for your flashlight in the dark. I get water from a spigot near my bathroom/hole in the ground room. I always have to fill up a few buckets for the next day so I spend a lot of my pre-dinner time hauling buckets of water around. When it gets dark I cook on a small gas burner, I eat a lot of onions fried up with potatoes and canned veggies. Not bad. I sleep outside my house on the cement stoop, usually I’m in bed early (like 8pm…23 years old going on 70). I do a lot of stargazing.

We’re hoping to open the GMC in a few weeks and get started teaching our younger girls group as well as the class of mentors we have now. I really like teaching, and it makes it even better that my students have never really seen or heard English so they don’t know when I goof up. Women in our class range from 16 to 40 years old, most haven’t had the opportunity to continue with school past a sophomore in high school level. They are hilarious and think I’m kind of crazy but I think we’re all growing pretty attached to each other.
The other morning I was running along the road back into town and people and families were greeting me from their tents, as they often do, when I saw a women running towards me. She was one of the older women from class and she was carrying a bowl full of…you guessed it, MILK! Warm milk+6:30 in the morning+ exercise+ empty stomach= did not feel good afterwards. But it’s the thought that counts.

I miss you all very very much! I am trying to get my camera working again and put up some pictures.



Monday, October 13, 2008


A mulafa is the bed sheet like wrap that every single woman wears in my town of Awaynit Zybil. Except for me. I've been semi successful at avoiding the questions of "why don't YOU wear a mulafa? They are so pretty!" Until the other day. I left my house to get soap and I came back six hours later with my hands and feet decorated in henna and wrapped head to toe in a mulafa. The boutique owner who I tried to buy soap from took my integration into her own hands by driving me (one of the first women I've seen in this country driving a car) out to the countryside, feeding me lots of goat and painting me with henna. When we returned to her boutique six hours later she wrapped me up in a neon green mulafa and sent me on my way. She doesn't know it yet but she exactly the kind of woman I need running the show in the girls' center. She'll get things done! I hope she's interested.
I've been trying to make friends with female boutique owners in town, especially the ones who sew. I'm looking for mentors for our center and, including the woman who briefly kidnapped me, I have many in mind.
I'm praying that Obama wins the election. He stands for an opportunity for America to get its head out of the sand and acknowledge it's place on the world stage as a powerful nation that can work with other countries, not dominate them. I miss the Seattle rain and the leaves turning colors, but I miss you all much more!

Lots of love, xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo