But truth be told, things haven't been that weird. In fact, it's disturbing to me how difficult it actually is to remember that that other whole WORLD really exists -- still, and always. I'm wandering the grocery store, and Fati is walking to the produce market. I'm eating on-demand pizzas and Chinese food and ice cream, and Aicha is preparing rice with fish, again. I'm surfing YouTube on my MacBook, and Abdoul is dancing while his sister keeps the beat by banging on a plastic cup.
How is that possible?
Two weeks after getting home, I ended up in Atlantic City for the first time in my life. It was OVERWHELMING. I didn't want to be a drag on any of my friends, but I absolutely could not enjoy myself. I stood on a balcony and looked out at the crashing ocean waves and tried to comprehend that those same waters touch the shores of Mauritania. I looked up at the full moon, and all it meant to me was that Ramadan was half over. I stumbled in a daze through the casinos because I couldn't make my eyes focus on anything. Ka-ching. Ka-ching. I saw a happy African-American family hustling back to their hotel room, and I actually thought, Do you know what your life could have been? Is it even appropriate to have thoughts like that?
But America's great. Of course it is. Do I love electricity, hot showers, air conditioning, endless endless endless food, online shopping, driving, jeans, my piano, my cat? Sure. Those things are awesome. But I guess now I just know that that's not all there is, and that it's pretty possible to live without them -- though admittedly very, very different.
I had been planning a three-week trip to America to participate in two weddings and reenergize a bit before the new school year in Mauritania. Because of the circumstances in which we left Africa, it turned out that I got to be here for a total of seven weeks. All things considered, I am glad that it ended up that way -- because somehow even with twice as much time I feel like I've had barely any free time. America is BUSY! I don't even know where the time goes! But I saw countless familiar faces and ate countless amazing meals (and oh, desserts!) and went to a Red Sox game and reunited with some Mauritania friends in Ohio and drove from Texas to New Jersey and -- and so I guess that's where the time goes. It's been a blast.
That being said, I'm ready to go now. Running all over the country to play with friends and be part of beautiful weddings and spend money I don't have is probably not real life, and certainly not sustainable. So I'm looking forward to returning to Africa, in a big way. I'm glad that I had this buffer period to process my emotions and mentally say goodbye to Mauritania, and now it's time for the next chapter.
I am super psyched about Rwanda. I've been doing my homework, and the verdict is that there is a lot of exciting stuff going on there right now. Every other day I find another article online lauding all the progress Rwanda has made in recent years. Stuff is happening, and they want English teachers to be a part of it. That's pretty cool. I fly out this Wednesday.
So, with this entry I will end my blog on Peace Corps Mauritania. Thanks to all you faithful readers, and I invite you to continue following me in my future home. I have set up a new blog site with a new look. Farewell to austere desert; on to green and gorillas. Find me here:
(My improvements include an option to sign up to receive
an email each time I update with a new entry, if you're interested.)
Perhaps the saddest part of leaving Mauritania was that I have so few pictures of my family and friends and life in Dar El Barka. In fact, I have more from my six weeks living at the training site in PK7. I had planned to take a bunch of photos right before I went back to America. You never know. So my beloved Jobalel -- the family patriarch who was known as "Baaba," but whom in my mind I always called "Old Man Winter" -- will be remembered solely in my mind, and journal entries. But I guess it's fine because he will always be something different to me than anything you could get from looking at a photo.
Here is a smorgasbord of memories. Goodbye, Mauritania. (I'd write that in Pulaar, but of course there is no word for goodbye.)
(View album here)