Thursday, September 9, 2010

Week 4 in Bandjoun

Classes started this week! I teach Monday through Wednesday mornings, and each day I teach two sections of the same grade for two hours each.

While its only been 3 days, here are a few first impressions:
  1. Attendance. On Monday, I had been warned that most students would not show up. Yep, I started the first class on Monday with 7 students, and the second started with 4 and ended with 2! Even many teachers didn't come, leaving large numbers of students hanging around outside. Fortunately, the majority of each class (40-50+) was there on Tuesday and Wednesday.
  2. Behavior. The students in each of two 5me (7th grade) classes diligently copied down a computer lab assignment step-by-step (often laughing at the obviousness of the wording). Then once in the lab, not one of them actually did it. They were raising their hands only to ask me how to find the games (!) So I went around and opened Word for each of them, and then they just stared at the screen. I'm pretty sure the problem is that they don't know how to type. Those who did type were typing gibberish, so... I'll need to incorporate that into the program. Good to know!
  3. Language. The students understand me if I speak French slowly and use very simple sentences. The 5mes did not understand "favorite activities" (activite preferees) but they did understand "What do you like to do?" (Qu'est-ce que tu aimes faire?) Some other useful French so far: Circulez! (Move along: for loiterers who want to watch the Blanche teach through the window); Taissez-vous! (Be quiet)

This will be a fascinating year... I do wonder how much information they can retain only from 2 hours of instruction per week. My hope is that the subject will be interesting enough that they want to learn it. The only way that really can be true is if they get computer lab time, and they actually do the work while there. Should be interesting!

On a different note, the power just came back on after a 1-1/2 day delestage. Yet yesterday, without power or running water, I still managed to do bucket laundry. I had taken my postmate's advice and hoarded water for just such an occasion. Better still, I actually got my sheets sparkling white! No small feat between the cold water, lack of washing board (used a collander instead) and the bright rust-colored mud and dust on everything. So this is... week 15 in Cameroon, and I have just now figured out how to do laundry properly. It is not easy. I really miss washing machines and hot running water.

Surprisingly, I am not missing having a refrigerator. It is very appealing to my environmentalist tendencies to just buy what I need and cook only a portion or two. All the food is locally-grown, its obvious if its fresh or not, and its all organic. I haven't gotten sick at all, much less from eating unrefrigerated food. Then again, I'm cooking it thoroughly before eating. The only exceptions are peeled fruit and bread that I wouldn't refrigerate anyway.

Bird notes: more of the birds I was seeing in Bafia are starting to find their way up here: I came home Wednesday to find a Ovambo Sparrowhawk in a tree next to my house! The Common/Rock Kestrels that are usually there have moved on. I have also been hearing Barn Owls outside the house every night this week, and I saw the first Mosque Swallow of Bandjoun yesterday. And since its September, I should be expecting migrants soon, though I haven't seen one yet.

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