Archive for October, 2003

day one hundred twenty nine a

I’ve had a couple people let me know that spam was coming in on this list. (I don’t actually get the mail sent to the list since I’ve already read it once.) I thought I had it set so that only people on the list could send to the list, but that wasn’t the case. It is now, so the spams should stop. Sorry about that.

In other news, today is Halloween and there’s a couple parties tonight. Obie (my APCD) is out of town, but he left his keys with Racey and there is supposedly candy there. =) (There is also supposedly beer, but that idea doesn’t excite me as much. Candy tastes good unlike beer.) =)

There is also a party being held by someone we are thinking is related to the Embassy. We don’t have any more information than a flier that someone left over here. Jay called them and their house is about a block from mine, so I figure I’ll check it out if for no other reason than to try and meet another of my neighbors.

Marc and Carl are going to the “dead toubab” stores out in the cinquieme. They’re pretty much like the goodwill back home except nothing resembling modern fashions. I’ve never been really good at the dressing up. Back home Steph usually would figure something out and use me like a big dress-up doll. I figure I should at least try and embrace the spirit though. =)

I’m going to go over to the Gallery Tata (the biggest supermarket in the country, maybe the size of the electronics section in a K-Mart) and see if I can find the stuff to make a recipe I saw on the internet.

There’s a comic called “Cheap Thrills” that once a week does a recipe. This week’s is called “Goblin’s Brew” and it is a Halloween punch.


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day one hundred twenty seven d

I have been hearing tales of problems with IT PCV’s and their publishing. Last night I was talking with a guy in Jamaica ( who is working with their new IT program. We were discussing what is and isn’t safe to put on the web from the PC Washington perspective. (We are both keeping lists of contact info for the volunteers in our countries.)

I mentioned to him Andrew Hecht from Samoa ( and he mentioned to me Jason Pierce from Guyana (only French speaking country in South America) (
Both have been released from their service at least in part because of things they posted on the web. Andrew was actually AS’ed while I have been here and so I talked to him about it while it was going on. Thinks that got him in trouble included:

1. Having the PC logo on his site. (It was in a picture on a cake.)
2. (The attempting of) collecting money relating to his service. (He
had a tip jar on his website. (Which never got any tips.))
3. Revealing volunteers site info in his journal. (And thus
endangering volunteers by allowing bad guys to find them.)

He had some problem with his work though that I think was a big part of it. Jason was pretty much completely about his website. I think that the balance between security, official image and freedom of expression is a hard one to strike.

I’ve been arguing semantics of web publishing frameworks with Matt Estes over the last couple days and access controls are definitely something important for this one. I am assuming at this point that PC Washington is comprised of reasonable individuals with which a balance of concerns can be struck.


P.S. In other news I have some leads on country border data ( to automate my mapping process

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day one hundred twenty seven c

This is a horrible country for cats. A couple weeks ago there were four volunteers with kittens. One kitten got stepped on, one got in a fight and killed, one was killed by village children and one is still alive. Marc found a group of kittens under a bush near his house and nursed them back from the brink of death feeding them from a syringe. Now they have stopped eating and he is contemplating either letting them waste away or killing them.

If you’d asked me things I’m likely to be doing in Mauritania, killing kittens would never have made the list…

I’d enjoy having a cat, but the young ones have a really high mortality rate and the old ones run at the sight of people. I was planning on taking one of Marc’s when they were a bit bigger, but now it doesn’t look like that’ll be possible.

Maybe once I get settled in I’ll hunt some more and something will turn up. Every day I get a little closer to settled here. Really all that is left is starting cooking and starting teaching. Now if we can just not have a coup after the election that’d be great. =)


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day one hundred twenty seven b

That was quite an experience… Rhonda had an armoire that was as tall as me and which weighed probably around 150lbs. We couldn’t get it down the stairs, so we threw it off the second story balcony. That was fun. I was really grateful to the driver because it is 97+ outside and he can’t drink water until the end of the day. If it were me I’d be hiding in the air conditioning all day.

There were four pieces there and it would be nice to divvy them up fairly among the volunteers here in town. (You’d think since I’m devoting my time to helping people and stuff that I’d be nice and fair.) As it is I have the bookshelf and armoire, Matt has the bed and Carl has the chest of drawers. Jay is contesting the chest and I fear if he gets it that Carl is coming after my armoire. I’m mostly hoping that everyone will find places and forget about all of it. =) The bookshelf they will have to pry from my cold dead fingers.

At the end I was expressing my thanks to the driver and he told me that in Africa you couldn’t ask for a gift, but if someone offered you one one you couldn’t refuse. =) I wonder what a good gift would be…


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day one hundred twenty seven a

Things have been busy the last couple days. There is another broken laptop at the university, and I downloaded the tools to try and fix it, but I can’t get it to burn onto a CD. The guy who owns it irritated me too because after one CD didn’t work he wanted me to try and find another. (He bought the first.) For me to pay to fix his laptop is just silly.

I am also trying to get moved out of Rhonda’s before the end of the month. Having a place more centrally located in town is proving very nice. It cuts about half an hour off my travel time each day. Theoretically the PC is going to help me out with a car today, Inshallah.

The election is still keeping pretty busy. Because of Ramadan not a whole lot goes on during the day. When the sun goes down there is a span of about an hour where this place is a ghost town. After a bit though things start to wind back up.

There was a MTV show a while back called “Making the Band” and they would go through the production of a formulaic sort of group; “boy band” or “hip-hop” or whatever. I keep thinking about that show when riding around town for some reason. I think it has something to do with the new Maaouya logo or maybe the new Maaouya (Senegalese) rap song though perhaps it is the thousands of Maaouya posters or the one place that has a laser show for Maaouya on the side of a building. I am just waiting to see kids pulling their Maaouya action figures out of the Maaouya backpacks. Maybe I’ll be able to get a Maaouya burger at the Maaouya Hot. =)

I am appreciating American style democracy a bit more. Money still matters a whole lot, but at least the field is a little more level.


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day one hundred twenty four b

Random election notes for the day:

There are Maaouya tents all over the place. They are all playing music and there are people hanging out underneath. So far I have seen one tent for another candidate and that was out in the cinquieme. Coming between my house and the university I pass a place where there are three tents side by side on one side of the road and two on the other. I also pass a new billboard that was put up just for the Maaouya sign that is on it.

It is interesting to see, but at the same time a little sad. Just given the quantity of stuff that is out I don’t see how it is not being subsidized by the government. Even if it isn’t the spending is so incredibly uneven that the concept of a “balanced election” seems impossible.

Carl and Marc went to one of the opposition candidates tents and asked if they could get posters. The guy asked him what paper they were with and when they said they were just looking for posters he led them around
and up the stairs to a little room with a bunch of guys in it. A guy spoke to them in English and said something along the lines of “we have to be careful, I spent four months in jail in Kaédi for campaigning against Maaouya.” Carl said, “but things have changed now, right?” To which he replied, “this was last year.”

So, election time fun.

They are giving out Maaouya shirts and caps and the latest fashion craze is a moulafa with a Maaouya baseball cap. (A moulafa is essentially just a long piece of cloth which is wrapped around and goes over the head. (Generally covering the head, but not the face.))

I am contemplating a website to host journals like this of PC people. One of the things it will have to be able to do is keep some entries more private than others. We are supposed to not be political at all or speak publicly about the local political process without having it reviewed first. I don’t disagree with the policy really since we are all identified as a group and one person could get us kicked out of the country. At the same time I want to be able to speak openly with my friends and family back home.


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day one hundred twenty four a

The internet is not being cooperative today. I went over to the university and wrote a bit about the elections, but the internet there died and so it is sitting there waiting on me. I walked over this way stopping at various places looking for clothes pins. I left mine on the line at Rhonda’s and someone absconded with them.

I walked over to Capitol this morning and saw them one place, but he wanted 450um for them and they are worth maybe 100um for a set. I got irritated he wasn’t bargaining and walked off. He tried to call me back, but I figured I’d find more and left him. I didn’t find more.

Getting someone’s attention here is done by hissing. This includes stuff like hailing taxis. It actually works pretty well since it is a fairly audible sound, but less obtrusive (and easier to produce) than yelling. It just takes some getting used to hearing it all the time.

So, after ignoring being hissed at I wandered for a bit and found several guys who sell Mauritanian art. I really want to get some stuff to send home, but bargaining with these guys is so draining when I have no idea what an actual good price is.

I’m going to leave here in a bit and try and find some. I have all my clothes other than those on my back sitting in a bucket of water in my tub.

Anyhow, today is the first day of Ramadan. An Islamic day starts at sundown so I guess really “tomorrow” is the beginning of Ramadan. No one was fasting today.

One of our language instructors, Daouda, sent out a little thing on Ramadan and I stuck it on the web at:


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day one hundred twenty one a

I haven’t managed to find a copy of it yet and National Geographic’s website isn’t cooperating, but there is supposedly an article on slavery around the world with a full page interview from a Mauritanian in the September issue.

Nothing much else of note here. We went over to Shelah’s last night and hung out and played pictionary. Shelah made some really good food and Racey brought over a big bowl of hummus. Very tasty evening. I got used to gorging myself in Kaédi because we didn’t eat very much and it is a habit I am going to break. I’ve dropped alot of muscle and I’m starting to put on a little fat. I don’t want to be the fat PCV. =)

There are now campaign buildings all over town. Lots of tents with music too. Pretty much all I have seen are four Maaouya and I am curious to see some of his opposition. I have heard people saying that there probably won’t be trouble unless he wins the first round outright. He has to have a simple majority (50% or more). With as many candidates as there are more than likely for him to get it in the first round things would need to be fixed. It is generally expected he will win, but in the runoff.

I’m going to see if I can find some more info on the elections in general. My French actually seems to be regressing in the last month. I have about three tense I use all the time. =) I was with Shelah when she was talking to a guy and he was discussing the interesting nuances that come into play when a largely illiterate (30-40% literacy) population.

As I was walking over here a guy came up to me and invited me to a campaign party for the son of the ex-president (the one ousted by Maaouya 19 years ago). He told me there will be lots of American’s and Israelis there (I only know of two Israelis in the country, the staff of the embassy, but who knows). What they gain by having a party with people who can’t vote is beyond me. Maybe just making connections.


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day one hundred twenty a

Last night Katerie had everyone over for dinner and drinks. It was very nice; in particular there was chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy with chocolate cake for desert. I have been pushing for a pig roast when I come back home, but more and more I think I just want to go to grandma’s house for some good southern cooking.

En route to Katerie’s I noticed tents going up. It turns out that the presidential campaign has been forbidden from starting before now. The papers have little articles with lists of people’s names saying “we like Maaouya, we hope he wins.” These are apparently just the precursors.

Last night coming back was a madhouse. There were cars all over the place at midnight and usually everything is cleared out by 10ish. Matt tried to catch a taxi and the best price he could get is 500um. Usually they are 300um (it was early in the morning), but Malick said during the elections people are all out and about and everyone has extra money.

Walking around today I’ve seen maybe a dozen tents. Nothing much seems to be going on in them, but it has been raining and I suppose they are just waiting for it to clear up.

I think the next two weeks are going to be interesting.


P.S. Did I ever mention “twenty” sounds like the word for “vagina” in Hassaniya? Teaching moors to count is entertaining supposedly.

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day one hundred ninteen a

Well, I had a nice boost today. There is a French fellow here who is in town searching for French Mauritanian literature for his thesis. He has a Linux based laptop that was not working well. I fixed it up for him and got him on the network here.

He was actually pretty lucky. The flag for journaling on his ext3 root filesystem was off and mandrake wouldn’t mount it. The kernel couldn’t find init (of course) and it was panicking. The number of people in this country who know enough about the linux boot process to fix it quickly you could probably count on one hand.

It just made me feel good because there is nothing like the exuberance you get from someone whose computer you have brought back from what they assumed was its death.

Also, at lunch I told my first joke in French. It wasn’t much, but people chuckled and that was more than enough for me. Jay was saying that they don’t like for us to live in Taverak-Zeina because it is too much like home, and I said that it was just San Francisco with goats.

Matt has been hanging out today as well and things are looking like they will be shaping up pretty well. Katerie is having a get together tonight and Matt and I are going to explain to his landlord that we want to trade. Hopefully all of that will go well.


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