Two days, two big Parties.

Alright, let me take a second to break it down.

Il iid il Vetr

So, for those that have been reading this, you know it has been Ramadan. Ramadan is a time for Muslims to reflect on the poverty of others in this world, namely those who don’t have food to eat whenever they please. So Muslims observe this full month by fasting during the daylight hours. What this means, is that for the very first month I was at my new home, people were a lot more tired and grumpy than normal. I couldn’t go and sit and have tea with them and talk about how zeyn(great) Mauritania and Aleg are. Sometimes in odd scenarios, because Mauritanian hospitality will prevail, I would get drinks and cookies to eat by myself, which always felt a little bit awkward . Anyway, Ramadan ended 3 days ago, and because Mauritanians worked so hard to get through this whole past month, they have a celebration for the whole day after it ends. Unlike Ramadan, they eat so extravagantly, wear their best newest clothes. Probably one of my favorite parts, was watching every single kid in Aleg in brightly colored, perfectly unwrinkled clothes. Mauritanian children’s clothes resemble the hue of sand most of the time. Wherever you go, you are Bismillahed(welcomed). You are fed lots of Zrigg(milk, water and sugar), tea, Tagene (meat, potatoes, and onions), dates and butter. Simply all the best. For dinner, the Pulaar Family’s 3 young daughters came all the way to our house to demand our attendance, so Sean, Ashley and I made our way over at about 5:30ish. When we got to their compound, it was kind of deserted, and we were stuck in a room with a TV by ourselves. Mauritanians will do this to their guests as a sign of hospitality. However, I was feeling antsy, and wanted to get out and visit other families, since today was the iid. After I convinced the other two to come, we ventured our way to this women’s house who was good friends with the previous volunteers. We sat and chatted with her for a little. Then Ashley suggested we visit Zeinabou, my counterpart. We arrived uninvited (that really could mean less here) and were greeted with Zeinabou’s smile and food.

I have not really talked about Zeinabou at length quite yet, but she is a firecracker. She simultaneously tells me she thinks I’m beautiful and misses me, but also that she wants to kill me in a year. She has 2 houses where she puts her 100 lovers. 50 go into a house for kissing only, and the other 50 go into a house for everything else. I probably have never met anyone else in my life quite like her, and that isn’t just because of the cultural gap. Anyway, she also happens to be an AAmazing cook. We showed up to her house right as the Education Inspector did; we had met a couple of days ago. He is the cousin of her Aunt’s husband. That’s another thing about Zeinabou, everyone who I meet who seems like a good candidate to work with, I can probably just assume is related to her.

So after being at Zeinabou’s for an hour and half, we returned to the Pulaar family. This time we sat outside with the rest of the family, watched soccer on the tv that was dragged outside to face the enclosed patio-ish area. They fed us delicious tagene with delicious bread and sauce. Mmmmm it was good. Then they gave us one of the most unusual drinks that I think I could ever admit to liking. It is bissap (a red drink made from boiling down Hibiscus like flowers) with coughdrops melted in. It tastes like liquid Riccola, and feels soooo good going down. Janna and I actually recreated it last night after we had lost our voices. Why did we lose our voices you might be wondering? Well, let me tell you about day two.

Rabiya’s Urse

Since the 5 of us arrived in Aleg, we have managed to spread out and make friends with people here and there. However, aside from the Pulaar family, and Rabiya, a women who lives with her family under a huge Khayma(Mauritanian tent) kitty corner to Lily and Ashley, no one really comes to the American Houses because #1 we have dogs, and Mauritanians generally do not like dogs, and well, there isn’t really a number two, they just are quite scared of dogs. Rabiya however, has come over numerous times, just to sit, and say hi, and find out how we are doing, and to help us with our Hassaniya . She is a great teacher and friend thus far, and since day two of meeting her, she told us she wanted all of us to go on her honeymoon with her and her husband. I wasn’t there when this statement was made, so I’m not sure how much was lost in the translation, but I can safely say, she very well may have said this.

Anyway, at her wedding yesterday, from the moment we arrived, we were all kept within close proximity of her the whole night. I should probably explain how a Mauritanian wedding works, since I can be fairly sure that none of you know, unless you have been blog stocking. Ok , where to start. Well, they set up a big area for lots of people, family, friends, community members to gather under. First people just sit together and socialize. We were able to meet one of the previous volunteer’s mothers. I felt in a way, this event was one of the first in which we weren’t just newbies in Aleg walking through town. However, it was also a little sad for me because I didn’t have a family, a Mauritanian one to sit with, and identify with, and make me feel like less of an outsider. This really made me miss my CBT site and family A LOT. So, after a little while, a circle was formed and women and men started taking turns dancing in the middle. Mauritanian dancing is not the type of dancing you imagine when you think of African dancing. You can be the best dancer on the dance floor by just flicking yours hands a certain way, and that’s it. It’s really not aerobic or intense at all, which is pretty succinct with the way of life in general here.

So, after sitting around for a bit, we were lead to a room where only women are allowed to see the bride getting here make-up done. No one is allowed to see the bride at all until the next day. This means that at the party she wear a black veil the whole time. Occasionally she’ll pull you under her mulaffa, but that’s it. After being at the bride’s for a while, about 20 cars are gathered for all the guests to be transported to the husband’s house, where the rest of the party will continue on through the night. We were all shoved like sardines into one car. The groom’s house was not far, but we of course had to drive all around through town honking, making this high pitched noise where you move your tongue back and forth really quickly (which is really hard to do), clapping and yelling. It was pretty awesome being in one of the cars, after seeing so many wedding cars drive through M’Balal.

Once we got to the rajel’s(man’s) house, we danced for a couple hours. The Mauritanians loved it, like they always do, and told us we danced great. We ate tagene. We drank some of the best zrigg I’ve had in this country. The walk home across town in the minuit was quite pleasant. We came back the next day to take pictures with her and her friends and to give her gifts. We found out a little too late the only acceptable gift is money.

I’m getting a little bit more and more excited as each day goes by because I’m starting to meet and find a lot of potential work partners and projects. Like today Janna, Ashley and I walked over to one of the Co-Op’s garden with a women named Howa who has a internet cafe here. She said the garden needs a better way to access water since right now their is no robinet near it.  I also started tutoring a girl today who lives nearby.

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3 Responses to “Two days, two big Parties.”

  1. P. Harper Dillon Says:

    Seems like you have ethnographic genes!! Your description of the end of Ramadan celebrations and all that is happening now that the fast has ended were great. I’m sure things will pick up soon. Not too sure if your abuela would be too excited about the wedding garb though. btw Islam does have beautiful teachings. Are there any sufis in Mauritania. Ask about Ibn Al Gazalli, Rumi, Mullah Nasruddin, for conversational purposes. I’ll email details.

    Glad to hear your spirits are rising, Miles sends squawks.

    P

  2. Elizabeth Says:

    Hey,
    I bet you are glad that Ramadan is over and you can start to work. Plus the people all should be feeling better now that they can eat and drink.
    Good Luck on all the work

    Also Have Lots of Fun
    Elizabeth

  3. Dwight Says:

    Rereading some of your blogs. Those Mauritanian’s know how to party! I can’t wait to come visit you.

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