Mauritania Update

June 24, 2009

Adam is all well and good, and brewing wine, and killing goats.  And traveling lots.

here are some photos from my trip to bamako, mali and watching the soccer game against ghana. also, there are some of the bissap wine festival we held at my house in kiffa. we brewed our own wine and killed our own sheep to cook. note: there are some photos of this, so for those with weak stomachs, you might want to skip over the folder ‘winefest’

here is a link to more south africa photosrobben island, rugby game, etc. etc. enjoy. off to bamako, mali!

And look at this — our Alma Mater, Marquette, just ran a story on him.  Huzzah:

Fiebelkorn works at a health clinic in Kiffa, weighing babies and administering treatments to malnourished children. He’s also helping community leaders develop a campaign to distribute clean birthing kits to combat rural Mauritania’s alarmingly high infant mortality rate.

(Update 6/25)  To revise yesterday’s post about Adam, he’s wrote to say hi, and to let everyone know he’s okay.  Apparently there was an American killed in Nouakchott yesterday.

well, a quick update. i hope all of you have been enjoying some bamako and kiffa winefest photos. thus far, things are going well here in kiffa. my projects are moving along as scheduled and i have been enjoying life these last couple weeks even though it has been absurdley hot. but, as Mauritania often does, it may turn downhill quick. as of now, the incoming class of volunteers to come in behind us has been officially cancelled because the mauritanian government is refusing to issue visas. therefore, my class of 75 (there are 68 left) will be the only volunteers left in mauritania because the class before me are ending their service next week.  christmas and WAIST is about to get boring. no fresh blood to liven up the scene or show around the country. boo.  furthermore, and i don’t know how well people keep on top of the news, but there was an american killed in Nouakchott (the capital) yesterday and the North African Al-quaeda network is taking responsibility. ugh. so who knows, i may be home before you know it. i didn’t post a link but i am sure you can find it.

but! in better news! the USA soccer team did destroy the number one team in the world (spain) last night! this will setup a savory final against brazil who beat us 3-0 in the group stages! i hope all is well. don’t mean to be a downer but peace corps told us to keep friends and family ‘in the know.’ of course, no worries, peace corps prides themselves on security and i feel very safe within the community i live in. i will keep everyone updated. hope all is well.

adam

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Mauritania Update

August 18, 2008

I’ve noticed there’s a few people checking Arms, Distancefor updates on the Mauritania Peace Corp  situation, and although there’s no personal news from Adam to report, everything is going as well as could be expected in Mauritania during the on-going coup there.  Although the democratically-elected President is still imprisoned, other major figureheads, like the Prime Minister, have been released and as Obie points out, day-to-day life has not altered that much.

The international community has widely criticized the coup, and in less-great news, “the leader of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb” has publicly announced his wish that Mauritania be transformed into a “Caliphate Style” Islamic state.  For those (like me) who do not know exactly what that means, here’s one of MANY definitions

caliphate(kăl’ĭfāt’, -fĭt) , the rulership of Islam; caliph (kăl’ĭf’), the spiritual head and temporal ruler of the Islamic state. In principle, Islam is theocratic: when Muhammad died, a caliph [Arab.,=successor] was chosen to rule in his place. The caliph had temporal and spiritual authority but was not permitted prophetic power; this was reserved for Muhammad. The caliph could not, therefore, exercise authority in matters of religious doctrine.

So, things are going along in Mauritania, with no Peace Corp-specific news.  Though, I can gather by Obie’s comments late in the letter, that they are still going ahead with the swearing in of the Trainee’s to full Volunteers — Adam being one of them.

Good luck to everyone, our thoughts are with you.

Hello Volunteers and Trainees:
 
I hope this eMail finds you doing well.  There has not been a great deal of change in the political situation here in Nouakchott over the past few days with the exception of the release from custody of the Prime Minister and a number of other government officials who had been held by the military junta.  The democratically elected President of Mauritania remains in custody.  The coup continues to be strongly condemned by the international community.  The U.S., E.U., African Union, and other countries have all joined the chorus (including Algeria this afternoon).  Most nations have cut all non-humanitarian aid to the country pending the reinstatement of the legitimate government.  The Arab League has not yet taken a collective position on the coup.  The online mainstream press has been relatively good at following the situation in Mauritania.  I would recommend Google News as a good over all resource for news.
 
Press reports quoted the leader of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) as having called for the establishment of a caliphate style state in Mauritania.  I want to assure you all that PC staff members in both Nouakchott and Washington are following the situation closely and your safety and security is our primary focus.  I am in daily contact with the U.S. embassy.  If you have any concerns or questions, please do not hesitate to contact me (648-1783).  I would be pleased to answer any questions you have.    
 
I would also stress that the mood in Nouakchott remains calm and businesses are operating normally both in Nouakchott and in the regions as well.
 
To the trainees, we are moving forward with your swear-in as scheduled.  At this stage, we are expecting to keep the ceremony low key (no press and no government authorities).  Ambassador and Mrs. Boulware will be joining us for the celebration.
 
I would like to remind you all of the importance of keeping your family and friends informed of your well-being.  Please keep in contact with them! 
 
Thank you all again for your professionalism and positive attitudes.  It has helped a great deal in our ability to manage this situation.  It is my sincere honor to be serving with you.
 
Best Regards — Obie

Back on the home front, Adam was not able to attend out annual Man’s Weekend (for obvious reasons), so we poured a little out to give him mad-props.  That’s how we do.


Military upheavel is benign, bordering on boring

August 12, 2008

Adam “Mauritania” Fiebs is doing just fine in Africa.  The coup going on there is, in so many words, “boring”.  Meanwhile, it’s been generally agreed that Mauritania Peace Corp work is the least-desierable of all assignments.  Yay Adam!

…as you can see, as predicted, the coup is boring and goes with the saying “maritania…worst…coup…ever.” oh well. … i guess peace corps took an unofficial poll and has concluded mauritania is the least desirable, if not hardest, service in peace corps. hilarious! hope all is well

adam

Adam (Right)

Adam then reposted the email he’s received from his P.C. director, of sorts, Obie.  (I’ve edited it for brevity and entertainment value).:

Hello PCV/Ts:

I just wanted to drop you a quick note to say hello and provide you with a brief update on the political situation in the country.  Not that I am counting, but this is now my third coup d’etat since arriving in Mauritania!  As happened in 2005, this looks to be a rather benign coup … At this stage, there are no indications that you (or other foreigners residing in the country) are in any danger as a result of the recent action taken by officers of the Mauritanian military.

The airport has remained open and business and government offices seem to be functioning as usual.  The U.S. has suspended all non-humanitarian aid to the country.  Peace Corps is considered a “humanitarian” agency and as such is not immediately impacted by the cut-off in U.S. aid.

Hmmm.  I would think that a coup just might shake-up a government.  Apparently not.

…Some things to keep in mind as we move forward:

  • In order to protect the integrity of Peace Corps’ mission, it is imperative that you do not engage in sensitive political discussions concerning Mauritania.
  • Please avoid large gatherings or demonstrations.
  • It is very important that everyone respect out-of-site policy (please keep your APCD informed of your whereabouts).
  • Do not allow yourself to be interviewed by any media outlet without first clearing it with me.
  • Keep in contact with your family and friends in the U.S., it goes a long way to reassuring them of your well being. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call or eMail any of us.  The after-hours emergency duty officer number is xxx-xxxx.

Very Best — Obie

P.S.  With all of this great material, I would think that a pretty good PC Mauritania tee-shirt could be designed!

If they do eventually make a t-shirt, I will insist Adam send one my way so I can put it up for sale at TeeCycle.

Don't know if that's food or something else, but it's gross.


Kiffa

July 25, 2008

My friend Adam is continuting being an amazing person.  Currently, while I blog in an air-conditioned building and complain that it may just be too cold right now, he’s here:

Adam is expanding his borders and putting his medical know-how to work for the Peace Corps in Kiffa — a moderate-sized town in the (Islamic Republic of) Mauritania, Africa.  Do yourself a favor and scroll around Kiffa for a while — it’s pretty humbling.  Also, note that no one’s bothered to draw the city’s roads, and they extend like a starburst to other Mauritanian cities.
 
Mauritnia, as I’m now reading, has had a fairly eventful half-century.  Given independence from France in the ’60s, within 15 years they occupied then relinquished an area now known as Western Sahara because of Polisario guerrilla raids.  They’ve since set up an “air quote” Republic with a few iffy rulers and a pretty nasty Afro/Arab conflict.  Anyway, Kiffa’s a small market town known for it’s decorative beads.  Judging by the history, discriptions and images, I’m simultaneously proud and nervous for Adam for the next 2-year stint… and herrrrrrrre’s Adam:
hello everyone!
just thought i would write a brief email enlightening everyone to what has been going on in the last month.  well, it has been quit busy.  “Stage” (french for training) is quite a grueling, but entirely necessary, process.  so far, though, i have found myself enjoying it immensely despite the difficulties assimilating into a new, very different, place.  at first, the level of garbage and poverty in the streets is somewhat overwhelming. however, it is genearally considered the norm all over the county and thus far i have met countless peace corps volunteers and mauritanians who have been fantastic in helping me ‘adjust.’  already, i feel like my time here will be worthwhile and successful! already, i can tell my french is improving and hopefully hassaniya will follow.  i am assigned to Kiffa, which is in the assaba region.  it is drier then rosso (where i have training) and that, for the time being, means less bugs which is great! i have been here for 3 days (for site visit) and the PCVs already here along with the trainees in the region wih me are great! I will become very close with them in the next couple years.
 
also, the great thing about kiffa is the many ngo’s that are already based here.  i already connected with USAID and the head there is really excited to work with me.  if i did nothing in my 2 years but work with them, that would be fine. i will have the opportunity to travel on ‘missions’ in the region and will be privy to the inner working of USAID and the WFP (world food program) which i am extremely excited about (especially for my time post -peace corps!). 
 
anyways, back to some training things. i just wanted to check in. once i hit swear in and get to site permanently (sept 1) i will have much more time to write in more detail and more often.  i am enjoying every bit of my time here thus far and the people who are with me are as supportive and enthusiastic as anyone would hope for. once i get my camera in the mail (inshallah) i will be sending pictures on a soon to be started site. TBA. miss you all!
 
adam.
 
 
 
 
Picture from Nomad Intent