Tuesday, October 26, 2010

2 Months In!

I always want to write something for my blog but I never really know what to write. I have so much to talk about and want to share with you all, I’ve had some really great experiences. Ill just write down what comes to mind and we will see how this comes out…

About this time next week it will be my 2 month mark in village, in some ways I feel like I have been here much much longer but at other times these past months have went by relatively fast.

Because I’m still within my first 3 months were not actually allowed/advised to start any projects. Around the middle of January (over my birthday!) we all meet back up for a couple more weeks of training. Right now we are supposed to be concentrated on integrating and learning about our community. So why not tell you a little about them as well?!

School started here on October 1st and since that day I have been going to sit in on the classes. The lycee (6th-12th grade) is in Ziniare the larger town outside my village, I went by once to meet some teachers but aside from that I haven’t been there. The school is huge and a bit overwhelming, its not actually my site so I’m not sure yet if I will work there. I’ve already been spreading myself a bit thin with the other schools. Anyways Bassy (the name of the school) is like I said, huge, each class has subclasses (for example there are a couple 6eme classes) and each one of those has around a hundred students in each class. The kids come from all over and may need to bike or walk 6K or more to get to school.

My actual site has one primary school (K-5th grade) the classes are about half the size, 40 or 50 students per class. Also, here there is only one class for each grade. The same goes for my satellite village, it has just one primary school with about the same number of students in each grade. For the past couple weeks I’ve been spending time at each school. One week here, one week there. This Monday I showed up at my satellite village and the director of the school, who also teaches CM2 (5th grade) told me that the CM1 (4th grade) teacher wasn’t going to be there in the morning, she had something to do in Ouaga. He then told me I would be teaching the class. Shockingly, (not really) there are no substitute teachers here, if a teacher isn’t able to make it to school for whatever reason the kids are pretty much left to their own devices. One of the other teachers will tell them to do math problems on the board or something and that will be that. Of course you leave 50 or so 4th graders in a room and tell them to do math for 3 hrs…yeah that’s not really going to work. I was completely unprepared, I’m not a teacher what am I going to do with them? And on top of that most of the kids don’t even speak French, just Moore. Anyways, I decided to suck it up and do what most people out here want me to do, teach them English. I taught them the alphabet, numbers 1-10, how to say “my name is…” and a few greetings. They had a great time and caught on quickly but now when I go to the school some of the students just tend to yell out random numbers but hey I guess they remembered something right?

From what I’ve picked up on in my time here is that the schools aren’t having that hard of a time getting girls to school, as a matter of fact there are quite a few classes more girls then boys. The biggest challenge is study skills and continuing to attend school. In my satellite village last year there were 67 kids in CM2, to continue onto the lycee they need to pass a test, of that 67 44 did not get a high enough score to move on. There’s a bit more to it but if you don’t pass you wont move on to the lycee. So that’s one thing I know I could help with. I think the kids just need a bit more motivation and someone to help them study. I was also happy to see that both of my schools have a lunch canteen. An NGO donated rice and oil to schools here in Burkina and the schools I work with have each student bring about a kilo of beans to add to it. This way they get to eat for free all year. Granted a diet of oil, rice and beans everyday is not great for your health but its better than the kids going hungry. If things go as planned I want to plant moringa trees in each schools courtyard and have them add that to the lunches. Moringa is incredibly good for you, it has a ridiculous amount of vitamins and is super easy to grow, plus its free. I really enjoy spending time at the schools here its always entertaining to see the vast differences between here and the high school I worked at in Long Beach or any school in the states for that matter. Students and teachers get about 3 hours for lunch, and at my satellite school one of the teachers brings something to eat for all of us, and by that I mean we all sit in a circle and eat out of one bowl with our hands. The other day we had spaghetti. After we eat we pull out the mats and take a nap outside while the kids are off eating their lunch, playing, and trying to stay out of the heat. The teachers here are much more authoritative than they are in the states. I remember in elementary school loving my teachers and thinking they were the nicest people in the world. In Burkina teachers are very strict, students stand and cross their arms when a teacher enters the room and does the same when they are called on to answer a question. When a student comes to address you outside of the class they cross their arms and squat (almost like a bow) also a lot of the teachers still hit the students even though it is illegal to do so. The parents don’t mind though because they do the same at home. What I’ve noticed in the last couple of weeks is that the teachers tend to show up when they want, take breaks when they want, and answer their cell phones in the middle of class. It may sound odd to us Americans but that’s just how things are done here. At their own pace.

Today was my off day, the students at the primary school don’t have school on Thursdays so I decided to spend the day cleaning the house. I had this cubby-like shelving unit made for my room so I took out everything to clean it. It was all kinds of fun, I had tiny lizards in my dresses, crickets just about everywhere, and the best part was the scorpion about the size of a business card in with my underwear. I’ve decided now to pay a lot more attention when I’m getting ready in the morning. After that I biked into Ziniare to use the internet, send some mail, charge my computer and stop by my tailor to pick up a dress I had made along with dropping off some other fabric for another dress. I found some plaid the other day in Ouaga and it made my week.

That’s how my life is these days. Most of the time it’s a lot of sitting around reading (I read a whole book on Sunday), watching/playing with the little girls in my courtyard, trying to learn Moore, socializing with as many people in my community as I can, biking to the pump to get drinking water then walking to the well to get water for showering and washing my clothes, trying to keep up with the endless meetings, and observing classes. I try to keep myself busy, its all you can do to keep yourself from getting to caught up in your own head.

All in all things are going really well here. I’m no longer known as “Nazara” (or white person) but Christine (as close as its gonna get). I’ve started to establish a schedule and my house is becoming more of a home. The weather is finally starting to cool down. Last night for the first time I was actually a bit chilly. I loved it!

2 years is a long time to live here, even the Burkinabe think so. Every time I tell someone I’ll be here for 2 years and this is my 2nd month at site they like to remind me I have 22 months left, It’s soooo helpful. At the same time thought they tell me that by the end of my 2 years my French and Moore will have improved immensely and I will be a member of the community. That makes me happy and I can tell I’m getting closer and closer to both of those with each passing month.

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