Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Eugene's EE lesson

5/17/2002 (convo #2):
2 conversations, one with Doucas and the other with Eugene...

OK, Eugene from Year 3 [one of my GTTC students], the one who did the EE poster on Lake Nyos, comes up to me today at school to tell me about how Evaluations went. Teaching Practice Evaluations, that is. turns out his EE lesson on the mosquito life cycle went very well. he and i discussed the topic last weekend.

Eugene is sharp. say things once and he's got them. confident, too. so turns out the evaluator asks him a few questions after the class and he's all over them. says it was the same questions we went over... how is the mosquito life cycle relevant to the students? how to ask questions that make them think, etc.

i saw him teach part 1 of the lesson. he's got his stuff down. says the evaluator was impressed. gave him high marks. and that even his Health Ed lesson went well. high marks. i shook his hand. congratulated him. told him to do well on the exam and that we'd like to see his name on the passing list next year. he said, "it will be there." i say insha'Allah!

her belly must flop

5/17/2002 (convo #1):

2 conversations, one with Doucas and the other with Eugene...

last night, all of Ma Karin's kids from next door (Jarvis, Karin, Doucas and Petula) sat at my kitchen steps while i cooked. cute family. Doucas was sitting on the floor a little further in. watching me intently.

i don't remember how exactly, but we started talking about food–oh! yeah... she goes "ay wan chop!" [i want food / i want to eat]. something about how when she sees food she has to eat. full stop. no discussion.

said it with a confidence and self-assurance that is usually so unlike her. said it like it was an immutable physical law of the universe. also said something about how she has to FILL her belly. when she eats, the belly MUST flop [fill up]. as if the vessel was a different entity all together... one which must be appeased at all costs.

i left the kitchen to get something and came back to hear Jarvis and Karin giggling. i asked "what?"... in my brief absence, Doucas turns to them and admits that her stomach is "biting!"

she's hungry and has got to get some of that food i'm making. no shame. no embarrassment. i look at her. she looks at me and nods her head. holding her chubby little belly.

Monday, March 30, 2009

the interpreters

finished reading The Interpreters [a critical study, preview] today. just now. good book. fine book. strangely, i find myself thinking "someone should make a movie out of this!" how the man [Wole Soyinka; a recent interview in MJ] wove it all together i still have not recovered from.

STRONG characters. and he puts words together in a way i didn't know one could. deep but not lofty. enigmatic but without loosing you. instead, they take you along. the pace is quick too... well past the beginning. i still cannot get over the characters. story is good. humor, drama and a great ending. powerful.

2 things... his characters and the thoughts he expresses / scenes described / pictures painted with words following each other in an uninterrupted stream that has you at once searching for the real meaning but not losing you, carrying you along. until the end.

and then... you're on your own. last word, "drowning." with water the predominant theme throughout:
  • rain: the opening, flooding Noah, various scenes are wet and Sekoni's death.
  • streams & rivers: Egbo's village, his secret spot, around church, along procession and Barabbas.

tag cloud, to date

american democracy

"you got a problem with democracy?!"
response of the Cuban-American lobby [not sure which organization] representative to a BBC journalist's question about the lobby's (undue) influence on and driving of American foreign policy vis-a-vis Cuba.

awkward silence followed... then a tenuous chuckle from the British man. he and i probably both thinking "Lord! what a typically American response." why should the rich and powerful in one country be permitted to –

i won't finish the thought... not thinking clearly.

holy father in cameroon

Encounter with Representatives of the Muslim Community of
Cameroon, at the Apostolic Nunciature in Yaounde (March 19, 2009). Apostolic Voyage of the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, to Cameroon and Angola (March 17-13, 2009).

My Dear Friends,

Grateful for this opportunity to meet representatives of the Muslim community in Cameroon, I express my heartfelt thanks to Mr Amadou Bello for his kind words of greeting extended to me on your behalf. Our encounter is a vivid sign of the desire we share with all people of good will - in Cameroon, throughout Africa and across the globe - to seek opportunities to exchange ideas about how religion makes an essential contribution to our understanding of culture and the world, and to the peaceful coexistence of all the members of the human family. Initiatives in Cameroon, such as the Association Camerounaise pour le Dialogue Interreligieux, illustrate how such dialogue enhances mutual understanding and assists in the building up of a stable and just political order.

Cameroon is home to thousands of Christians and Muslims, who often live, work and worship in the same neighborhood. Both believe in one, merciful God who on the last day will judge mankind (cf. Lumen Gentium, 16). Together they bear witness to the fundamental values of family, social responsibility, obedience to God’s law and loving concern for the sick and suffering. By patterning their lives on these virtues and teaching them to the young, Christians and Muslims not only show how they foster the full development of the human person, but also how they forge bonds of solidarity with one’s neighbors and advance the common good.

My friends, I believe a particularly urgent task of religion today is to unveil the vast potential of human reason, which is itself God’s gift and which is elevated by revelation and faith. Belief in the one God, far from stunting our capacity to understand ourselves and the world, broadens it. Far from setting us against the world, it commits us to it. We are called to help others see the subtle traces and mysterious presence of God in the world which he has marvelously created and continually sustains with his ineffable and all-embracing love. Although his infinite glory can never be directly grasped by our finite minds in this life, we nonetheless catch glimpses of it in the beauty that surrounds us. When men and women allow the magnificent order of the world and the splendor of human dignity to illumine their minds, they discover that what is "reasonable" extends far beyond what mathematics can calculate, logic can deduce and scientific experimentation can demonstrate; it includes the goodness and innate attractiveness of upright and ethical living made known to us in the very language of creation.

This insight prompts us to seek all that is right and just, to step outside the restricted sphere of our own self-interest and act for the good of others. Genuine religion thus widens the horizon of human understanding and stands at the base of any authentically human culture. It rejects all forms of violence and totalitarianism: not only on principles of faith, but also of right reason. Indeed, religion and reason mutually reinforce one another since religion is purified and structured by reason, and reason’s full potential is unleashed by revelation and faith.

I therefore encourage you, my dear Muslim friends, to imbue society with the values that emerge from this perspective and elevate human culture, as we work together to build a civilization of love. May the enthusiastic cooperation of Muslims, Catholics and other Christians in Cameroon be a beacon to other African nations of the enormous potential of an interreligious commitment to peace, justice and the common good!

With these sentiments, I once again express my gratitude for this auspicious occasion to meet you during my visit to Cameroon. I thank Almighty God for the blessings he has bestowed upon you and your fellow citizens, and I pray that the links that bind Christians and Muslims in their profound reverence for the one God will continue to grow stronger, so that they will reflect more clearly the wisdom of the Almighty, who enlightens the hearts of all mankind.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

birthday, good day

5/14/2002: HAPPY [25th] BIRTHDAY TO ME!
good day. not bad. not lonely. happy. healthy. glad i'm here. got gifts from moms and maggie... Buba even brought me some pears [avocados]!

that's all. PEACE.

my GTTC colleagues

5/12/2002: MOTHER'S DAY!
last night was not pleasant. not bad, but i was not happy. students arrived @ 3:30pm with their lesson notes for teaching practice, and didn't leave until 7pm. student-teachers from GPS, St. Martin's and Holy Trinity [primary schools in Wum]. is nobody else in on the GTTC [Govt Teacher Training College] Wum staff doing work?

many names come to mind... one of my colleagues even passed by the house, saw me up on my veranda with a line of students (some even his) at 6pm and just kept walking. i was not happy. not angry. not upset with students, but with these teachers. some are serious. some care. professional and sincere. some are fake. and they deride our students: "you don't know any better... you're empty, worthless."

anyway... the fact that i was hungry, out of breath and had no time to mark assignments, go to prayer or read didn't help. OK, moving on. went to St. Martin's Church for 6am mass. no one there. 6am mass, it turns out, is at Holy Trinity. i enjoyed the peace and quiet in the church for a while. went introspective and lost myself in thought.

i'm waiting in Sufyan's chop-house [makeshift cafeteria] now for Buba to come take us up to his place (via Ukpwa with 3 cement bags) before he leavves for Nigeria on Tuesday. insha'Allah all goes well today.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009



again 5/11/2002:
oh... the GLOBE equipment arrived. the PC admin assistant from Yaounde (Barnabas) brought them. much more than i expected! would like to begin the program but my students won't be around this summer. more and more i'm sure that i will be.

i'd love for a few of the 1st and 2nd year (plus upper forms from other schools) to stay and continue EE activities this summer. GLOBE, excursions, lectures, nurseries, plantings, preparing for the camp, etc. i'll think about it... talk to Maggie. talk to the students. we'll get it done. insha'Allah.

no shame

also 5/11/2002:
yesterday... not less than an hour or so after eating fish pies and peppa [hot sauce] at school here, i had some serious issues with diarrhea. had to run out to that pit latrine out back twice in the middle of our staff meeting. shame o!

but who really cares?... that's one thing that's changed. when it comes to matters of fact (my digestive system, slips of the tongue or foot, and other previously embarrassing things) there's no shame in my game anymore.

so i left the meeting early. it was a joke anyway. started two hours late and an hour into it with ZERO accomplished. fortunately, i'd arranged for a moto-taxi home. unfortunately, i missed friday prayer that afternoon. and the mon-ee meeting in the evening.

drank a ton of zuhurrat [herbal tea]. boiled plantains and ate them with dates. things seem to be better now, insha'Allah.

Friday, March 6, 2009

saying no

Saturday morning. up at school. giving tests for latecomers in 3rd year. i.e. those who came after 2nd term. it's a mixed bunch though. some older students who say they were sick. although i said i would not accept their papers (as this is not a make up), i allowed them to write.

i'm growing increasingly more lenient... am i really growing though? haven't i always been? not just with students. Ma Karin, in all audacity, hit me up for 5000 cfa yesterday. to buy groundnuts and bananas from Befang and then sell them in Wum.

everything told me NO!... my instinct, principles and good judgment. even her manner of approach, explanation and domestic situation. needless to say, i couldn't say no. that, ultimately, is my problem. i can't say no.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Syrian sweet

had a thought yesterday while enjoying one of those Syrian sweets moms sent. what i miss most... what i savor most here is Arabic food. took it for granted as something always available. always around. even in the States. its absence here i'm not so aware of until i taste some.

i shake my head in disbelief. i smile wide and savor it. it's not just about food. also about culture. how, back home, i took for granted that i have a dual culture. all the Arabic food i ate (and culture i partake in beyond food) was/is inextricably woven into an American context.

*this topic [being bicultural] still confuses me... hard to articulate my thoughts*

i want to say that Arabic food is sweet. the music speaks to me. in the language i find "rootedness." i have no fear of my American identity slipping away... it's there. it's my Arab identity that i worry about.

and every time i taste a bit of our food i'm reminded of this. i'm overjoyed and worried at the same time. i love this. i am this.

and all of 'this' started with a Syrian sweet.

autumn quail

finished Autumn Quail this morning. the 3 Mahfouz novels together (Beggar / Thief / Quail) are an interesting series... all about the Egyptian revolution [of 1952]. wish i knew/could read more about that particular period of history there. would be nice to know the events he refers to in the novels.

the last 2 (Thief and Dogs / Autumn Quail) are somewhat linked. people speculate that negative criticism on Thief, which is quite a critical/caustic commentary on the revolution and groups involved, drove Mahfouz to make Quail a little more positive/optimistic. at least in terms of how things may end up being for those involved in the revolution. especially those more or less "betrayed" by the events of that time.

the protagonist (Isa) ends up running after a character symbolizing all the positive things about the revolution. and, in fact, this alter ego. that the ending's a bit contrived leads people to say Mahfouz kinda bent to his critics and/or the political establishment. well... regardless, good book.

a strand that runs through Beggar and Quail that i found of interest was the once successful/wealthy/powerful protagonist who falls from his status into despair, apathy and depression. a total lack of passion and direction to equal only the total ambition and zeal before his fall from rank.

nihilism... is what the editor calls it. "3ala kaifak" [as you like] attitude. the world ain't right, so who cares. sad psyche. disturbing. Mahfouz probes it well. all too well.

wanted to leave the house. rain is falling though. heavy. cleaned the place this morning. think i got all the mice, insha'Allah.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

17 kg of goodies!

spent a less than comfortable night at the slum [bamenda volunteer house] last night. got there late. past 8 or 9pm. was raining. dark. wet. people talking about another burglary in the neighborhood. that had me on edge all alone in the house.

sam [the dog] didn't help... banging on the front gate soteh [until, in pidgin] it opened and leaving. all the other dogs in the cartier [quarter or neighborhood, in french] were making noise. not he. guess he's suffereing though... no love from anyone in the house.

anywho... moms is in DC. she decided to show up there and surprise everyone. all is well. people seem relatively happy and healthy. i got moms package from syria. 17 kg of goodies! great package. gotta love moms. she put some thought and love in there:
the Cheif of Bu sat next to me on the ride down last night. interesting guy. laywer. son of the old pa who teaches up at school with us. there's this ongoing dispute b/w the two of them. about who's cheif of that little farming village on teh other side of the menchum division.

oh... i went up to bamenda for some mon-ee! got it from the bank this morning.