Less than a week since my last post! Lucky me and my internet access :) I am in Lokossa to have dinner and watch a movie with Michelle, Christopher, and my friend Weihow who is down here from waaaaay up north.
Obviously, I don't have a whole lot to say since my last post. I ended up having to stay in Cotonou until Monday afternoon because the doctors wanted to see me again that morning. They gave me three different kinds of meds, including a Z-pack which is that really strong antibiotic that you only take three times. It seems to have worked, but Tuesday was definitely the peak of my illness. I came home for my school break at noon, and was so sick that I was shaking and moaning like a crazy person. I had to cancel my classes that afternoon and lie down for the rest of the day I felt so bad. Luckily, by the next morning I felt much better and was able to return to school. My kitties stayed with me the whole time which helped :) They did just fine with Angele taking care of them. I brought thank-you gifts for the whole family for watching the cats, and stupidly forgot to get anything for the second wife. I found something to give here, though, and I think she was happy. People go nuts when you give them gifts here, even if it something as mundane as the spiral notebooks I gave lots of people.
Next week is our version of “finals week,” so every class with my students counted this week. We did some review and I feel fairly confident that they will do well. I have some beefs with how they do exams here, though. Every class takes the exact same exam, even if five or six different professors teach that level. For example, since I spent time on basics such as pronouns and the verb “to be,” without which you can't even begin to teach English, I didn't get to the spelling of numbers one through twenty. I found out mid-week that this would be on the test, so I had to scramble to get it taught. There are also some classes that didn't have an English professor until two weeks ago, but they still have to take the same exam as the classes that have had English since October.
Each professor submits proposals for an exam for the grades he or she teaches, and then the head teacher for that department either chooses an exam in entirety or uses parts of all the exams. I was lucky enough to have my exam chosen for cinquième, so my students should know everything on it. I just really think it would be better if each professor could write their own exams. Exams last all week long, and professors proctor exams for subjects and grade levels that they don't teach. After exam week, there is one more week of school until winter break!
I still haven't figured out my exact plans for Christmas. I know that I will be in the north of Benin somewhere, but I don't know exactly where yet. If I go to Tchatchou with John Mark, they are having a Christmas party for local orphans that would probably be really nice to help with. If I go to Tanagou to visit my friend Jeremy, we could go swimming in the waterfalls there, or if I go to Nattitingou, I could spend Christmas with lots of other volunteers. Any of these things would be fun! People in my village are disappointed that I will not be here, and I feel bad about it, but I know I will be happier spending my first Christmas away from home with other Americans. Apparently here on Christmas you go to church until 4am! Many people here said I was welcome at their house for Christmas, which is very generous of them. I used the Christmas garland that my parents sent me to decorate the entrance to my concession! Pictures to come later :)
The real excitement comes after Christmas, though- I booked a three-day safari! For about $100, we get three days of safari time, two nights in an air-conditioned hotel, and transportation! I can't wait. After the safari, I will probably return to my village for New Years and the voodoo holiday on January 10. (Side Note: as I'm typing this, two chickens are mating about two feet in front of me. Gross.)
Speaking of voodoo, I totally felt like Indiana Jones the other day: I was taking a walk in my village, and came to a small clearing in the bush. I peeked in, and was face-to-face with a huge roaring lion! No, not a real lion, but the door of this voodoo temple was shaped like a gaping lion's mouth, complete with blood-stained fangs. It was so creepy! (Seriously, how Indiana Jones is that??) Also saw scorpion number three in my house this week :(
Well, that's about all that's new. Time continues to fly. I can't believe it's already full-swing holiday season back at home. I really, really, really love the holidays and it is hard for me to be away. I think it helps that it is so hot here, because it makes it not really feel like the holidays. I have been listening to Christmas music on my ipod and I told my mom to send me some vacuum-packed cinnamon bread! I am also reading a John Grisham novel called Skipping Christmas, which is about a couple whose only child is in the Peace Corps spending her first Christmas away from home, so they decide to skip all the fuss of the holidays and take a cruise instead.
After the holidays, I have my bosses visit to my village, then Sandy is coming, then a week of training all right in a row. We have another long break in April, and then Amanda comes in May. After that, it is a sprint to the end of the school year, then camp GLOW, then my trips to France and the States! My time here is really going to fly.
For those of you who sent Christmas packages and letters, I will hopefully make it back to Cotonou again soon to get them. Once again, I apologize if you have had trouble calling. Keep trying. I need it during this holiday season! I love you all and hope you appreciate what you have this holiday season. People here celebrate Christmas by maybe killing a chicken, where at home we decorate, gain ten pounds, spend so much money on presents, etc. I'm not at all saying this is a bad thing, but it's good to always keep things in perspective. Happy holidays and enjoy spending time with your loved ones!