the Belgian approved of the work that we are doing on English
Book 1. When we met last Monday, he said that we were on the
right track with the revision of Lesson 7 and gave us a list
of suggestions for improving the rest of the book.
counterpart, H, who works as a school inspector, was assigned
to the interior of the country to do an inspection mission to
begin last Tuesday, so he has been out of town. Even though
there are two others on the team, this really leaves the bulk
of the work in Kristen's and my hands.
and I determined to meet at the PC bureau last Wednesday so
that we could spend the day together in front of the computer
and tackle the job ahead of us. We were both there, all right,
but continued to work on our individual projects, totally ignoring
the task at hand. By the end of the day we recognized that we
were as unproductive as we complain that our Mauritanian counterparts
The budget being drastically cut for the Peace Corps indicates
that our current administration thinks there are more important
things to do with its money than to foment peace around the
world. A few months ago, the allotment of trainees for the program
in Mauritania was decreased from 72 to 41. With that decrease,
the person who was going to replace Kristen as Curriculum Development
Specialist (same job title that I have) was re-assigned to be
an English teacher. This meant that when Kristen was scheduled
to leave this summer, the end of her two years, there would
not be any other PCV for me to work with in this capacity.
news - this just in - is that Kristen has made a decision that
will have a tremendous impact on my work for the coming year:
she has resolved to extend her service to a third year. This
means that we will continue to work together as we deal with
our counterparts on the curriculum and textbook projects.
well together and have also noticed that the entire group is
more productive when we are both there. Most of all, it means
that I will not have to carry the entire project myself.
happily told Mamouni that Kristen will be extending her service,
his reply was, "Then you will, too, won't you?" He's
be exhorting me to do a third year ever since we met. I have
tried to explain to him how unlikely it is that I will do that,
but he continues to express his hope.
My French tutor, Ali, has been a teacher here for several years.
I told him about the students at ENS who came to class an hour
and a half late. He told me that the best approach to the situation
would be to explain to students at the beginning of the course
the maximum lateness that I would tolerate, such as fifteen
or twenty minutes.
throughout Mauritania pause at the classroom doorway, knock
lightly, and wait for the teacher to either accept them or refuse
their entry to the room. Ali's suggestion is that after the
acceptable lateness time is up, I simply do not admit any student.
He said that if I permit students into the room, even after
an hour and a half, then they have every reason to expect that
their student numbers will not be included with those of absent
students on the fiche de presence that I hand in.
have been useful information coming from the administration,
but I have never received any sort of guidelines from ENS concerning
this or any other way that classes should be run.
rolled around again, as it has a habit of doing every week,
and I set off for the next session of my American Civilization
class, which had been cancelled last week because of the visiting
professor from Algeria. Once again, however, no students came
to the class.
again to the surveillant général and this time
he was stumped as to where everyone could be. At the PC bureau,
I typed a memo to my APCD, explaining this situation; I knew
that I would not be able to see him because he was out of town
to visit some of the teachers at their sites.
I saw Toumbo at the Nouakchott English Center, where he teaches
English. He is also a teacher trainer at ENS and the head of
its English section. I gave him a copy of the memo that I had
written to my APCD.
asked me, "Didn't they call you last week to tell you there
would be no class?" I assured him that "they"
didn't call me and that "they" asked me why he hadn't
called me. He told me, "I was in my village."
to know how much longer this was going to go on. The end of
the scholastic year is coming. Having never received a calendar
of events, I didn't even know how many more sessions I need
to prepare to teach. Toumbo told me that this Thursday, the
27th, is the last day of classes.
to clarify the situation with him. Since Thursday is the last
class, I should prepare for one more session, then, shouldn't
I? He told me, "No. Don't go. Because it is the last day
of class, the students will not be there. They are tired."
it? I just don't see them any more? He said no, that the first
week in June will be finals week. I should prepare a final exam
that should last two hours. This led to my next and obvious
question, as to when the final exam will be. He told me that
they don't know yet. Somebody will call me to let me know.
with my APCD back in town and checking his e-mail, he contacted
me and we had a brief talk about the situation. He agrees that
there should have been better handling of this situation and
will talk to Toumbo this week to work things out. He feels that
the ENS should be taking better care of their guest (free!)
Starting in 1978 in San Francisco, I became a host in Servas,
an international organization that helps to promote world peace
by helping travelers to get in touch with hosts in the countries
where they are visiting. I have enjoyed hosting hundreds of
such voyagers in my home over the years, and have also benefited
from the welcomes of dozens of hosts in the countries where
my journeys have taken me.
no Servas in Mauritania, and I thought about the possibility
of starting a local group of hosts here. It seems like a formidable
challenge, though, considering the level of (dis)organization
here. Servas is still dependent on printed host directories
so that travelers can get the names of hosts in the countries
where they will visit. This means that it can take a new host
as long as a year before her/his name shows up in a directory,
since they are printed annually.
In the meantime,
I became aware of a group that has online host and traveler
registration. The Hospitality Club maintains a website at www.hospitalityclub.org,
where I signed up a few months ago. Last week, I had my first
visitors, Rafal and Halina from Poland.
Servas International website, visit www.servas.org. For the
United States committee, the website is www.usservas.org.)
A few months ago, when the drop-in visitors were bothering me,
I changed my schedule so that I was not home during the times
when people expected I would be there. This must have resulted
in several people coming to my door, knocking, and finding no
response. The resulting benefit has been that there are some
people who now call me first to see if I am home.
This is a great improvement for me because I find that even
if I have only ten minutes notification, I can stop what I am
doing and switch into host mode. I have also come to realize
that one of the things that bothered me about the pop-in visitors
has to do with my front door itself: it is metal. If I get an
unexpected knock on the metal door, it is frequently startling
to me; that's part of what I didn't like. It can even be a jolt
when I am expecting somebody, but at least I can anticipate
noticed, though, that once people have determined that I am
home, they assume that a visit will be all right. They don't
ask, "Is this an all right time to visit?" or, "Do
you have anyone there with you now?" Mamouni, who speaks
excellent English, will say, "Okay. Then I'm gonna swing
by." Babah's French is more along the lines of, "I
am coming now."
dissuaded anyone from visiting once he has called. I have had
the feeling, though, that some of them were expecting to have
my undivided attention, only to find that there are other people
there, too. Maybe not, though. When I am doing the visiting,
this does not seem to be a problem; I have also visited homes
where there are already several guests, and was warmly welcomed
hosts are serious about their responsibility to take care of
their visitors. Likewise, when they visit me, they expect that
I will serve them whatever it is that they want. There have
been times when I have asked Mamouni what beverage he would
like, and it turns out that he is hungry and would rather have
a meal than a drink. "Do you have any soup?" he asks.
With the new group of trainees coming in about a month, I have
another Peace Corps-related writing project that I am working
on. It is a cultural guide that will be used in conjunction
with the cross-cultural component of Pre-Service Training.
Country Director was very enthusiastic about my doing this manual.
Unfortunately, though, there is not a lot of money in the budget
for hiring a Mauritanian authority to help, or to do a fancy
I just found out that invitations have been re-opened for possible
new trainees, and that our current number of those expected