Thursday, December 19, 2013

Petit a petit

These are twelve basic life skills I didn't have before I went to Africa that everyone else in the world seems to have: 
  1. Properly greet people every time I see them (shake their hands and ask about their health, work, life, and family) and always greet people before talking about business, etc. People first! 
  2. Be a good host by welcoming people with snacks and drinks every time they come over (and always make sure to have both of these on hand in case anyone stops by)
  3. Eat with my right hand without ever touching my fingers to my mouth (or dropping any of the food)
  4. Clap extremely loud by cupping my hands together
  5. Woo-looo-looo ululate with my tongue
  6. Peel a potato without a potato peeler
  7. Cut an onion without a cutting board
  8. Wrap fabric around my waist like a skirt without using any pins, clips, or strings
  9. Turn on an oil lamp
  10. Cook using a gas tank and change the tank when it's empty
  11. Bargain for prices
  12. Dance to Congolais music (it's all about the knees!)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Spectacular Kindness

I had an incredible day, from start to finish. 

Morning - I arrived at the Embassy and my colleagues helped me collect magazines for a class project and make photocopies of a resource I want to share. Everyone was smiling and helpful. I left with three overstuffed bags and a large box of books and magazines. I thought I could walk home but after a few minutes I had to stop for a little break (everyone told me it was too heavy but I can be extremely stubborn...). One of the Embassy staff was leaving work and he asked if he could help. He carried the box to the main street, called a taxi, paid for the taxi, and insisted on carrying the box to the front door of my building. The words thank you will never be enough. 

Afternoon -  I showed the film "Amandla" to the students at the business school. I walked into the room to find 75 enthusiastic and energetic students and teachers waiting for me. One of the members of the student association even made a slideshow with pictures and music to watch while we waited for everyone to arrive. It was brilliant. Another student introduced me and made a wonderful speech. After we watched the film, I led a discussion. The professors told me about how Miriam Makeba came here and they went to her concert in the 1970's. Makeba was even given an Algerian passport. It was fascinating to hear their first person accounts of those difficult years from an Algerian perspective, a country that showed real solidarity with South Africa.

Evening - I like to go to the vegetable stand each evening and buy the things I want to eat at that moment. I bought an enormous bouquet of deep green celery. The bottom is covered in dirt and it seems like it was only picked this morning. The vendor tied string from the ceiling to create small, colorful clusters of oranges, dates, and bananas. He smiled as he inspected his work, and said, "tomorrow, this" and he held up a small melon. I will have to stop by soon to see the new decorations. Before leaving, I commented on the beautiful Asian pears, painted red on the stems and wrapped in tissue, like precious gifts. The vendor said they were gifts and he gave me one to take home. I came home and unwrapped it. I carefully studied the bright red paint on the tip and ate it slowly to appreciate each bite. 

Today was filled with moments that made me so grateful to live here and experience the spectacular kindness of everyone I encountered. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Today I am thinking about my father. He is back in the ICU after 49 days at home. Basically, he is in the ICU every month. I think of him always and wish I was close so I could hold his hand. The life I have chosen for myself is far away and I know my dad wouldn't want me to give up and come home, even for one year. I spent two months at home this year and nearly four months last year. It's not enough, and it will never be enough, but it is what I can do. I make the most of my time at home and spend all day, every day, at his side. 

What I want to write about today is the response of the people in the places where I live to the illness of my father. Because family relationships are so important in the places I live,  the first thing people do when they meet me in Mauritania is to ask my family name. This is a way of finding out if I am connected to them, if I am one of "them" in some way. In a small country like Mauritania, there is a good chance that most people of the same ethnic group are some how related. As a foreigner, they think I may have married into their "family." When I tell them my last name, it is clear that I am an outsider. Usually, they will "give" me a name, thereby making me one of them. 

Sometimes just for fun I say the name of the family I visit. So I will say, "My name is Delia Ba." Then the person will ask where I am from. I will say, for example, "Feralla." Then, if the person has any family or even knows anyone named Ba in Feralla they will ask me, "do you know XX?" If I do know the person, we have become "family" through the association. If not, the search for someone in common will continue. By the end of the conversation we will have found a connection. This is a way of building a relationship and establishing "oneness." I may be wrong about this because I have actually never asked anyone or talked about it but it is just what I think. As you can imagine, after we establish "oneness" people will ask about how my family is doing (remember my relations are now their relations and vice versa). 

In fact, asking about family is so entrenched in the cultures of every country I have lived in (Kenya, Benin, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Senegal & Algeria) - and probably most of the "developing" world - that everyone I meet asks about the status of my family every time I see them. People are genuinely interested to hear about my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews. When I tell people about my father's illness, they are so concerned. They call me later to see if he is better. Once I tell someone about my father's illness, that person will remember and ask me about it every single time I see him/her. It is as if the entire country cares about my father. The level of compassion I witness on a daily level is striking. 

We choose how we define family. We are all connected. If we had a greater sense of "oneness," the world would be a much better place for everyone in our extended "family."

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Olive Branch

The Director drove me home at the end of class today. I saw a small branch in his car and asked him what it was. He said it was an olive branch. I was so excited to see one for the first time in my life that he said I could have it. I told him it was a beautiful symbol for our new training. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Glamorous Life

Yesterday I had my first class. I will train a small group of teachers from the Algiers Region two times per week for seven months. We started the first weekly session today. 

I am so happy to be in the classroom again. We meet in a beautiful conference room. The sun shines on all all day through a wall of windows. There is a white board, pens, and endless reams of flip chart paper. After each class we are treated to a beautiful three course lunch with salad, soup, and a main course (chicken, fish, etc.). They even prepared a special meal for me. 

One of my Ugandan friends told me he came here for the free University education provided by the Algerian government. One year of housing and food costs just 400 dinar - $5! There is unlimited bread, fruit, salad and a main course each day (chicken three times per week). There is also free transportation provided to students who live off-campus. In Algiers alone there are over 2,000 free buses allocated for higher education. Of course the tuition is free. 


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Intercultural Iceburg

During the "Effective Business Communication" training last week, we learned about the iceburg model of culture. The presentation focused on how we adapt the items above the "water" to be effective in our changing environments, while the factors below remained unaffected. For example, we can change our clothes to be effective but it doesn't necessarily reflect a change in our values. 

The factors below the water are often where real cultural "clashes" take place. Effective intercultural communication needs to move beyond the visible by understanding the values and beliefs of each side. In order to truly value diversity, we need to establish mutual respect for each others' "iceburg."

Friday, December 13, 2013

TENOR: Teaching English for No Obvious Reason

This week the U.S. Embassy brought a Specialist (a consultant for English programs sponsored by the State Department). The Specialist specialized in Business English and came to help the business college redesign their curriculum. Since I haven't started teaching yet, I was lucky to attend the sessions. On the first day she taught the group that there is ESP (English for Specific Purposes) and TENOR (teaching English for no obvious reasons). As everyone was laughing, I was thinking to myself, "I'd rather be a TENOR than anything else."

It was fun to have a visitor in Algiers and although it was a bit exhausting, I met a lot of new friends and already have a plan for to return and work with the student association there. After lunch one day they had a concert for us and sang songs in Berber, Arabic, and English. They organized a blood drive on the first day we were there and they have many other activities. 

The business college will soon move to a new campus and we had the chance to visit. It's located about 40 kilometers outside of Algiers and there is a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains in every classroom. 

There are five amphitheaters, 60 fully equipped classrooms with projectors, and three brand new computer labs. It is amazing. It also showed me how many resources this country has. The government spends 30% of the national budget on education. The Minister of Higher Education proudly explained to me, "While some see education as an expense, we see it as an investment in the future." If only all governments could think that way! In contrast, the U.S. government allocated just 4% of the federal budget to education in 2012.

On the last day of the training, my host institution called and informed me that I will start on Sunday. MachaAllah!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Kirikou, mon ami

I'm in love with Kirikou. Who isn't? Sing along with Youssou N'Dour: 

By Youssou N'Dour

Dans le village, l'eau et les hommes avaient disparu
Les femmes pleuraient et tremblaient devant la sorcière
Kirikou seul savait où trouver notre grand-père
Kirikou, mon ami… Nous a redonné la vie

Kirikou n'est pas grand, mais il est vaillant
Kirikou est petit, mais c'est mon ami
Kirikou n'est pas grand, mais il est vaillant
Kirikou est petit, mais c'est mon ami

Sur la route des flamboyants
Du haut de la case de Karaba
Les fétiches surveillent le village
Kirikou demande pourquoi - Karaba est si méchante
Kirikou, mon ami… Nous a redonné la vie

Kirikou n'est pas grand, mais il est vaillant
Kirikou est petit, mais c'est mon ami
Kirikou n'est pas grand, mais il est vaillant
Kirikou est petit, mais c'est mon ami

Kirikou est petit, mais c'est mon ami, mais c'est mon ami
Kirikou n'est pas grand, mais il est vaillant, mais il est vaillant

Kirikou n'est pas grand, mais il est vaillant
Kirikou est petit, mais c'est mon ami
Kirikou n'est pas grand, mais il est vaillant
Kirikou est petit, mais c'est mon ami

Last year I watched Kirikou in Pulaar- the video spread throughout fuuta (the name of the region where Pulaar speaking people live) in record time and every house I visited had already seen it. It is really fun to sing the song in Pulaar (kirikou wonaa mawdo, kono ko sehilam).  Here is a clip:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Jamaanu Anglais

This summer I had the privilege to work on a project I have had in my head over the past few years. I wanted to create a program for the community radio stations in the Senegal river valley. The idea stemmed from work I did with Pulaar Speaking radio in New York from 2007-2009. Pulaar speakers are people who speak the Pulaar language, which is more widely known as Fulani, Fulbe, or Fula. In Mauritania and Senegal, it is called Pulaar. 

The name of the show is "Jamaanu Anglais." First I was thinking that a good name could be "English Time." The idea of "time" didn't really translate the same in Pulaar so one of my brilliant friends suggested the word "Jamaanu," which means generation. So the show became English Time/ Generation English. This is the perfect name.

The show consists of fifteen minute (give or take) lessons covering basic ideas in English, meant for an audience of Pulaar speakers living in villages where radio is the primary means of contact with the outside world. Many of the men in the river valley have emigrated to the U.S., which has provided a real incentive for their families and children back home to learn English. When I visited so many villages my voice became hoarse from incessant practice of "How are you? I am fine." Finally, I realized that a radio show could be an easy way to teach English to many villages at the same time. 

An incredible team made the idea into reality. The Jamaanu team is a group of brilliant individuals, Samba Kebe, Habib Ly, Alioune Ba, Abderhamane Sarr, Adama Lam, Mikaeilou Mamadou Sadio Sow, and Ibrahima Thiam. 

The quality of the program is far from perfect and the content itself is rough at best, but it was a good effort and I am so impressed with our team's dedication and commitment to a creative project like this. Check it out, I'd love to hear what you think! 

The Shipbuilders

Once there was a group of shipbuilders in an imaginary kingdom, far, far, away. They worked hard for one year and the ship was beginning to take shape. It had a frame with a mast, sail, and deck. Excited about their new ship, they decided to organize an election to elect a captain and team of co-captains. It was a success and everyone was ready to follow the command of the newly elected captain. Yet the captain never came to see the ship and never contacted the shipbuilders. Despite their disappointment, the shipbuilders kept working. 

Not easily discouraged, the shipbuilders organized another election one year later. The first captain stepped down and apologized to all shipbuilders in a moving speech. One of the co-captains from the first year was elected as captain. 

Unfortunately, the newly elected captain knew neither how to contact the shipmates, nor how to sail. The same thing happened as the previous year. Despite the absence of leadership, the shipbuilders kept working. In fact, they worked harder than ever and by the end of year the ship was nearly ready to set sail but they still didn’t have a captain. 

After three years of hard work, they organized their third election. Everyone on the ship voted and it was very successful. All of the shipmates expressed their excitement to have elected such a motivated and dedicated team of captain and co-captains. Everyone was happy, except for one person: The previous captain. He had been so certain of winning a third chance that he did not campaign for the election. He was extremely angry that he did not win. 

The unelected captain decided that the ship was his. He proclaimed that he had built the ship alone. He informed other captains, of larger ships, in kingdoms far away, that thieves had stolen his ship. He threatened the elected captain that he would never step foot on any ship, in any kingdom, if he did not step down. The elected captain laughed in his face, which perhaps he should not have done. 

Meanwhile, the shipbuilders watched in amazement. They wondered quietly, why the unelected captain didn’t just build a new ship. Since he proclaimed to have built the ship, he could easily build another. Yet no one said anything. Perhaps the shipbuilders didn’t believe that the ship was valuable. Or maybe they were tired of building for three years, without ever sailing into the deep sea. They all quit working and refused to board the ship. 

The unelected captain sailed off alone, with no crew members for his ship. The ship sank instantly and could not be salvaged. The other captains of larger ships sent their condolences to the unelected captain, expressing their sadness at the loss of his beautiful ship. The shipbuilders were discouraged and they gave up sailing and shipbuilding. 

At the same time, the elected captain and co-captains started building a new ship with the same name. They found new shipbuilders and worked steadily on their ship. It was much smaller than the first, but they tested it every day and it sailed like foam in a glass of attaya. They didn’t care if no one saw them sailing; they sailed for themselves. They took the boat far into the sea and saw fish of many colors and sizes that they had never seen before. Their adventures were shown on television and soon everyone in the kingdom knew the name of their ship. 

The other captains called them to a meeting and told them they must stop sailing or change the name of their ship. They didn’t listen to this advice but instead sailed even further out to sea. Eventually, they discovered unknown islands and they each proclaimed one as their own. While they were living in their separate islands, there was no one to sail their small, powerful ship and it was abandoned at the harbor. The following year there were no shipbuilders, sailors, ships, or sea.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

For My Families

I was raised by two loving and self-less people, my mom and dad. I am so grateful to them for their sacrifice: Everything they have is for us, their three children. It is a debt I can never repay but I will never stop trying. Their values, lessons, and love made me the person I am today.

When I was 21, I went to Kenya against their wishes. Osama Bin Laden attacked the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi just two weeks before I left. They had reason to be worried. I am a stubborn person and once I make up my mind, there is no turning back. So it was that I went to Kenya and met two families who changed my life forever.

First I went to Nairobi and met the Mutua family. They are wonderful, open-minded people who introduced me to Kenyan life. They also introduced me to the Mbithi family in Mombasa, where I lived for seven months. The Mbithi family was always laughing and my cheeks hurt from smiling so wide just thinking about them. Nancy and Lydia, the "moms" met in college in the 1960's and remained close friends ever since.

I am so grateful to both families for their gifts. They accepted me into their homes, a naive, and clueless skateboarding girl and showed me unconditional love. They didn't mind my short hair, baggy overalls, and non-feminine appearance. They bought soymilk for me so I could drink chai with them every day and they taught me how to cook chapati and githeri. They showed me that love has no borders and that truly, all humans are the same everywhere on the planet. This lesson has resonated with me so clearly that I have spent every day of my life since I met them confirming this basic fact.

My family in Benin is the Gbenou clan. Papa Valentin had 8 wives (not all at the same time) and more than 40 children (no one knows for sure!). Papa Valentin's first wife is NehNeh, and she is my grandmother. Her daughter married the Voudun chief, Papa Davis, and he is my father. His children and the most beautiful people I have met. I spent every evening in their house, sitting on a small wooden stool and smiling while Papa Davis and all of the old men from the neighborhood, recited prayers and drank distilled palm wine.

Papa Valentin died in 2006 at the age of 102. He was an incredible man who’s live spanned French colonization, independence, and post-independence. Although he was the village chief during French rule, the village was affected by the changing times. Located on an isolated island in a river valley, Gbeko has remained virtually untouched by modern times. When I lived there in 2002-2004, there were no telephones, electricity, sanitation, etc. The village was just a collection of mud houses connected by narrow sandy paths cut from the surrounding forest. To this day, Gbeko is the poorest place I have ever seen. Despite the hardship and misery, every day was a parade of singing and dancing as I followed the winding paths to visit all of my friends. They taught me how to live in a close society, how to properly greet people and show hospitality to visitors. It was a magical place, suspended in space and time.

The Gbenou family viewed the world from such a difference lens than I did. Living with them really challenged my values and worldview. Without a translator to explain the cultural aspects I witnessed, I didn't understand most of what was happening around me. I learned that there are things in the world that cannot be explained and there are differences that separate me from others that I will not be able to understand. Yet, despite these vast differences, we formed a strong bond. To love people, whom I couldn't understand or decode, was also a powerful lesson in my life. Love truly transcends all borders.

I met Aminata in New York in 2006. I went to visit her and meet her children in Kaolack, Senega in 2009l. This is my Senegalese family. They show me so much love and whenever I am in their home I feel completely at peace. I love them so much. When Aminata was in New York she gave birth to Badiane. She is now six years old and I feel a special bond with her, since I have known her and loved her before she was even born. 

Aminata has been working steadily to help me embrace my feminine qualities. She buys for me frilly dresses and sends her daughter to take me shopping to buy matching shoes. I have acquiesced to the beautiful clothes and even will wear the shoes, but she has not yet succeeded in getting me to carry a frilly froufrou purse or wear make-up. She doesn't push or insist but slowly has helped me to become more integrated in Senegalese culture. I love her, and her entire family, dearly.

Aminata introduced me to Aissata, a ten-year-old Mauritanian girl who came to New York in 2007. I helped Aissata adjust to life in the United States and visited her family nearly everyday. They are my Mauritanian family. They introduced me to their extended family in Feralla, Mauritania. I have spent every vacation with them since I arrived in Mauritania 2010. 

My Feralla family live in a simple house without electricity or water. Yet, their teen daughters have so much in common with their cousin Aissata in New York and with my nieces in Minnesota. The lives of adolescent girls are becoming more and more the same, as globalization spreads and even in the most remote corners of the world girls wear the same clothes and listen to the same music. Whether we like it or not, it is a force for change. 

Aissata, Bano, and Mali all taught me that friendship has no age. Even though I am the same age as Aissata's mother, I view her as my equal in every sense of the word. Aissata is my little sister, niece, daughter and best friend all in one. Now she is 17-years-old and even though she never attended school before she came to the U.S., she is now on the honor roll, in AP History, and among the best students at her high school. Her achievements are miraculous. Her cousins in the village are not doing as well in school. They walk 12 kilometers round trip to school each day, in extremely hot weather, and when they get home they are physically and mentally exhausted. There's no time to rest - as they are still required to all of the grueling day-to-day chores. When they finish their work, there is no place to study and no electricity either. They are the first generation of girls to go to school in Feralla - facing a thousand years of obstacles.

I owe a debt of gratitude to all of these families. Although I might not be the best at staying in touch - not calling, writing, or visiting for years - they are always in my heart. The lessons they taught me have contributed so much to my life and I am a better person for meeting each one of them. I wish that I could bring all of these families together - a real family reunion. I am their daughter, Delia Jane Dunlap Mutua Mbithi Gbenou Bassoum Ba.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mandela was a Terrorist

"When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw." 
-Nelson Mandela

Mandela was on the U.S. terrorist list until 2008. He was a "terrorist" who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for his "work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa."

Mandela fought against the greatest evil imaginable and was imprisoned for 27 years. He was tortured and witnessed the violent murder of nearly every person he knew. He never stopped fighting for equality and justice and died at the incredible age of 95 years old. He is a hero for all of humanity. As I think about what his life meant, I am thinking about all of the other great freedom fighters throughout history. Most of my heroes were considered as terrorists by the governments of the countries where they lived. 

Today I am thinking about Zerai, one of the Eritrean refugees I met in a refugee camp in Ethiopia in 2009. Zerai is a gifted musician and he owned one of the two guitars in the camp. He taught guitar lessons to many of the refugees, allowing his students to borrow his precious guitar so they could learn his songs. Zerai is one of the most generous and thoughtful people I have ever met. He has a genuine poet's heart. He could also be labeled as "terrorist" because he fought against the Ethiopian government in the struggle for Eritrea's independence. 

Unfortunately, due to Zerai's role in his country's fight for independence against Ethiopia, his file has been permanently "under revue" for refugee resettlement. While 10,000 Eritrean refugees were granted group resettlement to the United States, his case was not included. He watched as all of his friends, students, and loved ones left the camp. Of course there are new refugees (900 or more) arriving every day. But the psychological impact of losing everyone you love, every year, cannot be underestimated. My heart breaks when I think of brave Zerai, indefinitely stuck in a refugee camp, living off a U.N. ration of one kilo of oil and beans per month. His only option is to remain a refugee forever, or return home where he will face a lifetime of forced military service with a certain prison sentence for his "crime" of leaving. You can read more about U.S. immigration policy and "terrorism" here.

Of course, I also think about the country where I am living today. Mandela visited Algeria and said, "it's Algeria that made me a man." 

Algerians are a courageous and brave people who fought against the occupation and colonization of the French. They won independence in 1962, ending over 130 years of struggle. A estimated one million Algerians lost their lives between 1953 and 1961. Nearly the entire population could be labeled as a "terrorists" for their roles in the struggle against tyranny. 

The list of countries with successful revolutions goes on and on. Mandela spoke against the war the "terror" and the use of the word "terrorist" without a fair trial, "The labeling of Osama bin Laden as the terrorist responsible for those acts before he had been tried and convicted could also be seen as undermining some of the basic tenets of the rule of law.''

Yet, when I think of the word "terrorist," I don't think of the evil acts of the bandits fighting now in Mali, Algeria, Niger and Mauritania, who are no more than thugs, rapists, torturers, drug dealers, and smugglers. I think of freedom fighters, like Zerai, who are stuck in refugee camps, unable to leave due to a label they don't deserve. 

Today, as I think about the legacy of Mandela, I think of his call to all of us to fight against hatred and injustice wherever it is found. His life was a powerful example of resilience and forgiveness. I stand in solidarity with oppressed peoples everywhere. I think of all freedom fighters past and present and I will continue to honor their sacrifices. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

As-salam alaykum

I walked by the mosque near my house and greeted a man as I passed by, "As-salam alaykum." I am not sure why I noticed the man had a long beard and traditional clothing. 

Anyways, I kept walking until I turned to go inside my building and passed the 2nd of three doors. With the key in my hand, I heard a noise and turned around to see the man from the mosque in the hallway. My heart was beating fast. Then the man said, "Pardon me, are you married?" 

Algiers is full of surprises.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Sun Makes Everything Colorful

I took a taxi yesterday to go to work and the driver commented, "It's been raining for 22 days." I wasn't counting the days but when he mentioned it, it's true. Three weeks of rain, all day and all night. I love the rain and thunderstorms but it really was just getting to be too much. 

Today I woke up with a strange sight- sun coming in through the windows! It was sunny ALL day! I took a long walk and here are some of the sights I came across:

Shrine to bread (it is never thrown away but left out for critters to munch on)

I just LOVE the buildings here, all of 'em!

Cool mural...

Not the real McCoy! 

Shopping at King Frip!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Every Day is Opposite Day

Every day is opposite day in Algeria. Opposite from Mauritania! Even though both countries are located in the Maghreb, the differences could not be greater. 
Here are a few of my observations:

Algiers: One of the oldest cities in the world, dating back to before the 5th century

Nouakchott: A relatively new city, dating back to only about 1958

Algiers: Mountainous

Nouakchott: Flat

Algiers: Cool and rainy

Nouakchott: Dry, hot and windy

Algiers: Covered in green parks

Nouakchott: Covered in sand 

Algiers: Government works for the population- free health care, free education, including University level (with free meals & transportations for all students), subsitized services (transportation, gas prices, food, etc.) 

Nouakchott: Very little government visibility (no roads, water, or sanitation provided for poor neighborhoods, etc)

I could keep on listing but you get the idea! 

Of course, there are MANY similarities between the two countries, politically and socially. I can save that list for the next time. 

Also, I do not want to put a value on one place vs. the other. Every city has it's advantages and special secrets. 

Most of all, I want to make it clear that I love Mauritania. I love the year-round sunshine and the warmth of the people. I miss the ease of life in a small city, where I had a clear vision of my capacity and role in the country. I feel a bit lost here right now but I have felt lost in my first year in every city where I have lived (LaCrosse, Nairobi [Kenya], Olympia, Gbeko [Benin], Chicago, New York, Shimelba [Ethiopia], and Nouakchott). I hope I can stay for longer than a year to really feel adjusted to life here. If not, at least I will try to learn as much as possible during my time here. 

I know that I will be back to Mauritania soon. 

New Beginning

I started teaching this week. I found 22 eager, motivated and skilled teachers in my first workshop. Their experience ranged from 3 months to ten years. I was so delighted to see that the Ministry of Youth and Sports provided a spacious and well-equipped conference room, as well as a lovely snack and beautiful lunch. They handled all of the logistics, which I could never manage anyone to do for my work in four years in Nouakchott. I miss the students and teachers I worked with in Mauritania so greatly, but I have a feeling that this change will be positive for me. 

When I am in the classroom I feel like a whole, complete person. I can't wait to see my new cohort again. The generosity, kindness, and support shown to me so far by the teachers and administration of the Ministry has been truly exceptional and unforgettable.