My adventures serving in the Peace Corps

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Amanda comes in a couple of hours!!!! I am so stoked. With any luck the Air France flight from Paris won't be over an hour late as usual, and we can check into our hotel and have a nice dinner before it gets too late. Tomorrow we are going to explore Cotonou a bit and then meet up with my post-mate and his visiting friend (who also happens to be from Chicago, and on the same flight as Amanda going back home!) to have a nice evening of dinner and drinks. We will head to Lobogo on Tuesday, and also hit Grand Popo and Possotome while she is here. She leaves on the 20th, which gives us ten days together!
The rest of my weekend in Cotonou last week was relaxing, if not a bit boring. It always sounds so exciting to spend time in Cotonou/ the Bureau, where there are movies, air conditioning, internet, hot showers, and good food, but having a whole free day there is, quite frankly, boring. Jeremy and I had a nice dinner outside on the 2nd floor patio at Hai King, a Chinese restaurant. That night, I talked to lots of people from home since the cell network in Lobogo is STILL down. (I went to the cell phone company in Cotonou on Monday to complain, and they assured me that there were people working on it as we spoke... and six days later, it is still not working. The frustrating thing is, it works in a few spots in Lobogo, but not in my house/concession. I will be traveling a lot with Amanda so will not change networks right now, but if once she is gone it is still down, I will change.) On Monday, I saw the doctor, who informed me that not only do I have amoebas, but I have TWO other types of parasites living it up in my digestive tract right now. I am lucky I don't have more symptoms than I do (only occasional stomach pain and diarrhea), and am once again on a heavy regimen of antibiotics. Luckily, the doctor was nice to me about it, but I am worried that if I get parasites again, they could threaten me with medical separation or something like that. I am really frustrated that I keep getting sick. I am one of the few volunteers that ALWAYS filters and boils my water (if you saw my well, you would understand) and bleaches/boils my vegetables. I often cook for myself and occasionally eat street food. There are tons of volunteers who eat street food for every meal, yet I seem to get parasites more than they do. The doctors suggested bringing my own plates when I eat street food, since the plates there are often still wet with the far-from-sanitary water they wash them in. This makes me wonder: how many Beninese/developing country citizens have parasites? You don't really develop an immunity to them. I don't even drink the water, and I have already had parasites three times. They don't usually clear away on their own.
This week I proctored exams, and I had a lot of work to do since most of the teachers were still on strike. Many of the exams I proctored were four hours long, which meant four hours of sitting there doing nothing, making sure that the kids weren't cheating. Luckily, I had the oldest classes, so I didn't have to watch them too closely. Nest week are end-of-the-year finals. I got really mad when I saw the English exams for sixiéme and cinquiéme. We didn't get to write the exams together since they were on strike, so the head of the department wrote those exams. What made me so mad was that there was no thought put into vocabulary sophistication (beginning speakers are not going to understand words like “eldest” and “chieftain”) and logic in the text. Beninese curriculum mandates that every exam must be based off of a text, but the texts were so sophisticated and filled with errors that there was no way my beginners could have succeeded. Luckily, I intercepted the department head before these were printed and we edited the exams together. Next year, I am going to run for department head. This will entail me editing the exams that we will write together, and running weekly department meetings (they will actually start on time!)
Other than that, this has been a pretty low-key week. We had our first truly rainy day of the season (it pretty much rained straight from noon to midnight- I slept without a fan again!), and I spent it giving pedicures to the women in my concession and baking peanut butter chocolate chip cookies with Fifa and Mariam. Mariam is MUCH better at French now, so we can actually communicate and have a lot of fun together! I finished The Water is Wide (I still highly recommend this if you want a glimpse into my life as a teacher here, especially the frustrations with other teachers/school philosophy) and have now started Middlesex, which I have been wanting to read for a while.
The downside of the rain: the mud. Remember me saying that it was only a matter of time until I fell in the mud? Well, my time came this week. I had just locked my door and was heading out to wait for the zemidjan to take me to school, when I reallllly wiped out. We're taking a sliding five feet and getting my pants totally muddy. Luckily, only a couple of the women in my concession saw, and, mouths gaping, uttered the requisite “doucement”. So, I had to go back inside, wash off, and change my pants. I was late to school. It could have been a lot worse, though. I could have fallen in the market or, God forbid, at school.
Well, I have to get ready to pick Amanda up!!! I will be back on the internet in a week and half, and this time I should be posting pictures since Amanda is bringing my new digital camera! I will let you know if I get a new phone number.

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