Tuesday, April 12, 2011

News, Primary Schools, House Cleaning

3 April – Kossouka, 9:20pm

World News on the BBC: The US has been at war for a decade. I couldn't believe it when I heard it until I started counting back and realized that for almost half of my life the US has been at war, not including the Gulf War which was when I was too young to really realize what was going on. Crazy. Now they're debating whether it was right or not to intervene in Lybia – did we prolong a “civil war” that had civilian casualties, or are we avenging and preventing further civilian “genocidal” targeting by Colonel Gaddafi's forces? Some pastor in Florida burned a Koran a few weeks ago and now 14 people including 7 UN workers in Afghanistan have been killed after the president there condemned it a few days ago and the protesting Muslim crowd was aimed by people in the crowd towards the UN building. Should the president of a Muslim country have said something? I think so – staying silent is accepting that, idiotic as it was, it's ok to do. But qualify the need for understanding, stress the uniqueness of his actions and condemn him and the action, not all Americans or foreigners, especially not those working for your own country and people. As an American living in a Muslim country, albeit a “soft” Muslim country, I would personally like to thank him for his inconsideration for the consequences of his actions while he is safe in sunny Florida. Next time someone asks me for money or a contact in the US to help them get a visa, I'll give them his address.

Village News: My major packed up her house today and my new major moved in this evening. Sylvie had two pickup trucks piled high worth of stuff, while new guy just had one. I contrasted this with the ginormous (I love that “ginormous” is a recognized word in this processor) moving truck that was maybe 2/3 to ¾ full when my parents moved, floor to ceiling, plus our three cars packed to the brim, with a few dozen boxes left in Denver for later removal to Tucson. Americans have too much stuff, but also bigger houses and furniture that isn't light enough to toss unpadded on top of each other and tied to the bed of a pickup truck. And, I think a surprisingly high percentage of the stuff on the truck was packing materials – every fork was practically wrapped in it's very own cocoon of 2 or 3 sheets of packing paper, ensuring many large boxes with not actually that many items inside. I'm really going to miss Sylvie. I'm finally getting comfortable joking with her! Well, we'll see about the new major. At any rate I need to go make friends so I can charge my laptop if we don't get to leave village soon. I was happy to help her pack and glad to be there to greet the new major. Turns out they're just switching villages, which made the move a little easier because the truck just had to shuttle items back and forth.

My Day: I arrived under the tree between my house and my neighbor's courtyard at exactly 9am, when the inspector for the primary schools walked out the door to come get me for our meeting. He invited me in and we sat on his patio and talked for a good two hours. I finally know the days when school are, for once and for all! For primary schools it's M,T,W,F,S(am), but CM2 kids who have to pass their exam at the end of the year often go to extra classes (formal or informal) Thursday and Saturday afternoon. At the secondary school level school is M-S(am), again with extra sessions Saturday pm if necessary. Whew! We went on to talk about colonization in Burkina (that's why old people are afraid of me because they think I'm here to demand the tariff the French used to levy on all families, except that old people are usually overly respectful and welcoming to me, although I guess it could be because of that), and why people call me “nasara” - apparently they all call each other by race/ethnicity as well. If you don't know a guy and he's a Peuhl, you call him “Peuhl” until you know his name. I said that's always been fine with me, it's when people who know me call me nasara that I feel hurt and upset. He kept repeating that it's normal until they learn my name – I think we spent a good deal of time agreeing on the same thing over and over.

We also talked about some pros and cons to education here. Pro – kids learn a lot about the world around them, at least they have to memorize every country in the world, it's capital and population, and the prominent figures of important ones. The problem – poor use of resources and overcrowding. Kossouka “A” is the worst off in our commune, with 107 students in one classroom of CM2 (traditionally the most crowded because students who don't pass the exam for CEG can retake the year and the exam until they turn 16), but other schools in smaller villages have classes between 40 and 80 students per teacher. The resource use part is evident in Kossouka “D”. The newest school, built last year, has three classrooms and was budgeted about 13.5 million cfa (say, $26,000) by an entrepreneur, but it's already falling apart with cracks in the walls and floors, etc. The going theory is that, with all the people who had to be brought in to consult throughout the process, the school itself got built with low-grade materials, and now a building supposed to last 30 to 40 years is falling apart before it was even dedicated or listed in the national free lunch program. This is also happening in Inou and Kiblega, schools built within the past 10 years that need to be repaired or replaced, instead of those funds building other new schools in Kossouka where they're badly needed to relieve overcrowding (see Kossouka “A”).

Overall, it was very informative and was really refreshing to have a real conversation with someone in my village, albeit one who is a functionaire and not actually from the village. Now I just need to track down the CEG director. Oh, and they are making Kossouka into a lycee (turning the CEG “middle school” into a middle/high school), adding a 2eme next year, but they need to build more classes and a science lab for the science track BAC students. After talking all morning I went home, made lunch (soy-ginger onion rice), and chilled with the cats. I read. I talked to Sunyata and Al. I made a list of all the things I want to do when I get back to Colorado. I talked to Robyn for half a minute, but I'm completely out of unite, so when she texted me asking for advice I couldn't even call for half a second to tell her I'll call tomorrow. Sophie threw up and had diarrhea, but seems to be doing better now – Robyn told me that cats are lactose intolerant so now I'll stop giving them milk so often!

I have a kitten sleeping on my stomach as I type this. Life is good. He's just so cute! The boys got quick baths today and smell so much nicer – at least clouds of dust don't puff off when I pet them. Lion fell asleep this afternoon curled on my stomach, head hanging over my arm – I got a picture. Soon I'm going to have more pictures of cats than of anything else in Burkina! Although a lot of them are pretty good photos, if I do say so myself. I'm reading The Idiot by Dostoevsky, and it's going better than I expected for a monstrously long classic. I can't believe I regularly used to read 500 page books as a middle-schooler – it's so daunting! So far it's been engaging, but is also a book I can put down if I need to do other things, and so I'm only about 90 pages in after a day and a half. I really want to finish The Lord of the Rings (I only brought the first two from the Transit House and haven't been back since), and David promised me that he has the other books in the Shadow series, which has me overjoyed. Still figuring out about visiting KDG around the VAC meeting. I'd like to go before so I can drop off the kittens, but either way I'd be gone from village for the better part of a week (5-6 days), then back for 3-4 days, then gone for 2 weeks for our next training. It's too long to stay in Ouaga or KDG between, but too short to come home and do anything besides say hello and sweep my house out.

Speaking of cleaning the house, now that I've started doing everything outside I had essentially stopped cleaning the house on any kind of regular basis. Then I was in my bedroom changing clothes and noticed the smell. I thought the cats had been peeing on the corner of the bed, but it turned out to be a dead lizard under the corner of my mattress – gross! So I deep cleaned the house (moving the furniture, mopping the floors, dusting everything), stripped the bed and leaned it against the wall, and plan on regularly sweeping and dusting again. It took me a good 3 hours to clean my little house, but now it is termite and dead lizard free. Speaking of dead lizards, yesterday Lion caught his first 2 lizards. He plays with them for an insanely long time before they finally (thank goodness!) die, and then he eats them, head first if you're interested. Sophie stole the second half of the second one and ate it himself. All these things I've missed never having raised outdoor cats before.

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