Monday, August 23, 2010

the mosque project


went to ukpwa with mama this morning. sun is definitely getting hotter. the dry season may be on its way after all. but the rainy season is going out with a bang! for sure. roof has even started to leak again. but i digress...

was saying we were out in ukpwa. short visit. small is beautiful. and it was. we saw the mosque. mama liked it. sat down with Alhadji Bira [Ukpwa's elder] and the gang. Ali spoke about how the mosque project went. Mu'aath translated. Alhadji thanked mama. Mu'aath translated.

mama spoke about educating the women in the community, development coming from within in the next generation, and about documenting their people's history - the Fulbe. she'd asked about their origins. that of the people right there in ukpwa or this part of cameroon, at least.

Alhadji said something poignant. that in all the years since the Lake Nyos disaster and with all the people and organizations who've come to help, none of them have ever done anything for their community's faith. until mama. and they won't forget that. or her.

i was touched. as i'm sure she was. mama spoke fine [pidgin's expression for eloquent]. Alhadji spoke fine. Mu'aath translated.

Friday, August 20, 2010

oh what a staff meeting!


Questions on Sustainability Article: Year 3
Newsweek - September 2, 2002, p. 39-41
  1. What is sustainable development?
  2. What are the two (2) deadliest environmental problems?
  3. According to the article, what is truly needed to solve our environmental problems?
...right. well, I never asked my students the 3 questions above. they were dismissed early. surprise, surprise. we had a staff meeting. and oh what a staff meeting! they keep getting better every time.

we didn't start too late. more-or-less on time, actually. good turn out. the VP stayed in his office and only left 1/2 way through. after the hard rain that kept us from hearing everything clearly subsided. we laughed in the meeting... we laughed to keep from crying.

Menget went off at the DS. who asked a stupid question about why Menget criticized people's presentations at the seminar. he should've known better. Menget blew his lid! then came Kum. who decided he'd comment on the Teacher's Day he didn't even attend.

as soon as Mr. Nshu and i began to object, Kum went off. you know how Kum can be... we (GTTC teachers), principals (including Auntie) and even the DO got "thrashed." we just laughed... at both Menget and Kum, and the DS and Auntie.

funniest thing is that while all of us were either busy laughing or trying to shut them up and sit them down, there was Mr. Muzih writing away – quite seriously – at the minutes! trying hard to keep up with the violent pace of the meeting. can't wait to hear those minutes read next month. i'll be the first to move to accept them. WHAT A RIOT!

anyway... i attempted to say something about the students always leaving before my afternoon classes. how teachers really need to come to class and lean on the students to stay through 3pm. Auntie interpreted that in her own way, of course. she told the SG never to leave before 3:05pm.

as if Mme. Nkwain could/should babysit 3 classes with no other teachers/staff around! just like a people in positions of authority here–cut you short and give an immediate answer, even when your grievance may not have immediate answers. "next!"

so i sat down without even finishing my comment. what's the use?... a year ago, i'm not sure what i would've done. don't think i could've stayed. grinned and bore it. now, i laugh. on vas faire comment? there's just a few months left.

but i'm not that fatalistic or disenchanted. just picking my battles. honestly, i think about what it is i can do. what problem i may be able to address and how i could address it. small and subtle. insha'Allah.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

what not to cry over

also 10/6/2002:
mama and i have been going for a short walk in the morning. 25-30 mins, instead of my runs. compromise on cardio for a nice walk and talk. both good for the heart.

today we broached the topic of grief. mama asked if i cried. i replied "that's my business." stupid and inconsiderate of me, yes. but the convo went on. mama is bigger than that.

i apologized later in the afternoon, but she wasn't offended. she explained her point, grief needs to be released. crying does that. else it's like sitting on a time-bomb (as Malidoma Somé suggests in The Healing Wisdom of Africa). she also gave some family examples of death and pent-up grief.

then she spoke about men crying over their women, and vice versa. relationships falter and, indeed, crumble. if your partner wants to leave, then check yourself. if it's you and you can/should change, do so. if it's not, then let her or him go. move on. you're better off without them. don't shed any tears.

mama ended all this by saying that it seemed to her that men now aren't like the men she knew. her father and mine. not that they were more manly b/c they didn't cry... but b/c of what they didn't cry over. Allah y'hdeena! [may God guide/grant us].

teaching lows


Scientific Method
Year 3 AppSci

Objectives: By lesson end, students will be able to...
  1. State the 5 steps of the scientific method
  2. Formulate an example study that follows the scientific method
  3. Evaluate the importance of the scientific method to scientific authority and our understanding of the world (this is vague?!)


Biotic Interactions and Relationships
Year 2 EE

Objectives: by lesson end, students will be able to...


...right. well, these 2 lessons didn't exactly go well. can't say they flopped, but they were less than stellar. to say the least! esp. the scientific method. need to work on that before 3B [the other half of Year 3] on Wed.

the Year 2 lesson above wasn't too bad. we had a good discussion. increasingly so in that class. could've streamlined the process. blackboard work, in particular. i want to move away from simply writing notes up there, but still... an organized blackboard = organized notebooks. and they need help on that, esp. with less dictation.

on my part, i need help on time management. entered both classes late. left late (no teachers around!). it's probably – no, for certain – a product of poor planning. need to outline the lesson "in advance..."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

waiting... at council hall

this journal is being bent out of shape. carrying it in my lumbar-pack between the nalgene bottle and my [rolled-up] raincoat is the problem. insha'Allah the rain will cease (or Ramadan will come) before this my journal falls apart.

mama and i made an attempt at participating in Int'l Teacher's Day. sparse march. long wait at the Council Hall. too long. Mayor no dey [pidgin, for not there/present]. DO no dey. SDO no dey. "God dey" one alhadji put it when thanking mama for her support of the upkwa masjid.

back to the Council Hall. only our students and primary school staff were there. as an aside, i spoke with Hamza's teacher. we're on the same page. Mr. Nshu was there. he and i spoke about lack of student motivation. no priority on education. needing someone to talk to them.

we even developed a debate topic around the idea. so as we'd address such issues in an informed manner, la prochaine fois [next time]. unfortunately, i did not stay. mama lost patience. rain was coming. hunger, too. but when you wait that long and leave, is it worth it?

part of me just wants to sit tight. leaving makes the wait you waited a wait in vain, doesn't it? staying, no matter how long (hmmm???), and seeing what you came/waited for somehow justifies the wait. or have i just been here for too long?

la ya3dam as-sabour al-dhafar – wa-in taala bihee az-zamaan
[success will not elude the patient – even if it takes its time] -Imam Ali

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

the ride up


"Breeding Grounds" July 8, 2002 Newsweek ...good article on bushmeat/SIV/HIV.

back in Wum. short journey from Yaoundé to Bamenda yesterday. stopped a bit in Bamenda. safe journey to Wum. bad road. good car. John Fru Ndi's truck, to be exact. well, his wife's. Alhadji in Bamenda hooked that up. it cost a pretty penny, but was worth it.

mama enjoyed the ride up. impressed by how green things are now. i forgot she hadn't seen it like this. the contrast between dry and rainy season. this is probably a good time of year to visit. glad to have her here. still an exercise in patience, understanding and respect. that's good for me. she does so much. God bless her.

just need to carve out my own time for work. i'm sure days will become busy. it's almost 11pm now. didn't accomplish much today. Maggie did eat dinner with us, though. she had a good convo with mama. her and i also talked about family and friends.

tomorrow is Teacher's Day. not much planned. people couldn't meet on account of a ban because of October 1st. which passed without incident. mama and i will buy meat tomorrow. then i'll check out the [teacher's day] program.

here's a thought connected to what i just wrote in my peace & freedom journal... here's to saying all that we know, doing all that we say and, of course, thinking about all of that before we say and do.

Monday, August 2, 2010

we don't judge

also 10/1/2002:
mama said hello to a few people around the office. met the CD. spoke for while. about politics, of course. America. here. Mideast. i think mama pushed the "we don't judge people" and "we treat everyone equally" tip a little much.

two interesting points:

1st... we're back to worrying about volunteers in Muslim areas as attacks on Iraq may be imminent. i don't see that, at least not here. one never knows though. just look at the Ivory Coast. who would've thought?!

2nd... the CD's mother-in-law is coming to visit, and she's of Lebanese-Syrian origin. not been back since the war. he wants her to meet mama. for lunch, in yaounde, on sunday 10/20/2002. small world.

mama and i ate Indian today. at Taj Mahal. all right food. they didn't have but can make sweets, ras malai and gulab jamun. yum!

OK. tired. need sleep. we'll see how tomorrow goes. we leave for Bamenda by car on Thursday. may need to call Paul and Maggie, to assess the Bamenda-Wum road. then call Alhadji to arrange a ride with him.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

provincial ecology...


10/1/2002: EE To Do

Provincial Ecology: by next meeting in Jan/Feb
(NW/W and SW/L Provinces with Eli)
-Ecological zones
-Flora & Fauna
-National Parks
-Conservation issues
-Cash Crops

GLOBE letter: by 10/2/2002
-testimonial to my [educ.] APCD
-ask agro APCD about teacher packets
-BBC Focus on Africa July/Aug/Sept, with Eli

EE Photos: also 10/2/2002
-Christmas Card (Mt. Oku)
-"On the Street" article with Tara
-Koko resources, copy for List and me
-EE mission on CD?

...things moved much smoother/faster today with EE. the notes above have to dos for our next meeting and for tomorrow. gonna get to a few of the items in the office early AM tomorrow, insha'Allah.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

burning questions, like bushmeat

9/30/2002: EE Working Group

Newsletter Topics/Features:
-Green skills
-Personal experience
-EE announcements/committee
-EE in the field (or "in action")
-Province ecology
-PCV interviews
-"In the street"
-In the news

...EE meeting was a little less than organized today. started late. without Wendy, unfortunately. so our agro and educ APCDs took the reins. not much help. on our part, we [PCVs] were just jabbing away. PCV talk. Green PC Cameroon, Green PCVs, etc. the list above is from one of the final topics we discussed, the newsletter. we'll crank it out by Wed, insha'Allah.

Tara and i are doing the "in the street" piece. ask a handful of people about a burning question, like bushmeat. i think we'll do that. our APCD made us laugh/wonder with a comment or two about eating and transporting bushmeat. whether people thought it was legal or not. we'll ask the PC drivers, cameroonian and expat admin staff, etc. should be good.

at the Hilton with mama. picked up right where we left off. like she was here only yesterday. i'll be off to Omnisport [the PC office and volunteer house neighborhood in Yaoundé, named after the nearby stadium] in the AM. mama, too – maybe. she'll meet the CD in the morning or après-midi. depending on what she'll have plans for the rest of the day.

Friday, July 30, 2010

to do in yaoundé...

9/29/2002: Things To Do...
  • APCD [Assoc. PC Director] – World Map project
  • David [Training Director] – Pedagogic materials for proposed workshop
  • Mama – SCORE shopping list
  • PCMO [PC Medical Officer] – Schisto?!
  • USA Cultural Center – GRE stuff

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

EE committee, Yaoundé


at the Kaelly Hotel in Yaoundé. mama arrives in another evening. 2 long days tomorrow and the next. EE working group meetings are all day. through 4pm.

Wendy [EE coordinator] has it all set up like a conference/workshop. which is cool... not the same ol' same ol'. but, seems like the same old agenda: PST, IST, Green PC Cameroon, resources, etc. i've got to do something about formal resources. EE resources, that is. in the classroom and with schools i suppose. we'll see what i can come up with.

i'm off to pray and sleep. would like to pray maghrib/'ishaa' at Tchinga, insha'Allah. the trip here was fine. went well. thank God! Wum-Bamenda, 3 hours. no mud, really. B'da-Y'dé, overnight. i slept, on and off. i paid Ibrahim 6000cfa for the ride [Wum-Bamenda trip on a moto]. good guy. good people, his family.

Alhadji [Ibrahim's older brother] might help with getting moms and i back to Wum. God helep! Alhadjijo [Ibrahim's younger brother] had quite a trip to Nigeria. a film, actually. with stolen papers, money, clothes, dead bodies and all! Manjo [Muhammadu Omaru] is back in Wum. haven't seen him yet. all right... the rain is coming.



ASSIGNMENTS [while i'm away...]

Year 2
-EE: Biotic Interaction Terms; "Copy the following terms in your assignment books and give an example for each term. Do not use the same example more than once."
-AppSci: HW from 9/24/2002 (2 Qs on plants) and Collect/press 6 leaf specimens

Year 3
-AppSci: Workbook activities #s 1, 2 and 4
-EE: back by Thursday, insha'Allah (GLOBE activities)

-photocopy assignments. label day/time to be completed and give to the class prefect. also inform DS [dean of students] and SG [secretary general?].

Monday, July 26, 2010

let me stop

also 9/26/2002:

1/3 of infected people in Cameroon are young...

Students let's STOP the spread of HIV/AIDS:

-individual student presentations
-modes of transmission (Charles and Manka')
-prevention strategies (Loveline and Hyacinth)
-"re-investment" activity (Mohamad), this HIV/AIDS presentation during our seminar had to be altered again. of course the school's admin, with their myopia and poor planning, neglected to consider giving us a break in the schedule during the seminar. from 8am to 3pm we were at it. just like Monday. just like yesterday. zero planning. zero efficiency. let me stop... again, i'm bitter.

we scrapped 3/4 of the program. just had the students read/present their entries. which went well. the students read well. they were heckled a little. the VP – sleazy bastard – sarcastically asks "you use condoms?" Mr. Kum Abraham then stupidly parrots him and asks "you have gonorrhea?" immature, inconsiderate and unprofessional pricks.

i about called them out individually. just couldn't believe they were doing that to our students! instead, i kindly asked teachers to refrain from commenting and to be serious about the topic. they were like children! the change in behavior from the seminar to our presentation was disgusting. but let me stop.

i shot a glance at Paul as the VP was making a comment. just eye contact. too telling. it just takes one for a support network. so i bit my tongue and sat down. pick your battles, i guess. we met afterward and debriefed with the presenters. i spoke then. asked the teachers (not pointing anyone out, but they knew) to be careful with our students. it's a cheap shot when someone is vulnerable. especially your student. i was indirectly direct. but i said my part. again, let me stop.

a handful of people (even Kum) congratulated me on a job well done. sympathy? sincerity? whatever... Paul bought me a drink. the rain fell. i'm home now. thinking about anger, frustration, release, apathy, loss and loneliness. let me stop.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

the words coming out of my mouth

i need to release. tired now. just walked back up from GHS [govt high school] to GPS [govt primary school]. hot sun. need water.

OK. Maggie and i did the EE Club at GHS this morning. i talked and talked and talked. big class. timid students. weren't understand the words coming out of my mouth? and i barely gave Maggie or Chindong a chance to speak. it was terrible.

i was talking about our GLOBAL VIEW of the environment/earth. you know, space picture, astronaut quotes, people you know... trying to get them to think about our global/interdependent environment. passed around photos/globe/map and GLOBE equipment, just to make it less abstract.

did it work? did they understand? i don't know. but i do know that i over-talked... felt bad for Maggie. even apologized. but if anything good came out of this morning, it was that maggie and i agreed that we need to sit down (the two of us with Chindong) and think through / plan out what and how we'll do for this club: topics, activities, schedule, etc.

now... let me put that behind me and "listen attentively" to this NPA seminar i've just arrived at (quite late!).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

a lesson that engages...

also 9/24/2002:
so, with all this talk about the critical/inferential thinking and "new" pedagogic approaches now i'm confused. read the lesson above [roots, shoots and leaves]. i did no lecturing – well, little to no lecturing. group work. students knew all the material or could get at it with a little guidance. just ask the right questions. and i've been doing all this since...

sometimes it works. sometimes it doesn't. either you pull it off, or the students are left confused and asking "where are the notes?" at least the rest of the staff is trying now. or trying to try.

the lesson note above [types of soil] is a sample i wrote out during a meeting for our seminar tomorrow. on the NPA, of course. what's difficult is following the structure of the system. technicalities and semantics!

i know how to write a lesson that engages, encourages critical thinking, is interactive and builds upon what students already know (and students know a great deal). i don't know how to pigeon-hole the logically fluidity of that process into these stages they propose. i just do this naturally... i think it's how my mind now works.

i find myself struggling to categorize steps/questions. is this hypothesis or research? research or synthesis? observation or what?... i think the semantics confuse me, that's all. i'll learn and be more familiar with them than i'll ever want to be soon enough, with teaching practice and lesson note marking.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

roots, stems and leaves...


Year 2 AppSci

PLANTS: Roots, Stems and Leaves

Objectives: By lesson end, students will be able to...
  1. List the main functions of plant roots, stems and leaves – "What do roots, stems and leaves do?"
  2. Draw and correctly label generalized root, stem and leaf diagrams – "Draw a typical root, stem and leaf."
  3. Identify the different types of roots, stems and leaves – "Do all roots, stems and leaves look the same?"
  4. Correlate the form of root, stems and leaves to their functions – "Why do roots, stems and leaves look like that?"

  • Roots: carrot, maize
  • Stems: herb, bench, ginger, potato, cocoyam, onion and garlic (modified leaves, too)
  • Leaves: cassava, bean, fern, cassia, simple leaf (netted cocoyam and parallel veined maize or grass)


1. Absorb water and minerals from the soil
2. Fix/support the plant in the ground
3. Act as storage organs in some points

-Tap root system (e.g. carrot [see image above])
-Adventitious root system (e.g. maize [see image above])

[see image above]


1. Hold the leaves up, exposing them to the sunlight
2. Transport water and minerals through the plant
3. Act as storage organs in some plants

-Erect stems: herbs and trees
-Climbing stems: vines and some beans
-Creeping stems: sweet potato
-Underground stems: rhizomes (ginger), corms (cocoyam), tubers (potato) and bulbs (onion/garlic)

[see image above]


1. Make food (photosynthesis)
2. Store food
3. Transport food to stems
4. Gas exchange (transpiration)

-Simple leaves: parallel (monocot, e.g. maize) amd netted (dicot, eg. cocoyam) venation
-Compound leaves: pinnate (palm frond), bipinnate (fern), trifoliate (bean) and digitate (cassava)

[see image above]

Homework Assignment:
  1. How can you distinguish between a storage root and an underground storage stem?
  2. How does the form of a leaf relate to its function? (i.e. "why does a leaf look like that?")

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

empty papers

also 9/23/2002:

will students be prepared for exams with NPA [New Pedagogic Approach]?
  • kids are kids, they'll always cram before the exam
  • "do you remember everything on your A levels?"
  • assessment is a necessary evil of sorts (found in each educational system)
  • preparing students for life as you prepare them for exam
  • though we cannot necessarily assess life skills we're in this meeting about the NPA. just us, GTTC teachers. looking to prepare ourselves for the seminar on thursday. it was entirely too long, inefficient and ineffective. our school really is a mess. and i'm tempted to tell the powers that be just so. but i'm back to biting my tongue. for better or for worse.

thinking about all this, i was caught off guard by the DS asking me about exams/assessment and if this approach (which she understood as being much like ours in the West) compromises student preparation for such exams. i said something to the effect of no. then regrouped myself. reference the notes above.

so i said what i had to say about accepting exams as necessary evils, if you will. working towards them, yes. but not losing sight of the overarching aim of education, imparting life-skills. critical/analytical thinking and good judgment. we can cater to both. basically what i said.

but the VP (who, rightfully or not, always has the last word) said something lofty and idealistic (as usual... the man talks the talk) about why we're forced to have to catch-up classes, use past GCE questions and generally work for exams. of course we work for exams! the system is set up (if not flawed) that way.

we can't expect students, teachers, admin and parents to want anything other than passing tests. "empty papers," as they VP calls our certificates or diplomas. as long as "empty papers" get you empty jobs and empty appointments, then people will do everything it takes to get them.

as long as our exams can be prepared for specifically as exams (i.e. preparing for the test itself without truly comprehending the material), then we will continue to have to cram our students' minds with school stuff night before each big test.

our only prayer is that we impart a little bit of wisdom with all that sterile information.

Monday, July 19, 2010

quotes on the wall

"A bad husband is better than a good boyfriend."

"If women were faithful God would have had one."
...quotes on the wall in Candlelight Association documentation [copy center]. talking to Mr. Ngwa about them. about taking them down. the 1st one really got Maggie's goat. both annoy me. gotta convince him first, i guess. otherwise taking them down just because we said so doesn't make a difference. does it?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Year 3 AppSci SOW


Year 3 Applied Science SOW:
(as worked out with 3A in class)
-Scientific Method
-Diseases ?
-Food Preservation
-Plants (parts, photosynthesis, reproduction)
-Circulatory/Respiratory System
-Reproductive system and HIV/AIDS

1st step is the toughest

all this [GLOBE @ School] went all right yesterday. better than all right, actually. quite well. good having so many other "teachers" around. i need not speak as much. students learn more. they were asking all the right questions. about GLOBE, that is. when to measure? how to measure? who will measure? all that.

and we put the post in the ground. that was nice to see. 1st step is the toughest, n'est-ce pas? the post needs 2 screws. the ones the carpenter put in were too short. and we need to "sensitize" the GHS student body. can do the GLOBAL view with their EE Club this week. introduce clouds, temperature and rain to my students, as well. GPS [Govt Primary School]?

i'm at Sufyanu's chop-house. it's raining. just had Arabic class w/Sufayn for the 2nd week, before dhuhur. supposed to have a meeting with the Bubas, etc. about Moral Instruction class. i'm waiting for them now. we need to discuss/develop topics and a syllabus. to establish a teaching style or structure, and a schedule. and to select a couple of books worth following.

GLOBE @ School



EE Club Meeting #2: GLOBE @ School

-view GLOBE study site (GHS campus) as an organic whole, i.e. our environment
-understand what GLOBE entails in terms of measurements, equipment, etc.
-hear why GLOBE is important from Alain and Joe (Maggie, Chindong and I?)
-select instrument shelter/rain-gauge location, stating why the location is ideal for rain/cloud/temp. measurement
-install the above
-hold elections

Special Place Questions:
-sit quietly, experience and observe; use senses to explore (eyes, ears, nose and body)
-what do you see / hear/ smell / feel?
-BIG picture: from sky to ground... biggest features?
-SMALL picture: immediate environment... what do you notice?

-what strikes you most about observ?
-man-made vs. natural?
-beautiful vs. unattractive?

-how would you represent this, all you observed / experienced?
-how would you pass that info on to someone? e.g. pictures, numbers, words, etc.

...representing observations qualitatively and qualitatively is Global Learning & Observation to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE).

Saturday, July 17, 2010

scattered thoughts...

-kids still call Hamza's mother Mommy Petel... i miss that kid.
-animated preacher did entre maghrib/'isha talk... Arabic-Pidgin-French!
-i like the GTHS Principal, good man.
-Manjou seems to have run away [from school?]
-Ibrahim borrowed my helmet for a trip to Bamenda
-i need a non-lubricated condom
-after [my student] Charles won "honorable mention" for an essay on Abstinence, i gave him a condom... he pointed out the irony! :)
-Daouda [Hamza's father] needs to put Hamza in school, i need to talk to him
-1st week of effective classes went well... may they keep doing so, INSHA'ALLAH!
-my weekly schedule is sparse and spread out... early on Mondays and becoming gradually later as the week progresses.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

(too much) to do

things to do on 9/19/2002:

GTTC [Govt Teacher Training College]
-Present HIV/AIDS Awards
(invite 5 winners to meeting Sat. 3:30pm)
-Announce EE Club meeting
(explain elections and GLOBE)
-Assign questions on EE article
(notebooks collected Friday by 9am)
-Record time-table!

GHS [Govt High School]
-DM: HIV/AIDS?, clearing garden plot.
-Chindong: Maggie and I meet w/him to discuss EE Club
-VP: Health Club? HIV/AIDS point-person?

GBSS [Govt Bilingual Secondary School]
-HIV/AIDS and/or EE?

GTHS [Govt Technical High School]
-HIV/AIDS and/or EE?

Medical Center: HIV/AIDS meeting
Alain: pay him for the GLOBE post, discuss mounting box
Maggie: EE Club and library (curriculum and scheduling) meeting


where is kyoto?

Questions on Global Warming Article: Year 3, due 9/21/2002
  1. Who are Richard and Alastair Fitter and how are they related? (father and son biologists)
  2. Where is Kyoto and what is the Kyoto Treaty? (Japan, treaty to curb carbon emissions)
  3. Identity 2 ways in which, according to the article, Global Warming impacts the environment. (polar ice melts, animal migration, altered plant leafing/flowering)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

the journey owns you

"Before you get started, you own the journey.
After you start, the journey owns you."

-Malidoma Somé

can i keep this up?

it's about 9:30pm. been sleeping around 10pm recently. got this routine going... hope to keep it up:
  • 10pm-5am – sleep
  • 5am-6am – fajr/run/workout
  • 6am-8am – wash/eat/relax
  • 8am-1-3pm – school/dhur/eat
  • 3pm-6pm – siesta/'asr/reading/guests
  • 6pm-8pm – mosque (for maghrib & 'isha)/dinner
  • 8pm-10pm – work/letters/write
so... that's how it looks. again, i pray i can keep it up. been walking to school recently... can i keep that up? not talking to Temikum... can i keep that up? school's still a mess of sorts: no time-table, few students, fewer teachers, the seminar???, non-cooperation within Admin... can we keep that up?

road [to Wum] is still bad (Maggie spent 8 hours on it today... Dorothy [Paul's fiancée, now wife] slept on the way hier [yesterday])... can they keep that up? ...can i keep this up? no.

i need non-lubricated condoms for our demonstration. i need to work out how/what to do for it (if, indeed, it will be held on Thursday). i need to write in my Peace & Freedom journal. and i need to sleep.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

AppSci Scheme of Work

9/16/2002: SOW Development

Applied Science (AppSci)
-Intro to Scientific Method
-Chemistry of Life
-Characteristics of Living Things
-Classification of Living Things
-Viruses (HIV/AIDS)
-Monera/Protista (bacteria, malaria, etc.)

-Plants (roots, leaves, stems, photosynthesis and transpiration)
-Amphibians, fish, reptiles and birds (less emphasis on insects would mean more on these?)
-Animal Nutrition / Digestive System
-Circulatory System
-Reproductive System

-Experiments and Peer Teaching (HIV/AIDS and TELE aids)
...develop this SOW further with students!

EE Scheme of Work

9/16/2002: SOW Development

# of Classes (excluding tests): Year 1 ~8, Year 2 ~15, Year ~10 :(

Environmental Education (EE)
-Intro to EE
-Intro to Ecosystems
-Components of Ecosystems
-Abiotic Factors (Air and Water)
-Edaphic Factors (Soil)
-Biotic Factors (Plants)
-Biotic Factors (Animals)

-Review of Ecosystems
-Relationships (predator/prey, parasitism, symbiosis....)
-Relationships (producers, consumers, decomposers, etc.)
-Food Chain/Web (2 classes)
-Energy Flow (2 classes)
-Nutrient Cycles (2 classes)
-Global Warming and Greenhouse Effect (2 classes)
-Biodiversity and Conservation (2+ beginner case studies)

-Case Studies and Peer Teaching (Activities and TELE aids)
...develop this SOW further with students!

school falling apart

tried to work-out the [EE and AppSci] SOWs last night. the [limited] number of classes i taught last year are alarming. but i've based the schemes on them anyway. at school right now... looking to enter the classroom and develop the schemes further with the students (esp. Year 3).

things are a little chaotic though – no, that's not accurate. less than orderly. no time-table. teachers entering classrooms as they please. so, i'll have to find a slot and slip in there myself, otherwise i'll be here until...

Paul and i discussed something i'll have to elaborate further on later... as the issue develops. the issue is our administration and, in turn, school. things are falling apart. and what are we to do?

becoming old

"...knowing means becoming old." [my] gray hair comes from experience/wisdom, not age?

Monday, July 12, 2010

easier for me to get into

...the GLOBE meeting went well. think students are still a little unsure of exactly what they're getting into. abstract. will become clearer as they see and do... measurements/observations/etc.

the little HIV/AIDS session also went well. they know the info. educated, i guess. do they practice it? are others? do others know? the "uneducated." hmmm...

Ozone was here today. he's a piece of work. let me just say i need to keep an eye on him if not keep him in check.

final note: been doing maghrib/isha' [sunset and evening prayers] at the masjid [mosque]. every now and again... as i'm exiting, i find my shoes turned so i can just slip into them as i walk out. someone took the time to make them easier for me to get into. good people. whoever they are. all of them.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


there are elections tomorrow. districts where something went awry and they're re-voting. Kumba, Bamboutos and a place or two in the Center [Province]. anyway... i couldn't find that latter. c'est dommage. will check HPI and the post office on Monday.

looks like the 30-45 min time-slot during the seminar for HIV/AIDS is ours. and the GHS DM will do the Yo! poster program. announcement on Monday. i'm putting together the accompanying papers.

OK... students will be here shortly (well, a couple hours) to do GLOBE intro. Joe/Ozone and Alain will be here. video at Paul's. the agenda:

Intros: introduce someone else


Earth Photos / "Quotes"
-Geographic areas/features?
-Evidence of life?
-Affect other parts?

Who do you know?
-Where do they live?
-more/less rain? snow?
-soil? crops?

Learn from students around the world
-how does Earth support life?
-what challenges do we/Earth face?
-50 and 100 years from now?

Intro. GLOBE is... LETTER!
-International – Earth as biosphere
-Real research – Scientists use data (letter)
-Students important – global data!
-Study area/sites – next week!


EE Club:
What will we do? Student facilitated...
-Field trips
-EE activities

-What? infected fluid...
-Where? portal of entry...
-modes and prevention:
sexual – biologic (ARV, STD Rx), behavior ('AFC')
injection – biologic (sterilize), behavior (IEC)
transfusion – screen/test blood (before trans./dispen.)
perinatal – drugs or alternative to breast milk

Condom demo!

Manka', Paul and William... facilitators for Thursday's seminar

9/11 came and went

well, Sept. 11th came and went. didn't write anything in here. did write a long letter to Carrie, though. afraid i misplaced it somewhere??? staff room or the Galegas [Kenneth's]... will check tomorrow.

another blah (staff) meeting

9/12/2002: Staff Meeting

Calendar of Activities / Timetable to be finalized by Monday...

...yeah, another blah meeting. seems the VP is boycotting them. he may be boycotting work under Auntie totally. DS' [dean of students] chance, i guess. he's agreed to give Paul and i a slot on the timetable for our lecture. Wednesday October 23 or 30th? i forget. i hope the 30th. moms is coming on the 30th of this month and stay for 20 some days. God Bless Her Soul.

GLOBE will be off the ground shortly, insha'Allah. Alain, Maggie and i spoke to Mr. Nanji and scoped out a spot. students will meet me here [at the house] Saturday for an intro/prep meeting. video and all.

to do in school tomorrow:
-speak to DS about HIV/AIDS slot for seminar on Tues.
-look for my letter
-speak to GHS DM about Yo! poster.
-look up Margaret in the dictionary

go confidently

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!
Live the life you've imagined."
...the card i just got in the mail from Nunu.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

sitting on his masbaha

Day 2 at school. just about a dozen students here. only 3 or 4 teachers. PPIs came and went... didn't even see Auntie. i did a little work with the few students that were there about HIV/AIDS. presented the poster ("Abstinence - Fidelity - Condom") and asked for entries on any/each. looking forward to doing more extra-curricular / outside-of-the-classroom activities. keeps both the students and i happy.

nice day today. especially the afternoon. Maggie passed by. we sat and talked on the veranda. about home and here. been missing DC recently... family and friends, too. of course. spoke to Rama and Tala earlier. unfortunately the call was cut off. got a card from Nunu here at the Wum post office. hoping to speak to mama and sort out her visit. sent her a letter today.

cute little story... was praying 'isha [evening prayers] at the mosque. not many people there. rain was threatening. this little man who i see in the market from time to time was praying to my right. between Uthman and i. the man was so short that it felt like there was a gap between the two of us.

finished prayer and no sooner had i turned to sallem [ending prayer with "salaam" to each side] to my left than the little man was tapping me repeatedly on my arm. thought he wanted to shake my hand. i was thinking "chill little man, chill." looked at him and he mumbled something. didn't hear. leaned over... he was pointing under my leg and said something about "tasbeeh."

i was sitting on his masbaha! [prayer beads]. so i lifted my leg and he grabbed the thing and started "sabih-ing" away. Uthman and i looked at each other and smiled. little big man.

Friday, July 9, 2010

back to school

twenty past seven in the AM. will be off to school soon. although classes only begin après-midi:
  • ENV. ED. 12:20-1:15PM 2nd Year
  • APP. SCI. 2:10-3:05PM 3rd Year
...mixed emotions about "back to school." that whole optimism/pessimism thing. anyway. looking to develop SOWs (schemes of work or curricula) for this year this week with the input of students. we'll see if they're even there today. the condition of the road (no vehicles and a 2,500cfa fare) coupled w/everything always being late???

"...later that evening."

wasn't so bad. today went well. hamdillah. only 5 students at school, though. twice as many teachers. Delegate of Education and the DO [District Officer] came around. Auntie in rare form. VP bitter. DS flustered. teachers just showing up to sign-in and split.

i sat down and talked GLOBE w/Alain this afternoon. that was good. we'll scope the site on Wed and begin w/students on Saturday, insha'Allah. he's excited and experienced. unfortunately, he goes back to school (Bambili) in October.

phone is still funny. not much headway on SOWs. Auntie will bring that new syllabus booklet tomorrow, insha'Allah. students... who will bring them??? Wednesday, PPIs [Provincial Pedagogic Inspectors]. Thursday, staff meeting.

got a lukewarm reception to the lecture series / workshop request. we'll see and push when the time comes. i'm no longer greeting Mr. Temikum [a GTTC colleague]. the man beat his recently delivered wife at the hospital! saw him in the market. excommunication is tough.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

dreams don't last past waking...

Mirabelle and the kids left early this morning. we ate ndolé at Maggies last night. this journal will have to do. mama wants to come visit by late September. i wonder about the thin line b/w patience and fatalism, although i'm flirting with it rather awkwardly. i just finished Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children a few minutes ago. school starts tomorrow. i pray that i'm productive, hard-working and gratified. yet pessimism and optimism still see-saw like infinitely tireless children. there's a newly assembled photo album on my salon's table. i flip fondly through its pictures when songs deem it appropriate. often. i love Isma'ilah... and Rabi'ah i will, too. as the road bent towards Maggie's last night i laughed at myself and Wum. my home. dreams are there but they don't last past waking. Bamenda is too big. who will help me clean? my phone, it is disturbing. and the rain... comme toujours.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

resumption of duty


donned my moto-helmet this morning. school year is upon us. riding up to the school as usual really reaffirms the fact that we'll soon start. i'm in the staff room now, as i write this. preparing for a "Preparatory Meeting."

Auntie will, for sure, say a few things about her still being here and REORGANIZING... we'll see. Paul and I will outline those workshops so they can work it into the Calendar of Activities. i'll leave the rest [of this entry] for notes/comments on notre reunion:

"I've been reaffirmed, now what do you people have to say?" -Auntie, revelling

stick to same old time-table [i.e. schedule of classes] until new one arrives

we have new Dept. Heads

-students and teachers (us and the primary school teachers) should become versed with it
-have students write lesson note [i.e. plans] for every subject in the new approach

term paper topics will be in academic subjects, though i need to come up with 3 or 4 ideas for environmental education

Tuesday, July 6, 2010



Mira finally got here. waiting, worrying all day. they left Babadjou at 11am, Bamenda at 11am and got here at 5:30pm. road is BAD. said she paid 2000cfa! says she'll be here for 4 days. ahhh... some concerns:

concerned about the road. it's really quite bad. Paul's father spend 16 hours on it yesterday. MUDDY MESS. 2000cfa.

concerned about the humidity. mold on my clothes. mold on the cane furniture. mold on the Maggi cubes. rocks for salt. wet laundry. basically the rainy season. i won't say i can't wait for the dry season... but i may be singing that song soon enough.

tomorrow we've got a staff meeting. concerned about the upcoming year. sooo much to do...

also concerned about how thin this paper is and how floppy the notebook!

concerned about how tired i am now... goodnight.

Monday, July 5, 2010

blank pages...

blank pages [in this new journal]. got that recycled quality to them. tough writing on them with pencils. anywho... i pray i can fill the pages with:

how they move us
i can't wait to move them.

i've been much guested [visited] recently. Saidu just left yesterday. Mira says she'll be coming tomorrow. the weekend w/Saidu was pleasant. a decent fellow. spoke a lot of French with him. so much that it confused my English... French came out when i wanted to say something in English, Pidgin and (on one occasion when Yusuf and Adam were here) even Arabic. too many languages. confused. WORDS!

ahhh, this paper... ça marche [will it work]??? no choice right now... that i've begun.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"grow up: how to fix the peace corps"

robert strauss just published yet another article on "how to fix the peace corps" (American Interest, Jan/Feb 2010). this is something like his 3rd or 4th public piece on the topic. as always – though i'm sure not everyone in the peace corps community would agree – i found the article intelligent, insightful, scathing and well-written.

i agree with just about all of the main points strauss makes, though i'd take the edge out of the piece if i was writing it. but that's robert's style. it stings... just to make sure you're paying attention. for the most scathing peace corps critique, however, one still has to go back to ivan illich's 1968 "to hell with good intentions."

again, i don't agree with everything in strauss' article. but i do think his major suggestions for "re-imagining" the peace corps are right on point. that idea in and of itself, for the peace corps to re-imagine itself anew, is a compelling one.

here are nine of his main "fixes" for the peace corps (eight more suggestions can be found in the original piece):
  1. tabling any discussion of enlarging the Peace Corps until it fixes the basics regarding administration, recruiting, country selection and volunteer placement;
  2. reducing the number of political appointees from around thirty to two or three;
  3. getting rid of the Peace Corps’s unique-in-government rule, which forces 85 percent of all American staff members out of the agency, along with whatever expertise they have gained, after a maximum of five years of employment;
  4. exponentially increasing support to volunteers so that they are visited and supervised directly every six weeks rather than every six months, as is currently the norm under the best of conditions;
  5. getting serious about doing meaningful, quantifiable work that makes a difference in standards of living overseas;
  6. demanding a much higher standard of volunteer performance (and a much lower AWOL rate);
  7. providing post-service benefits, comparable to the GI bill, so that more Americans would serve in the Peace Corps in the first place;
  8. focusing on a limited number of technical fields that would give volunteers true expertise to offer; and
  9. allowing terms of service shorter than the standard 24 months so that, again, more people could consider serving
all that said, i disagree with a point strauss makes in the article about peace corps' "unwritten 4th goal" (here are the first three PC goals). perhaps not total disagreement, but i'd state the point differently. strauss writes:
And forget the unwritten fourth goal of the Peace Corps being a place for young Americans to “expand their horizons.” Host countries aren’t interested in Americans who are searching for life’s meaning; they’re looking for people who can get stuff done. Americans who are lost, whether young or old, don’t often “find themselves” in developing countries.
i agree that inexperienced, unprofessional and immature volunteers aren't going to learn much about themselves or do much to help others. but i do think experienced, professional and mature volunteers learn a good deal about themselves through their peace corps experience.

and here's where i really emphasize my difference with robert's take... that if such volunteers aren't learning something about themselves, then there's something wrong. precisely b/c that would mean that they're not open to learning from others as others learn from them.

if they aren't open to that deep reflection and learning about another culture (or people or way of doing things) as they work together to "get stuff done," and to learning about themselves in the process, then something is very wrong.

i frame this in teaching-learning language, b/c i'm an educator. for robert strauss and others, it's about development. but there's international development and its focus on results (with facts and figures, monitoring and evaluation), and then there's internal or self-development that facts and figures can't capture. but that relationship, between "development agents" and "recipients," can. in both directions.

i suppose this comes down to what part of the relationship/results (or process/product) pairing one chooses to emphasize. robert strauss is emphasizing the importance of results for peace corps. a major point of neglect for an organization that thinks of itself as an agent of sustainable development.

on my part, i'd emphasize relationship for peace corps volunteers as agents of development. i wouldn't disparage that unwritten 4th goal, b/c the kind of cross-cultural learning implied by goals 2 and 3 isn't enough. americans need to learn more about themselves through more open, engaged, and unprejudiced relationship with other peoples.

but ivan illich's words still haunt us, in that regard: "The damage which volunteers do willy-nilly is too high a price for the belated insight that they shouldn't have been volunteers in the first place" (from To Hell with Good Intentions, 1968). i have two points to make about this. the first is cynical... maybe it is important for other people to learn how "lost" young americans can be, in spite of all the stuff we bring along with us!

my second response to illich's argument is that, in this day and age (though surely even in his), it isn't simply volunteers going abroad that "do damage." our american lifestyle does enough of that, without us even having to leave the comfort of our homes, cars, supermarkets, schools, suburbs, etc. i'm making a social, politico-economic and ecological argument here.

with that in mind, perhaps it is important for a generation of americans (not immature and inexperienced) to learn about themselves and their lifestyles... and about what it means for other people in the world, who can only dream about living that life. and what it means for a world that couldn't sustain it if well all did.

training americans to be change agents is what the peace corps is about. but you can't bring change if you're not open to it yourself. in fact, if you're not open to changing first. as i've written before, my notion of change starts inward and reverberates outward. in both directions. in my case, that means for both this young american and for his cameroonian friends and colleagues.