25 June 2008

Wild Dogs DO Cry Out in the Night

Bonjour! C'est Mike. Yeah, my French is still horrible. But I did carry on a few cool conversations with some Host Country Nationals and I even bought some items from a local boutique in Rosso. Although it was kind of confusing for all involved. But at least I'm trying a local tongue. Katie and I will receive our placement tomorrow for the next 2-3 months of training; and as Katie said, we will be very busy (8 hrs. a day) learning a new language. I'm hoping for Hassaniya (African dialect of Arabic) because it is widely used. So I wanted to blog while I can and just say things are great. The food is incredible, it is hot, but we take lots of breaks. Brendan, curiously enough, wild dogs literally cry out in the night. They kept us awake once for an hour - we sleep outside. Hope everyone is doing well at home and keep the comments coming. I'm gonna let Katie check her email now.


23 June 2008

Hey, we're in Africa!!

Hi everyone! We made it to Africa safely without any problems, although it did require a good deal of patience. Our training group is large (77 to be exact) and anytime you're trying to move a group of people that large across country borders, you can expect there will be a lot of delays.

We are a few days into our Pre-Service Training and things are already getting much more intense. We spend the first 6 days at the Peace Corps training center in Rosso and after that we will be sent out into the community to live and study with our host families. We are adjusting to lots of new things; the heat, squat toilets, eating without utensils, sleeping outside, anti-malaria medication, and attempting to speak in another language.

I am very excited to report that there is a good chance I will be able to focus my Health Education work on maternal/child health and/or labor and delivery. One of our training coordinators said there is a big need for education of lay midwives in many of the villages, specifically regarding the recognition of high risk situations that may require transport to a regional health center. This would be an ideal environment for me!

Here are some things I like about Africa so far:
1. Cold sand in between my toes when I walk around at night.
2. Laying around underneath tents during the afternoon heat.
3. The super clean feeling after showering that you don't really appreciate until you are REALLY dirty, sandy and sweaty.
4. Wearing head scarves and getting them wet to keep my head cool.

Since we will be leaving for our homestay family's home soon, and will be incredibly busy with our language and technical training classes and activities, we will probably not have a chance to post again for quite a while. Know that we are happy and meeting lots of new friends. However, we do really miss you and can't wait to get some mail! Please keep sending us letters as that may be the primary way we have to communicate for a while. Mike and I both purchased Mauritanian cell phones, and if you want those numbers you can find them out from our parents.

I'll try posting pictures soon too!

19 June 2008

Last Night in the U.S.

Hey everyone. Mike here. We just finished staging. A lot of meetings, introductions, anti-malarial meds, and a yellow fever shot. They gave us our flight info for tomorrow and we should be landing in Dakar, Senegal at 4:30 am on Saturday morning. From there, we will drive into Rosso, Mauritania and begin our Pre-Service Training (PST). Thanks to everyone once again for coming to the party and for responding with emails on facebook and about the blog. I hope everyone stays updated. Unfortunately, we won't be able to make much contact over the next 10 weeks. We'll try and post on this blog if we can and we should be able to send some letters, but email will be hard. I'm gonna sign off now. I gotta repack, do some laundry here at the Atlanta Sheraton, do some language training and eat a little. Mom, don't worry too much, everything is going as scheduled. Anthony, I hope you found another guitar player, if he needs some advice on offbeats, you know who to blog. Adam, I'm excited for the return party already. Katie and I miss you all and will try and post again soon.



Just a quick post just to let everyone know we made it to Atlanta safely without any problems. Staging is going well so far...it's a bit different than I was expecting. A lot more participatory than I thought, which is good. Tomorrow we have to go get all our shots and start taking the anti-malarial medication.

We've met a lot of great people and I believe we're fitting in pretty well, although we feel a little old at times. There are a lot of volunteers that just graduated from college, but that's to be expected.

Our flight to Dakar, Senegal is through the night on Friday and we'll arrive really early on Saturday morning. Then we'll travel by bus to Mauritania. We're getting very excited! Hope all of you are doing well and keeping busy. We hope to post again soon, but it may be a while as we will be pretty busy and may have limited Internet access after Friday.

16 June 2008

Mike again. Less than 2 days. Everything's wrapping up. Parties are over, cd is recorded (completed lost 80 cd, coming to a stereo near you in late 2054!), preparations are made. Wait...I forgot to pack. I had to say goodbye to my other sister today. The last month or so has brought all the negative aspects of leaving to my attention. I knew it would be tough, but part of me can't wait to be in Mauritania so I can begin our Peace Corps experience and get my mind occupied on something positive and challenging. I want to see what's on the other side of the curtain, you know? Over a year and a half of waiting is finally coming to a head.
We still have a lot to do, so I'm signing off. Happy birthday Annie, happy father's day dad, David, Monte, Steve, Dennis, Ryan, Stud, AB (there's got to be at least one out there!), and anyone else I forgot.


See you in two years!

We had our farewell party this past Friday night at Mike's parents' house in Kansas City. It was really nice to see many friends and family together for the last time before we depart for our staging. Amazingly, the turbulent weather we've been experiencing in Kansas of late took a breather, and we had a beautiful night to enjoy with everyone.

Mike and I have frantically been trying to tie up all our loose ends. Hopefully we've gotten all the addresses changed, the finances in order, and the supplies we will need for our two year journey. I still have a to do list that makes me very nervous, but I'm confident we'll get everything together in time.

On Tuesday (Mike's 28th birthday) we'll be flying from Kansas City to Atlanta to start the "staging" process with all the other Peace Corps volunteers going to Mauritania this year (we think it's about 70 or so). Staging will consist of many hours of review of all the Peace Corps rules/procedures as well as a health clinic day where we will have our final medical check-up and get more shots than we've ever had in our life. It's possible we'll have some Internet access at our hotel in Atlanta, so we'll post from there if we have a chance.

On Friday, June 20th, we depart from Atlanta and fly to Dakar, Senegal overnight. From there we will be loaded onto a bus and will travel just across the border to our home for the next three months, Rosso, Mauritania. At this point we will probably not have much time or access to the Internet, so you may have to wait for an update for a while. We'd really appreciate hearing from you by mail though...so keep the letters coming!

Thank you very much to everyone who has been helping and supporting us through this transitory period, especially to our families for all their support. We'll be thinking of you all the time!

P.S. Happy Birthday Annie!

07 June 2008

Send us mail!

Okay, so I was wrong when I said I wouldn't be posting again, because here it is one day later and I have something else to write. I just wanted to let you all know that you can start sending us letters NOW!!! Peace Corps has told us that mail service from the U.S. to Mauritania can take up to 3-4 weeks, and seeing that we will be there in less than two, I want to encourage you to start writing ASAP. We've heard the first few weeks can be a difficult adjustment, so any encouraging letters from home would be greatly appreciated!

Our address will always remain on the right hand margin of this blog but here it is again:

Katie & Mike Yunghans, PCTs
Corps de la Paix
B.P. 222
Nouakchott, Mauritania
West Africa
Par Avion (Air Mail)

Here are some other helpful hints about sending mail:
1. Address the envelope in red ink.
2. Draw religious symbols (any religion is okay) on the outside of the envelope.
3. Don't include anything valuable inside like checks or cash.
4. Number your letters so we know if they arrive out of order or if one is missing.
5. If sending a postcard, put it in an envelope, as they tend to get lost or stolen.

A number of you have mentioned wanting to send care packages, but for now just focus on letters. They will arrive much faster and give us a good boost in morale, which is what we'll be needing most. Hopefully if we pack well enough, we should have all the supplies we need for a while, and care packages will be much more useful down the road a bit.

I'm not sure how much postage is required on a letter to Mauritania, but make sure to send by AIR MAIL because I've heard that ground mail takes months to arrive instead of weeks. We look forward to hearing from all of you!

06 June 2008

12 more days!

Hey everyone!

Sorry we haven't posted anything in a while. It's been a little busy around here. Last Friday Mike and I successfully moved out of our Lawrence aparment and moved all our stuff to Bob & Karen's (Mike's parents) house in Kansas City. Big THANK YOUs go to all who helped us get our stuff together and moved because it was a very big job.

Mike and I are now living in Piper (AKA KCK) with his parents. We joke that it is kind of preparing us for Mauritania in a way since they have no cable tv and only dial-up Internet access. However, it has been really great to spend time with our families before our departure on June 17th.

Over the past week we've been taking care of some important pre-departure activities...shopping, changing addresses, organizing all the stuff from our apartment in the Yunghans basement, and seeing Sex & the City and Indiana Jones!!! Next Friday we're having our going away party and it looks like many friends and family are planning to attend.

The next week and a half will probably be pretty busy for us, and with the limited Internet, I'm not sure if we'll have a chance to post again before we leave. So possibly the next time you hear from us we'll be on the road, either in Atlanta or Africa!!

Hope everyone is having a great summer!