Saturday, October 15, 2011

Teacher's Day, Church and Amicale

Well as you can see since I have access to the Internet that Standfast is over a little earlier than expected, although as they love to say here on sais jamais (one never knows) so they could put us back on Standfast at any time.
A lot has happened since the last time I updated my blog. October 5th was “International Teachers Day” (even though Cameroon may actually be the only country that celebrates it) and you would think that since it is a day for teachers, we should you know actually teach, but we all got the day off! Normally all the teachers wear the teacher day’s pagne because there is a big parade through all the towns with all the teachers. While since it is an election year, all the requests for public gatherings were denied (obvious they don’t have the American 1st Amendment here, never thought I would miss it so much = ) ). So instead of the usual parade, I was told that I should just do house work or allez au champs (work in the fields). I did neither and decided to finally finish Les Mis. In the afternoon I was told to go to my high school because there would be a party. So all the teachers were there and we ate (even though I was told I didn’t eat enough comme d’habitude) and they drank beer, I had a Fanta =) When the teachers started to dance inappropriately I decided it was my time to go home, especially since they all wanted me to dance.
The day after, Justine called me and wanted to see if I would come to Bertoua so we could get some provisions to hold us over until the end of Standfast, I jumped at the thought  and after class we met up in Bertoua. We went to the Boutiques and grocery stores, bought apples(!!!) on the side of the road. And around 5PM we decided to go home before it got too dark and it started to look like it was about to rain HARD (Side note: When it rains here in Cameroon, literally everything stops. No one goes out, the streets are empty. You would think that the Cameroonians are made out of sugar or that it is acid rain. And the answer is neither, they just hate getting wet, kind of like cats.) Since it was so late and the weather was so inclement, I didn’t have time to call my usual moto drivers, so I chose one of the only guys there willing to go to Dimako. We gased up as usual for the ride and before we even left Bertoua we got in an accident.
Now I don’t want to scare any of you and before I tell you the story but this happened a week ago and I am OK! I didn’t bleed or anything, it was more of a shock than anything else.
We were cruising along and all of a sudden a car was trying to enter the road and we just ran straight into the car. Right before it happened I saw the car and felt the moto try to break, but I knew in my gut that something bad was just about to happen. Right when the moto hit the driver door of the car, both the moto driver and I fell off the moto and went in front of the car. Luckily I was wearing my Peace Corps provided helmet, so my head was ok. But when I got up I was disoriented I burned my fingers on the motorcycle. I was so shocked and amazed at what just happened, even when you see accidents, you think this can never happen to me ( I guess I am still young enough to think I am invincible). So I was standing in the road and literally 50 Cameroonians young and old started yelling at the moto driver and the driver from the car. I was in such shock I was just standing there and finally people noticed me and told me to sit down, but I was shaking so hard and couldn’t move. I tried to call my friend Sam, in the Southwest, to let her know what had happened, but unfortunately I ran out of phone credit. She called me back and I let her know what happened. This was all happening while the mob was still in the road yelling at everyone about everything.
After talking to Sam, I calmed down a bit and let Justine know that I got into an accident. Luckily for me, her moto was stopped because of the rain and her driver knew my driver and offered to take her back to me and then go back to my village. Unfortunately it was raining so hard and for a long time that I just had to wait at the bar. (Oh yeah the accident happened right outside a bar!)  
When she finally showed up about 2 hours after the accident, I wasn’t really thrilled with the idea of getting back on another moto especially as it was still raining and it was pitch black. No matter how “dark” it gets in America, here in Cameroon, there is almost zero light pollution so at night it is DARK and you can’t see anything! Also at night is when all the trucks are on the road, so the thought of a 40 minute moto ride in the dark, in the rain, surrounded by giant trucks, was almost the last thing I wanted to do right after I was just thrown off of a moto. Thankfully Justine let me sit in the middle, which is the “safest” place because you are just wedged in between two people. Unfortunately with every bump in the road just aggravated all the bumps and bruises I got from the accident, sitting down wasn’t so much fun, and it still hurts a little. And every time we passed a truck I was praying that we wouldn’t have another accident. Luckily we made it to my village an hour later, safe, but COVERED in mud. (I have pictures that I’ll put up later).
I am eternally grateful that I am OK, I realize that that accident could have been a lot worse. The only causalities were the motorcycle (the handles bars were no longer attached and the wheel was bent beyond recognition) and my computer (the screen shattered and now it is ungodly slow, but at least it works just a little bit…). I also really appreciate that everyone gossips in the Peace Corps and at the end of the weekend, many of my friends from Training had heard about the accident and called or texted me to make sure I was ok. This made me feel a lot better!
My first full weekend alone in Dimako was spent mainly at my house, since it hurt to walk, I think I bruised a bone in my foot in the accident. But on Sunday I did finally make it to the Catholic Church. For those who know me, this may seem like a surprise, that I willing went to Church on a day that wasn’t a holiday. But Cameroonians are all very religious and they don’t understand anyone who isn’t religious, so for integration purposes (and the fact that I don’t want anyone trying to convert me, I’ve already had Jehovah Witnesses come over to my house) it is just easier to go along with it. Unfortunately Mass in Cameroon is a little longer than the American Mass I am used to. In fact, it was 2.5 hours, even though the priest said he kept it brief (I am not looking forward to the day where he is long!) I talked with some students and teachers after the service, it was all very nice. So I am actually looking forward to going again, even though the “pews” are more like the things you kneel on without any cushioning, it wasn’t very comfortable. All in all the Church experience was nice, it is a little different because it’s in French and even the local patois, but it is interesting, so that helps with the whole 2.5 hours.
This week I had to give all my students (yes all 340 students) tests and grade them. The Cameroonian education system splits the year into 6 sequences and you have to evaluate the students at least once during the sequence to give them a grade for the sequence. This week marked the end of the 1st sequence (which also means 1/6 of the school year is already done!). So I reviewed with everyone before the tests, gave them the structure and examples of questions that would appear on the test. And then I finally gave them the tests. Although I have only finished grading 3 out of the 4 classes I teach, I am really happy with the results. The average so far in all my classes has been passing. There have been some kids who really get it, and they seem to be the majority. Although there are some people who don’t get it all, there aren’t that many of them and honestly in classes of 130, 110, and 80 it makes it easier for them to slip through the cracks. I hope though with time everyone will do at least moderately well in my class. But it gives me hope that I am not a lousy teacher! My students have actually learned something despite the terrible teaching conditions.
On Wednesday the 11th my school had their Amicale. I am not sure how to explain this because I am still fuzzy on what exactly it is, but essentially every month people cook food, all the teachers come together and put money into a Tontine (again don’t ask me, but unfortunately it’s not the cool animal in Star Wars) and talk about problems. I went and it lasted FIVE hours, I even showed up late, so I missed about an hour. Everyone had been drinking palm wine the whole time, so they were all drunk and arguing about I have no idea (as good as my French is, the accent here still gives me some problems, add to that slurring and every talking at once). Maybe next month I’ll tell you more about Amicale, because apparently I am in the group that is putting it on, we shall see how this goes…
Oh I had a really great conversation with my Landlord, from here on out Mamita, this week. She said how happy she is with my behavior and how people in the village have come up to her to let her know how respectful I am. Which I think is a major compliment! And she also said that she is going to clear some space in the yard for me to start my own garden! I am really looking forward to that. (PS She killed a mouse in her house, so maybe that was mine?? I haven’t seen it in awhile!)

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