Difference between pages "Training in Samoa" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mauritania"

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{{training by country}}
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{{Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country}}
Pre-service training will provide you with the essential skills needed to successfully complete your Peace Corps service.  The skills focus around integrating into your community and developing and implementing an appropriate work plan with your community and counterparts. Training includes six major components: technical training (covering life and work) and the role of the Volunteer in development, language training, cross-cultural training, health training, safety and security training, and diversity training.
+
  
A community-based training model is the backbone of pre-service training for all new Volunteers in Samoa. This means that living and learning successfully in a local host community is an integral part of our training program. This is a more difficult training model in some respects, as the learning environment is real. During community-based training, most of your time will be spent in villages and communities similar to where you will be placed as a Volunteer. Your instructors will set up the learning environment with experiences and meetings designed to allow you to develop the knowledge and skills needed for your work as a Volunteer. Throughout your training, you will live with a Samoan family and work in villages and schools.  Married couples will be housed together during training.
 
  
==Technical Training ==
+
===Communications ===
  
This training prepares you to work in Samoa by building on the skills you already have and by helping you to develop new skills in a manner appropriate to the needs of the country. The Peace Corps staff, Samoan experts, and current Volunteers conduct the training program. Training places great emphasis on learning how to transfer the skills you have to the community in which you will serve as a Volunteer.
+
===Mail ===
  
Technical training will include sessions on general environmental, economic, and political situations in Samoa and strategies for working within such a framework. There will also be discussions on your role in the development processYou will review your technical sector’s goals and will meet with the Samoan agencies and organizations that requested Peace Corps’ assistance.  
+
Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service we consider normal in the United States. If you come here expecting U.S. standards, you will be in for a lot of frustration. Mail takes a minimum of two weeks to arrive in MauritaniaSome mail may simply not arrive, and some letters may arrive pre-opened or with clipped edges because someone has tried to see if any money was inside (this is rare, but it does happen). Although we do not want to sound too discouraging, communication can become a very sensitive issue when one is thousands of miles from family and friends. We think it is best to forewarn you about the reality of mail service in this part of the world. Advise your family and friends to number their letters and to write “West Africa,” “Airmail,” and “Par Avion” on the envelopes.  
  
You will be supported and evaluated by the training staff throughout the training to build the confidence and skills you will need to undertake your project activities and be a productive member of your community.  
+
Despite the potential delays, we strongly encourage you to write to your family regularly (perhaps weekly or biweekly) and to number your letters. Family members typically become worried when they do not hear from you, so advise them that mail is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly.  
  
==Language Training ==
+
Sending letters and packages by airmail is always quicker and more reliable than surface mail (usually sent by boat), which has been known to show up years later!
  
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will find that language skills are the key to personal and professional satisfaction during your service. These skills are critical to your job performance, will help you integrate into your host community, and will ease your personal adaptation to the new surroundings. Therefore, language training is at the heart of the training program, and you must successfully meet minimum language requirements to complete training and become a Volunteer. Experienced Samoan language instructors teach formal language classes five days a week in small classes of four to five people. The Samoan language is also introduced in the other components of training as well.  
+
People visiting in the U.S. can carry mail back and put them in a mailbox when they arrive. This is usually quicker and more secure than relying on MauriPost. If you want to send mail this way, bring plenty of U.S. postage stamps with you so that letters are ready to mail upon arrival in the U.S.  
  
Your language training will incorporate a community-based approach. You will have classroom time and will be given assignments to work on outside of the classroom and with your host family to learn the language. Our goal is to get you to a point of basic social communication skills so that you can practice and develop language skills more thoroughly once you are at your site. Prior to swearing-in as a Volunteer, you will work on strategies to continue language studies during your two years of service.
+
Your address during training will be:
  
 +
“Your Name,” PCT
  
==Cross-Cultural Training ==
+
Corps de la Paix
  
As part of your pre-service training, you will live with a Samoan host family. This experience is designed to ease your transition into life at your site. Families have gone through an orientation conducted by Peace Corps staff to explain the purpose of the pre-service training program and to assist them in helping you adapt to living in Samoa. Many Volunteers form strong and lasting friendships with their host families.  
+
B.P. 222
  
Cross-cultural and community development will be covered to help improve your skills of perception, communication, and facilitation. Topics such as community entry, assets mapping, and mobilization; conflict resolution; gender and development; and traditional and political structures are also addressed.
+
Nouakchott, Mauritania
  
==Health Training ==
+
West Africa
  
During pre-service training, you will be given basic medical training and information. You are expected to practice preventive healthcare and to take responsibility for your own health by adhering to all medical policies. As a trainee, you are required to attend all medical sessions. The topics include preventive health measures and minor and major medical issues that Volunteers may encounter while in Samoa. Sexual health, nutrition, mental health, first aid, and safety and security issues are also covered. You will also be given any necessary immunizations to help prevent prevalent infectious diseases in Samoa. Bring any immunization records that you may have with you.
 
  
==Safety Training ==
 
  
During the safety training sessions, you will learn how to adopt a lifestyle that reduces risk in your home, at work, and during your travels. You will also learn appropriate, effective strategies for coping with unwanted attention or harassment and about your individual responsibility for promoting safety throughout your service.  
+
Although you will not be in Nouakchott during training, your mail will be brought to you at the training site. Once you have become a Volunteer and are at your site, you may have your mail sent directly to your address there.  
  
==Diversity Training ==
+
===Telephones ===
  
Diversity training during pre-service training focuses on understanding diverse groups within American society and how that diversity impacts your success and satisfaction as a Volunteer in Samoa. It aims to increase understanding among diverse groups within the United States and to help you to find respectful and effective relationships with each other, with Peace Corps staff, and with host country nationals.  
+
While local telephone service is becoming more widely available inside Mauritania, it is still a bit unreliable. Generally, long-distance service to Europe and North America is good but expensive. You, your family, and friends should be prepared to rely mostly on letters and e-mail for communication.  
  
==Additional Trainings During Volunteer Service ==
+
More and more professional Mauritanians are using cellular phones, especially in the capital and larger towns, and they all subscribe to one of the two cellular companies in the country.  It is highly unlikely that a cellular plan bought in the United States will cover Mauritania and the surrounding region, with or without roaming charges. Therefore, we strongly discourage you from bringing your phone along. You may want to purchase a cellphone once you are in-country. One advantage you have here is that it costs you nothing to receive a call on your cellphone (local or international).
  
In its commitment to institutionalize quality training, the Peace Corps has implemented a training system that provides trainees and Volunteers with continual opportunities to examine their commitment to Peace Corps service while increasing their technical and cross-cultural skills. During your service, there are usually three training events. The titles and objectives for those trainings are as follows:
+
===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ===
  
* In-service training: Provides an opportunity for Volunteers to upgrade their technical, language, and project development skills while sharing their experiences and reaffirming their commitment after having served for three to six months.
+
E-mail is available in Nouakchott and in all regional capitals.  Because you will probably have limited access (Volunteers average a visit to the capital once every month), one option is to arrange for Volunteer friends posted in sites with Internet access to print out and send you your e-mail. Most Volunteers set up a Yahoo, gMail, or Hotmail account before leaving home, giving the e-mail address to friends and family. There is access to the Internet in Mauritania through commercial outlets in Nouakchott and most regional capitals. Some governmental organizations in the regional capitals may also have Internet access and usually are willing to let Volunteers check their e-mail. DSL Internet service is currently available in two of Peace Corps/Mauritania’s 10 regional satellite offices.  It is expected that high-speed Internet service will continue to expand to the regional capitals.  
* Mid-service conference: Assists Volunteers in reviewing their first year, reassessing their personal and project objectives, and planning for their second year of service.  
+
* Close-of-service conference: Prepares Volunteers for the future after Peace Corps service and reviews their respective projects and personal experiences.  
+
  
The number, length, and design of these trainings are adapted to country-specific needs and conditions. The key to the training system is that training events are integrated and interrelated, from the pre-departure orientation through the end of your service, and are planned, implemented, and evaluated cooperatively by the Peace Corps staff, Volunteers, and host country agencies.
+
===Housing and Site Location ===
  
   
+
Peace Corps/Mauritania will provide Volunteers with funds to secure safe and adequate housing in accordance with the Peace Corps’ site selection criteria (see the chapter on Health Care and Safety for further information). Housing may range from a one-room hut with no electricity or running water to a larger house with several rooms, running water, and electricity. The Peace Corps will pay for any necessary security and hygiene improvements, including a water filter.
[[Category:Samoa]]
+
 
[[Category:Training|Samoa]]
+
Peace Corps/Mauritania asks host communities and agency sponsors to provide Volunteers with housing that includes a private bedroom and bath/latrine facilities. You may share a compound or a house with a host family, but the Peace Corps will ensure that you have at least one room to yourself.
 +
 
 +
Unless you are posted to a regional capital, you will most likely not have running water or electricity. This means that you may collect your water from a well or a borehole and spend your evenings reading by candle, lantern, or flashlight. You will need to be very flexible in your housing expectations as there are no guarantees of available (or continuous) electricity or water.
 +
 
 +
===Living Allowance and Money Management ===
 +
 
 +
As a Volunteer in Mauritania, you will receive four types of allowances.
 +
 
 +
The Peace Corps gives you an allowance to cover your basic living expenses. This living allowance is reviewed at least once a year through a survey of Volunteer expenses to ensure that it is adequate. Paid in local currency every quarter, it ranges from the equivalent of $140 to $396 a month. The allowance is intended to cover your food, rent, utilities, household supplies, clothing, recreation and entertainment, transportation, reading materials, and other incidentals. You might find that you receive more remuneration than your host-country counterpart or supervisor does.
 +
 
 +
A vacation allowance of $24 per month is paid in ouguiya.  It is automatically included in the quarterly deposit to your bank account.
 +
 
 +
You will also receive a one-time settling-in allowance of roughly $290, paid in local currency at the end of pre-service training, to buy basic household items for your eventual site.
 +
 
 +
If the Peace Corps requires you to travel, you will be given additional money for transportation and meals. This amount is established by the post based on the current cost of transportation and lodging.
 +
 
 +
Most Volunteers find they can live comfortably in Mauritania with these four allowances, although many Volunteers bring money (cash or traveler’s checks) for out-of-country travel.  All Volunteers are strongly discouraged from supplementing their income with money brought from home. The living allowance is adequate, and Volunteers are expected to live at the economic level of their neighbors and colleagues.
 +
 
 +
Credit cards can be used at only a couple of establishments in the capital, but are very handy during vacations and for travel outside of Mauritania (as are ATM cards). Volunteers have found that bringing new $100 bills brings the best exchange rate when changing money. For safekeeping, Volunteers can store money, personal passports, and other valuables in the Peace Corps safe in Nouakchott. However, the Peace Corps’ liability for stored items is limited, so consider your decision to bring valuables carefully.
 +
 
 +
===Food and Diet ===
 +
 
 +
Volunteers often struggle when adjusting to the Mauritanian diet. The typical Mauritanian family eats either rice and meat or rice and fish for lunch (depending on proximity to the river or ocean) and couscous and meat, pasta and meat, or couscous with bean sauce for dinner. The abundance of vegetables in the Mauritanian diet varies according to the season and each family’s cooking habits. Given that meals in Mauritania tend to be very starchy and oily (meats are almost always cooked in oil), many female Volunteers experience weight gain during their two years of service. Conversely, male Volunteers often find keeping weight on to be a challenge.
 +
 
 +
Vegetarian Volunteers sometimes have difficulty maintaining a meat-free diet in Mauritania. Very few local dishes are served without meat, and it is often difficult to find alternative sources of protein. However, meeting dietary challenges is almost always possible if Volunteers are willing to be resourceful and flexible. Cooking for yourself is always an option but will cause you to miss out on the Mauritanian family experience. In the case of being invited to share a meal with a Mauritanian family, you will find that your host can be very accommodating if you explain any restrictions when you are invited to their home.
 +
 
 +
===Transportation ===
 +
 
 +
Getting around Mauritania can be challenging. Taxis (taxis brousses) are the main modes of travel among towns and often entail squeezing into a Peugeot 504 with eight or nine other people or sitting on top of luggage in the back of a pickup truck with 20 other people. Driving anywhere long distance is likely to entail rumbling along sandy roads through the desert. If you are required to travel for work or medical reasons, the Peace Corps will reimburse your travel costs. Some Volunteers use their settling-in allowance to purchase bicycles. Peace Corps/Mauritania provides helmets to Volunteers and they are required to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle. For your safety, Peace Corps/Mauritania prohibits Volunteers from driving or riding on any two- or three-wheeled motorized vehicle (such as a motorcycle) for any reason. In addition, Volunteers are not allowed to own or drive private cars in Mauritania. Violation of any of these policies may result in termination of your Volunteer service.
 +
 
 +
===Geography and Climate ===
 +
 
 +
Mauritania is situated on the Atlantic Ocean in northwest Africa. It is bounded on the northeast by Algeria, on the east by Mali, and on the south by Senegal. Mauritania also shares a long border with the former Spanish Sahara, control of which is contested by Morocco and an insurgent movement, the Polisario, supported principally by Algeria. The northern five-sixths of Mauritania is desert—for the most part uninhabited (the region known as El Majabaat Koubra). The majority of Mauritania’s interior population lives in the narrow strip of Sahel and savanna that sits between the Senegal River and the Sahara Desert. This area of the country generally gets more rain and is a bit cooler, if more humid. A narrow strip of savanna near the Senegal River that is used for the majority of Mauritania’s agricultural initiatives quickly gives way to the more sparsely vegetated Sahel. Farther north is the Sahara Desert, which stretches to Mauritania’s northern and eastern borders.
 +
 
 +
Mauritania has three main seasons: the hot season from April to July, the rainy season from August to November, and the cold season from December to March. Keep in mind that hot, cold, and rainy are relative terms and that seasons probably do not vary as much as the ones you are used to in the United States.
 +
 
 +
===Social Activities ===
 +
 
 +
Social activities will vary depending on where you are located and may include taking part in local ceremonies like weddings or baptisms, storytelling, and parties and dances. Some Volunteers visit nearby Volunteers during the weekends or make an occasional trip to the capital, although it is expected that Volunteers will remain at their sites to accomplish the second Peace Corps goal of cultural exchange.
 +
 
 +
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ===
 +
 
 +
One of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer is fitting into the local culture while maintaining your own cultural identity and presenting yourself as a professional at the same time. It is not an easy thing to resolve, and we can only provide you with guidelines. You will be assigned to a Mauritanian government ministry, and you are expected to dress and behave as your colleagues do.  While some of your counterparts may dress in seemingly worn or shabby clothes, this is because of economics rather than choice. The likelihood is that they are wearing their “best.” A foreigner wearing shabby, unmended clothing is likely to be considered an affront.
 +
 
 +
Peace Corps/Mauritania has instituted the following dress code, required for the Nouakchott office, the Kaédi training center, and other official functions. Peace Corps/Mauritania requires for office-type work assignments that men wear collared shirts and pants. Pants on women are appropriate, but they should be worn with shirts that hang to mid-thigh.  Ankle-length skirts (not simple wraps), long dresses that cover the shoulders, mulafas (full-length veils worn by Moor women), or boubous (robes worn by local men or women) that go to the ankles are also appropriate. As temperatures are usually quite high, buying clothing that is mostly or all cotton is highly recommended. Volunteers can wear any kind of shoes or sandals (with or without socks) except plastic shower flip-flops. As you will be walking a great deal (mostly in sand), sturdy sandals that can easily be removed are highly recommended. Clothes should always be clean, not unduly wrinkled, and free of tears.
 +
 
 +
===Personal Safety ===
 +
 
 +
More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but such an important issue cannot be overemphasized. Statistically, Mauritania is one of the safest countries in the world. That said, as stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Most Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment.  Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although many Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Mauritania. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
 +
 
 +
===Rewards and Frustrations ===
 +
 
 +
The developmental and human accomplishments of the Peace Corps are frequently not tangible or easily measured.  Progress is often frustratingly slow. Through the Peace Corps, thousands of Volunteers have been given the opportunity to have a hand, even if only a small one, in shaping how some of the world’s neediest people live. At the same time, the world has been given a personal view of individual Americans putting their ideals to work.
 +
 
 +
The excitement and adventure of the Volunteer experience are, in some measure, a result of its unpredictability.  There will be unexpected joys as well as unexpected disappointments. You could find plans for a health clinic canceled at the last minute because the Department of Health has been reorganized. Your plan to dig a well might be held up by a quarrel between local groups over who is to do the digging or because the required materials cannot be delivered as scheduled. The official to whom you were supposed to report might be replaced by a successor who knows little about a scheduled project. Such variables can erode the enthusiasm, the patience, and the idealism of a Volunteer.  Your success will often depend upon determination, patience, and the ability to find another way. The Volunteer always has to be able to come up with a Plan B. A big part of the Peace Corps is the challenge to remain flexible, energetic, and hopeful at a time when it would be easy to give in to cynicism or indifference.
 +
 
 +
Ideally, a Volunteer’s lifestyle and work should merge.  Accepting the community and being accepted by it are essential for success. In both their daily lives and jobs, a Volunteer must take care to avoid the inherent appearance of arrogance in the position of an outsider who has come to bring change and “improvements.” Volunteers find that as they live and work, they learn from the people of their host country at least as much as they teach them. In so doing, they can enhance their effort to achieve the third goal of the Peace Corps by bringing their host country experiences home to the United States.
 +
 
 +
[[Category:Mauritania]]

Latest revision as of 12:26, 8 December 2015

Country Resources


Communications[edit]

Mail[edit]

Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service we consider normal in the United States. If you come here expecting U.S. standards, you will be in for a lot of frustration. Mail takes a minimum of two weeks to arrive in Mauritania. Some mail may simply not arrive, and some letters may arrive pre-opened or with clipped edges because someone has tried to see if any money was inside (this is rare, but it does happen). Although we do not want to sound too discouraging, communication can become a very sensitive issue when one is thousands of miles from family and friends. We think it is best to forewarn you about the reality of mail service in this part of the world. Advise your family and friends to number their letters and to write “West Africa,” “Airmail,” and “Par Avion” on the envelopes.

Despite the potential delays, we strongly encourage you to write to your family regularly (perhaps weekly or biweekly) and to number your letters. Family members typically become worried when they do not hear from you, so advise them that mail is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly.

Sending letters and packages by airmail is always quicker and more reliable than surface mail (usually sent by boat), which has been known to show up years later!

People visiting in the U.S. can carry mail back and put them in a mailbox when they arrive. This is usually quicker and more secure than relying on MauriPost. If you want to send mail this way, bring plenty of U.S. postage stamps with you so that letters are ready to mail upon arrival in the U.S.

Your address during training will be:

“Your Name,” PCT

Corps de la Paix

B.P. 222

Nouakchott, Mauritania

West Africa


Although you will not be in Nouakchott during training, your mail will be brought to you at the training site. Once you have become a Volunteer and are at your site, you may have your mail sent directly to your address there.

Telephones[edit]

While local telephone service is becoming more widely available inside Mauritania, it is still a bit unreliable. Generally, long-distance service to Europe and North America is good but expensive. You, your family, and friends should be prepared to rely mostly on letters and e-mail for communication.

More and more professional Mauritanians are using cellular phones, especially in the capital and larger towns, and they all subscribe to one of the two cellular companies in the country. It is highly unlikely that a cellular plan bought in the United States will cover Mauritania and the surrounding region, with or without roaming charges. Therefore, we strongly discourage you from bringing your phone along. You may want to purchase a cellphone once you are in-country. One advantage you have here is that it costs you nothing to receive a call on your cellphone (local or international).

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access[edit]

E-mail is available in Nouakchott and in all regional capitals. Because you will probably have limited access (Volunteers average a visit to the capital once every month), one option is to arrange for Volunteer friends posted in sites with Internet access to print out and send you your e-mail. Most Volunteers set up a Yahoo, gMail, or Hotmail account before leaving home, giving the e-mail address to friends and family. There is access to the Internet in Mauritania through commercial outlets in Nouakchott and most regional capitals. Some governmental organizations in the regional capitals may also have Internet access and usually are willing to let Volunteers check their e-mail. DSL Internet service is currently available in two of Peace Corps/Mauritania’s 10 regional satellite offices. It is expected that high-speed Internet service will continue to expand to the regional capitals.

Housing and Site Location[edit]

Peace Corps/Mauritania will provide Volunteers with funds to secure safe and adequate housing in accordance with the Peace Corps’ site selection criteria (see the chapter on Health Care and Safety for further information). Housing may range from a one-room hut with no electricity or running water to a larger house with several rooms, running water, and electricity. The Peace Corps will pay for any necessary security and hygiene improvements, including a water filter.

Peace Corps/Mauritania asks host communities and agency sponsors to provide Volunteers with housing that includes a private bedroom and bath/latrine facilities. You may share a compound or a house with a host family, but the Peace Corps will ensure that you have at least one room to yourself.

Unless you are posted to a regional capital, you will most likely not have running water or electricity. This means that you may collect your water from a well or a borehole and spend your evenings reading by candle, lantern, or flashlight. You will need to be very flexible in your housing expectations as there are no guarantees of available (or continuous) electricity or water.

Living Allowance and Money Management[edit]

As a Volunteer in Mauritania, you will receive four types of allowances.

The Peace Corps gives you an allowance to cover your basic living expenses. This living allowance is reviewed at least once a year through a survey of Volunteer expenses to ensure that it is adequate. Paid in local currency every quarter, it ranges from the equivalent of $140 to $396 a month. The allowance is intended to cover your food, rent, utilities, household supplies, clothing, recreation and entertainment, transportation, reading materials, and other incidentals. You might find that you receive more remuneration than your host-country counterpart or supervisor does.

A vacation allowance of $24 per month is paid in ouguiya. It is automatically included in the quarterly deposit to your bank account.

You will also receive a one-time settling-in allowance of roughly $290, paid in local currency at the end of pre-service training, to buy basic household items for your eventual site.

If the Peace Corps requires you to travel, you will be given additional money for transportation and meals. This amount is established by the post based on the current cost of transportation and lodging.

Most Volunteers find they can live comfortably in Mauritania with these four allowances, although many Volunteers bring money (cash or traveler’s checks) for out-of-country travel. All Volunteers are strongly discouraged from supplementing their income with money brought from home. The living allowance is adequate, and Volunteers are expected to live at the economic level of their neighbors and colleagues.

Credit cards can be used at only a couple of establishments in the capital, but are very handy during vacations and for travel outside of Mauritania (as are ATM cards). Volunteers have found that bringing new $100 bills brings the best exchange rate when changing money. For safekeeping, Volunteers can store money, personal passports, and other valuables in the Peace Corps safe in Nouakchott. However, the Peace Corps’ liability for stored items is limited, so consider your decision to bring valuables carefully.

Food and Diet[edit]

Volunteers often struggle when adjusting to the Mauritanian diet. The typical Mauritanian family eats either rice and meat or rice and fish for lunch (depending on proximity to the river or ocean) and couscous and meat, pasta and meat, or couscous with bean sauce for dinner. The abundance of vegetables in the Mauritanian diet varies according to the season and each family’s cooking habits. Given that meals in Mauritania tend to be very starchy and oily (meats are almost always cooked in oil), many female Volunteers experience weight gain during their two years of service. Conversely, male Volunteers often find keeping weight on to be a challenge.

Vegetarian Volunteers sometimes have difficulty maintaining a meat-free diet in Mauritania. Very few local dishes are served without meat, and it is often difficult to find alternative sources of protein. However, meeting dietary challenges is almost always possible if Volunteers are willing to be resourceful and flexible. Cooking for yourself is always an option but will cause you to miss out on the Mauritanian family experience. In the case of being invited to share a meal with a Mauritanian family, you will find that your host can be very accommodating if you explain any restrictions when you are invited to their home.

Transportation[edit]

Getting around Mauritania can be challenging. Taxis (taxis brousses) are the main modes of travel among towns and often entail squeezing into a Peugeot 504 with eight or nine other people or sitting on top of luggage in the back of a pickup truck with 20 other people. Driving anywhere long distance is likely to entail rumbling along sandy roads through the desert. If you are required to travel for work or medical reasons, the Peace Corps will reimburse your travel costs. Some Volunteers use their settling-in allowance to purchase bicycles. Peace Corps/Mauritania provides helmets to Volunteers and they are required to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle. For your safety, Peace Corps/Mauritania prohibits Volunteers from driving or riding on any two- or three-wheeled motorized vehicle (such as a motorcycle) for any reason. In addition, Volunteers are not allowed to own or drive private cars in Mauritania. Violation of any of these policies may result in termination of your Volunteer service.

Geography and Climate[edit]

Mauritania is situated on the Atlantic Ocean in northwest Africa. It is bounded on the northeast by Algeria, on the east by Mali, and on the south by Senegal. Mauritania also shares a long border with the former Spanish Sahara, control of which is contested by Morocco and an insurgent movement, the Polisario, supported principally by Algeria. The northern five-sixths of Mauritania is desert—for the most part uninhabited (the region known as El Majabaat Koubra). The majority of Mauritania’s interior population lives in the narrow strip of Sahel and savanna that sits between the Senegal River and the Sahara Desert. This area of the country generally gets more rain and is a bit cooler, if more humid. A narrow strip of savanna near the Senegal River that is used for the majority of Mauritania’s agricultural initiatives quickly gives way to the more sparsely vegetated Sahel. Farther north is the Sahara Desert, which stretches to Mauritania’s northern and eastern borders.

Mauritania has three main seasons: the hot season from April to July, the rainy season from August to November, and the cold season from December to March. Keep in mind that hot, cold, and rainy are relative terms and that seasons probably do not vary as much as the ones you are used to in the United States.

Social Activities[edit]

Social activities will vary depending on where you are located and may include taking part in local ceremonies like weddings or baptisms, storytelling, and parties and dances. Some Volunteers visit nearby Volunteers during the weekends or make an occasional trip to the capital, although it is expected that Volunteers will remain at their sites to accomplish the second Peace Corps goal of cultural exchange.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior[edit]

One of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer is fitting into the local culture while maintaining your own cultural identity and presenting yourself as a professional at the same time. It is not an easy thing to resolve, and we can only provide you with guidelines. You will be assigned to a Mauritanian government ministry, and you are expected to dress and behave as your colleagues do. While some of your counterparts may dress in seemingly worn or shabby clothes, this is because of economics rather than choice. The likelihood is that they are wearing their “best.” A foreigner wearing shabby, unmended clothing is likely to be considered an affront.

Peace Corps/Mauritania has instituted the following dress code, required for the Nouakchott office, the Kaédi training center, and other official functions. Peace Corps/Mauritania requires for office-type work assignments that men wear collared shirts and pants. Pants on women are appropriate, but they should be worn with shirts that hang to mid-thigh. Ankle-length skirts (not simple wraps), long dresses that cover the shoulders, mulafas (full-length veils worn by Moor women), or boubous (robes worn by local men or women) that go to the ankles are also appropriate. As temperatures are usually quite high, buying clothing that is mostly or all cotton is highly recommended. Volunteers can wear any kind of shoes or sandals (with or without socks) except plastic shower flip-flops. As you will be walking a great deal (mostly in sand), sturdy sandals that can easily be removed are highly recommended. Clothes should always be clean, not unduly wrinkled, and free of tears.

Personal Safety[edit]

More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but such an important issue cannot be overemphasized. Statistically, Mauritania is one of the safest countries in the world. That said, as stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Most Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although many Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Mauritania. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.

Rewards and Frustrations[edit]

The developmental and human accomplishments of the Peace Corps are frequently not tangible or easily measured. Progress is often frustratingly slow. Through the Peace Corps, thousands of Volunteers have been given the opportunity to have a hand, even if only a small one, in shaping how some of the world’s neediest people live. At the same time, the world has been given a personal view of individual Americans putting their ideals to work.

The excitement and adventure of the Volunteer experience are, in some measure, a result of its unpredictability. There will be unexpected joys as well as unexpected disappointments. You could find plans for a health clinic canceled at the last minute because the Department of Health has been reorganized. Your plan to dig a well might be held up by a quarrel between local groups over who is to do the digging or because the required materials cannot be delivered as scheduled. The official to whom you were supposed to report might be replaced by a successor who knows little about a scheduled project. Such variables can erode the enthusiasm, the patience, and the idealism of a Volunteer. Your success will often depend upon determination, patience, and the ability to find another way. The Volunteer always has to be able to come up with a Plan B. A big part of the Peace Corps is the challenge to remain flexible, energetic, and hopeful at a time when it would be easy to give in to cynicism or indifference.

Ideally, a Volunteer’s lifestyle and work should merge. Accepting the community and being accepted by it are essential for success. In both their daily lives and jobs, a Volunteer must take care to avoid the inherent appearance of arrogance in the position of an outsider who has come to bring change and “improvements.” Volunteers find that as they live and work, they learn from the people of their host country at least as much as they teach them. In so doing, they can enhance their effort to achieve the third goal of the Peace Corps by bringing their host country experiences home to the United States.