Here we are at the BRAND NEW Peace Corps training center in Rosso, Mauritania. We are so spoiled that we actually have WIRELESS INTERNET! Can you believe it?! I will only be here until Friday, but still... pretty amazing.
So much to tell! Our few days in Atlanta were jam-packed but very useful. There are 77 of us in my training group, and everyone is genuinely really cool and friendly. My roommate Jackie & I scored free drinks from our waiter when we told him we were moving to Africa the next day:
The flight to Dakar, Senegal, was 9 hours. It went very smoothly, and I was beyond delighted to play the in-flight trivia game live against my fellow passengers! Also, one of the clues in the Delta crossword was a five-letter word for "Peace ____."
We arrived at 4:40am local time. Clearing customs, gathering baggage, and loading (REALLY loading!) our poor buses took two full hours, and then we were on the road. Five hours to get to the border, and then another two hours to be able to cross. Fortunately, our bus was sitting by a busy marketplace, which was quite entertaining to watch:
Finally, we rolled our bus onto the ferry, and over the river to Mauritania we WENT!
The PC training center is just over the border. The entire staff was lined up to meet us, and my eyes welled up with tears as I looked out the window & saw how happy they all were to meet us. We then, one by one, shook hands with every single staff member (probably 50 of them!). Greetings were thrown out at us in many languages, and I tossed back some Asalaam aleykums to the delight of some of the locals. =) I was one of the first through the welcome line and promptly strode into our meeting room -- only to be called after by a staff member in halted English: "Shoes! Please!" Yes, of course. On the ground in Africa for about one minute flat and already had committed a faux pas. You never wear shoes inside on the mats.
Since yesterday, we've gotten crash courses in cultural training. Highlights include how to eat with your hands -- a fun game! You roll up a little ball of the rice/couscous with a piece of vegetable or meat, and pop the whole thing in your mouth. Right hand only, please! Left hands are dirty -- they're your toilet paper. ;) This morning we practiced basic greetings in French, Hassaniya (Arabic), Pulaar, Soninké, and Wolof. LOVING it!
Slept outside last night in my mosquito net tent. It's awesome. Our neighbors' radio serenaded us 'til the wee morning hours with American pop music (I can rest in peace knowing that Rihanna & her umbrella have made it even here). And then the morning prayer calls began at 5:30am. Strangely beautiful. They are more "call"-like than I had realized, with men on bullhorns chanting and intoning, "Bismillaaaaaah," welcoming the new day in the name of God.
We will be at the center until Friday, when we go to our host families around Rosso. I will live with them until the end of August, when training ends. We are officially sworn in as volunteers, and then we all disperse to our permanent sites for the next two months.
Rest assured that I am safe, healthy, and very, very happy!