was going to tell you this week about the Saturday session with
the ENS students to which I was invited during my last class
with them. I got a call a few days before it, to the effect
that it was cancelled because the director of the school called
some sort of conference that they all had to attend.
In the meanwhile, I have received no call from ENS asking to
report grades for my final exam or the American Civilization
Since Babah has to report to work at Galerie Tata near my house
at 8:00 AM, he comes by for breakfast at about 7:30, as he did
during the brief period when he worked at the other market.
Since I make oatmeal for myself anyway, it's no trouble making
double. The only difference is that he likes his with sugar
and I take mine with salt.
provides a snack of tea and bread with white flour for their
workers, but I also pack him an apple, an orange, and a slice
of whole grain bread.
not complained about the long hours he has to spend on his feet.
He says, "It's hard, but it's good." He wants to decrease
his work hours because the double shift is tiring, let alone
exploitive. I asked him if he is going to speak to the boss
about working only the early or the late shift. He said that
he is going to work for the rest of the month for the hours
he was assigned, and then, at the end of the month, when they
see that he is a good worker, he will speak to the boss and
ask to work only one seven-hour shift a day.
Babah's friend Ismail has quit his job as a driver for somebody
who has a relatively high position in the Ministry of Communications.
Why? Because after a month and a half of working, he had still
not been paid. This appears to be a leitmotif for workers in
We have been having a rash of electricity outages during the
last week. The first one came on Wednesday morning, just as
I was waking up, shortly after 6:00. I had left the fan on during
the night to get some air circulating in my bedroom. As I came
to consciousness, I heard the fan stop spinning.
At my house,
no electricity means no running water either, since the pump
that gets water upstairs is run by electricity. Power was turned
on again about 7:30 AM, so I could shower and get ready for
I was reading when the lights went out again, shortly after
9:00 PM. I don't know when the lights came back on since I just
went to sleep at that point. But there was electricity when
I got up the next morning.
morning, there was no power when I woke up, but it was restored
by about 6:45.
to know if this is related to the weather, the economy, or what.
As for the weather, most days are still pleasant, but we are
having some days with blasting heat. One day last week, it was
45 degrees C, which is 113 F. After that, most days have been
overcast, warm and pleasant, with a cool and gentle breeze coming
from the ocean. Yesterday, the breeze was hot, as it was coming
off the desert.
One of the projects that Kristen and I worked on recently was
a letter to the U.S. embassy here in Nouakchott, on behalf of
the Ministry of Education, an appeal for financial aid for several
projects. One of the advantages of our working together is that
we can take turns being in charge of various tasks. Since she
was here for a year before I got here, she took the lead on
this because she was able to give the proposal an historical
perspective of U.S. support for educational projects.
I got a
call from Kristen's counterpart, H, last Tuesday evening. He
wanted to tell me that it would be important for me to attend
the ambassador's Fourth of July party so that I could make a
point of chatting with the ambassador, possibly advancing the
cause of the financial aid that the Ministry wants so much.
I know that
H and I will be working together during the coming month, so
I was puzzled as to why he would call on the first of June to
tell me of the importance of attending an event that was still
more than a month away. A few days later, a possible rationale
came to me: in Arabic, months are referred to as being "first,"
"second," "third," and so on, as opposed
to being named January, February, March. He must have confused
"July" with "sixth month" and realized that
the fourth of the month was coming up soon, so I needed that
prompting from him.
letter for our proposal included both Kristen's and my name,
e-mail addresses, and phone numbers. On Thursday afternoon,
I got a call from the embassy, asking for some information to
support the request. The official who called me (I'll call him
"Mr. Smith") was the man who had told me, "You
were not invited" to the gathering I had attended at his
home on the embassy grounds (see the entry of 12/8/2003).
know if Mr. Smith was connecting my name with my face and that
incident when he called. Kristen knew more about it than I do,
and she was with me at the PC bureau, so she was able to handle
the information he needed.
evening, one of the other Embassy officials had a gathering
at her home off the embassy grounds. Kristen and I were the
only two PCVs invited. Mr. Smith and his wife were there, so
I took the opportunity to make nice with him. We had some pleasant
conversations about raising children, teaching, and some of
the countries where he has lived and worked during his career
with the State Department.
We have a new Country Director here now. When our previous CD
was re-assigned to Mali, one of our APCDs assumed the position
as interim CD. This particular APCD had applied to take the
CD job, so he was competing against any other applicants for
it. We just found out that he has been assigned the permanent
especially good news for us, as he is a level-headed, good-humored,
affable, and approachable person. It's the same person who had
all the PCVs over to his house for Thanksgiving and who let
me use his washing machine last week.
decision that makes sense for our program - having somebody
already familiar with life here in general, and the PC/RIM in
particular - now taking over the reins. But, as somebody who
has worked for bureaucracies before, I have witnessed that decisions
that make sense are not always the ones that are made. We could
have been stuck with the appointment of any one of a number
On Saturday evening, I went to see the concert of A Filetta
at the French Cultural Center. They are a six-man a capella
singing group from Corsica. They sang in French, Latin, and
the blend of French and Italian that denotes the language of
the island off the cost of France and Italy.
enjoyable to hear a small group of men's voices again, after
so long. I had looked them up on the Internet before the concert
and found some information about them, including the fact that
they had performed for the sound tracks of several movies. In
person, though, I found that their voices were not very strong
and that they did not sing arrangements of songs that made the
most of their voices.