March 30, 2004: Headlines: COS - Mauritania: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer Will Holcomb in Mauritania

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Mauritania: Peace Corps Mauritania : The Peace Corps in Mauritania: March 30, 2004: Headlines: COS - Mauritania: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer Will Holcomb in Mauritania

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Tuesday, April 13, 2004 - 5:43 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps Volunteer Will Holcomb in Mauritania

Peace Corps Volunteer Will Holcomb in Mauritania

Peace Corps Volunteer Will Holcomb in Mauritania

Will Holcomb
Tue, 8 Jul 2003 19:03:36 +0000 (GMT)

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Well, here I am. My first day of "staging" for my Peace Corps trip to
Mauritania has ended and I am free to wander Philadelphia...

My family and Stephanie and Matt Estes saw me off from Tri-Cities Regional
this morning at a bright and early 8:30. I had to make my way through
security and have my shoes taken off and laptop sniffed for explosives
fortunately no one stuck any bombs into my stuff. After about an hour trip
over to Charlotte I killed an hour in the airport and then it was about an
hour to Philly.

In Charlotte I noticed a girl waiting for the Philly flight writing in a
journal. I figured she looked like a good PC candidate, so asked her where
she was headed and she turned out to be Small Enterprise Development (SED)
volunteer Audrey. The seat net to me on the place was vacant, so we
chatted as we flew.

She is an economics major and interested in microfinance. Her time in
Mauritania is a professional boost. I've run into quite a few people
interested in development and international finance who are using this to
build their careers.

Once we got to the hotel I started meeting so very many people. It looks
like our group is down two, to 56. We all gathered together in a big
conference room for about six hours and learned all about the mission of
the Peace Corps.

Some statistics they listed as they were quizzing us:

| General | Mauritania
Average Training Group | 35 people | 56 people
Average Age | 28 years | 26 years
Percentage of Females | 60% | 61%
Percentage of Minorities | 15% | 17%
Percentage Married | 9% | 0% (3 couples in our class)

169,000 volunteers since 1961. 2003 budget is $295 million. That's 1%
of the foreign appropriation which is 1% of the total budget. (That's
also the cost of a single B2 bomber.) 7000 current volunteers in 70

I am really liking things so far. I am having interesting
conversations with people and I am proud of myself for being fairly
friendly and secure. I get nervous sometimes and don't talk, but
that's not been happening much so far. I think having a much bigger
issue of heading off to Mauritania helps push the little insecurities

Keeping busy has been keeping my mind off of the fact that I left
everyone I know behind this morning. I came back to the room to start
to write this and it started to set in, and I took a little nap. Then
a bunch of people came by and we went and had supper. (The gave us
$120 to cover expenses until Mauritania.)

Most of the speaking today centered around what the PC is and what its
goals are:
1. Promote understanding of the United States in foreign countries
2. Promote understanding of other countries in the United States
3. Provide assistance for basic survival skills to countries in

I have been talking to alot of people and the general consensus seems
to be that we all hope to do some good (#3), but we recognize that it
is very difficult and so most people seem more focused on simply going
for the cross-cultural exchange and trying to do the best they can at
making a difference. I expected to find a bunch of idealists out to
change the world, but most of these people are simply braced to face
some pretty serious hardship and just try and nudge the bar rather
than move it.

Well, I'll talk more in the PC later. It is getting late and I have to
be down at 7:30 in the morning to get the first round of shots.
Apparently we get a set here and then they take us to a relatively
disease free area and we'll get the rest as time goes on. I understand
the logistical imperative, but it does seem like certain things like
malaria are going to be unavoidable. I'll write and tell you if anyone
gets it.

Anyhow, I miss everyone already and I start to get choked up thinking
about it. I'm going to try some sitting and see if that makes things
worse of better.


P.S. One person tonight told the story of a volunteer who had a man
and a woman over to his house to work on some project and it got late
and he had them stay over because their village was two hours
away. You are not allowed to have a woman stay the night with you if
you are not related to them though and he was arrested for it.

They put him in jail and he caught hepatitis while there (though we
are being vaccinated supposedly) and then he was stoned. I didn't know
there were non-lethal stonings, but apparently you can get into just
enough trouble that you warrant being pelted with small stones.

This seems like the sort of place that is really easy to fall in love

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Story Source: Personal Web Site

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