Wednesday, December 19, 2007

December 18

I love giving candy to my kids. They love receiving it too! It is a rare treat. 3 pieces cost 25 FCFA (4 cents), rarely does a kid have 25 FCFA. Plus they'd rather buy a boiled sweet potato or a gateau, something a little more filling than sweets.

On Monday, a day of no classes except calculating student averages some of my kids were all about working for candy.

We had a fraction fest with parentheses and brackets galore. It was fun and I liked it coz I could individualize the problem depending on the student's skill level as well as show each student what was wrong.

Sometimes the kids make me frown when they work on other homework from other classes or start gabbing when I'm talking.

And sometimes they make me smile at their enthusiasm to learn, hands stretched as high as they can go hoping to be the hand that catches my eye to be called upon.

December 16

Computers are nice.

Calculating the first trimester's grades for 260 students, weighting each subject differently, math and French valued more than the other subjects, plus having to have each student verify their averages by hand is time consuming. Time consuming! At least I have a calculator. I am thankful for my portable solar powered piece of technology.

December 15

Coming from the supermarket culture of the states, it feels weird being given raw peanuts and then boiling them in salted water.

Homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers are nothing new.

But peanuts, homegrown peanuts are new to me. Peanuts come on shelves in cans with a seal of freshness.

Washing off the dirt that provided the nutrients for my peanuts and then boiling them, or shelling them, or grilling them, or pounding them into peanut butter really puts you into the ground level of processing, a processing by the human hand instead of by an idea out of the human head that mass processes peanuts.

I don't know what I really want to say about this. All I know is that it feels different than picking a tomato, washing it, and eating it.

December 14

Nothing seems special anymore.
I have adapted and my world has equilibrated into normal:

the latrine
the bucket baths
the stars

I remember my first days learning how to squat. My muscles complained and my aim was a bit off.

My first bucket bath wasn't very cleansing or conserving. Most of the water missed me washing the floor quite well, taking twice as much water as was necessary.

Star gazing used to be a favorite pastime, now I just fall asleep.

December 13

I can tell the morning time by the color of the sky.

Instead of looking over at an alarm clock with big read numbers sitting on a nightstand, I peer out into the morning sky:

gray = not yet 6 am
orange = 6 am
back to gray = time to get up and get ready for school (6:10)

December 12

I never though in my life that I would have ever said the following:

I wish I had been a cheerleader.

It is the last week of classes at the middle school and the kids have organized a football tournament between the different grades.

The kids would love to cheer their team on with cheers. I don't know any cheers. They never stuck in my head while playing basketball or going to football games and pep rallies.

Man, I wish I had been a cheerleader.

December 11

My village in Burkina has a lot more than my village in Guinea: rice ladies, a daily taxi to Ouaga, many people who'll take your portrait for a fee, a catholic and protestant church, stores stacked high of goods, an ambulance, a cell tower, a dance club, fridges and freezers run on a bottle of gas, a movie shack.

My village in Guinea had oranges and avocados galore, a water faucet right outside my door, freshly baked French bread, and two kids who sold a table full of goods for their parents.

My Burkina village has a lot more amenities. It is a bigger village. Just like how a city has a certain coldness due to the number of strangers, my Burkina village has a certain coldness. Just like how it is harder to make friends, to find community in a big city, I also find this difficulty in my Burkina village.

My Guinea village was small and I was quickly absorbed into the community becoming an active participant, trekking 5 km by foot to attend funerals and fetes.

Sunday my Burkina village left for a big fete in a neighboring village. No one told me.

December 9

Today I went on a 4 hour bike ride.

Half of the trip was on a good dirt road used by all vehicles. The other half was on a lonely dirt path in the wilderness. I'm amazed that even being in new territory on a new path, hills have a sense of familiarity. During a feeling of being lost, a small part of me felt not lost. I recognize that hill. I'm getting close to my destination.

One can never really be lost in the wilderness because all paths lead to people and water. And people will get you back on the right path that will lead to your destination.

It gets scary when a path turns into nothing. And voila you're in the wilderness, lost.

Bling bling

December 8

I have a stack of pens on my desk, nice gel pens from the US that have run out of ink.

As I was about to throw them out, my students said, "No, we want them."

I replied, "They don't work."

"They're pretty. We can attach it to our shirts and people will say that's a pretty pen from the U.S."

I gave them the pens. I guess they are more useful as a piece of jewellery than down the latrine.

A dining experience

December 7

It is a bit unappetizing being served a whole, hot, freshly, deep fried froggy in a clear plastic baggy.

Do I actually bite the head off and start chewing? the webbed feet? It kind of makes me feel a bit queasy.

I've had frog legs before. They were fried up and yummingly reminiscent of chicken. But a whole green frog that looks like it could jump off my plate?

Just close your eyes and start tearing apart!

Well it does taste like chicken a rare taste au village. Chickens are expensive. I miss chicken. Have I found the replacement? Frogs for a quarter each?

Hmm.... I'm not feeling too good.

The legs are tasty.

But I think I'll leave the back, a fried piece of green skin and the head for the dogs and cats. I'm not putting the head in my mouth at least not yet.

I don't know. Maybe I'll leave the frogs for the locals. I waste too much of it. A kid would love the parts I'm throwing out, but its dark and there are no kids around.

I hope my stomach can hold the fine rubbery delicacy.

I think I'll brush my teeth, not sure if my stomach likes the thought or feel of frog gristle between my teeth.

December 5

Watermelons are still in season,
still red,
still dirt cheap,
50 cents for a huge ol'melon,
but a new delicacy has appeared on the food buffet
not just frog legs mind you
whole frogs that have been gutted
and deep fried.

December 4

A lone chick's unending cry pierced the air.
Would it live or die?
Could I catch and protect it till its mother came back?
I decided to wait and see how nature handled it.

Making her rounds with her 20 chick brood, she returned in search for my watermelon rinds.

Unnoticed to be missing, it ran to its family and stopped crying.

Life won today.

December 3

Our volleyball had an unfortunate accident with a thorn tree, thorns longer than your pinkie, thorns like miniature spears, strong not flimsy. The volleyball received two puncture wounds. But don't worry hopefully the patient is recovering with its treatment of super glue.

The Weather

December 2

The wind has picked up blowing my mosquito net held by clothes pins down. Has winter arrived with its billowing, blustery, chilling winds?

Girls' Volleyball

December 1

It is so much fun!

For the past two practices 20 girls showed up, showed up in skirts and flip flops, but what can you do it's all that they have.

We warmed up, clapping after each stretch. We ran and did pushups. We practiced bumping making our forearms sore. We laughed and enjoyed the friendship between us. And at the end of practice, we gave a rousing cheer, Gooooooo Girls!