Saturday, July 23, 2011

adam from up north

it's market day. i ran into Adam from Kousséri [northern Cameroonian town bordering Chad] in the market. he's the young man teaching the kids at the Omaru compound Arabic and Qur'an. he's also their imam [prayer leader] for Ramadan. nice guy, nice voice.

i broke fast and prayed taraweeh [evening prayers during Ramadan] with them last night, at the compound. really enjoyed it. a lot of food. good company. Ibrahim, Manjou, Alhadjijo, Usmanu, Haruna, Sani [the older Omaru brothers]...
hold on, there seems to be a mouse stuck somewhere in the kitchen. i'll investigate, then explain...
--OK, strange. no sign of it.
...i was saying that i enjoyed the company, food and prayers at chez Omaru. we ate in Saleh's place [another Omaru brother]. low, soft couches and carpet. very comfortable. but the mold was killing me!

there were pictures all over the wall, of Sheikh Ahmed Tijani and Sheikh Ibrahim [Niasse]. i mean all over. like wallpaper. i even got a brief bio on the latter sheikh from a couple of the guys. something about 75 years, 75 children and 75 "hadiths" [sayings of the prophet]...

i didn't get that last part, but Adam explained that they were poems or odes in praise of the prophet. Adam also talked about the tariqa [sufi path], somewhat indirectly. he's not a follower, but also not one to take issue with it. he's simply keeping quiet, which is wise. i asked him if he thought some of the local followers were being misguided by itinerant sheikhs. he said they weren't. i didn't ask any more questions.

Adam's problem is the food. it's lack of variety. which came as a surprise to me, coming from a northerner like him. but i suppose rice or fufu with sauce and some bland pap [bouillie de maïs] every day can get tired quick. he's just looking for some flavor, he said. probably also missing his family. aren't we all?

so i was saying that i ran into Adam in the market today, buying fruit. avocados, tomatoes and bananas. for a little salad and something sweet. i told him i'd give him dates if he came over to my place. he said he'd come around on saturday morning.

two lessons...


Arthropods and Insects
Applied Science, Year 2 

Objectives: After observing, analyzing and discussing, by lesson end students will be able to...
  1. State the general characteristics of arthropods
  2. List all 4 classes of arthropods with examples
  3. State the general characteristics of insects, those they share and differ from other arthropods
  4. Draw and correctly label a grasshopper
  5. Discuss the diversity of insects and identify the characteristics that contribute to insect "success."


Introducing Environmental Education
Environmental Education, Year 1

Objectives: After discussing and evaluating, by lesson end students will be able to...
  1. Define the term environment in their own words
  2. Identify and describe any prior EE exposure they've had
  3. Explain why it is important that they study EE here at the GTTC
  4. Compare and contrast a formal definition of the term environment with their own
  5. Identify and explain the two main strands of EE
  6. Outline our Year 1 EE SOW [Scheme of Work]

both of the lessons above went well. went long, but well. i suppose the fact that students sat there and listened--no, even actively participated for 1 hour plus meant i was doing something right. right? right.

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    i passed the devil on the street today

    i saw the devil walking down the street today. staggering a bit. visibly drunk.

    he saw me, too. and for a brief moment, when our eyes met, i think both of us thought of saying something. but then quickly thought better of it.

    there was really nothing to say, both of us knowing ourselves and the other person all too well. but we almost spoke.

    in fact, he was so close to speaking that he caught himself only just in time to raise his hand, turn his face and say "oh no, i shouldn't talk to you."

    somehow, i wasn't surprised. i suppose i agreed with his conclusion. and so went on my way.

    now, i think of the encounter and chuckle. amusing. funny little encounter there in the middle of town, in broad daylight.

    i passed the devil on the street today. he was so drunk he thought better of saying anything.

    deplorable school

    we had another boring staff meeting. completely useless. not even humorous this time. our administration, it seems to me, is as much at fault as we teachers are for the deplorable state of the school. and Auntie takes the brunt of that blame. she's got to go! i'm convinced of that. my talk with my APCD reaffirmed it. i don't know what to say about the VP, DS and the Bursar.

    we have nothing at that school that indicates it even is one. a functional one, at least. at 3:30pm one could pass through our "campus" (3 or 4 rooms and as many offices) and think the place has been empty for months. it's a shame.

    i asked the DS and SG [dean of students and secretary general] for tape this morning. not "can i use your tape?" but "do you have tape?" that being the only way to phrase such inquiries at our school, if they're to be phrased at all.

    they both, of course, said no.

    i shook my head in affirmation. of course you don't have tape. "how about gum [glue]?"

    ummm... "no."

    right, of course not.

    then we all exchanged glances and chuckled. of course.

    we all laughed. them a little embarrassed, i think. me... well, i just laughed. not really at them. but maybe just a little. in pity. but mostly i laughed because... well, what's one to do in that situation? laugh or cry. take your pick.

    maggie's birthday


    happy birthday maggie!

    ...she's somewhere between Nkambe and Wum right now. it rained here for the past 3-4 days. ASHIA! i pray all is well with them. it's ajmal, tate, the two shannons and maggie. i expect them to show up by Tuesday or Wednesday??? tired, i'm sure. of trekking. and of each other, perhaps.

    not writing well

    i haven't been writing well lately... lack of focus???

    business as usual

    "The young person who has trained to be disciplined will, in the final analysis, survive better than the one who has been instructed to wear a piece of rubber and continue with 'business as usual'... When we fail to tell our children that there are limitations to human freedom... When we fail to teach our young that there are some moral absolutes and they must reckon with them or perish, then we do grievous harm to the future of the human race."
    -Janet Museveni, First Lady of Uganda
    ...and Uganda has made Africa's – if not the world's – most dramatic and positive gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS. from 30% to 6% in the past few years. supposedly with a combination of abstinence and fidelity advocacy, dynamic political leadership, and compassionate social programs for those with HIV/AIDS. 

    the first lady criticizes the UN policy of promoting condoms, condoms, condoms. the cheap and easy way out? i'm not ready to get into this debate. reference my entries a couple of journals ago about talks with Pa Wango. suffice it to say here that condoms alone cannot stop AIDS in Africa.

    i think i said something about a band-aid on a finger that keeps getting cut. what does the hand keep getting itself into? condoms do work. should be used and distributed. i just wonder if we're not selling ourselves short morally if we think this is the most effective means. i think that's what the first lady is saying.

    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    saved by hope

    "Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope."
    ...a quote from CD Strauss' swearing-in speech in Dschang, 2002. that is what this - us being here, the peace corps - is about, isn't it? hope. for the future. what we ought to be working for.

    he said he was asked why peace corps cameroon is still here after 40 years. the quote answers that. 40 years is short. not in our lifetime is anything worth doing achieved.

    pleasantly surprised

    good day today. feels like a pleasant summer afternoon back home. the last few days have felt like this, as we move into the dry season. these transitions between seasons here are great. such pleasant weather.

    my APCD paid me a visit. a "how are you?" visit, as he put it. but we talked about quite a few things. in fact, i'm really very happy with the entire thing. go figure! between this visit today and my talk with the CD, our administration is actually being receptive/responsive.

    i was pleasantly surprised by my APCD today. the things he said about the teacher training program i would've never expected from him. same man i had that conversation with in Yaounde a few weeks ago? it's like night and day.

    i guess he'd heard it from enough people (and seen it himself in Nkambe, at least) that our teacher training program... well, sucks. to put it a little less than technically. i vented about students, teachers and school admin. he listened. talked, too, of course. and i even asked and got answers to long-time questions:
    1. Q: why not primary school PCV teachers? A: because we're over-qualified, capacity building is low, and their needs too great or numbers too big.
    2. Q: why not educational consulting PCVs working in an entire town at various schools? A: because we'd have to work with a local delegation office (Lord no!) and need PCVs with skills which aren't easy to find.
    these aren't absolute/final answers... but they were good to hear, regardless. i still think we could diversify our approach, and take PCV placement case-by-case. placing some here, some there. according to their skills. that's probably tough to manage, though. they are thinking about placement in technical schools. SARs [i've forgotten what this acronym stands for?], too. but who'll have those skills coming in? anyway. at least i got decent answers. acceptable. and no doors shut.

    i'm telling you! this was a different man. i wonder if the CD spoke with him? he even copied down the numbers i showed him on NW/SW TTC [teacher training college] admissions. he said he'd take them to MINEDUC [education ministry] in Yaounde and speak to the man in charge of TTCs/ENIEGs. ask him why they're so low and what they're going to do, if anything, to change that.

    so he'll get it from the horse's mouth, instead of all this local speculation about whether the government will or will not do anything about our situation. no assimilation. low attendance. low motivation. if not apathy. too many teachers. i'd love to hear what this man in charge has to say about all that. i'll have to follow-up with my APCD.

    hmmm... we also spoke about extension. transferring to Morocco, 1st. extending up North, 2nd. he'd hoped i'd entertain staying on as PCVL [peace corps volunteer leader] in Bamenda. ummm... no. i don't know??? all that - transferring, extending, etc. - seems distant now. a remote possibility. what changed? me, family, grad school? God knows.

    get this. my APCD even told Auntie that if she didn't get more students next year, no PCV. i think she just won't get a PCV, regardless. we went out to visit GBSS [govt bilingual secondary school]. my APCD knows the principal there well. seems they were classmates. seems he had a PCV in Bafmen before. even asked my APCD to send another his way. good for him. i'm going to strongly recommend one. will fill out the site prospective form in december, insha'Allah. after i do some more research on the school.

    i hope to be as blunt with Auntie as my APCD was today. should've seen how deferential she was to him! really, though... why do we humor her? protocol, yes. but i should just tell it like it is. i ain't gonna lose a job. she needs to hear why she (not she, our school) isn't getting a PCV. it's complicated. a shame, also. i don't want to see us pull out of training teachers completely. to lost that capacity building. maybe things will change? in other schools, if not ours.

    so my APCD is leaving that option open. and the option for PCVs to teach at a TTC if they wish. he'll make a teacher training component available in PST [pre-service training]. albeit limited. i doubt secondary school teachers will look for more teaching hours at their local TTC, though. and vice-versa.

    so... some questions answered. some questions remain. all in all, i'm quite satisfied.


    Questions on SIV/Bushmeat Article
    [Newsweek, July 8, 2002 – "Breeding Grounds"]
    1. How could SIV have led to HIV? Give 2 current examples.
    2. How can the risk of exposure to and/or infection with SIV be minimized? Identify 3 practices.
    3. Do you think it is more important to identify the origin of HIV/AIDS and prevent new diseases or to concentrate on controlling the current HIV/AIDS crisis? Explain.

    still beautiful

    saw the hilal today. just before sunset. clear sky. i smiled and was happy to see it. Daouda and Mommy Petel, too. we agreed that it must be a couple days old. الله أعلم. no matter. still beautiful.

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    sweeping up the heart

    i was reading about water in The Healing Wisdom of Africa yesterday. about tears, sadness, grief, anger, rage and frustration. about keeping things inside. not properly grieving over lost loved ones. or about failure and loss.

    Malidoma Somé calls for water rituals to address this pent up grief. water brings balance and realignment. it counteracts the fire that can rise and rage within us if we don't grieve. if we only move on/away from loss and keep busy.

    i don't know about his rituals. not for me. but there's wisdom in his insight. and his comments on grief hit home. he wrote something i recall telling Rama once myself. reflecting my refusal to express or deal with emotion because of the fear of losing control.

    according to Somé, this is symptomatic of our denial of grief's social component. we deal with loss and failure alone. but in doing so, we don't really deal with it. it's kept inside. it's pent up. it grows and swells. one day it will burst.

    the flood gates will open, and Somé says that's not so bad. i'll quote him on this, then quote Emily Dickinson. her poem speaks for itself.

    "I have heard many times people express their fear of grief because they feel that if they even begin to release it, they will be overcome, eventually drowning in their own tears. Indeed, this is how it feels, but this is not what actually happens" (p. 220)

    "You cannot truly grieve within and remain composed without. Emotion is an extroverted phenomenon, and it cannot find its much-need release if expressed only internally" (p. 220)

    "The end of the domination of one's life by such emotions requires an outpouring of liquid" (p. 220)

    The Bustle in a House
    The Morning after Death
    Is solemnest of industries
    Enacted opon Earth –

    The Sweeping up the Heart
    And putting Love away
    We shall not want to use again
    Until Eternity –

    day 1, fasting

    day 1, fasting. insha'Allah the rest of the family is, too. they didn't call. we, on our part, did not sight the moon. but Cameroon and Nigeria say the did. so we fast... i wonder. we always argue about seeing the hilal [crescent moon, in Arabic]. i have faith that our people saw it not too far from us. but we, here [in Wum], did not.

    the thought occurred to me this morning as i looked up and saw an overcast sky. Ramadan is here and the rain is still falling. but i'm no longer carrying the raincoat or the nalgene. and i like this journal.

    i gave 3A [3rd year students] Paul's test today. then used his second period with them to read the bushmeat/SIV article. they listened but also talked, whined, groaned, and slept. i just about lost my temper. then i asked the question, "why are you here?"

    they answered. and laughed. and squirmed. my people have a saying, شر البلية ما يضحك = at the worst of times, we laugh. we laugh to keep from crying. we laugh when we should be crying.

    my students' answers to the question:
    • for a job
    • to be a teacher
    • a last resort
    • running away from responsibility
    • for money
    • etc. etc. etc.
    i asked the question again. "why are you here?" then asked them to think about and answer it themselves. i think the school needs to reassess its commitment to being here. everyone... students, teachers and administration.

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    writer's block...

    it's Sunday evening. haven't gotten much school work done. but i did read through that yale bulletin. their school of forestry and environmental studies. has some attractive programs. MS in Env Management, Science or Forestry... opportunities for dual degrees in management or int'l relations. the school sounds good. really good. but living in connecticut? i don't know. we go see... insha'Allah.

    i need to write rama a letter. and to email OMZ. i'm trying to get through a little-big writer's block. right... what to say? i'm also procrastinating. got a couple exams to write. tests, actually.

    we're in week 2 of GLOBE, and people are still interested. but we need to keep it growing/going. more stuff to do and stuff to do it with.

    i made a comment about this journal getting beat up in my lumbar-pack... between my raincoat and my nalgene [bottle]. something about the dry season or Ramadan coming soon. so i'll stop carrying either or... or both. Ramadan is in a few days, insha'Allah. and, until today the rain had ceased. but it's been raining all afternoon. i'm sure my notebook can survive a few more days of bends and bruises.

    "Place where pussy di chop Chrismas, rat no fit pass for dat side."
    ...this is Ibrahim's pidgin translation of a proverb from the BBC's Network Africa. it was aired in English, but i like the pidgin version much better.

    Monday, July 4, 2011

    this your education


    na me dis o! Happy Halloween. maggie, manjou and me ate candy. gave some to the kids.

    another long thursday. GHS EE Club and Moral Instruction went well. then i listened to Off the Shelf [?] up at school. on my shortwave. it's a BBC [radio] program. kinda like a book on tape. the last one was The Count of Monte Cristo. this one was The Devil that Danced on the Water, by Aminatta Forna. daughter of onetime Sierra Leonean dissident Mohamed Forna.

    good book. the setting, i like. the story, i like. characters, i like. how she speaks/describes her father, i like. her voice – that it's her book and her voice on the radio – i like. makes me want to write a book. i will, insha'Allah.

    i read more of The White Man of God up at school. leaving it there and reading bit-by-bit. also read about ecology. in a big red biology textbook from our school library. made me want to study science again. i find it fascinating.

    also read about HIV. Bridget just asked a question about that in class today. about perinatal HIV transmission. what, if any, is the rate of transmission through the placenta? the big red bio book said 25-50%. i think it's much less. we'll see...

    Buba asked a question in Moral Instruction about sneezing, and the etiquette around the blessing of a sneeze. what is the significance behind a sneeze? interesting. gotta look that up, too!

    i love teaching. i'm good at it. hamdillah.

    so... i finalized the EE SOW with my 3rd year students today. 8 weeks into the term! i may see them again for 2 or 3 more weeks/times. we laughed. at the futility of it all. we should've been crying. but i pray the exercise was/will be helpful. that exposure to developing topics and sequencing them [i.e. curriculum development] will benefit the students in the future.

    we'll try to cover a couple of the important ones. Biodiversity and Conservation. Desertification? Urban Migration and Population. Lake Nyos? i made a plug for the EE Charts we have up at school. not just as teaching-learning aids, but as textbooks of a sort. and good references.

    GLOBE is going well. i want to get 2nd year involved. this saturday, insha'Allah. gotta get school library keys.

    i also want to have another general topic for the students to write about. like "why are you here?" justify the time, money and effort of this your education. in light of many things. like apathy, lack of motivation, assimilation [into civil service teaching posts] and opportunity. why are you here? why am i here?
    ...what M.S. Forna wrote in his daughter Aminatta's autograph book when she was young. it made sense to her only later.