19 October 2008

Product of the Month (PROM): Millac

That's right! You've guessed it! This is the first of what will hopefully be many insightful glances, snapshots if you will, into the world of commerce in Mauritania. I thought this would be a quantifiable method of explaining some of the similarities and differences between our two little worlds. Also notice my acronym. I'm stealing this word back from the awkward grope-fests that somehow seemed so important to us 10 years ago. Don't fall for it teenagers of today! Save your tux rental money and invest it. Our economy is still strong, right?

The inaugural product: MILLAC. 1 Litre = 500 UM (NDB prices). If you say it fast enough, it almost sounds like its English equivalent, milk. I apologize in advance to the dairy farmers in the states, but I LOVE MILLAC. Pros: it lasts longer (especially unopened, boutique owners don't even refrigerate it), tastes better, and I can't read the nutrition facts (ignorance is bliss). Also, it tastes amazing mixed with coca-cola.* Just like an ice cream float **- Eli knows what I'm talking about. Cons: where's the gallon size box? That's right, it comes in a box.

Other notable information:

-a product of Spain, produced in the Canary Islands I believe, that is imported here

-creepy graphics; sort of a Children of the Corn meets the master race

-and finally, it contains vitamin D3. I always felt kind of weak, depleted in the states. Now I know, it was my vitamin D3 deficiency.
I have to mention this since it reminds me so much of a great Simpsons episode. In the school cafeteria, Bart, after cracking his knuckles, remarks, "Ow! But why should my bones hurt? I drink plenty of [turning to look at his carton of milk] MALK?" [the carton reads: now with vitamin K!] Apparently, the school was skimping on food to save money in their budget. Hilarious!

*Katie thinks this is disgusting, but we all know how crazy she can be

**Annie, I'm going to send you a bunch of Millac so we can begin work on our next product: The RIM Shake! Between that and conebutts (reg. trdmrk.) we'll have the dessert market tied up.

Well, I hope this was interesting. I'll try and get one of these up a month. Comment if you like it so I know how much effort to put into future PROMs. That is all. Mike out.

13 October 2008

I am not a hippie.

Oh, what would the guys from home say if they could see me now. Here I am, a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa, and I had my first African drum lesson yesterday. I'm learning to play the djembe. That's right. Dave, Anthony, Ben, PJ, Adam, Andy and anyone else can commence with the jokes. But I am not a hippie.

That's just one of the classes that will soon be filling my schedule. Today was supposed to be the second day of school (the start date was pushed back to Oct. 12). However, there have been problems here getting a new lycee (high school) up-and-running so really I just show up for school and then go home 30 minutes later. I am told I will know more by Thursday this week. What you have to understand, is this is typical. But very soon, I will be teaching between 3-5 English classes at the local high school...inshalla (perhaps).

I will also be teaching adult English classes, a music class if I'm lucky and I'm enrolled as a student for French lessons. All of this added on to my current Hassaniya class. Things should get really busy within the month. So that is the latest news. Katie mentioned my idea for a RIM 'product of the month' blog...soon. So instead, I thought I would relate an interesting story about language this time. Hope you like it:

In Mauritania, if you make a joke or if someone really agrees with what you're saying they'll get real happy and slap hands with you. Its a cool feeling. The other day, in a "grocery store", I rambled off all of my hassaniya greetings. You kind of have to be careful of that because they'll assume you know a lot of hassaniya. He asked me some questions that I actually could answer such as I am a teacher, I work for peace corps, I am married. Then he told us the total of our purchases in hassaniya. Just take my word for it that the number system here is pretty confusing. He told us, smiled when I thought in my head, and he even covered up the register so we couldn't see like a game show. It was just a cool exchange. Then I guessed the number right and he said "you know hassaniya well!" I really don't but I explained that I learn a little more each day and I had also memorized this hassaniya adage i learned during training that goes "gittra gittra isiil ilwaad" which means "little by little, the river flows". He didn't understand at first because of my pronunciation and he didn't expect me to say anything coherent in hassaniya, but when he got it he yelled out loud, pounded the wall, and then did the hand slap thing with me. It was awesome.

That's all for now. Hope all is well.


Saturday night

How did you spend your last Saturday evening?
Here's what we did:

Yep, I gave Mike a haircut…and I have to say I'm getting pretty darn good at it. Now he's all ready for his first day of school!

05 October 2008


So here’s a question that many Americans don’t ever pause to consider…what would you do if there were no trash cans in your house? Okay, now what if there wasn’t a trash truck that came to your house every week or a functioning sanitary landfill? Well, those questions are a daily dilemma for many Mauritanians, Peace Corps volunteers included.

Some of the first things you notice when you arrive in a third world country are the smells, the animals wandering around, and the trash everywhere. Then, when you first find that you need to get rid of a food wrapper, a used water bottle, or some other disposable item, you realize that there are no trash cans to be found anywhere. A fully functioning trash disposal system is something we Americans completely take for granted, but in Mauritania, it is something we contemplate daily.

Trash and sewage are huge problems in many third world areas that haven’t developed comprehensive systems to deal with their removal. As city populations increase, so do problems with waste. Small outbreaks of disease have the potential to become huge epidemics when there is no safe system to remove infectious material.

Rosso, the city in southern Mauritania where Mike and I lived during our pre-service training, has one of the worst problems with trash and sewage in the country. However, according to many previous volunteers, Rosso is much better now than it used to be, due in part to a motivated mayor and funding he has directed toward the problem.

Now that we are living in Nouadhibou and are no lon ger living with a host family, we are able to buy trash cans to keep around our apartment. It is somewhat of a relief to me that I no longer have to carry around my trash in my pocket until I find an acceptable place to discard it. However, even in Nouadhibou, it is frequently a futile effort. After we put our trash in bags and dutifully place it at the appropriate collection point, it is left to the mercy of the wandering animals (usually goats and/or children). They tear open the bags and eat whatever they can salvage before anyone comes by to collect it. So it is no surprise when I arrive back home later in the day and see a piece of trash from our house blowing by my feet.