Archive for Peace Corps

WAIST 2005 — Part #3

Almost to the end of this. This one is about as long as one and two; it’s amazing.

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WAIST 2005 — Part #2

Here is a continuation of the longest entry ever. I really don’t expect anyone to read this, I just want to get as much as I can down so that I’ll maybe be able to recall something in ten years. It is an amazing amount of info in general; I suppose the fact that each day began at 8am and went till around 4am gave quite a bit of time to cram stuff into.

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While at WAIST, the Senegalese volunteers were selling CDs to help finance their Gender and Development (SeneGAD) projects. I didn’t get a chance to buy a CD before leaving, but I did get a cover, and I wanted to take note of the artists so that I can be on the lookout for stuff from them.

SeneGAD’s West African Mix 2005

Youssou N’Dour Na Woor
Titi Bilahhi
Amadou & Mariam Dougou Massa
WaFlash Composé
Viviane Sant na Yalla
Dream Maxim Soul Reggea Rock
Viviane Cuuc
Youssou N’Dour Yaay Boy
Amadou & Mariam Paulo
Viviane Cheri Boy
Youssou N’Dour Salimata

Viviane is someone I’m interested in seeing in particular. She is Bilani and a native of Mauritania, but was supposedly banished for ten years or something like that to Senegal for being an uppity woman. Rumor is her music is a really solid blend of both the modal Mauritanian stuff and the more rhythmic Senegalese. She was in town a while back, but I missed the concert.

Hip hop is also really popular in Senegal. It is not uncommon to see young fellows with a side of their face covered in adhesive tape in a crude imitation of Nelly. I, myself, am something of a hip hop fan, so I’m keeping an eye open for these as well:

SeneGAD’s Hip Hop Mix 2005

Chingy Balla Baby Remix
Destiny’s Child featuring Lil’ Wayne & TI Soldier
TI Bring ‘Em Out
Akon Ghetto
Juvenile & Soulja Slim Slow Motion
Usher featuring Lil’ John & Jay Z Yeah!
Snoop Dogg featuring Pharrel Drop It Like It’s Hot
Lil’ John and the East Side Boys Get Low
Clara featuring TI Goodies
Jay Z & Linkin Park Numb/Encore
B2K Bada Boom
Twista & Faith Evans Hope
Ludacris Get Back
Cam’ron & Kanye West Down and Out
Trick Daddy Let’s Go

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WAIST 2005 — Part #1

Ugh. I’ve been pulling long days trying to get caught up on work a bit. If it is possible to work oneself dumb, I’m pretty sure that’s what I’m doing, or at least blind; everything seems blurrier than normal. Maybe it’s like with working out, and it’ll make me stronger mentally in the long run to have stressed my brain a bit. Probably not.

In any case, I wanted to get my basic outline from WAIST recorded before my goldfish memory wipes it away. This is really long, to the point where I had to break it up to get it to post. Here’s the fist bit:

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Nouveaux Photos

I have some more shots in:


From during the locust plague. They ate everything…


Nouakchott from the air

Ocean Sunset

We can do pretty here too

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Bien Feté

I got some pictures today from a friend that have been taken over the last little bit. I figured I’d post some highlights…

Putting the cat back in the bag

When cats, bags, Will and whiskey meet


A transportation strike in Saint Louis left us to find other means of transport


Getting ready to change $1300 to cfa for various volunteers

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Polio Campaign

I was occupied with classes and didn’t take part in Unicef‘s recent polio campaign. mattbritton though did and his account I found quite entertaining.

He is also responsible for posting the most horrible thing I can imagine seeing. This isn’t my usual hyperbole. He is a health volunteer and works in a third world health clinic. So, only look if you feel like getting your stomach turned. I’m trying to imagine if my life was about dealing with death instead of fixing computers. I’d certainly leave this country changed in a different way.

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Will’s May 2004

Ha! Not dead. Had you fooled, eh? Fortunately though rumors of my demise were much overstated. Unfortunately I am currently so incredibly busy that I might as well be deceased.

Let’s see, the date on the last journal was day 291, that makes it a little over a month. It has been a remarkably unremarkable month. =)

Marc and I went to Chinguetti with some Senegalese volunteers. That was quite entertaining. I wrote something about it in the long dark silence. I just have to figure out what I did with that and I’ll send it along.

Umm, other stuff… We guys here in Nouakchott have started playing poker. I like it. The betting is entertaining. I mostly suck, but we are playing ten ouguiya a chip (and by chip I mean matchstick since poker chips don’t exist here) and so I can usually play for a few hours before running out of money.

Ahh, the monkey’s paw. Are you familiar with the story? You get the paw and you get to make wishes. The catch is it’s cursed so you wishes always go horribly wrong. A woman gets it and wishes for $100,000. The next day her son is pulled into machine at the mill and his life insurance pays out $100,000. Stuff like that.

Well, you might remember that for New Years I resolved to make some Mauritanian friends. It has begun. The English department is next door to the Faculty of Sciences and it has been supplying a steady stream of people who wander over to say “hello” and practice a bit. I mentioned to a couple people where my house is and I now get visitors. All well and good except when they come knocking at the ass crack of dawn, which they do.

It has been helping my French though and there are a couple of guys that I really like.

Got to see Baba Maal. He came to Nouakchott. Very cool. Completely in Pulaar. Didn’t understand a word of it. Found that to detract surprisingly little.

It was a crowd of probably a couple thousand and every so often they’d react to something he’d said and start jumping and clapping. It was almost like being in a thunderstorm with the occasional torrents of light and sound governed by forces I didn’t understand.

Stephanie has a little brother who is autistic. Watching him eat a hamburger stands as one of the exemplars to me of immersion in action.

There is a koan which goes something like: “A student walks in on his master eating breakfast while reading the paper. ‘Master,’ he says, ‘I thought you told me to only eat breakfast when I eat breakfast. Yet, you are reading the paper.’ ‘Yes,’ replied the master, ‘when you eat breakfast only eat breakfast, and when you eat breakfast and read the paper only eat breakfast and read the paper.'”

When Jackie eats a hamburger that’s it. He’s not like me sitting there thinking about what comes next or lamenting my position in life or whatever. That burger is, for the moment, the center of everything. It is really inspiring to watch.

At the concert I was next to a fellow who didn’t so much listen to the music as was grabbed and shaken around by it. He was bouncing all over the place, to the extent that the limited confines would allow, cigarette dangling all the while from his lips drawing little red cryptograms in the air.

Bought a stove. Well, think bunsen burner on steroids. I can cook though, to the extent that soup and oatmeal qualify as “cooking.”

Leave for Europe for most of July in 11 days. Indescribably excited. Flying to Casablanca and taking the train up through Spain to meet my family in Paris. Dad won’t be there, but I’m working on convincing him to come here and hang out next year.

(Hey dad, look at these: you don’t have to come stay in Mauritania, Africa is big.) =)

Obvious thing that happened: I got kicked off the Honors server. Irritating, but what can you do? I still like Honors and wasn’t the biggest fan the University’s central administration before, so not much harm done.

Thanks to the venerable Elijah I exist once again. Not quite sure what I can do to even begin to repay the debt, so if you have the opportunity do something nice for him.

Ok, sleeping time. I have a meeting with one of my new Mauritanian friends at 8 bloody thirty tomorrow morning, so bed is a good idea.

I think I’ve dumped the most important stuff here. Hopefully I’ll get a couple more of these out more coherently before Europe destroys my schedule again.


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Here’s Your Bike, Try Not To Die

When I was a kid we had a little game called Frogger. The goal was to aid a little frog in crossing the road. As you’d progress farther there would be new obstacles like bigger cars and having to cross a creek with alligators.

I’ve decided to make a new videogame based on my life. It is going to be called, “Here’s Your Bike, Try Not To Die.”

Level 1: You start off as a school kid toddling around a peaceable suburban town. You enjoy the fresh air and exercise. Your goal is to get to school on time.

Level 2: You are mountain biking in Moab, Utah. You enjoy majestic vistas while attempting to avoid patches of sand. Biking in loose sand liberating you both of nearly all control and momentum.

Level 3: You’re a bike messenger in New York, you dodge traffic while attempting to dispatch your charges to their intended recipients.

Level 4: You are a PCV in Mauritania. You attempt to maneuver through a city with no discernible traffic laws and wretchedly maintained streets. For added excitement most of the streets are made of sand and those which aren’t are often partially covered with sand. Drivers’ licenses in your town are
awarded solely based on the ability to pay a fee and have nothing to do with having proven one can safely operate a vehicle. This being the most advanced level, there are the additional challenges of the temperature generally being in excess of 100 degrees and in the likely event that you are struck by a car, there are no good medical facilities for a few thousand miles. The upshot though is that you are in Africa and the time limits established in the previous levels are completely removed.

The bike is really cool though. I can make it to my house from the bureau in 20 minutes and it takes an hour by foot. I also just like getting my heart rate up a little. Walking is fine enough, but I’ve not been getting enough exercise and I know it. I’m going to try biking some in the mornings and see if I can find some routes that are off the paved roads, but which have solidly packed sand.

I’ve definitely been playing it safe. If I get to an intersection that is too crowded I just get off and walk. I’ve not broken any bones thus far in my life and I’m not wanting to start. =)


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Hurtling Down the Mountain

When I was a kid I used to read Readers’ Digest and there was a regular column called something like “Adventures in Real Life”. Every month it would detail some occurrence that brought forth from those involved acts of desperation or heroism. Stuff like the lumberjack who chopped his own leg off and drove himself down the mountain when a tree fell on him.

One story was of a truck driver coming down a long mountain grade and his brakes fail. This is daunting in and of itself, but as he gains speed he begins to gain on a small family car also traveling down the mountain. The road is too narrow to allow him to pass, so the little station wagon must simply race down the mountain trying to keep ahead of the semi trundling along behind. I remember the driver’s vivid descriptions of the terrified looks of the children out the back of the car as he bears down on them.

I was remembering this story last night about three in the morning after I learned that given the impetus a person’s bowels can be loosed much like that semi without its brakes. I lost all control and knew only that I must try and get my pants out of the way of the load careening through my system. I had no more power to stop it than the driver of the station wagon had over the tractor trailer.

Interestingly, I have been good with my water too. Through center days (the previous 4) it was all filtered and it’s been the same here (the last 2). I suppose it just speaks to the fact that caution can only do so much. I don’t feel very bad though. The first really bad spat of diarrhea really brought me to my knees (figuratively). This time other than learning that going straight from sleeping to squatting for 15 minutes leads to leg cramps, I’m feeling pretty good. Hopefully this will be a one time thing. Inch’allah.


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