Sunday, September 03, 2006

Good Times

People have been asking me to write about a lot of various topics so I'm going to write about them all in this post.

Bathing: I take bucket showers with water drawn from a well. My family has a latrine out front, but a few weeks ago my host dad installed a toilet and indoor shower area. The toilet doesn't flush (you dump a bucket of water into it), but it's still pretty sweet. At post I'll have a latrine. My house has electricity but recently it's been getting cut off a lot at random hours of the day.

Food: The meat here is extremely good, and I get protein with every meal. Breakfast is always one omelette, a bunch of bread with jelly, and a chocolate mix drink. Lunch is usually some meat with a starchy substance, normally p√Ęte. I sometimes get vegetable salad and an orange. Dinner is the same as lunch with a larger emphasis on meat, and fish is more common. People here love fish, but I find I prefer meat just because I don't like dealing with all the bones.

Language: My French is getting pretty reasonable and fluid, so I'm happy with that. I'm able to make my family laugh, and I'm not going to starve, which was pretty much my goal. The local language that I'm learning is Fon, which my family speaks. I don't know much at all, but I learned how to say "My name is not Yovo," which made my dad fall over laughing when I said it to him.

Cultural/Religious Stuff: I realized how accustomed I am to things here when I laughed at an Italian tourist for asking me where the trash cans are (note: there aren't any. You can just throw trash wherever you want, which makes things real easy). I almost always eat alone, though my dad sometimes has tea while I eat breakfast, and he might eat with me if he happens to be home when I eat. The first day the entire family ate together and that never happened again. It's an honorary thing to eat alone, which I think is probably kinda like they're treating you like you're at a restaurant. The Christian and Muslim communities are very visible here, and if I hadn't read about Voodoo I wouldn't know it existed. I wake up to the call to prayer every day, which is nice, as I can't really tell what time it is in the morning but I know it's 5am whenever it starts. You'll see women in full burkas here sometimes, especially on Fridays. My post will be entirely Christian (that's Catholics, Protestants, and Celestial Christians). People also practice voodoo things, but it's usually on the down low.

Teaching: Model school has been interesting. I taught Seconde, which is like junior year of high school. The kids abilities varied widely, some speaking well and some not being able to conjugate verbs in the present tense. My accent is extremely difficult for them to get through since they've been studying English from non-native speakers for the last 5 or 6 years. Since few students can afford books, they just have kids copy everything down exactly into notebooks. But, since they're essentially creating their own books they do this extremely slowly, so when planning lessons you have to factor in copying time. Some students use more than one color pen and underline with rulers.

Having kids ask you questions as a warmup is really fun. When I told them I was 22 they looked really confused and said they thought I was 30 (probably because of the righteous beard I've grown to look older). Also, inevitably, they'll ask you what you think of Osama bin Laden. At that point they're usually pretty riled up and it's best to just start the lesson.

Speaking of Osama, there's a very popular wallet here that has a picture of the American flag on one side and Osama on the other. I can't figure out what the hell it's supposed to mean. I start teaching in exactly one month! Things are moving along quickly here.

Random Observations:

My mom taught me how to play that game with the 12 bowls and little stones. There are two rule sets according to her: white people rules and black people rules. I was playing my 9-year-old brother with the black rules (which are more fun), and after completely dominating him my mom saw us and laughed at the fact that I had beaten him with their rules.

It turns out you don't really have to refrigerate eggs if you eat them within a couple days.

Goats like to be higher than other goats. As in, they'll stand on anything to be higher than any nearby goats. I don't know why. There's one really pregnant goat that should give birth before I leave for post, so that will be fun.

You can only buy pirated movies here. To get legit copies, you have to go to Cotonou and pay what is about 25% of my monthly income.

Kids will just ask you for stuff. A typical conversation goes like this:

Kid: Give me some candy.
Me: I don't have any candy.
Kid: Go buy some from that stand.
Me: No.

This isn't rude at all, and I think it's kinda cute. Still, they aren't going to get any of my candy.

someone once said the one invention they couldn't live without was air conditioning. This is incorrect. The correct answer is toilet paper.

Presents: If you want to send me stuff, here are the things I can't get:

Books: Anything about economics, carbon sequestration, cognitive science, or physics would be good.

Food: Ranch dressing mix or any instant mix, and skittles. Also recipes for chile.

CDs: Just anything you like, or mix CDs. I can play mp3 CDs. I'm always looking for something new to get into.


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