Saturday, November 05, 2005

rote repitition, elbow throwing, and the jamais phase

I’ve finished my first month of school. Yayy…

I now am firmly convinced that 80 to 125 kids is too many. Who knew. Other than that, I really don’t have too much to report about teaching, but in the burkinabé tradition of coming up with something to say, even if you don’t need to, I have a few short anecdotes.

- perils of the rote learning system 1 – after I did a lesson on malaria I had my students in
my cinqieme class ask their parents how they thought you get malaria and what they do to manage it, what medicines if any they take. When the responses came back, they all said that malaria comes from the anopheles female mosquito and that you can take drugs like quinine and flouroquine to cure it. They had all wrote down exactly what I had written on the board. I don’t think one person wrote about the traditional medicine that they always use for the palu (French for malaria), which is boiled bark juice. Nor did anyone write about the dangers of overactive yam and milk consumption or evil spirits or the evils of itching which are the responses I usually get from the villagers when I ask about malaria. I chewed them out for it. I’m going try and do something like it again for aids in the hopes that it will turn out better. We’ll see.
- Perils of the rote learning system 2 – for my sixieme class (the lowest level I teach) we are studying flowering plants so for one class I told them all to bring in flowers and then I told them to draw a picture of their flower and identify all the parts that we had already been over. Almost all of them proceeded to draw the flower that I had put on the blackboard during class and then identify it. I went around class asking to see their flowers and when they pointed to their picture I explained that that was not a flower, that was a drawing of a flower. Where’s the flower. This happened at least 6 or 7 times. So instead they have it for homework now.
- Perils of games with 80 students – after finishing with the chapter on muscles for my troisieme class I decided to do a day of review with games and I put all the rows against each other. I had each team send a person to the board and then I would ask a question and then they had to return the chalk to me to signify that they were done. To make matters more difficult, I would hide around the room. Happily, they did become interested in the game, a little too interested and elbows were being thrown to prevent the return of chalk. I’ll have to come up with a new game soon, something less active perhaps.

In other news, this past week we had 2 holidays – All Saints Day and the end of Ramadan – the month of Muslim fasting. Burkina likes to celebrate the holidays of all religions. Ramadan was fun. Most days I would go over to Salif’s place to break the fast with a dried out date and several watermelons (my village is now loaded with watermelons. The first time I saw watermelon here, in july sometime, it was 500 cfa for a watermelon, roughly a dollar. Now they go for 50 cfa, ten cents). This past thursday was the fete (holiday) celebrating the end of Ramadan. I made some banana bread for salif and his friends to help celebrate and then headed over there with cary who was in town visiting for a couple days (she finds the pool to be good for her mental health). While there we had quite the conversation with salif about womens rights. It was very disheartening.

- Perils in womens rights – The discussion got started when I was describing what we in the west do during big holidays – namely big meals with all the family together. Salif explained that they do somewhat the same thing, except that the men eat in one group, the women in another group, and the kids in another. I asked why men and women don’t eat together. Salif told me it was against islam to do that. I remarked that it probably caused problems with the advancement of women’s rights if the dominate religion decrees the men and women must rest apart. Salif noted that men and women are not the same and I agreed but I said that did not mean that they did not deserve the same rights. Salif said that would be impossible and went on to explain the proper role of men and women. The conversation was frustrating to say the least, but more so because salif is my best burkinabé friend. I know I shouldn’t hold him to a higher standard but I do. We got on the subject of women making money and the horrors that come if a women were to make more money than men. He said that women lose their respect for men when they make money. I remarked that perhaps the problem is that the men do not respect the women and when the women attain some success they probably develop more respect for themselves which scares the men (I was even able to use rhyming words in my French discourse on this which made me very happy). Shortly after this, Salif began to dig himself quite the hole. He began, and I quote, “for example, when a man hits his wife …” I tried to stop him at this point but cary insisted that he go on as she was very curious how he was going to justify this. He went on to describe how if the women doesn’t respect her husband she will leave him after he beats her and then who is going to feed the kids. I entered ‘jamais’ phase simply repeating that it would never be justified to hit your wife and then quickly ended the conversation before salif could dig any deeper.

I try not to hold it against him because it is so ingrained into his culture and his religion. But it is disheartening, because it makes you realize how far away from the west you are, and how far Burkina has to go. And it is disheartening that this man, this friend who has helped me so much, who has been so understanding, who stopped wearing his osama bin laden shirt after I commented on it, who just minutes before had promised cary and I that he would get us blaise pagnes (presidential campaign goodies), holds opinions that I find appalling.
But at least we had a conversation. Who knows, maybe my presence and maybe conversations like these will slowly work on his prejudice until one day he has a family dinner with his wife.


Blogger Arkansas's Swiss Family Imholz said...

Thank you, Tyler. You have given us a valuable lesson on ethnology. It's as if I'm there but without the inconveniences of the heat and the mosquitoes!

8:40 AM  
Blogger Diana Chiles said...

Your blog is GREAT! It is nice to see that you have your dad's talent in writing. I remember the WONDERFUL letters we use to get when you guys lived in Saudi Arabia. And now the tradition continues . . .

You are in my thoughts and prayers as you live your life 10 miles from nowhere. Take care of yourself. Keep writing! It’s so nice to see a glimpse into your life these days!

"The blessing of the Lord be upon you . . . " PSALM 129:8

Your coz,

2:34 PM  
Blogger OKeedokey said...

Hi Tyler,

Well, I see my family has taken over your comment section!

We do enjoy reading your blog.

Your life is so different than anything I have ever done or probably will do. Keep up the good and hard work.

Haley Littleton

11:11 AM  

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