My adventures serving in the Peace Corps

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

4 days!

Thought I'd do a quick update before my couple weeks of craziness start! I'm down in Cotonou, doing all of the last-minute things for Camp GLOW.
As far as school goes, the kids took their final exams last week and I've graded half of them (all the quatrieme exams, that I wrote). For whatever reason, they really bombed it. I thought it was a very reasonable test, and had my colleagues look over it to confirm that. When I asked some of the students why the test was difficult for them, they said it was because I wrote "do NOT copy sentences from the text" for their answers in the short answer section. Normally, this is exactly what they'll do, and get all up in arms when I give them partial or no credit for it; apparently Beninese teachers find this way of answering acceptable. It was a bummer, especially getting that from my favorite class.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my sixieme students did much better... the test was all on verbs in simple present form, which we worked on for over a month but they STILL were having a difficult time with. I even decided not to progress in the curriculum and instead stayed on verbs for a long time since they are so important (and I have quatrieme students who STILL can't conjugate well). So we'll see! I did a really good review session with one class, but got rained out when I was supposed to do it with my other sixieme class. (Life 100% STOPS here when it's raining. People don't leave their house, mostly because they really can't- the roads turn to mush and it's hard to see when driving a zem into the rain.) When I arranged a makeup review session, we got rained out again! It wasn't a total waste of the afternoon, though: several students happened to be walking by when the rain got really hard, so we all huddled under the porch at the front of my concession. They stayed with me for almost three hours and we talked about EVERYTHING, from weather patterns in America to Hollywood. (One asked, "When they kill someone in an American movie... is it real? Do they really die?") It was one of those classic Peace Corps moments that I'll never forget.
Life in Lobogo is going well, but little things keep coming up that remind me why I'm excited tohead home in August. An especially devastating one happened this week: a FOUR YEAR OLD girl in my concession told us that she's been having sex with teenage boys from the neighborhood. When she was telling Angele and the other gathered around... they were laughing. A lot. Laughing with intermittent heavy beatings of the poor girl. I'm not even going to try to analyze why they reacted this way, because I can't even begin to understand it. They made her show them the positions she had sex in, and then made her pull down her underwear for them to see. It was one of the most upsetting experiences I've had here, made even worse by the fact that I really didn't understand what was going on and I knew there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. Really, really sad.
The biggest news: Camp GLOW starts in four days!!! I have been working really hard the past few days to do all of the last minute things: supply shopping, printing out certificates, getting soccer balls for all the girls, etc. I'm feeling pretty good about the camp, and I think I've done just about all that I can for now. I found out that not only the ambassador and his wife will be at the opening ceremony, but so will tons of ministers,(probably) the mayor of Porto Novo, and lots of people from the Peace Corps' office. The news might even show up! Keep posted for updates about the camp in early July! This wouldn't have been possible without all your donations, so thank you :)
Last night I was invited to dinner at my friends' house, the ones we stayed with during Kate's memorial that work at the embassy. It was so nice! Lots of wine, pizza, salad... so nice to have a nice dinner in a nice home with nice people :) While there, I heard a hilarious pick-up line that white women often get in Benin: "Let's make an Obama." Wow.
I'll head back to post today for a few days before the camp. My girls and tutrice are getting really excited! We are going to rent a whole taxi to take us straight there which will be nice. I only have a bit more time to spend with my kittens, so I'm gonna try to soak them up these next few days. They taught themselves how to use the litter box and run around the house like they own the place :)
Wish me luck for GLOW!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bad day

I'm having a bad day and decided to rant about it. Here's why:
1. Remember the goat I wrote about in my last post, who was it by a moto? About two days ago, it just decided to give up on life (even though it had been eating and walking much better the day before). It laid down in the dirt and didn't move for almost 48 hours, refusing food or water. So, for as hard and sad as it was, we all decided to let it go. The thing is, it was taking FOREVER to die, just sitting there wheezing and moaning for two full days. As of last night it was still alive, and I woke up around 1am to the sound of pounding rain that lasted for at least an hour. The poor thing drowned in a puddle that formed around it. SO sad. And my neighbors just laughed at me the whole time it was dying when I would squat by it and pet it a bit. God forbid we show a little compassion.
2. AWFUL day teaching. The kids refused to sweep the class (as usual), so we started late. I reminded them that this was our last week together, so please leave me with good memories of them, and they proceeded to act worse than ever. I sent several kids home, changed many of their seats, and took points off their conduct grades, but to no avail. When I told them that I was sad they were acting this way during our second-to-last class together, they just laughed. It was horrible. After talking to some other TEFL volunteers, this seems to be the case across the board since the school year is extended and the kids are really antsy. I know it's a lot to hope for, but I just want this last bit of teaching to feel good and go smoothly.
3. As usual, I offered to help edit all of the English exams. However, the secretary has gotten bold and told me she wanted me to TYPE all of them, getting angry when I told her I didn't have time to do that, even though it's HER job.
4. I am in Lokossa to get money from the bank because I literally had none. Our taxi broke down about a mile outside the city, so I ended up having to walk the rest of the way, in the midday sun. I can't even count the number of "Bonjour cherie!"s I got en route, and one man actually became furious that I didn't respond to him.
5. Now, in the cybercafe, the man next to me is unabashedly looking at porn online and touching himself to boot. Fabulous.
I also tried to fete Angele for her birthday, i.e. I gave her some money to buy fish and rice. Well, she bought the things and prepared them, but her husband came home so we couldn't eat until about 6 hours later because he gave her somany things to do. By the time we ate, she only served me and her husband, and I don't think she got any even though it was HER birthday. The food was also cold and a litte rancid.
I went to the mayor's office yesterday to ask for money for the girls' transport to Camp GLOW, which he gave me, though the whole encounter was a bit uncomfortable after his advances towards me last year. Sigh. My house is also a disaster right now, plus all the stress getting ready for camp and the end of the year and COS.
So, needless to say I'm not the happiest camper today. The good news is that I'm now taking 6 girls to Camp GLOW, and when I informed the sixth girl, the BIGGEST smile spread across her face and she got really giddy. It's so good to see a reaction like that out of girls who are used to being so stoic around their superiors! Camp is coming up FAST- can you believe it's June now??- 19 days! The kittens are also helping keep me sane. Their ears have opened and they can walk pretty normally now. They have also become extremey playful... so cute!