Friday, October 21, 2011


Where to start?

It's been a long time since I last wrote in my blog. I've thought about posting numerous times these past two years, but this morning it just seemed right. Perhaps because I've been journaling a little as way of working things out.

I have been up and down so much since starting, and finishing, grad school. When reverse culture shock set in around January of 2010, I kept on trucking and didn't stop to think about me and what might be wrong. Instead, I ignored it as much as possible and stayed busy. I don't particularly feel like the color orange anymore. Maybe purple, but often gray. I turn 32 next week and feel I have not accomplished anything I really want to do, and they are things I feel guilty about wanting, like marrying someone special and having a family. Seriously, I've always felt weird that my career was not more important to me. It should be, right? But I want a family first and the career is to pay bills :) That being said, I gravitate toward jobs with heavy public interface and where, like in development, you feel you are making a difference to other peoples' lives.

I'm going to put it out there that I have a master's degree, have a good job, pay rent, stay fit, go to church, have friends, and go to counseling. I hit one of many possible bottoms several weeks ago and decided to finally address things. And I'm in it for the long haul. I think of myself as 'high-functioning' in terms of depression--I'm doing better than many. But depression is still serious and I have to face it head-on for as long as it takes. I know this may be something I have to cope with for the rest of my life, but I need to find better ways of handling it.

As I reflect on my twenties in Chicago, I feel that maybe I did as well mentally as I did due to my obsession with running. Especially the last two to three years there, I ran five to six morning a week. My schedule was built around it. It the weather was so bad I couldn't be outside, I did bellydance in my apartment. I walk a lot here, but have been nowhere near as consistent with workouts. I'm happy to say this is the second morning in a row I got up at 6 to run before work. :) I'm going to try to keep it up. I run my first 5k Oct. 30 and know I can do it, but suspect my time will be bad! ;)

I think this is a good beginning, don't you?

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Que Hiciste?

Best song ever! Thanks Jennifer Lopez! If I ever need a mojo boost, I just put that song on and "Bam!" Muy caliente, gracias.

Anyway, lots of changes and a new world opens up for me Monday. I start classes at GW and a full-time internship at the Department of Treasury's Office of Financial Stability. You know all the federal aid circulating out there in response to the financial crisis? Yeah, OFS was created last October to handle that. And I get to work there!!!!!! Many thanks to A.M. and the HACU National Internship Program for the opportunity. I was looking at many jobs, most of them related to fund-raising, some in the arts, but none directly applicable to what I want to be and where I want to go. I love the arts world and always will, but I'm moving in a different direction. I never expected Treasury, but now I'm very excited.

Every step I've been taking since I moved into the DC area a month ago has served to reinforce my choice of path. This semester will be very hard between class and work, but I know I can do it. I visited DC's Newseum today with the other HACU interns and got to be part of the audience for an interview with Michael Fletcher, the Washington Post's White House correspondent. Really fascinating and not nearly as glamorous as West Wing would have you believe! ;) I should mention that last fall, during the final days of the campaign, I and my sitemates watched the West Wing 'campaign' in lieu of actual coverage. It got kind of confusing after awhile. Sometimes I'm still not sure if I voted for Barack Obama or Jimmy Smits!

Saturday, August 08, 2009


Oh the places you've been!

Home again. That's me and my sister visiting our college friend, Kelly, in the good 'ole Shenandoah Valley. I would often sing the song "Shenandoah" in Mauritania, accompanying myself on the guitar. It hurt sometimes to think of 'that rollin' rivah' so far away across the ocean. Now I'm here and I can't believe I was in Africa for two years. It was sometimes long there, but feels incredibly short from this side.

I guess I became a bit like a Mauritanian. Coming into crowds of strangers here is difficult and sometimes I'm overwhelmed. I've eaten ice cream FOUR times in the month I've been back. Only four. I'm amazed. I craved it all the time in M'Bagne, Aioun and Nema. I discovered all my old clothes still fit me (maybe better now!) so I don't have to spend my re-adjustment allowance on buying new things. Great news since I don't have a job yet! I'm living in Bethesda and will be going to school in DC. Bethesda is a wealthy suburb on the Maryland side, so the neighborhoods are beautiful and quiet.

I'm forcing myself to get out there and meet people, network. It's tough, but keeps me going even when I feel down. It's good to be back in a cultural center like DC. As soon as I have money, I'm goin' to the opera! Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Purple Girl Leaves Mauritania!

It's true, look at me. My glasses scream purple. And notice that my hair is braided M'Bagne style. It didn't hurt as much as I though it would. I'm posing with a neighbor of my friend Justin's in his village of Gordiuma. She wanted everyone stateside to see her leather pillows. ;)

So, COS (close of service) is July 8 for me. Much earlier than I thought because our training for new volunteers was postponed until mid-August, when I am starting classes at GW. Coming home early will be nice in so many ways, but I'm sad at the loss of ten weeks working with a really cool group of volunteers and I'll never meet the new volunteers, if they ever come. It's the darned political situation here. Even the locals aren't sure if they have a government. Makes me homesick for good 'ole American bureaucracy. And I'm scared to go home! Seriously! I've been in another world for two years. I'm afraid to be homesick for Africa! (even though I still HATE taxi brousse-if I ever come back, it will be with my own Land Rover)

Anyway, so here, at the end of all things . . . But one thing that occurred to me is that my blogs will get much less interesting ("Yeah, so I went to work, and then class today. Really tired. Ho-hum") Guess I'll just have to work harder. I love challenges.

Miss you, America! See you soon!

Saturday, April 25, 2009


The old homestead

I like comparing this picture to the one from the summer 07 post called "Initi Trio." Several of the same kids are pictured but they're bigger now! Warda is still a free spirit and my fave of my stage host mom, Lueda's, kids. She's in the yellow and white dress. Timbouka wears a veil all the time, now and has stopped going to school. She has taken over the household chores leaving Lueda time to make more veils to sell. This increases the economic level of the family (they have a tv now! and it looks like they're eating better), but I grieve for what Timbouka has lost. It happens often here; a big part of my job is aimed at preventing it, but the process is so slow. That leads me to a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT:

I am accepting at George Washington University in DC. I will, inshallah, start classes August 31st. I want to study international development from the gender and education perspective and GW has such a strong, exciting program. I can't wait! Anyone with ideas or leads for apartments, internships, roommate requests, or part-time jobs, drop me a line!

While some of the changes in Initi are difficult to see, others are great. They have electricity, now and there is new building going on, a good sign of rising economic levels. My tokora (namesake in Pulaar), Zara, was born almost exactly nine months after I left Initi to go to Nema. I saw her as a week-old baby last May. She had seemed sickly, then, but is hale and plump, and loves to eat, now. She's not so sure about the whole walking thing, though! She'll stick with crawling for the time being, thank you very much. I'm so happy she's doing well!

Oh, and I've been on Facebook since January. Look me up. :)

Monday, April 20, 2009


M'Bagne nedjo

That phrase, "M'Bagne nedjo" means I am from M'Bagne in Pulaar. I won't be in M'Bagne much longer, about a month, but I was so lucky to be there even for a short time. It's one of those places where people are, by and large, happy, or content. There are no major health crises, little evidence of malnutrition, and people stay active and employed. It ain't perfect, but it's much better than many of the other sites I've seen. There is sadness, though. A young mother I know recently lost her weeks-old baby. A high infant mortality rate is simply a fact of life, here. Aissata, the mother, is back at her usual chores and work. She grieves, but you can only tell if you look in her eyes.

Honestly, I sometimes fear returning to the US. (this is actually a normal reaction for a PCV) I will miss Mauritania and the entire experience. Looking at brochures for grad school, I was disturbed by the number of 'white' people! How boring! I'm leaning toward American U versus George Washington based solely on the ethnic makeup in their brochure photos. Is that reverse discrimination? (or possibly insanity?)

The neem trees are blooming right now. They bloom twice a year, I think, but there were never any trees in my other sites. Sometimes, when the wind blows, you get a whiff of scent, rather like lilacs or wisteria. It makes me think of my maternal grandmother. The photo is me with my host family in M'Bagne, the Thiams (pronounced chyam). I'm pretty lucky to have them.

Friday, March 27, 2009


River Town

M'Bagne, my site, sits on the Senegal River. I've been in it twice already because the intense heat is starting to roll in. First time swimming in an international border, by the way! M'Bagne is like coming home. Of my three sites, it is the most comfortable and welcoming. My Pulaar still isn't great, but at least I'm picking up a little. I'll miss the opportunities for intensive language acquisition when I am back stateside.

Big news is I have been accepted to George Washington U, Marquette U, and Boston U, thus far. Waiting on Vanderbilt and American U. I am leaning toward GW because they are in DC (close to my parents) and the Elliot School is a fantastic place to study (their program in development most closely matches my grad study goals). Unfortunately, some of my documents were a little late getting in and I missed the merit scholarship window. That means I'm looking at 160k's worth of debt.

I'll be honest. I dislike money and am never so happy as when someone else is 'taking care' of it for me. Sounds strange coming from a development worker, eh? It's true. To me, money is simply a necessary evil. For myself, I just want enough money to not be a burden to others. But all the things I want to do require money! So not fair! ;) Somehow, though, I'm not scared of going into debt for grad school. Should I be? In this financial climate, either we're all screwed in a fews years and my debt won't matter, or the economy will turn around and I will find work to start paying it off. And the big argument, grad school is an investment and there will always be risk involved.

Aie, aie, aie, usually I talk myself OUT of spending money!

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