Saturday, October 31, 2009

Turning 23 in another country...and other updates on life.

So I'm back in Gaoua (provincial capital) and I'm here for a little reunion/celebration for Halloween and September/October birthdays.

Life at site has been going really well so far...adjusting is always a difficult and challenging process but I feel like I'm really making this place my home. Work-wise, around the second week of October, I met with the director of the Lycée (high school) and asked if I could observe English classes to see how they work, how the students and teachers interact with one another, what their English levels are like, etc. Eventually I met the English teacher at the Lycée and for about a week and a half, have been observing his classes, introducing myself to his classes, and taking notes. It's interesting to note how the class size drops dramatically as they get older. And the ratio of male-to-female students is huge as you move up a grade level. For example, in Terminale (equivalent is Senior year of high school/12th grade), out of 25-30 students, there are only 3-4 female students!

They don't have an Club d'Anglais (English Club) at their school and my hope is come this January 2010, I can start one to help students out with English (tutoring) but also make it a little more interesting by introducing American songs, pop culture, theatre/plays, fun games, etc. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated! On Monday, I presented an Action Plan and Tentative Schedule (handwritten, of course, since I don't have a computer access/a printer) that details what I'd like to do, a schedule, objectives, potential problems and solutions, activities, etc. I want to show him that I'm really serious about creating an English Club but also it's a great way for me to organize my thoughts into one document. A couple of days ago, some 3eme students (equivalent is Freshman year of high school/9th grade) were at the Primary School across my house and asked for some help with their English homework (which they wrote on the chalkboards outside of the classrooms). So it's giving me a little hope that this will get off the ground once we get all the logistics squared away!

I recently met with the Director of the Ecole Primaire (Primary School) right across from my house and just started observing classes there...and will be doing so until December when I have another VAC meeting and Inter-Service Training (IST) in Ouaga. I've only observed one class so far and it's been interesting, to say the least. The kids here are much like the kids in the U.S. but clearly, they face issues much different from those in the U.S. The student-teacher dynamic is completely different here but since I've only observed for 2 days so far, I'll save my overall observations for another day. Even within those 2 days, I've made little notes of things I can potentially start and noticed kids need lots of help with math and reading aloud. Reading clubs? Fun math exercises after-school? The list is endless!

In other news, I've been integrating well and am always meeting new people but really feel like I'm solidifying some good relationships with people. I go into town not feeling so much of an outsider anymore which is nice. I've really made my house comfortable but am holding off on the dog until next year when I have a more solid schedule in place. Jon and I see each other every once in a while and either discover something new at my site or his, or decide to take day bike trips in our area (there is SO much to explore).

Me during one of our day bike trips through southwestern Burkina Faso. Don't these hills look like the fake hills at Toontown in Disneyland?! Oh, and I looked like a hot mess. I know. The weather was nice because it was a little overcast.

One day, we biked down several kilometers south of my site to see what was down there and found some lush greenery. Like the photo above!

Aaaand for my 23rd Birthday, I decided to invite my neighbors over (Ali and family) for some American grub for lunch. I 'grilled' village bread to make Spam (thanks Dad!)-tomato sandwiches and also made tuna (thanks again Dad!) macaroni salad, and we had a really good time! I didn't take any pictures (sadly) except for the food.....mmmmm....

23rd Birthday lunch Chez Moi.

Later that day, Jon came over and we prepared some banana bread to bake at Ali's house (they have a stove they got in Bobo a while ago but didn' know how to use it with their propane gas tank. So I helped them out one days and now it works!). Success! I was able to introduce something new/American to my Burkinabè neighbors! Jon biked over and we had beers at a little Maquis ('bar') in town and it was all good! So a bunch of us are meeting in Gaoua and we're going to do a little more celebrating before heading back to our sites. Good times!

**Also, check the sidebar for What Nationality Is Mikey?


cecilia said...

glad you had fun on your bday with your neighbors and with jon. yummy food i see in the picture, looks appetizing. how i wish i was there to join you.

the endless list of projects that you plan to organize looks GREAT son! i wish you success in whatever will work out for you and for the school children in spite of the limited resources.

the picture......looks cool, calm and refreshing. i miss that kind of scenery, you know, away from the city. and you, hmmm looks like you've grown (stomach bulging or the breeze blowing your shirt, which one? sourire :) now, i'm more at peace knowing that your site is becoming more like a home to you and that you're not feeling like a stranger anymore.

i'd like to see the picture of the church too some other time. please go to mass on sundays whenever it's possible.

faites bien et la bonne chance, le fils......(how's that for french)?


Joe Dempsey said...

haha i love it! soooo cool mikey. incredibly jealous!