2006.07.26: July 26, 2006: Headlines: COS - Mauritania: The Southern: Peace Corps volunteer Jessica Palmert spends time with the villagers of Bagodine, Mauratania, located in West Africa, where she spent the last year teaching English

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Mauritania: Peace Corps Mauritania : The Peace Corps in Mauritania: 2006.07.26: July 26, 2006: Headlines: COS - Mauritania: The Southern: Peace Corps volunteer Jessica Palmert spends time with the villagers of Bagodine, Mauratania, located in West Africa, where she spent the last year teaching English

By Admin1 (admin) (ppp-70-254-9-144.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - 70.254.9.144) on Wednesday, August 09, 2006 - 9:28 am: Edit Post

Peace Corps volunteer Jessica Palmert spends time with the villagers of Bagodine, Mauratania, located in West Africa, where she spent the last year teaching English

Peace Corps volunteer Jessica Palmert spends time with the villagers of Bagodine, Mauratania, located in West Africa, where she spent the last year teaching English

"It's hot, really hot," Palmer said about her life in the African climate. "It was 123 degrees the day I left to come home. It hasn't rained since last September. It's a very dry hot, like being inside a dryer." Palmer lives alone in two rooms of a small house; her landlord uses the other space for storage. "I sleep outside, because it is too hot to stay inside," she explained. "Everyone does that. People basically live outside, and only use their houses to keep their stuff in."

Peace Corps volunteer Jessica Palmert spends time with the villagers of Bagodine, Mauratania, located in West Africa, where she spent the last year teaching English

Mauritanian Nights: West Frankfort native educates African villagers as Peace Corps volunteer

BY GAIL RISSI THOMAS, FOR THE SOUTHERN

The little village of Bagodine in the West African country of Mauritania is a long way from West Frankfort. But it's the place West Frankfort native Jessica Palmer has been calling home for the past year.

Palmer, a 2004 graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, joined the Peace Corps after graduation and moved to Mauritania, one of the poorest countries in the world, to teach English.

In addition to teaching high school students, she has been making new friends, learning two new languages - French and a West African dialect, Pulaar - and often fighting off disease and battling the elements.

She returned home this summer for a short vacation with her parents, Randy and Jaye Palmer, and shared some stories about the new culture she has learned to love.

"It's hot, really hot," Palmer said about her life in the African climate. "It was 123 degrees the day I left to come home. It hasn't rained since last September. It's a very dry hot, like being inside a dryer."

Palmer lives alone in two rooms of a small house; her landlord uses the other space for storage. "I sleep outside, because it is too hot to stay inside," she explained. "Everyone does that. People basically live outside, and only use their houses to keep their stuff in."

For Palmer, it's a 10-minute walk to her host family's house, and a 20-minute walk to school every day.

Life without the modern conveniences of air conditioners, fans or refrigeration is a life that she has come to accept without complaint.

"There was only one time since she's been in Africa that I really knew she was down," her mother said. "Shortly after she arrived there she got very sick from parasites in the water. She was so sick. She said that when you're really sick you lay on the couch and stay cool and comfortable, but there was nowhere to go to feel better, no escape. She was just there, but she still insisted, 'Mom, I really love it here.'"

"Everyone gets sick when they first go over," Palmer added. "Everything is just so different. The water has parasites, and you just have to get used to the food."

"The food" Palmer has become used to is mainly fish and rice with a few vegetables.

"I eat all my meals with my host family," Palmer said. "They feed me and take care of me. We all eat out of a community bowl and eat with our hands. They really don't know what to do with me. The men eat at one bowl and the women eat at the other. I eat with the men, because I am educated."

Palmer said the only food she keeps at her own house is black-eyed peas.

"That's because I crave protein," she said. "We have meat at times. I've eaten goat and camel. I crave vegetables. The vegetables for a meal might consist of a very small piece of cabbage for about five people." Dessert is a sweet tea, a drink that Palmer refers to as "tooth rottingly sweet."

"I had to get used to it," she added. "I've lost about 20 pounds. I actually had lost more at first, but I've gained a little back. There's no snacking; when you're hungry, you're just hungry."

Palmer explained that although not being really full is a common feeling for her to have, she has rarely gone hungry.

"During the feast of Ramadan," she said, "I was hungry. Mauritania is a Muslim country. The only Christianity is a Catholic Church in the capital city of Nouakchott. I fasted with them during Ramadan. Not because I'm Muslim, but it just isn't right to go around fat and happy, when everyone is fasting," she laughed. "We didn't eat from sunup to sundown. I drank water, but they don't. Some of the men even spit out their saliva so they don't swallow it and break their fast."

Teaching English to high school students in Bagodine is almost like bringing the world to the little African village.

"I painted a big map of the world on the wall at the school. One of my students asked, "Is this just Africa, or is it the whole world?' There are women in Bagodine who have never stepped one foot out of the village."

In spite of the isolation, Palmer says her students are just like other high school students, often very difficult to deal with.

"Towards the end of the year, they just shut down," she said. "They wouldn't do anything at all. It was so hot. I brought in my IPod and speakers and they learned the words to a Bob Marley song. They love Bob Marley," she laughed.

In about a week, Palmer will leave the luxury of hot showers, a cool bed and pizza whenever she craves it, and return to the reality of carrying her water on her head from the neighbor's house, and sleeping outside on a mat under mosquito netting.

She will return to the people who view her as a celebrity.

"I have a new empathy with movie stars," she said. "Sometimes, it seems like there is always someone in my face. They stare at me and follow me around, until I turn and say, 'What do you want?' and they say, 'Nothing.'

I get about five marriage proposals a day," she laughed. "They really didn't mind when I left, though," she added. "They know when I come back, I'll bring them presents."

And what do they like? "Anything, anything with USA on it," she said. "American flags."

She will also return to the solitary life without the convenience or distraction of radio, TV or even electric lights.

"The solitude," Palmer said. "The solitude was the hardest thing to get used to. Oh, I can make friends, but the language and cultural differences are so great. I love it, but it's an emotional roller coaster. One minute I'm happy, and five minutes later, I'm pulling my hair out."

Other Peace Corps volunteers are stationed in a city nearly 12 miles away. Palmer can take a taxi to meet with them on weekends.

"I made a two-year minimum commitment," Palmer said. "After that, I might ask for a one-year extension. I just don't know that yet."





When this story was posted in August 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:


Contact PCOLBulletin BoardRegisterSearch PCOLWhat's New?

Peace Corps Online The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
RPCV Ron Tschetter to head Peace Corps Date: July 29 2006 No: 937 RPCV Ron Tschetter to head Peace Corps
President Bush has nominated Ron Tschetter to serve as Director of the Peace Corps. Tschetter, 64, is the president of an investment firm based in Montana. He volunteered with his wife to work as family planning advisers in India and is a former Chairman of the National Peace Corps Association.

PCOL Comment: Congratulations to the Bush administration for an inspired choice for Peace Corps Director. Ron Tschetter is not only an RPCV but was Chairman of the NPCA. Best wishes to Mr. Tschetter on his future tenure as Director of the Peace Corps.

Latest: How Ron Tschetter was selected as Peace Corps Director.

Top Stories and Breaking News PCOL Magazine Peace Corps Library RPCV Directory Sign Up

The Peace Corps is "fashionable" again Date: July 31 2006 No: 947 The Peace Corps is "fashionable" again
The LA Times says that "the Peace Corps is booming again and "It's hard to know exactly what's behind the resurgence." PCOL Comment: Since the founding of the Peace Corps 45 years ago, Americans have answered Kennedy's call: "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man." Over 182,000 have served. Another 200,000 have applied and been unable to serve because of lack of Congressional funding. The Peace Corps has never gone out of fashion. It's Congress that hasn't been keeping pace.

The Peace Corps Library Date: July 11 2006 No: 923 The Peace Corps Library
The Peace Corps Library is now available online with over 40,000 index entries in 500 categories. Looking for a Returned Volunteer? Check our RPCV Directory or leave a message on our Bulletin Board. New: Sign up to receive our free Monthly Magazine by email, research the History of the Peace Corps, or sign up for a daily news summary of Peace Corps stories. FAQ: Visit our FAQ for more information about PCOL.

Support the US-Peruvian Trade Pact Date: July 20 2006 No: 930 Support the US-Peruvian Trade Pact
Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, the Peace Corps President, has been lobbying both Democratic and Republican legislators to support the US-Peruvian trade pact before July 28, when his term ends and a US congressional recess begins. If President Bush fails to get approval before Congress goes on recess, it will be a case study proving that the United States does not reward its friends. Please call your representatives.

July 20, 2006: This Week's Top Stories Date: July 20 2006 No: 925 July 20, 2006: This Week's Top Stories
Friedman win could create new coalition 14 July
Bellamy writes: G8 summit lacks results 19 July
Peace Corps Fund Raiser in NYC on July 25 19 July
Hodding Carter writes "Flushed" on plumbing 18 July
Doyle places Peace Corps ad 18 July
Matt Taylor releases CD "Subject to the Wind" 16 July
Matthew Orosz builds reflective parabolic troughs 14 July
RPCVs run organic HERB FARMacy 13 July
Jerome Miliszkiewicz discusses Chavez in Venezuela 12 July
Ric Haas founded the Fistula Foundation 11 July
Susan Deller Ross helps women's equal rights 11 July
Mark Maxam installs solar lighting in Kenya 11 July
Eunice Kennedy Shriver at White House for 85th 11 July
Hastings gives $1 million for charter schools 11 July
Alejandro Toledo meets Bush in final days 11 July
Hill is hopes to reconvene Korea talks 10 July
"My World" takes Tanzanian children to Kilimanjaro 9 July
Bob Watada supports his son in court-martial 8 July
James Brunton Jr. builds boat for Embera Indians 8 July
Tim Wilson sews the Seeds of Peace 8 July
Petri says Guantanamo prisoners should 'face accusers' 7 Jul
Tom Murphy cuts deal with feds 3 July

Jody Olsen will be acting Peace Corps Director Date: July 20 2006 No: 926 Jody Olsen will be acting Peace Corps Director
The Senate confirmed Gaddi Vasquez to head the FAO on June 30. Jody Olsen will be acting Director until the President makes a permanent appointment. Olsen has been Deputy Director of the Peace Corps since 2002. She served in Tunisia as a PCV. Latest: "As of now (July 20), Gaddi Vasquez is still the Peace Corps Director."

Changing the Face of Hunger Date: June 28 2006 No: 915 Changing the Face of Hunger
In his new book, Former Congressman Tony Hall (RPCV Thailand) says humanitarian aid is the most potent weapon the United States can deploy against terrorism. An evangelical Christian, he is a big believer in faith-based organizations in the fight against hunger. Members of Congress have recently recommended that Hall be appointed special envoy to Sudan to focus on ending the genocide in Darfur.

PC will not return to East Timor in 2006 Date: June 8 2006 No: 913 PC will not return to East Timor in 2006
Volunteers serving in East Timor have safely left the country as a result of the recent civil unrest and government instability. Latest: The Peace Corps has informed us that at this time, the Peace Corps has no plans to re-enter the country in 2006. The Peace Corps recently sent a letter offering eligible volunteers the opportunity to reinstate their service in another country.

Chris Dodd considers run for the White House Date: June 3 2006 No: 903 Chris Dodd considers run for the White House
Senator Chris Dodd plans to spend the next six to eight months raising money and reaching out to Democrats around the country to gauge his viability as a candidate. Just how far Dodd can go depends largely on his ability to reach Democrats looking for an alternative to Hillary Clinton. PCOL Comment: Dodd served as a Volunteer in the Dominican Republic and has been one of the strongest supporters of the Peace Corps in Congress.

The RPCV who wrote about Ben Hogan Date: June 6 2006 No: 912 The RPCV who wrote about Ben Hogan
Probably no RPCV has done more to further the Third Goal of the Peace Corps than John Coyne with the Peace Corps Writers web site and newsletter that he and Marian Haley Beil have produced since 1989. Now John returns to writing about his first love - golf in "The Caddie who knew Ben Hogan." Read an excerpt from his novel, an interview with the author and a schedule of his book readings in Maryland and DC this week.

Vasquez testifies before Senate Committee Date: June 3 2006 No: 905 Vasquez testifies before Senate Committee
Director Vasquez testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on his nomination as the new Representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture replacing Tony Hall. He has been the third longest serving Peace Corps Director after Loret Ruppe Miller and Sargent Shriver. PCOL Comment: Read our thanks to Director Vasquez for his service to the Peace Corps.

First Amendment Watch Date: May 4 2006 No: 883 First Amendment Watch
Maine Web Report hit with Federal Lawsuit
Website wins trademark suit against Jerry Falwell

Interview with a Hit Man Date: April 25 2006 No: 880 Interview with a Hit Man
RPCV John Perkins says that for many years he was an "economic hit man" in the world of international finance whose primary job was to convince less developed countries to accept multibillion dollar loans for infrastructure projects that left the recipient countries wallowing in debt and highly vulnerable to outside political and commercial interests. In this exclusive interview for "Peace Corps Online," Colombia RPCV Joanne Roll, author of Remember with Honor, talks to Perkins about his Peace Corps service, his relation with the NSA, "colonization" in Ecuador, the consequences of his work, why he decided to speak out, and what his hopes are for change.

PC Program in Chad temporarily suspended Date: April 14 2006 No: 872 PC Program in Chad temporarily suspended
Director Vasquez announced the temporary suspension of the Peace Corps program in Chad on April 14 and that all 29 Peace Corps volunteers have left the country. With a program dating back forty years (See Page 4 of the April 1966 "Peace Corps Volunteer"), RPCVs hope that volunteers can return to Chad as soon as the situation has stabilized. Congratulations to the Peace Corps for handling the suspension quickly and professionally.

Peace Corps stonewalls on FOIA request Date: April 12 2006 No: 869 Peace Corps stonewalls on FOIA request
The Ashland Daily Tidings reports that Peace Corps has blocked their request for information on the Volkart case. "After the Tidings requested information pertaining to why Volkart was denied the position on March 2 the newspaper received a letter from the Peace Corps FOIA officer stating the requested information was protected under an exemption of the act." The Dayton Daily News had similar problems with FOIA requests for their award winning series on Volunteer Safety and Security.

PCOL readership increases 100% Date: April 3 2006 No: 853 PCOL readership increases 100%
Monthly readership on "Peace Corps Online" has increased in the past twelve months to 350,000 visitors - over eleven thousand every day - a 100% increase since this time last year. Thanks again, RPCVs and Friends of the Peace Corps, for making PCOL your source of information for the Peace Corps community. And thanks for supporting the Peace Corps Library and History of the Peace Corps. Stay tuned, the best is yet to come.

History of the Peace Corps Date: March 18 2006 No: 834 History of the Peace Corps
PCOL is proud to announce that Phase One of the "History of the Peace Corps" is now available online. This installment includes over 5,000 pages of primary source documents from the archives of the Peace Corps including every issue of "Peace Corps News," "Peace Corps Times," "Peace Corps Volunteer," "Action Update," and every annual report of the Peace Corps to Congress since 1961. "Ask Not" is an ongoing project. Read how you can help.

RPCV admits to abuse while in Peace Corps Date: February 3 2006 No: 780 RPCV admits to abuse while in Peace Corps
Timothy Ronald Obert has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a minor in Costa Rica while serving there as a Peace Corps volunteer. "The Peace Corps has a zero tolerance policy for misconduct that violates the law or standards of conduct established by the Peace Corps," said Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez. Could inadequate screening have been partly to blame? Mr. Obert's resume, which he had submitted to the Peace Corps in support of his application to become a Peace Corps Volunteer, showed that he had repeatedly sought and obtained positions working with underprivileged children. Read what RPCVs have to say about this case.

Military Option sparks concerns Date: January 3 2006 No: 773 Military Option sparks concerns
The U.S. military, struggling to fill its voluntary ranks, is allowing recruits to meet part of their reserve military obligations after active duty by serving in the Peace Corps. Read why there is opposition to the program among RPCVs. Director Vasquez says the agency has a long history of accepting qualified applicants who are in inactive military status. John Coyne says "Not only no, but hell no!" and RPCV Chris Matthews leads the debate on "Hardball." Avi Spiegel says Peace Corps is not the place for soldiers while Coleman McCarthy says to Welcome Soldiers to the Peace Corps. Read our poll results. Latest: Congress passed a bill on December 22 including language to remove Peace Corps from the National Call to Service (NCS) military recruitment program

Why blurring the lines puts PCVs in danger Date: October 22 2005 No: 738 Why blurring the lines puts PCVs in danger
When the National Call to Service legislation was amended to include Peace Corps in December of 2002, this country had not yet invaded Iraq and was not in prolonged military engagement in the Middle East, as it is now. Read the story of how one volunteer spent three years in captivity from 1976 to 1980 as the hostage of a insurrection group in Colombia in Joanne Marie Roll's op-ed on why this legislation may put soldier/PCVs in the same kind of danger. Latest: Read the ongoing dialog on the subject.


Read the stories and leave your comments.






Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: The Southern

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Mauritania

PCOL33759
53


Add a Message


This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.
Username:  
Password:
E-mail: