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


Escape, then Back to Reality

February 12, 2009

It has been a LONG time since I reported about our Peace Corps friend Adam, all is relatively well and he spent a lot of the “holiday” season outside of Kiffa, in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott.  While it may not be 5-star living, apparently it’s much much nicer.

after living in squalor for the past 7 months you can imagine what bliss it was!!! paved roads, non-mud brick buildings and restaurants with pizza (and beer if you no where to look)!!!

To remind y’all, alcohol is not officially allowed in the country, but I’m assuming, like all other banned substances in all other countries — you can find it if you know who to talk to.

Speaking of drinking, Adam then headed to St. Louis, Senegal for New Years which he describes as a “run down version” of New Orleans’ French Quarter… ahhhh, that’s the only way I’d want to experience the French Quarter anyway, right?

Adam’s training in Nouakchott was then cut short when protests broke out in Mauritania over the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

our plans were unfortunately upended by the breakout of the gaza war and the mass violent protests which ensued in Nouakchott for the remainder of our time there … while it was definitely an unnerving experience it was also one of being holed up in our hotels or stuck at the peace corps offices the majority of the time.  again, some pictures of the protests can be seen when i get around to post[ing] photos.

The riots in the heavily Muslim country were, apparently, sparked by the ongoing violence in Gaza — a conflict going on half a world away.  In response to Israel’s apparent aggression, Mauritania has closed its Isreal Embassy — a weighty decision considering they are “one of only three Arab League countries to have diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.”

With that, perhaps it’s time to quickly update you to what’s going on in Mauritania

After the successful “bloodless” coup in which acting president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi was removed and arrested, military leader Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has become the spokesperson for what the press has begun referring to as a junta.  Generally speaking, a “junta” is “a government ruled by committee,” but the word is also used to describe rule by military dictatorship.

From what is being reported, the interim government is in the process of reorganizing the state, and setting up a democratic election; promised for June 6th of 2009 (6 months after the coup to the day).  Junta leader Abdel Aziz has yet to confirm if he plans to run in this election.  In the meantime, there’s a lot of other things going on in the West African nation.  The African Union (AU) has decided to impose targeted sanctions on junta leaders as they view Mauritanian leadersship a “rebellious regime”.

The sanction includes enforcement of a travel ban on civilian and military members of the ruling council, freezes their bank funds but avoids restricting that aid that Mauritanians (and Adam?) surely need.   The official AU statement asked the military administration to “co-operate fully with the AU… to return to the constitutional regime and swiftly resolve the political crisis in the country.”  The Magharebia news site also notes that Ahmed Bemba Ould Baya, President of Mauritania’s ruling High Council of State, in turn “accused the AU of refusing to acknowledge the achievements of the military administration,” including the “organizing general forums for democracy, arranging elections within […]  six months, in addition to reducing prices in general”.

Relief Web is also reporting today that a Libyan delegation was in Nouakchott to mediate discussions between the ousted political party and the ruling junta.  Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, just elected the as the head of the 53-nation African Union, had recently imposed these new sanctions.

In other Mauritanian news, an Australian-based company, Baraka Petrolium, is looking for exclusive rights to build an oil pipeline throughout the countryOil & Gas Journal mentions Baraka’s interest in Taoudeni basin and Mauritanian oil  adjacent to the Mali.  The investment could also become “… a major source of employment and, […]  a catalyst for the exchange of technology and knowledge [and] a source of income through transit fees, royalties, and taxes … apart from revenue gained from the sale of oil and gas produced from the region.”

Now, consider yourself updated and here’s Adam’s full letter:

well, it has been some time since i have written so i figured i should let everyone know what i have been up to the last month.  this last month has been a lot of travelling…for the holidays! in mid december i headed off to the lovely capital of Nouakchott for xmas.

this was my first time in the capital and it is the most developed part of the country. therefore, after living in squalor for the past 7 months you can imagine what bliss it was!!! paved roads, non-mud brick buildings and restaurants with pizza (and beer if you no where to look)!!! but most of the time was spent at obie’s house (our country director) and boy what a house it is! there was plenty of food and drink for all and it was great to see our ‘classmates’ that we hadn’t seen since september.  after that, on the 26th, the volunteers went there separate ways for new years.  most, however, went to saint louis, senegal. i was included in this.

i will say this: after 7 months of mauritania, saint louis, senegal seemed like a dream! it is amazing what a difference merely crossing the river makes.  saint louis is similar to a more run down new orleans french quarter. but it is great. right on the pacific i spent 6 days here eating and drinking to my hearts content and basically doing as little as possible.  it was also a better way to work on my french since the french spoken there is much more ‘grammatically correct’ we shall say. nonetheless, i urge you to check out photos when i get around to posting them or try and check them out through some facebook friends of mine. it was absolutely relaxing.

new years was a blast too as most the volunteers converged on ‘the tavern’ a tiny crummy hole in the wall bar where we all counted down the new year.  afer that, it was, depressingly, back to nouakchott for another week for in-service training.  this should of been a fun experience and an opportunity to explore the city but our plans were unfortunately upended by the breakout of the gaza war and the mass violent protests which ensued in nouakchott for the remainder of our time there.

while it was definitely an unnerving experience it was also one of being holed up in our hotels or stuck at the peace corps offices the majority of the time.  again, some pictures of the protests can be seen when i get around to posted photos. aside from that, training went off without too many problems and afterward we all departed back to our sites until mid february when most of us will depart to dakar, senegal for WAIST (west african invitational softball tourn).

back at site, i am now concentrating on work again. i currently teach a myriad of health lessons at different locales both in english and french.  i do about 3 lessons a week usually at the regional hospital here in kiffa or in conjunction with my sitemates at the GMC (girls mentoring center) or the maison de gens (kind of like a YMCA).  these are on a wide range of topics like malaria prevention, AIDS prevention, malnutrition, etc.

in addition to my lessons on a weekly basis i am attempting to accomplish a secondary ‘larger scale’ project.  this involves the distribution of ‘clean birthing kits.’  while they are not too useful in kiffa itself, mauritania on the whole has a problem with infection rates at birth.  especially in rural sites where bad roads and distance make it impossible for women to get to hospitals or health posts with proper birthing equipment.  therefore, birth is done on the ground in the persons home.

i am trying to setup a region wide distribution and teaching ‘initiative’ where i go around and distribute these birth kits (which include a clean blanket, razor, saline, plastic to between the mother and the earth, etc.) to rural sites and then teach mothers or the local health representative how to use them.  these types of distributions have already gone on in places like zimbabwe and papua new guinea and have been shown to cut infection rates dramatically.   anyways, currently i am in talks with united nations family planning on donating me a bunch of the kits and then i will apply for funding to be able to ship them here (if all goes as planned!) but besides that, life goes on here the same as ever.

lots of tea and chebijin (rice and fish). the weather is winter weather. so it gets to the 50s at night and about high 80s or low 90s during the day. its great! but almost over and come may we will back in the 110s 120s…ugh. i will try and post photos as soon as possible. our internet connection is something to be desired but i will try and post soon. thanks for bearing with the disjointed and quick email. just wanted to give a brief synopsis of the last month. hope all is well!  adam


In the Market for Tabasky?

December 15, 2008

Well, no, unfortunately, I’m not talkin’ bout that sort.

Adam (my Peace Corp pal stationed in Mauritania) sent over a video his friend shot in a local Market Place.  Though the pictures Adam shares are really cool, these videos taken by Adam’s sitemate, Eric, give you a strong (albeit, startling) idea of what the area is like.  Adam writes:

my sitemate eric posted a quick video of kiffa’s marketplace on youtube…

we were walking through it during tabasky (sp?), one of the major holidays here. its basically xmas therefore you can see no one is out but it’s interesting to see the aftermath of the market–a place we are at on a daily basis….enjoy!

A little reseach on Tabaski (or Tobaski, nay Tobasky), told me that it’s the West African Version of what other Muslim cultures call Eid al-Adha.  I know nothing about either, but here’s what wiki had to say about it;

Eid al-Adha (Arabic: عيد الأضحى‘Īdu l-’Aḍḥā) “Festival of Sacrifice” is a religious festival celebrated by Muslims (including the Druze) worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God. However, God provided a ram in place once Ibrahim demonstrated his willingness to follow God’s commands.

Anyway, it appears Tabaski is a highly-revered holiday in Mauritania as the marketplace is nearly desolate:

Wow.  Thanks for sharing Adam!

In other Mauritania-centered news, Adam will be sending t-shirts over from Africa for TeeCycle.Org, and will be fund raising to get Adam supplies for the soccer (futbol) team he’s trying to organize.  More news on that later.

In the meantime, you can go through all of Eric’s video’s on his YouTube site by clicking here, including this awesome one in which Adam & Eric ride on the top of a semi across the desert back to Kiffa; thrilling/scary.


Seasons Greetings from Africa!

December 8, 2008

Our pal Adam is in the Assaba Region right now… don’t they look festive?

 card

holiday greetings from the assaba region mauritania!!! actually it is minus mike who is in the back room talking with his parents and plus liz; in front; who came to visit even though she is not in the assaba region!!!


volcano!… ‘Splosians!

September 23, 2008

This was originally posted on URChicagos site, but far be it for me to deny my own blog some musical gold:

volcano! at The Empty Bottle Thursday

Lying dormant for nearly three years, experimental rock trio volcano! (note the lowercase “v”) has recently released their second LP, Paperwork.  Their much-acclaimed debut album Beautiful Seizure, released by UK label Leaf, was met in late 2005 with enthusiastic acclaim here and abroad (scoring them an early appearence on oft-imitated music performance site La Blogotheque). The debut album shook; not just the pavement, but the pervading stigma that “art rock” bands can only be one thing or the other – art or rock. volcano!’s sound rectifies this disparity—simultaneously heady and accessible, intricate and forceful, ethereal and dynamic.

volcano!’s fluid creations can shift from jagged guitar squall to delicate instrumentals backed by the atmospherics of multi-instrumentalist Mark Cartwright, their song’s pop structures can quickly devolve into poly-rhythmic improvisation care of percussionist Sam Scranton.  Meanwhile, vocalist/guitarist Aaron With always seems to have a trick up his sleeve, with a lyrical range that wheels from mischievous wordplay, to urgent exclamation to staccato abstraction—often in the same track.

Paperwork is its own little bundle of surprises, as the hilariously titled “Africa Just Wants to Have Fun,” bounces and jabs at celebrity-turned-philanthropists with a nod to guitar-led Afropop—both of which seem all the rage these days.  The album has a bunch more surprises and creative twists, with Scranton mentioning a load of  diverse influences from track-to-track, including the otherworldly psych-pop of Animal Collective to the shameless R&B come-ons of  R. Kelly.

volcano! returned this August to do their first live show in two years, a CD release party for their new full-length. The Chicago-based band will be playing again this Thursday, 9/25, at The Empty Bottle. Check out a Q&A with percussionist Sam Scranton on the UR Chicago Online Exclusives page.

MP3:  volcano! – “Africa Just Wants to Have Fun” (site)(myspace)(facebook)
-Brian Howe Battle


Worst. Coup. Ever.

August 8, 2008

Man walking in Nouakchott

Well, if you check back a few blog entries, you’ll note that my pal Adam “Fiebs” is currently serving as a Peace Corp doctor in Mauritania.  Also, if you’ve checked the news recently, you’ll note that Mauritania is currently under a military coup.  This is scary, but as history (and Adam) will inform us, this is a very common occurance here, and he’s pretty well insulated from the stuff that going on in Nouakchott — closer to the coast.  Adam writes:

yes. all is well here. you just  cant get in or out of Nouakchott. but being in Rosso, thus far, i have been unaffected. if it turns violent, which by Mauritanias past history of coups shows it wont be, peace corps is pretty good about pulling us right away. but the saying here goes, 
 
Mauritania…worst…coup….ever.

they tried this in 99 and nothing changed and i suspect this will be similar but i guess only time can tell…we will have to see about the aid.

anyways hope all is well. heading to senegal in two weeks for a couple days and to have my first beer since ive been here. damn these dry islamic countries. hope all is well in chicago. the alumni reunion looked like a blast! wish i couldve been there.
fiebs
ps farve is a jet…wtf!

Indeed, Fiebs, indeed.  Obviously the coup isn’t that bad (and the internet must be better than I thought) for a Wisconsinite in 3rd-world Africa to be more concerned about a Packers trade than a Military Coup.


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