On Thursday we had our swear-in ceremony. It was beautiful and incredibly moving! I got all choked up. The U.S. Ambassador to Mauritania was our guest of honor, and he led the 76 of us in repeating the oath of office:
I, Julie Ann Clark, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, domestic and foreign, that I take this obligation freely and without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge my duties in the Peace Corps by working with the people of Mauritania as partners in friendship and in peace, so help me God.
We had a delicious lunch to celebrate (chicken! a rarity here), and then we got to have a special Q&A session with the ambassador. His name is Mark Boulware, and I was super excited to meet him.
I was really impressed. He was quite personable and friendly one-on-one, but composed and intelligent as he answered our questions on the fly. We asked mainly about the recent coup and the U.S./international reaction. He stressed how, although Mauritania has had many coups in its short history, this is the first time the military overthrew a genuinely democratically elected president. Ambassador Boulware has spoken personally with General Abdelaziz, urging him to use discretion in the days ahead.
After the Q&A, a bunch of the new PCVs started preparing our spectacular feast for dinner (cooking for 100+ people takes some time!), but I had other plans. As a metaphor for this new beginning, I shaved my head. No, I haven't lost my mind! It's something I have wanted to do for a long time, and there is no better time. My head is covered here whenever I go out anyway, so it's kind of a fun little secret I'm hiding. ;) My friend Megan jumped ship with me (although she opted to keep a little mohawk), and Brandon did the shearing honors.
Now I am in Boghé, my departmental capital, with all my new region-mates. We're taking care of some protocol (meeting with local officials) and picking up household wares. On Tuesday I will move to Dar el Barka, my NEW HOME! All the PCVs assure us that "the hardest part is over"... fortunately, I have a good month to get settled because school doesn't start until October. However, I will be arriving just as Ramadan begins, when everyone fasts (from food AND water!) until sundown each evening. I am not required to fast with them, but it means I will have to fend for myself as far as meals are concerned. There are not exactly any restaurants in the village. Should be interesting. Send treats! =)