Big Up from Aribinda

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Teaching, en Français

So, I continue to teach in French. The kids are pretty good, they pick up on a lot of things. Some of the things you would think they know about they don't. Heck, some of the things in academia kids pick up on in the States involve fleeting commentary on the TV or something they see online. With so many more media sources and influential media that there are in the States, some kids have clear-cut advantages to learning. Words here and there, resources you take for granted. A troisieme class (approx 9th grade), filled to the max with 120 students, is difficult to teach. This is also the grade where they take the BEPC, the test they must pass to qualify for the lycée, the equiv of our high school. The only subjects on the BEPC are the ones the kids learn that year. So, every grade up until then is still extremely important.

There are so many other obstacles to kids learning here. Most of the country lies hidden in darkness during the night because there isn't much electricity. So, if kids lamps run out of kerosene, they don't get to study. Then, some kids live 10 km away from school. So, they have to travel, sometimes by foot! Infrastructure, media variety, and overall resources are huge factors to kids' performance. There aren't enough teachers either, did I mention that?

Well, I plan on making a difference. I need to hook it up with some more nonprofits, get some solar panels and batteries for the lycée in Aribinda. That way, maybe I can teach study hall too. Give the kids extra incentive to learn, not just get the things they need for survival everyday, another huge task. If you can't get the things needed pour la vie, who gives a shit? Gotta eat, and it's hard enough to get water here, take my word for it.

The people here will always be here, living a hard life. I know they must help themselves, but no country has ever done it alone. There have always been helping hands. Let's help Africa people!

Beaucoup d'Amour!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sick Again

I hate getting sick here. Nothing is that comforting. You feel as if you lay in a bed you have never been in. Everyone speaks a language you can't understand, to a certain degree. Really, one of the only things bolstering you is the rally cries from you fellow stagiares. Thank goodness for them.

Teaching intro chemistry now, combustion reactions to 8th graders. I guess it's just combustion. My French level makes it interesting. I have only been here for close to 7 weeks, so I haven't given up yet. I need more study time. My vocabulary is so bad, that's the main thing stopping me. But it's hard to study when you're sick, your diet is completely shot because you're sick and you hate the food in the country that seems to reject you everyday with something. Also, you are woken up by torrential rain slapping the piss out of your tin roof, or you gotta run to the latrine, parce que tu est malade encore.

Can't wait for stage to be over. Yet, it is an important part of the journey. Just a few more weeks, that is what I tell myself.

OK, time to go study, or do something constructive. Much love goes out to all the Leos too, Happy Birthday my fellow cats of large stature!

Much love from Son Sagesse,


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Day In The Life

Imagine you just woke up in a bed where the mattress is too big for the frame. You slept in the convex trap all night, probably snoring toute la nuit. Then, you go for an omelette with your friend to the local kiosk. As you eat this very sub-average meal, you are nearly eaten by flies. Your left big toe is infected, which the flies love. The amoxicillin you bought from the local pharmacy, sans prescription, is doing the toe good however. After crappy petit dejeuner, you stroll over to the boutique and grab a few sachets de l'eau fraiche. You run into the local doctor, who also happens to be the person who runs the hotel you are staying at. You greet him, see he has a leash in his left hand. You follow the leash down to its terminal end and there it is, a monkey. Pretty sweet one too, like the one from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The other stagiare shows up. She's a cool chick who graduated from Okla St. You and the two others decide to make the bike ride up to Bryan's site, can't remember the name, the next day. It's a 30 km trip. The next day, you wake up late, eat nothing in the morning, get on your bike with 2.5 liters of agua and your heavy Terra 40 on your back. The ride is good at first, hardly any hilly terrain along a rough clay road. It rained a few days ago, so you expect some road blow-out. Then, the wind comes. Then, you start feeling ill. Le ventre me fait mal. Your stomach rumbles. Having been sick for the past week and a half doesn't ease your mind here. The wind comes, harder.

A guy on a moto lashed to a camel passes you. You are a fast bike rider so you lose your compadres. You pass the guy on the moto with the camel. You stop and take a picture of the guy on the moto and the camel as he passes you. You start to crave water, although your stomach is feeling queasy. You get back on your bike when your friends catch back up with you. You whine more than Bryan or Cassandra because you feel ill. You start gung-hoing it, right into the stiff breeze. The wind comes, harder.

You get to maybe the 6th low-road point meant as drainage zones for water. The Sahel this time of year is pretty green. You see many Burkinabé tilling soil, calling out to them Bonjour! They yell back ça va? You say ça va. The Baobab trees sticking up everywhere are incredible. I don't think they compare to the Ceiba trees in the Central American rain forest, but they come close. You see this pair of Baobab trees mired in a barrage, many bird nests in the contorted limbs which sway little in the intense wind. You see wonderful birds. Yellow, red, green with blue hints here and there. When you stop, the goats take off. An African rides past you. After you saluer him, you notice he has a dog hog-tied and muzzled on the back of his bike. You drink some water, hop back on the Trek 3700, and pass the African with the bad dog, whimpering incessantly cause he can't bark. The wind comes, meaner.

You stop ahead where Bryan tells you. You start to swirl. You wait for your compadres. You drink your last bit of precious water. You take pictures of your backpack with the Peace Corps patch. You wait for your compadres. Cassandra and Bryan reach you, both of them walking. Cassandra has a flat. Bryan pumps it up. Le ventre me fait mal. You get back on the bike and start pedaling to Kevin's site of Dotoka, which is about 1.5 km away. You get off your bike and start walking with the others, you see the spires of some of the clay huts rising in the distance. Alec Guiness starts invading your senses. You hear Obi-Wan Kenobi say "Use the Force, Luke. Let go, Luke. Luke, trust me." You trust him. You get to Dotoka and Kevin hooks you up with a good drink. You down the sugary tasting liquid over 40 minutes. An hour after that, your stomach starts fighting an internecine battle. You use the latrine to no relief. Then, you wretch. You haven't eaten anything today, but you still do it. You pass out for 30 minutes. You come to. Every muscle in your body aches. You are severely dehydrated. You beg for ORS to replenish your salts. The rest is history as you daze off. You wake up refreshed, hang out with everybody. Then, the dust storm hits. You wait out the rain and have a much better bike ride back.

Just a day in the life. I thought about ET many times during that trip, due to the wind, my illness, and how I hate the food in this country, outside of benga, chicken, and brochettes. I dreamed of wrestling you dad, in between you and me consuming a cold Sirius watching Hard Ball. Then, Jake came in, asking for our help. He wanted to prep the Odyssey for a North Umpqua run. I heard mom talking to Evan about Spain. Then, I heard Howlie bark at something. Geez, i miss Oregon.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


Hey hey again from the Dark Continent! I got my site placement today. Arbinda, in the north Sahelian section of Burkina. It is fairly close to the Mali frontier, in Fulani country. I will be teaching at a lycée (high school) that goes up to premier, maybe even términale. The major local language is Fulfuldé, but of course, I will be teaching in French.

I got food poisoning the other day, so no more eating at La Famille! I have been well otherwise though. The Secondary Ed group is leaving for Ouaga on Sunday for Counterpart Workshop, then site visit! I am excited to see where I am going to be ending up. I guess it is a sandbox up north, with some cool hills and good rock formations. I am gonna make my area green by planting mango, papaya, and banana trees, amongst other flora. I will also start composting, thinking about my secondary project, etc. My housing will be functionnaire housing, which means it will be better than most volunteers places. The volunteer who left that post, Malcolm, I guess left furnishings there, so I am gonna get the hook-up.

Well hey, it's all good. To my brother Jake, I was stoked to hear that the Blazers made the right move and took Oden. When I get back and the Blazers are better, you gotta take me to a game. I am already excited for Rip City to be back! I miss you brah, you take care and I will have many stories to tell you about my students. Then, we can compare notes!