Two weeks ago all of the volunteers in Mauritania were consolidated to Senegal, and after a long wait we were finally informed yesterday that the program in Mauritania has been suspended. This means that Peace Corps in Mauritania is on hold until further notice-none of us will be allowed to return and we are now waiting in Dakar to go home or receive new assignments.
This may come as a surprise to many of you, but it has been a long time coming. Mauritania has been experiencing random terrorist activity for a couple of years now, and it has intensified in the last year. Earlier this summer, an American teacher in the capital was murdered during a failed kidnapping attempt, and just last week a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of the French embassy. In both cases, al Qaeda claimed responsibility. A security team came in from Washington to do an evaluation, and deemed Mauritania unsafe for service. Thus, we find ourselves here, considering the next step.
The most difficult part of all of this is that in our everyday lives in Mauritania, there was no danger. Waking up to the sound of my host sister snoring, going to the elementary school to have tea with teachers, buying tomatos from the market, there was no sign that the country was changing or that our situation as foreign volunteers was in any way compromised. The danger is a fringe element that targets foreigners. We left Mauritania two weeks ago not knowing whether we would return, and there are so many goodbyes that were left unsaid. The people I knew and loved, who lived their lives with so much sincerity and kindness, are now people I will never see again.
I am not sure about my next step at this point: I am going to try to transfer to another program in West Africa. I will keep you all posted!