Always in the deep woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is an ancient fear of the unknown and is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into. What you are doing is exploring. -- Wendell Berry

The TRIP: GUINEA - wonkifong --> MALI - bamako, djenne, douentza, Dogon Country --> Burkina Faso - ouagadougou, bobo-dioulasso, bala, ouagadougou --> GHANA - tamale, mole national park, tamale, yeji, volta lake ferry, akosombo, accra, green turtle lodge, elmina, cape coast, accra, hohoe and wli falls --> TOGO - kpalime, atakpame, lome --> BENIN - cotonu (transport stop) --> NIGER - niamey, tahoua, agadez, camel trek in aiir mtns, niamey --> BENIN (abomey, grand popo, ouidah, ganvie, cotonou) --> CAMEROON (douala, buea, top of Mt Cameroon, limbe, sangelima, yaounde, kribi, douala) --> MAURITANIA (nouakchott, atar, chinguetti, camels into the sahara, terjit, choume, ride the coal train, nouadhibou) --> MOROCCO (western sahara, dakhla, agadir, essaouira, marrakesh, imlil, summit of jebel toubkal, fes, chefchaouen) --> cross the Strait of Gibraltar --> Malaga, Spain --> fly to Geneva, Switzerland --> Les Grangettes, France
Click for a map. Updated April 30, 2007

jeudi, octobre 19, 2006

The First Day of School (October 9, 2006)

Finally, the first day of school arrived. Today was the official opening! What would it bring? How different will school be in Wonkifong compared to Portland? Many questions were racing through my mind as I began walking to school at 7:30 this morning. School starts at 8:00 and even though I will not be teaching on Mondays (I teach Tuesday – Thursday) I wanted to be present for the first day.

I am only teaching three days a week for a variety of reasons. First of all, the Peace Corps limits teachers to 12 hours a week so that volunteers have time to work on community development projects, integrate into the community and promote cultural exchange. On a more local level, my school complex only has two buildings of three classrooms each. This means that there are only six physical spaces whereas there are nine groups of students (2 – 7th, 3 – 8th, 2 – 9th, 2 – 10th). As a result, class times have been cut back. Students are supposed to get six hours of math a week but now only get four, even though the school is open Monday – Saturday. The school day is from 8 – 2:00 pm.

By 7:45 this morning, I am heading down the hill towards the school when I meet a teacher, he teaches biology, coming up the hill. He turns back towards the school with me though he said that no one was there yet. A little before 8:00 a lone student appears followed by the principal and his assistant. Well, I guess we will not be getting off to a flying start. By 8:15 about 15 students had arrived and a few teachers. Parents were coming in to register their students entering 7th grade (moving up from primary school). New students have to pay 5,000 Guinean Francs and either bring a 2 person desk with them or pay an additional 25,000 GF to have one made. Two families can go into a desk together. As a student leaves after 10th grade, they take the desk with them if it is still in decent condition.

At 9:00 about 60 or so students had shown up. The principal or any of the teachers are not fazed. “It’s the first week. By next week, most students should show up. Some are here today just to find out if classes are really starting or not. Tomorrow you will probably only have one class.”

I guess they are expecting only a small number of my approximately 270 students to show up. For the mathematicians out there, you are right. I have three classes with nearly 90 students in each class. The classrooms are smaller than what I had at Sunnyside and filled to the brim with these 2-seater desks. There are 50 desks in each class.

Well, let the games begin. Hopefully, my year's start will be better than the end of today. I got home to find that my container of freshly, hand-made peanut butter had come open in my bag. It was a gooey mess.