Friday, September 16, 2011

Settling In and First Few Weeks at Post

After almost a month at post I am almost done settling into my house and my village. Everyone here has been really nice and supportive of me. My house has almost come together, I am just waiting on the furniture I ordered, and I hope to get it on Monday. But one never knows here. I feel a lot more comfortable in my house. It is amazing what one can get used to, I know let spiders hang out in my house, in the vain hope that it will kill all the mosquitoes and other bugs that bite. The bites seem to come in waves. A get a lot all at once and then nothing. Right now I have a lot; it is no fun being covered in bug bites that itch. They often keep me up at night. But I hope that after a while the bugs will start to leave me alone, I think I am just too sweet!
The 5th of September was supposed to be the start of school. But in Cameroon that really means make the students do manual labor. I really missed the memo because everyone brought their own machetes to school. Even after paying for public school, the students have to do manual labor before they are allowed to go to classes. I’m not exactly sure of the purpose… It makes sense kind of as punishment but to make EVERYONE do it before going to class seams a little extreme to me. Well because all the students had to cut the grass and clean out all of the classrooms, there were no classes on Monday, or on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. It seems like an unwritten rule that the first week of school isn’t really the first week of school. Parents are still signing up their kids and trying to find money on the first week. While the teachers are beginning to plan their lessons and the administration is figuring everything out. It’s a little bizarre, because we all miss a week of teaching, for things that can be arranged the week before, so that we can actually start on time. I know crazy concept! Actually starting on time!
So in reality my first week of teaching was this week. On Monday there were only 2 students in my sophomore class. Only 2 out of 14 students showed up. Then there were about 40 of 100 students in my 7th grade class. On Tuesday there were 60 out of 150 in my 6th grade class. So you can see that even though this is technically the second week of school, not everyone bothers to show up. The second half of the week a lot more students showed up, which makes discipline more difficult. If you can imagine 70 6th graders in one class, that is now my classes. I thought the 10 students in France were hard to control. But I get along. I get a lot more respect from these students than from the students in model school and I really hope it stays that way throughout the year, especially after they get used to my accent and teaching style, which is different than the Cameroonians. In fact so different, especially because I don’t believe in corporal punishment, even though it is technically illegal Cameroon, it is very common. In fact I have seen most teachers use a form of corporal punishment, making the kids kneel. They do that if the kids are late. I am not a fan of this treatment, I would rather give them more homework, at least that way they are learning something. But hopefully after seeing that one can control the students without physically hurting them, they will stop using it (or using it so much). All in all classes are going well. My landlords told me that a student of mine said that I was a good teacher and explain the concepts well. So that is good feedback, I just hope all of my students think the same thing. If my classes stay the same throughout the year I will be very happy! One can only hope right now.
Yesterday all of the teachers were supposed to have a meeting called the Assemble Generale. It is where all of us talk about things to expect and the functioning of the school. My started late (of course) and went from 1:15 to 5:45 PM. That is a long meeting, especially when they all say the same things, just in a different way; basically it is just very repetitive.  Luckily we only have 3 a year. The other won’t be until the beginning of December. But they are not a fun, especially when they are in French so I have to pay more attention to follow along then the Cameroonians.
S0 all in all my life at post is going along swimmingly. I am getting to know some very nice people. I am being cautious especially since I have only just arrived. I just don’t want to befriend people too fast, especially since I don’t know their motivations. Many previous volunteers have warned us that some of the people you meet in the beginning are not genuine, so I want to give it time.
I don’t have too many complaints other than a little boredom, but that is too be expected. I hope that it will go away with time when I meet more people in my village, start to get more comfortable. It is still hard for me to believe that I am here (and have been for almost 4 months!) But it is interesting to note that many things don’t bother me anymore, or at least I don’t notice them as much anymore. But one thing I don’t think will ever become normal is the aggressiveness of men here. They always want to talk t o me and always ask for my number or see if I am married. In fact, for those of you who don’t know I am now engaged. At least that is what I have started telling everyone. It prevents a lot of the bothering, but still some don’t believe me. Or they say I need to find a Cameroonian husband. I just saw my fiancĂ© wouldn’t be happy if that happens. Sometimes it’s funny, but mostly it is just annoying. Unfortunately on my way to Bertoua I have to pass a police check point and they have been bothering me lately. Today they asked me for my number and I said my phone was broken so I couldn’t give them my number. They wanted to give me a phone and that way I would marry them (I guess my dowry will only be a cell phone? I thought I was better than that; I’ll have to ask my dad if he would accept a cell phone as payment for me. I hope he says NO!). Apparently he tried to give me his number last time I went to Bertoua. I really hope this doesn’t become an issue, as it is the only way to do banking, buy fruits and vegetables, and use the internet. So if they give me trouble, which will make my life a lot more difficult.

PS. THe mouse hasn't appeared in over a week. I think this is a good sign! My landlord's grandcon cemented the whole he used to get into the kitchen shut. I hope that it has gone somewhere else to eat. It is definitely nice not having to wake up every morning to see what new mess it made and what it ate during the night =)

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