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Saturday
Jan282006

Life in Dschang

It POURED on Wednesday! This time of year, rain is a blessing. In the hot dry days, the dust on the roads in unbearable. The commute to work (on the back of my host-father's motorcycle) is tough: I ride covered by a cloth in an attempt to block out the clouds of dust kicked up by the occasional passing car. But Wednesday's rain knocked the dust back and the roads are still relatively dust free ( i.e. I walked here from home wearing sandals and my feet are still clean). The storm was crazy - torrential downpour, wind, hail, thunder and lightning. The sky has been bluer since, though the creep of dust is returning.

To my fellow SIT alums: The SIT family is doing great. Thomas, Maurice, Paul, and Boubakari are all the same and wonderful. Paul has a new baby!! Exciting news after the loss of Guillotin. I see Annie (Gustave's wife) often and can hardly peel Benson and Jeff off be to get through the door each time. Boubakari got back to town shortly after my arrival and we've been hanging out regularly. (He's actually sitting in the room now and says hi.) I am getting informal but intensive courses in Fulfuldé once again. Last night, while hanging out at his house (the house of his friend, Adamou, where Boubs stays while he's in Dschang), heated debates about the death penalty and racism moved in and out between French and Fulfuldé. They sometimes forget that I only speak the one language. But all is well here with the program. The new students arrive Monday in Yaoundé and will be wisked off to Fongo Tongo for orientation. I have been talking with the new (interim) director and am going to do some work with the students during their orientation and first week in Dschang.

Other news. I am working hard at building my resistance to the constant barrage of comments about the color of my skin. As I explained to Boubakari and Adamou, it is completely unexceptable in the U.S. (at least in the world that I'm from) to point at a person and shout "black person!" or "hispanic!" or "woman!" or "gay!", but here things are different. I know that when kids and adults alike point and shout "la blanche" or "ndege" that they don't mean offense. If anything, they are excited by my presence and want to say hi, courage to you. But having been raised in a world where I was taught to see past these differences, it is still hard to not cringe when I am called "ndege" (Yemba for "white"). So that is my biggest personal challenge. It is hard to change an involuntary response. I don't want to cringe when called out for being white. I want to respond with a greeting... but right now I just have to work on toughening up this white skin of mine and bearing it.

New pictures! Check them out. I just had to take a picture of my breakfast this morning because really represents the worst of the worse. Starch, through and through. Tasty, yes, but not something I want to stuff in my face. I think I'll go find myself some papaya or an orange or something that isn't potato, root, or bean based.

Thanks to all of you that have been in touch with me. I'm sorry if I can't get a personal response back each time, but I will try my best. I love hearing from you so keep those emails coming.

Wow, this was a long post.

On est ensemble!!

Saturday
Jan282006

More photos from Dschang

Here are more photos from Dschang. Next week I'll include photos of the schools I'm working in, if I can manage to upload them.

Thanks, and keep in touch.

Sunday
Jan222006

Photos!

Hello all,


After a few attempts and a couple of hours, I have managed to successfully upload some photos. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to upload half of those that I wanted to because the internet station got too crowded and I was slowing up the entire system, but I managed to get some shots of my house uploaded.

As for news: the rest of my work week finished up well. I was nervous about teaching at the technical school because the kids are older and therefore have developed teenage attitudes. The classes went well, though. I teach all four class years in four separate classes. The fourth year is great: only 30 students, very mature, intelligent, and motivated. Third year is similar, though it's bigger (50 students) and has a few kids in the class who work really hard at distracting the others. Second year has 90 kids, and the first year has 130. Surprisingly, I didn't have much trouble with a class this big. It means leaving class with a slightly strained voice and not knowing if half the class understood the material, but it was definitely not as bad as I would have imagined teaching a class of 130 sixteen year olds could be. I am excited to get back to the primary school tomorrow. I'll be there from Monday to Thursday now, and I'm excited for the extra day I'll have there. Once the novelty of my being there wears off and the kids have calmed down a little, I will bring my camera into school so I can get some pictures to you.

In other news, I'm looking somewhat hilarious right now because I agreed to let my friend braid my hair. So, I've got long "tresses" which everyone else seems to think look awesome because they were well done, but I'm pretty convinced I just look like an idiot. Thankfully, my hair will go frizzy in a day or two because slippery blond hair is not meant for tressing, and then I'll have a legitimate excuse to remove the braids. I spent the day yesterday playing frisbee with my friend Annie and her kids and having the entire gaggle of neighborhood kids gather around as I had my hair braided.

Other than that, not much else is new. I could definitely go for a fresh garden salad about now: the large quantities of potatoes, plantains, rice, and spaghetti are already getting old. A special note for a particular cousin of mine who hates green vegetables: what I wouldn't give for green beans, broccoli, cucumbers, peas, lettuce, anything! Take advantage of the fact that you have them!

I've got a good amount of work ahead of me to prepare for next week - mostly packets for the teachers, since they are much more ambitious learners and we cover a lot of material in each class. Given that there are only seven of them, I can afford to create handouts and am going to use the remainder of my "school supplies" budget in buying them all French-English dictionaries, stocking the schools with good books, and other necessities like that.

It's great hearing from all of you. Keep in touch!

Lindsay

Thursday
Jan192006

Red dust, chalk dust, and the ABCs

Salut mes soeurs, frères, mamans, et papas,

Thanks to the general state of disorganization at the private technical high school where I will be teaching at the end of each week, I have been granted a half day off. I am pretty exhausted after my first three days at l'école primaire de Doumbouo. I started school on Monday morning. The primary school is a half hour motorcycle ride away up a steep and dusty red road. Doumbouo turns out to be much more rural than I realized. The school consists of one long row of six classrooms, one additional classroom building, a building for the motos, and a staff building. The buildings are mud/brick with dirt floors. Much to my relief, every classroom is equipped with a chalk board. Though there are "textbooks", only about 1/3rd of the students own them (they must buy them). I start each morning with the youngest kids (about 6 years old) and work my way up to the oldest class. Six classes, 30 minutes for the first four and one hour for the last two. The kids are amazing. Smart and enthusiastic, though lacking any practical knowledge of English (even those who have studied if for five years). Probably one of the most rewarding parts of the day is the hour of teacher training after school is over. I am working with the seven teachers and teaching them English and they have an endless thirst for the language. I was supposed to start working at the private tech school today, but it turns out they don't have space/time for me on Thursdays, so I start tomorrow and will teach there every Friday from here on out (and Monday thru Thursday at the primary school).

In general, things are going very well. I will try to upload some photos soon to email out. My family is great and I have settled in easily with them and their routine. It's actually been kind of cold here in the morning. I don't know if I'm already just turning week to the cold from the warm afternoons, but it's at least cold enough to see your breath. It makes that early morning (pre-sunrise) bucket bath a cold challenge.

Anyway, only one minute left on this internet card, so I have to go. Write back (and thanks to all of you that do!).

on est ensemble,
Lindsay (Miss Lindsay)

Monday
Jan092006

Up, up, and away!

Well folks, after a long hiatus from life on the road, my bags are packed and I am Cameroon-bound. I am a restless mixture of excitement and nerves right now. I fly out Tuesday, January 10th from Philly and make connections in Cincinnati and Paris before arriving in Douala, Cameroon, at which point I will travel by bus/van for about six hours to reach my destination: Dschang. Hours of total travel (approx) = 26. For those of you who could use the reference, below are some map links. I will be in the West (Ouest) province of Cameroon in a town called Dschang. I will be living with the same host family with whom I stayed during my semester abroad, and will be teaching English as a foreign language in the primary school that is directed by my host-father.

Though Cameroon is officially bilingual (French and English), English is spoken by only a small minority in the southwestern region bordering Nigeria. (Let's not forget to mention the 240+ non-colonial languages spoken throughout the country.) The city of Dschang is french-speaking. Though I'll save the full explanation for those who specifically want it, here's the short explanation for why I think English-language instruction is important in Cameroon: Cameroon at least pretends to be interested in developing a functional democracy. If there is ever going to be hope for the disenfranchised anglophone minority, English-speakers and the English language must become further incorporated into the Cameroonian public sphere and government. By promoting French-English bilingualism, the fissure between the anglophone and francophone populations can gradually be mended (or at least shrunk). Though I can't do this in four+ months of teaching and teacher-training, it's a step in the right direction and I don't plan on brushing the matter under the rug when I return. Anyone else out there want to teach in Dschang? I am looking into the potential of turning this into an enduring program.

I will be in regular contact via email throughout my time in Dschang. I'll be sending out occasional emails to this group so those few of you who actually read them through can keep up the good work. If, however, you're bored bulk emails like these, it's because I don't know what you want to hear! Send me an email with specific questions and it will be more fun for both you and me. Keep in touch and fill me in on what's new (or not new) in your life.

Wish me luck in my 26 hours of travel. Ugh. And stay in touch! (Seriously, stay in touch. An email from any one of you brightens my day.)

Until next time,
Lindsay