Friday, 15 February 2008

2(ish) weeks in...

Well it's been almost a week since I was last on here. It feels like a lot has happened since then, though thinking about it, it really hasn't.

First off, my lack of writing here for the last 6 days has been down to my inability to write anything cheerful. Nothing majorly bad has happened and I'm not hating it here by any means, however since Sunday night I've had 'an estomac dérangé' which has seriously taken its toll on my enthusiasm! Things got worse and worse, and eventually I succumbed and visited the Doctor yesterday. He's sorted me out with a thrice daily concoction of no less than 4 different drugs that are succeeding in not leaving me in agony thus far, so it all looks promising. Feeling ill in a foreign country is never great though, and even worse when your family and friends aren't with you. Still, I'm going to be fine soon and am looking forward to starting proper teaching from Monday!

For an update on this week's activities aside from feeling rough a large proportion of time, last weekend was incredibly productive. After my last blog I went on to explore town a bit and found surely the nicest spot in town - the café at L'Institut Français. It's a bit more pricey than other eateries around, but proportional to the difference in the cost of living between here and in England, it's hardly extravagant. It's the kind of place where they're quite happy for you to just sit with a drink and read your book, and where you also don't feel awkward for being on your own. Perfect! After that I ventured to the Museum of African Art, which was surprisingly empty, yet cool and with more than enough to amuse myself for 40 minutes.

On Sunday, I not only tidied, swept and mopped my room, but also managed to do my laundry for the week. This wasn't loads as I've only brought a week's worth of clothes with me. The most exciting bit of this experience however(!) was going up to the roof terrace to hang up my wet clothes, only to find out that I've not only being sharing my home with Mme D and her nephew, but also a dog, a goat and several chickens - which in turn explains why egg seems to feature a lot in Mme D's cooking. Bit of a random discovery but quite nice as now when I hear a scuttling noise at night, I know it's just something on the roof and not a deadly african animal ready to pounce in my room!

Sunday was also the day of the final of the African Nations Cup, which Mme D and I watched together. It was actually quite a good match and for those who are interested, Egypt beat Cameroon 1-0.

Monday was supposed to be the start of my week's shadowing a teacher at school, but I wasn't well enough to start then. Nevertheless, I was determined the next day and started on Tuesday. I arrived at school for 8am and was greeted by the headmaster and teacher who I would be shadowing - Mme Djeng (I have more than likely spelt this wrong!). She takes a class of 54 children who are all about 8 years old. The day started well with the prospect of incredibly polite children. As I sat at the front of the class waiting for the class to begin, several children walked up to me, shook my hand and said 'Bonjour'. All very promising so far. However the class then began. There's a relaxed attitude with time here that means that things didn't actuall settle down until about half 8, and at this point the children were told to get their books out (I think). Anyway, they were told to do something, and then several children who didn't have whatever the teacher had asked for were told to go to the front. Children who came in late were also sent here. Then, Mme Djeng took a worn strip of leather piping and hit them. Some she asked to stick their hands out, some she just hit anywhere, their backs, their legs, their heads - wherever. I was completemy shocked. I'd known the teaching 'styles' were going to be different here but I hadn't thought it resorted to this. Don't get me wrong, half of my family are teachers and I know that sometimes children are so awfullly behaved that you can't help but thinking maybe a bit of caning would instill some order. However, after watching one little girl in particular scampering back in tears, almost tripping over the bucket of water used to clean the blackboard, I'm fairly sure I know where I stand on the issue. The very next day in fact, Mme Djeng went to pray for a while and left me in charge of the class as they copied out the national anthem into their books - I was handed the whip and told, that if they talked I was to hit them. Safe to say I didn't use it, and I'm confident I won't in the next few weeks.

The school day is supposed to be 8 until 1, and then 3 until 5 on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well. However, as mentioned before, the teachers here are striking, and so at the moment they start at 8 as normal, and then finish at 10. To be honest, I find it quite ridiculous and think they would make a much stronger impact if they simply didn't turn up at all. However, I have such little to amuse myself otherwise I won't be suggesting any other course of action! I should start teaching properly on Monday, though I'm not sure if the strike will still be going strong then. I think I'm going to be mainly teaching maths which suits me fine, as it's the only thing I'm confident of that doesn't require a large degree of fluency in terms of communication - numbers are numbers, and are thankfully the same in both languages! Will hopefully have more to say on teaching next week though.

In other news, though much of yesterday was spent at the doctor's, it was Valentine's Day. Somehow, even though I've had a boyfriend for the last 5 years I've managed to not spend it with them, and this year I appear to have gone to extreme lengths to keep the tradition alive! Being in a different continent to your loved one on the day is never ideal but being ill at the same time really tops it off! However, I was lucky enough to receive a card as well as a phonecall and was feeling quite cheered up, much to the amusement of Mme D and Alain. Valentine's Day is celebrated here as well and from what I can tell, in a similar fashion to England. The ultimate date here though apparently is to take someone to a patisserie! Cake and coffee are the way the Senegalese impress each other! Though I suppose this makes sense on account of most of the population not drinking alcohol.

Tomorrow I'm hoping to venture to Ile de Gorée, which is an island about 10mins off the coast of Dakar, with lots of history on the slave trade and a lovely beach - should be a good way to make the weekend pass quickly anyway! I may explore a bit more of Dakar though as I have a feeling I'm missing some nice spots.

Anyway, all in all, I'm 2(ish) weeks in, pootling along quite nicely, and looking forward to teaching, which I imagine will make the weeks pass more quickly. More soon...!


Hayley said...

Yay pootling. Its poo you're feeling a bit rubbish, but at least you are on the mend. Maybe its good you got it out of your system straight away!

When I was away you can feel a bit blaaagh, its quite stressful really when everything and everyone is brand new, even if everyone is nice. And the languageness makes evrything a little bit more difficult though.

Enjoy the being away in the exciting places though. It is all very mundane here, I am sitting in on a Friday night in my dressinggown attempting to finish my essay for professional studies b. Cool. I have no social life anymore. If I finish in a hour I might allow myself a half pint. (are you missing the lack of alcohol? Probably not much. Would be bad for your tummy anyway. Or kill off the bugs living there)

I look foward to hearing how you're coping with teaching 56 kids once they realise you are a wussy English girl who doesn't use physical violence. Bribery could work well though as a positive incentive. You could give the best behaved one a teddy or something. You could even let them choose the name, kids like that.

Enjoy the eggs. Maybe goat next week!

Dot said...

Glad you're feeling better. We all think your very brave. I always hated camping because of the ablution facilities!

This is my first time on the internet. Thinking of you often -Gt Grandma