Sam, who was visiting me for the weekend) to a big church fete in his
village. Dressed in our Benin-style finery, we showed up to the tail
end of a four-hour mass, took a couple of pictures, then found it
absolutely necessary to join the dance procession down the center
aisle. There were between 800 and 1500 people, and the second we
started dancing Beninese style (crouched-over booty pop with chicken
dance arms), there was a huge wave of giggles, clapping and cheering.
As we walked out, we were getting compliments left in right – awesome.
One woman grabbed my arm and said, "Yovo sais dancer!" which is,
roughly translated, "Girrrrrl, you shake that ass!"
-Getting Ready for Devoirs. Our second round of devoirs – schoolwide
exams – begin next week, and after seeing the ridiculously difficult
tests, I decided to spend this entire week reviewing vocabulary and
activities they'll see on the devoirs. Problems with this plan: it's
not new information, so they're not all that interested in it (not
that they were fascinated in the first place), and reviewing makes it
depressingly obvious how much they haven't studied. I don't get how
they can just not study or care about school. I. just. don't. get.
-Chaleur, She Is A-Coming. The last month or so was Harmattan, or the
"cold" season (wasn't actually cold, but maybe a little brisk some
mornings at 4am). This week I started feeling the creeping heat
stealing back into my apartment, which means that Chaleur is about to
arrive. Chaleur is the season (literally named "Heat" in French) that
makes all volunteers and people who have experienced air conditioning
hate their lives. Lord help me through the next four months.
-Two goats wandered into my classroom Monday. My student immediately
raised his hand and offered to slaughter and cook them for me.
-Spelling Bee Practice! Wednesday was the first practice session for
the English spelling bee I'm doing ("with" the English department). I
walked into the classroom and saw only 16 kids, all from my classes… I
guess that's good, but I was hoping for much more interest from
classes that weren't mine so I could meet new kids. A little
disappointing. The other English prof showed up and we started the
session – we went over rules, tantalized the kiddos with a trip to
Natitingou for the winners, and put the first 40 words on the board
for them to copy. Students were trickling in the entire time, and at
one point I suddenly realized that there were a lot of people in a
very small room. I counted: over a hundred students…!!! I had a
great time being goofy and correcting spelling, the other English prof
seemed like he was having fun, too, and the kids LOVED the
competition. I'm excited! E-X-C-I-T-E-D. Excited.
-Sam's Moving Near to Me! My friend Sam recently had to leave her
village, and now she's moving to a village 10 minutes from me – yay
more company! We've got plans: look forward to a Peace Corps Cribs
episode on each of our houses. :)
-I'm Angry at My 5eme Class. I told them to study before our review
session. I planned a fun competition review session. They showed up
to the class, and they somehow knew less than they did a month ago –
how?? I slogged through the lesson, gave them the best lecture my
French could handle, and stormed out angry. Seven out of 40ish passed
the last round of exams… I'm expecting about the same this time
around, despite my best efforts.
-Another Great AP Meeting Conversation. This week's English
department meeting ended up being another really great conversation.
We started out talking about classroom management, and fairly quickly
one of the profs brought up a current issue he was having. Last week,
he hit three kids on the butt with a stick "just to scare and motivate
them." One of the girls subsequently passed out and was taken to the
health center, where the doctor told her it was because she hadn't
eaten that morning and it was too cold out for her. The girl's family
now thinks that the professor wants to kill her (I can't explain that
one), and is spreading rumors throughout Daagbe to that effect.
So he's mad about that, and the fact that no one from the family has
come to talk to him about it. After a little bit of chatting, we kind
of merged that convo into one about corporal punishment. It was a
really interesting exchange of ideas, and I got to explain why I don't
think beating kids with sticks is a good idea. I don't think I got
anyone to stop hitting the students, but I did get a couple of them to
concede that it's our job as teachers to hold our tempers and try to
find more legal and Gandhi-friendly forms of punishment. And I feel
pretty good about that.