Sunday, February 2, 2014

Gaani and Gardens

Hello Everyone!

What’s new in the last two weeks? Time marches on relentlessly, doesn’t it? I hope all is well with you and yours.

As far as life in Founougo is concerned, I am happy to finally be comfortably busy with good work. The latrine project marches on. Camille and I are recording weekly radio shows. And I am continuing to work with secondary school students trying to get a garden started.

Within that context, I have come up with a couple anecdotes to share with you all.

Last week I got to help a student use the computer. Djafarou, one of the most enthusiastic Environment Club members, came over to my house one evening last week. He explained that an NGO “Education for All” is holding a trivia contest and the 100 students in the county with the best responses will receive laptops. Djafarou said that he expected that many students would have teachers answer the questions for them. I am not sure if that is true, but /I/ wasn’t about to give him the answers! I told him to meet me at the radio station and we would use my computer and internet key to find the answers on Google. When we finally sat down, I pulled up French Google, and told Djafarou to write in his question. Then he really asked me, “How do I write it?” “… with the letters,” I replied. Needless to say, it was a very slow session. I don’t think that he had really every used a computer before, never mind Google. Fortunately, I had helped teach a computer basics ESOL class in Dorchester, and I thought back to the patience I had used for that. Djafarou was actually pretty good at discerning which response from Google he wanted to use. Also, he didn’t write his answers right on the contest sheet. Oh, no. He wrote them on a scrap piece of notebook paper so that he could write the answers in neatly later. I hope he succeeds, I thought that he did well.

A big part of the last two weeks has been trying to agree about some sort of student garden here in Founougo. Forgive me if I repeat from last post, but last year we just sort of jumped into gardening at the school without much of a plan. Some things worked out, some things didn’t. This year I was determined to start with a better plan of attack, before people put a lot of work into an ill-fated endeavor. It looks like the students of the Environment Club and I will be doing a vegetable garden close to the seasonally flooded road. Baron, my great work partner found a space. The land is relatively very fertile, and there is water available. My biggest concern is seeing that kids stick to a schedule and water the garden regularly, even without a school administrator ordering them to do so. We have broken ground, and we will see how it goes!

The past weekend was Gaani Fête in Banikoara, our nearest big town. Gaani Fête is the traditional holiday for the Bariba, the most predominant ethnic group in this area. The Bariba kings of different areas get together and ride through town on horses. I remember last year, getting to watch people do synchronized traditional dance, and getting to be randomly invited into people’s homes to eat. It was perhaps my favorite cultural moment up until that point. This year I wasn’t able to stay as long because I had plans to work on the student garden, which I did not want to put off. Still, Camille and I were able to visit with one of our friends from the school administration (all of us dressed up in our best Beninese party clothes!) And we were able to greet the Banikoara King in his courtyard, complete with drums and horns. It was fun to get to participate in celebrating the traditions here. I wish Gaani Fete happened twice a year!

The last update for this entry is about exercise. I have signed up to run a 10 kilometer race next Saturday, and I have been trying to train into better shape for that. Camille and I have done several distance bike rides (nice, since you get a good leg/cardio workout without the stress on knees). I’ve also done some power walking, jogging, and even some leg workouts at home. Saturday (Feb 8) will be my first road race and I suppose I am most anxious about pacing myself. Anyway, it’s good to have a hobby, especially one related to my personal well-being.

Ok, that’s all for this post folks. Thanks so much for reading.
With love,

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