Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Camp GLOW

Camp GLOW - Girls Leading Our World took place last week. Thank to all of you that donated. This is one of the coolest things we volunteers do all year. We bring shy, quiet girls to camp and by the end of the week they're energetic and open.

During the week they learn about reproductive health (they don't even know why their cycle exists), clean water, the environment, computers, and they get to do fun things like go to the musem, the TV station, and play sports. Here are some shots of the week:
From More Africa


From More Africa


From More Africa


From More Africa


These are the 4 girls, 1 junior tutrice, and 1 tutrice that I brought to the camp.

Exit Strategy: Don't Exit. . .

Exit Strategy: Don’t Exit. . .

Despite my education, I’m not a very spiritual or religious person. I do like the idea, though, that “Where God closes a door, somewhere God opens a window.” Whether it’s God or fate or karma, I’m glad that this adage is often a truth.

My heart was broken when I didn’t get into the France English teaching program. That door was shut. The more I think about the job situation, the more discouraged I become. I want to go back to school, but I can’t do that immediately because I missed application deadlines. I would essentially go back to the states, find a job for a few months and then go back to school. It didn’t seem worth it.

When I came down to Cotonou last month for the close of service conference, I had in my mind that I would investigate doing Peace Corps Response. This is a program for returned PCVs that have special skills. They serve shorter terms, usually less than a year. I thought that I could help with a teacher training program in another country or teach English somewhere else. At our first session at the conference the programming manager let slip that there would be a Peace Corps Response position in Benin this year. For what? The Ouidah International Center of Music and Art. What do they need? A music teacher.

Window opened. Go figure.

What now? Ten more months in Benin. Crazy. I was so ready to move on, and then this came along. A completely different opportunity. Music education doesn’t even exist here, and I will be the founding teacher at a music school for primary school kids. The challenges will be many, but I’m really excited about it.

The community along with a donor from the States has built a school on the grounds of a primary school. They have requested an art teacher and a music teacher. If all my clearances go well, I should go back to the states on the 27th of August, and come back at the end of September to spend 10 months here. This way I can go directly back to grad school with no inconvenient in between time.

Ouidah will be a very different place to live. It’s known as one of the oldest slave trading ports on the Slave Coast. It has a museum and one of the first monuments to slaves, “The Door of No Return.” These things combined with it being the center of voodoo make it one of the most popular tourist attractions in Benin. It’s a different language and a different culture. I’ll be leaving “Bature!” for “Yovo yovo bon soir!” If I have the time, I’d really like to learn the local language, Fon. My living situation should be a little bit classier (fingers crossed). Since I’ll be in the 10th largest city in Benin I might even have modern facilities.

Anyway, I’m really excited about this. I’ll share more as I learn more about the project!

Journees Culturelles

It's really cool to see the kids show of their cultures at our yearly cultural days. This year I helped our school organize the days around a theme of girls education. Here are a few photos.

A group of teachers:
From More Africa


Bariba dancers:
From More Africa


Peulh Dancers:
From More Africa

Friday, June 4, 2010

End Times. . .






The English faculty at my school. I'll miss them.
Students, the people in Benin I'll miss the most.
Adrien, naturally, the person in Benin I'll miss the most.


Once again I find myself in a situation where I’m facing a future full of unknowns. First I went to college, then grad school, then Peace Corps. This time it’s very different. This time I really have no idea what I’m going to end up doing with my life and this uncertainty is weighting very heavily.

One thing seems pretty certain is this: August 26th. My official close of service (COS) date. The date I will no longer be a Peace Corps Volunteer and will become unemployed.

Our COS conference was refreshing. Peace Corps put us up in a nice hotel right on the swamp in Cotonou. *** It was our last time together as a group. Two years ago we came here, in fresh new clothes, bright eyed, and ready to move mountains. Now, we have a lot to talk about. Having a COS date makes the end more certain and makes us all a little more nervous, at least those of us who don’t have a concrete plan.

After coming back to post I started catching a lot of “lasts.” I finished writing and editing my last round of exams for my school. I proctored my last exams, had what hope will be my last fight over English in Benin*, today I start to correct my last exams, and in the coming weeks I’ll teach my last classes, say goodbye to my students (my favorite people in Benin), and take girls to my last girls camp. In less than two months, I’ll have to say goodbye to village all together.

Time is going fast too, frighteningly fast. I have two more weeks of school. Then the camp in Parakou. After that, I have to make what will be my second to last trip to Cotonou for my exit medical exam. In July, I need to get really serious about planning my girls’ camp in village. I have the money, which came from the Kate Puzie Memorial fund,** and I’m ready to do it, it’s just been hard to motivate myself early because people don’t think very far in advance. Thus it’s hard to get commitments from various people.

I’ll try to write and post more over the coming weeks. It’s been especially hard for me, because my computer is broken. Before, I did most of my writing at post. Now I have to wait in line for a computer at a workstation, where there are usually people waiting to use it after me. As a result the quality of my blog has gone down a bit. With school finishing, I’ll have more time on weekdays to come into the city. We’ll see how things improve.

*Sometimes English teachers here get ridiculous ideas in their heads and there is nothing you can do to convince them otherwise. There was a small correction on the exam and I was going around and informing the students. This teacher, who was proctoring the exam, pulled me aside and told me to correct the question: “Who always celebrates Christmas on December 25th?” The problem, he says because Christians is plural, we should say “Who always celebrate Christmas on December 25th?” What? I knew he was 100% wrong, but I didn’t know why, so I had to look it up when I came home.

**The family Kate Puzey, the volunteer who was murdered, has started a fund to finance girls’ camps in Benin.

*** I found out the other day that cotonou means “Mouth of the river of death,” in Fon.