Friday, October 24, 2008

Hey! My camera isn't broken after all!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Green Mamba?

(this blog was written October 17th)

Last week while I was washing some clothes, on one of the trees in my back yard, I saw a strange green vine. I say strange because it was brighter than any vine I’d ever seen. You know where this is going, right? It wasn’t a vine at all. It was a snake. I suspect it was a green mamba because apparently if you see a green snake around here, you should kill it immediately because it’s dangerous. I just watched it; I was transfixed and I didn’t want to call anyone to kill it. Everyone has asked me why I didn’t get anyone to come and kill it, but honestly, I didn’t want to put anyone in danger; it was high up in the tree. And I didn’t want to stop looking at it. It reminded me of that trip I took to the Audubon Zoo a few weeks before I left the states. I remember going into the reptile room and reading all of the information on the snakes, wondering which ones lived in West Africa and which ones were poisonous. I’d remembered this bright green one. Not far from the tree, there’s another tree which bares papaya. Lately, every time a papaya is close to ripe, someone comes and snatches it before I can. A few days ago I had a dream: I noticed a large papaya ready to come down. I was so excited that I’d get to have the papaya to myself and as I reached up to grab it, the green snake was wrapped around it. Once again, I just stood staring at it and ended up once again, with no papaya. I’m no interpreter of dreams but there are some obvious symbols here, no?
My students are so strange. One day they make fun of me and the next, they proclaim their love for me. I was teaching body parts to my younger kids and I had them draw aliens with different numbers of eyes, arms, legs, etc. and afterwards, they’d introduce their alien and tell me how many body parts it had. One boy drew his alien with a green flowered skirt, the same skirt I was wearing that day. Another didn’t forget to include sexual organs on his alien. When I asked him about it, he told me he was sorry and that his pencil had simply slipped when he was drawing legs. Later in the week, the same class had brought in a tree and put it by my desk and decorated it with flowers and confetti. They also drew nice pictures of me and made signs that said, “I love you” and “I speak English” and hung them around the room.
My terminale class, the older ones, saw an ugly side of me the other day. I still don’t know all of their names and their numbers had changed on the roster so I thought I’d give them their new numbers (which is pretty important here since a lot of students are simply referred to by their number instead of name) and take the opportunity to try and put the names to their faces. A couple of my kids said aloud, “You’re wasting time.” I raised my voice and said, “That’s rude. I certainly don’t tell you that you’re wasting my time so I don’t appreciate it when you tell me that. I’m under no obligation to come here and teach you. If you want to see me waste time, I could show you wasting time.” And I just stood there and stared at them. They started protesting, “No Madam, don’t do this. We’re sorry. Please continue.” It had caught me off guard. Especially since I think my terminale class has already made tremendous progress. They’d seemed completely lost on my first day in class. Apparently, I haven’t been strict enough. I didn’t think I’d have to be since most of them are my age. I’d never disciplined anyone in that class and felt like if I treated them as adults, they’d show me respect. But I see now maybe they’re just big kids.
Teacher’s day went really well. We marched around the village, singing some song about teacher’s day. I didn’t know it so I couldn’t sing it. Afterwards, we met at the mayor’s office for a party and I couldn’t help but snicker when I noticed the place was decorated with Christmas decorations, including Santa Claus, hanging from the ceiling. I met the new superfĂ©t, which is similar to the mayor, and several other big figures in the village. The high school staff left early and had a separate party at the hotel. My principal insisted I sit at the table with the administration. He said, “We have few women teachers and the ones we have, we want to treat them right.” Sure enough, I was the only woman at the party. Though, I would have been happier just sitting with the other teachers. I felt strange talking with the administration. But the porcupine was actually tasty this time. Maybe a lack of meat in your diet will do that to you? I don’t know.
The principal’s asked me and another teacher to organize a majorette squad. If Lauren reads this, I know she’d laugh right now. What a coincidence, right? For those of you who don’t know, I was a majorette in high school, so I know how to twirl. I agreed but now, after I’ve been approached by a storm of girls who’ve heard about it, I’m beginning to remember the drama that comes with having a squad of young girls. We’re holding try-outs this week. I even remember some of our routines from high school, so maybe in the future, the squad will be twirling to “Try Again” by Aaliyah or even “Thriller” by Michael Jackson, complete with the head twitch and everything. Hah.
Until next time…

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I'm really not good with titles

This is the post where I really wish my camera was working so I could share a photo of my new kitten, Lulu. She's cute and already spoiled. I'm sure some of you are asking yourself, "Wha? I thought you were allergic to cats?" Yes, I am. But my house seemed like a big lonely place and I thought maybe I was only allergic to American cats. Heh. Of course, I'm sneezing and itching a little but her companionship is worth it. She's apparently fatter than normal kittens because I feed her until she stops eating. People here don't really have "pets." They have goats that eat the grass, big dogs to scare people away, and cats that hang around their yards because they've fed it from time to time. Surprisingly, however, there's a vet in my village. He specializes in farm animals, but I told him I had a cat and I wanted to treat her for insects and worms and such. So, he went to Bafoussam and found me some medicine. Now, if only I could get her to always use her litter box. Yeah, I made a litter box.

School is coming along. I've experienced some minor discipline problems but I noticed if you threaten to send them out and count them as absent, they tend to take you seriously. Also, taking points off works too because their marks are very important to them. One day, I honestly felt like a clown in front of the classroom for the students' amusement. I was pretty unhappy about it, but I spoke to some colleagues in the English Dept. who are incredibly supportive and helpful. If there's one thing I love about my job, it's the support that colleagues give one another here. The volunteer before me wrote that I should depend on my colleagues. I'm now seeing what she meant.

Beginning Monday, I'm heading to Bangangte where I'll teach a group of girls English. I think I mentioned this before, but the volunteer before me worked with this group of girls who attend the center for continuing education. I met with the director and she's super nice and in a way, kind of reminds me of grandma, my mom's mom. I can't put my finger on it, but there's something that connects the two in my mind. And the center's not far from my host dad's pharmacy so I'll get to visit him. I'll be working every Monday morning and this means I can also buy stuff from the "Boulangerie," which makes pretty good bread and benets. We don't have a bakery in my village. I keep telling people if they open up a bakery here, they'd get a lot of business from me, but everyone says it's too much money to run one. They say it's better to just make the 30 minute drive to buy the bread.

I think if my village were Opelousas, Bangangte would be Lafayette, and Bafoussam would be Baton Rouge. The driving time is the same and it seems like Bangangte's a little bit bigger and has many more options. And Bafoussam's the capital, where I can find lots of things that don't exist around here. I try to limit my visits to Bafoussam, because like Baton Rouge, the traffic sucks and it's not a fun place to be.

This Sunday is Teacher's Day and there's a big party somewhere. My principal said if I didn't go, it would be bad. It would seem like I don't like being a teacher. Hah, imagine that! He said this in English, so I think I should take it seriously. I hear there will be plenty of beer. I'll let you know how it turns out.