21 May 2009

Peace Corps Assignment

This is an overview of information about where I am going, what I am doing, and how I can stay in contact.

First of all I am going to Mauritania, or the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, or République Islamique de Mauritanie (RIM). It is a country located in North West Africa. According to the Peace Corps it is in SubSaharan Africa, but actually most of the country is in the Sahara Desert. It borders Western Sahara, Mali, Algeria, Senegal and the Atlantic Ocean. Its capital, Nouachott, is located on the coast and Rosso, where I will be doing my first three months of training, is along the southern border with Senegal. The Richat Structure (pictured in the top of my blog) in the North is several large concentric circles on the ground which have been uncovered through erosion. Arabic is the official language, but French is also widely spoken. The population of just over 3 million is overwhelmingly Muslim (Sunni).

My assignment with the Peace Corps is as a Girls Education and Empowerment (GEE) agent. This means that I will be working at the Girls Mentoring Centers (GMCs) that have been set up by the Mauritanian government. The GMCs are set up throughout the country in the different regions, so depending on where I am eventually placed my job description will change. Generally, though, I will be conducting classes and activities that will facilitate the integration of girls into the school system. Traditionally girls have been left out of the schools and thus their attendance rates are much lower than their male counterparts. My job will be to use the GMCs as a place for the girls to become comfortable with and succeed in school. I will also be promoting gender empowerment for women in the community. My job will depend a lot upon the schedules of the girls and people who I am working with. For now that is all I really know and more details will come when I find out my final placement and begin working with the community.

While I am in Mauritania I do not know how much access to the internet I will have. The best way to contact me is to send mail. Make sure to write ‘Par Avion’ on the letter so that it is sent by air. You can send letters to the following address:

Christina Stegura, PCT
Corps de la Paix
B.P. 222
Nouachott, Mauritania
West Africa

My staging begins on June 15th in Philadelphia. There I will get vaccines and other shots as well as an introduction to the Peace Corps and Mauritania. On the 17th we leave for Mauritania from JFK airport. It is a direct flight to Dakar, Senegal and should take about 8.5 hours. From there I have heard that it is a long drive to Rosso.
After three months of training in Rosso, I have 2 years of service at my placement in Mauritania.

17 May 2009

One Step Closer

Finally I am beginning to tie up all the loose ends in my life. I will officially graduate from Lehigh with a Masters in Sociology tomorrow. I just finished grading the final exams of all three classes I taught this semester.
Everything is coming to a close.
Tomorrow will be mostly about celebrating the accomplishments that my peers and I have completed throughout our time at Lehigh. But it will also be full of goodbyes.
The epitome of bitter-sweet.

I have had a truly amazing experience at Lehigh and sometimes I wonder how different everything (myself included) would be if I had gone somewhere else. I do not want to leave my friends, but I know that I am ready to step outside of my comfort zone and explore the world.
Mauritania here I come!

I have not even begun to pack yet. How am I supposed to fit my life into two bags weighing a total of 80 pounds? It will take me a whole van to move out of my current residence.
So far here is my list of things I need to buy:
- short wave radio
- internal frame backpack
- head lamp
- leatherman pocket knife
- shammy/camping towel
- long skirts
- 3 month supply of toiletries
- 10 pound bag of rice sticks
- loose running pants
- lots of batteries
- sewing kit

I am sure there will be other things I need to buy, but that is what I have for now.

11 May 2009

The End/Beginning is Near

In only 35 days everything is going to change. But who’s counting, right? In 35 days I will begin my journey with the Peace Corps to the country of Mauritania. All that I know is that I will be serving as a Girl’s Education and Empowerment (GEE) agent and that I must fit my life for the next two years into 80 pounds of luggage.

This will be my story and the memories that I create along the way.