Saturday, February 20, 2010

Feathered Friend

Each morning I wake up to the sweet music of this little fella:

He has perched himself into a little hole in my wall. He spends his days flying between the tree outside my window and his secret hideaway.

I am so lucky he has decided to keep me company!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentines Day Strikes

I woke up early today to get ready for class at the University. Today is exam day! It is not a very nice way to celebrate Valentines Day but it is the only day to hold the exam. It is also my last class on the University campus. Next semester I won't be teaching that class. Instead, I will stick to training teachers at the training college. I am grateful for the end of the semester but I am also thankful for the chance to meet such wonderful students and learn more about university life!

After the exam was finished in my first class (I have three classes on Sundays), a student from a different class knocked on my door and politely asked if he could make an announcement. When I opened the door, a crowd of people rushed in my room and started yelling that it was a strike and all students had to leave the room.

As my students filed out of class, they looked at me with pleading eyes. It was clear that most of them really didn't want to leave class but didn't have a choice. When I looked outside, I expected to see an organized rally taking place in the courtyard. Instead, I only a large group of students, laughing and hanging out with their friends. The strike just seemed to mean that there was no class.

I was prepared to wait 30 minutes in the room until my next class started, to see if the students would come. A few minutes later, a large group of students from my 11:00 class all came to my room and asked if they could take the exam. They told me to hurry, before the strikers came back. They were all seated in their chairs and ready to take the exam.

Then the door flew open and a group of people started shouting and yelling. Crowding around me, the strikers demanded (in Arabic) that I packed up my things and left. My students rushed to my side and said, "Um, Ms. Delia. You better go now. Let us help you. Don't be scared. We will protect you." I had so many things to toss in my bag and I didn't want to bend all my papers. I told the angry strikers that the students are on strike, not me. The students were free to leave but I needed a few minutes to pack up my things. My students came in even closer and looked at me with impatient eyes.

After my bag was full, the strikers shouted and cheered as I left the room. My students kept a close ring around me until I left the compound. I kept walking straight until I was outside of the University campus. Then my students all rushed up to me, asking, "When can we take the exam?" We all decided to meet on campus at another time during the week.

I felt the worst for my students, the ones who did actually want to learn and yet who did not have that opportunity because of the endless interruptions. If not the strike one day, then a holiday the next, and the following day another excuse to cancel class. I have found that this is not a culture conducive to learning, or to teaching. It is not any one person's fault. The entire system seems so broken and I don't have the tools to fix it.

Happy Valentines Day Strikers!!!! On my way home, I decided to stop by the Lebanese Bakery to pick up a treat. Cashew, almond, and pistachio baklava! Yum!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Teacher Training

I recently welcomed a visitor from Dakar who led teacher workshops in Nouakchott throughout the week. It was a lot of fun to spend so much quality time with the English teachers in the area.

During one activity I led, I asked teachers to identify their favorite hobbies, an interesting place they visited, important person in their lives, and finally to choose which animal they would be. Then I instructed them to draw pictures of each on a piece of paper. I demonstrated how simple this can be by drawing my selections first. 

When I drew a picture of a gorilla every one started laughing and hollering, exclaiming, "Why would you be a gorilla?!" I definitely had the attention of every teacher in the room. As I was explaining, people could not stop laughing. Apparently it is a big insult to call someone a gorilla here in Mauritania! I learned something new too and maybe next time I will not use the same example!

The workshops were a big success and now I am busy planning more workshops for the Spring.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Corner Store Sells Bullets

Not exactly... But they do sell "Bullet" chewing gum from Yemen! I love the corner store because they sell practically everything else!

This is the friendly face that welcomes me into the store every day. I can buy a loaf of french bread for less than fifty cents and I can also buy camel milk or icy cold coca cola for nearly the same. The best part is that I never know what I will find in this store overfilling with goods! And while I am shopping the owner sits on his mat making hot tea and he always offers me a cup. Lucky me!

Saturday, February 6, 2010


This is my classroom. These are my students.

While one group of my students began their student-teaching, another new group of students started their classes. I am the lucky teacher of the new group. They are idealistic, optimistic, and serious students. 

They have embraced all my assignments with enthusiasm and they have exceeded all of my expectations. I am so proud of them. I hope they keep up the good work. Now that I have seen what they are capable of achieving, there is no going back! I will force them to be the best possible pre-service teachers they can be! So far, they are an amazing group! 

Friday, February 5, 2010

Khaima Market Discoveries

One of my favorite places in Nouakchott is the “Khaima Market.” This market is a place entirely for women and it is where they make and sell tents. Many Mauritanians live in khaimas. Some people use them as outdoor porches or on the roofs to provide relief from the sun. Everything is done by hand and the results are fabulous. 

While we were there, the women offered us plates of rice and peanut stew and one woman even offered me her pipe. Most of the women only speak Hassaniya so communication is a challenge. The khaima women are tough bargainers and it was even more difficult for me to negotiate as I watched their needles moving in and out of the colorful African fabric.

Nonetheless, we some how managed to share ideas and find common ground. Most of all, we were able to agree on how much the khaimas should cost! The small tents cost around $10 and the big ones can get up to $100 or more. What a bargain! Meeting the women and visiting the market is priceless.

I have bought six tents so far, all very small. I like to hang them on my walls and of course they are also great blankets. My house is beginning to look like a khaima market too!