Letters from America x Letters from Mauritania

Nicole Morales, ESOL Instructor, PCC SE Center and Nouakchott

Dear PCC Students,

I write this letter as an intro and invite to the new column Letters from America x Letters from Mauritania, a project to foster cross cultural collaboration through writing. I taught ESOL classes at PCC Southeast before accepting a teaching job in Nouakchott, Mauritania. I knew I wanted stay connected to students, fellow instructors, and staff before I left the city. The Letters idea came to fruition when I emailed Bridge Faculty Advisor Tony Greiner in early February. I was looking for a way to connect my Portland community with my Nouakchott community. Tony was looking for a way to recruit more writers and reach more readers for The Bridge. Tony, Bridge Editor Jessica Funaro, and I have been e-collaborating the last four weeks. We are ready. We are excited. We want you to be too.

I departed for Nouakchott on Sunday, January 12. When I left Portland, it was wet, dark, and below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Twenty-five hours later, I arrived in the capital city. It was dry, bright, and above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

I have not put a lot of effort into adjusting to the Sahara climate. I like it. The weather here is as predictable as my wardrobe – I wear cotton everything and do not leave the house without my oversized sunglasses. I do have to keep up on my water intake and make sure I pee three times a day.

I have put effort into what I understand to be true about Mauritania in relation to what the students here know to be life in Mauritania. I am learning. I have been since last year.

I got the call to interview for a job teaching future English teachers in Mauritania in September 2013. Mauritania. Where is that? I did a quick and lazy keyword search on Google. Islamic Republic of Mauritania. Sahara. South of Morocco. North of Senegal. Travel advisories? Modern day slavery? AQIM? Force-feeding women? They want to send me here? I was concerned. I was curious. I took the job.

Google did not have a lot of nice things to say about Mauritania last year. Google does not have a lot of nice things to say this year. I wondered. So, I asked – What do the university students and educators in Mauritania have to say in response? A lot – their opinions are as diverse as their backgrounds and they want you to know. How? Read their Letters from Mauritania in The Bridge.

And you? What do you think students in Mauritania wonder about the United States? Its freedoms? Its violence? Its education systems? Its materialisms? Its world politics? Its…? You decide.

Share your opinion. Write us a letter. Send it to The Bridge.


Nicole Morales

Editor’s note: In a brief email today Ms. Morales wrote: 

… there was a protest today! I was not involved. One university student died – I did not know the student. It was a tragic day. Things have settled. 

You can read the BBC’s coverage about this event here.