Monday, June 18, 2012

June 18, 2012

Taking one step forward.  My last day of work was Fri., June 15.  Today, I went to PSERS and filled out all the paperwork.  The PPS paperwork is also done.  I attended the wonderful end-of-year/retirement parties for both Pgh. Phillips and Spring Hill K-5 schools.  The former school made a donation in my honor to a charity of my choice and the latter game me a great Work Time Clock.  It is currently set for Pittsburgh time as the base and Central African time on right.  (I had to put the plane in Paris since there are no holes for places in Africa!  Can't imagine why...)

Now on to packing - stuff to take to the orientation in Toronto (July 8 - 27), to Africa, and to go into storage!  I took another trunk-load of stuff to Goodwill - always a sense of accomplishment.  Now, if someone would just sort through a lot of the papers and other minutia I have, I could just take it easy and relax (as if I could!)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

June 12, 2012

This is my last week as an employee of the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
I am wrapping up my work there and, at the same time, preparing for
the up-coming changes that will be necessary as I move to the Central African Republic.

As I talk to various friends and colleagues, some of the same questions keep coming up.  So, this entry will be an FAQ of sorts…

Where are you going??
I will be living in Baboua, Central African Republic (CAR).  The country is right in the middle of the continent at about 6-7° N latitude. It is south of Tchad, north of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, west of Cameroon, and east of Sudan (North and South).  The town is
1 hour from the Cameroonian border in the western part of the country.

What did it used to be called???
The country has been called the CAR since its independence in 1960 except for a brief period as the Central African Empire from 1976-79 (when Bokassa decided that being President-for-Life wasn’t enough and crowned himself emperor…).  Before that it was part of French Equatorial Africa and before that part of Ubangui-Shari…  So, if you haven’t heard of it, it is more likely because it is a small, poor country that rarely is in the news in the US.

What is the country like?
The country is about the size of Texas.  The capital is Bangui, which is in the southern part of the country across the river from DR Congo.  Few people live in the eastern part of the country.  There are two seasons – rainy and dry.  It gets hot, but is mostly dry.  There is a 5 hour time difference between Baboua and Pittsburgh (at least now while we are on summer time.  They don’t have summer time because there is little difference in the length of day because it is so close to the equator – maybe ½ hour during the course of the year.  That means there’s about 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness each day.

What will you be doing?
I will be an Education Advisor for the programs run by the ELCA (national Lutheran Church in the USA).  So, I will not be working in the national schools or for the Central African government.  I will be based in Baboua.  For the first 6-12 months, I will be helping the Central Africans running the existing programs to assess them.  Then, I will develop my job/role to help them meet their goals using the skills I have.  Design my own job!  What a chance.  Watch for future blog posts for details about what the job will actually be like.

What language do they speak there?
The national African language is Sango.  I learned a little of this language when I was in the CAR as a Peace Corps Volunteer 30 years ago.  (I don’t remember much, but hope to learn more soon.  I can now say hello, give my name, count to 10 and say I am going home!)  The country was colonized by the French, so that is also an official language.  I do speak French.  The region where I will be living is the home of the Gbaya (or Baya) people.  Maybe I will be learning Gbaya instead of Sango.  Don’t know that yet!
Will you have modern conveniences?
Yes, but…  Baboua is a town of about 10,000, I am told.  I don’t know what is available in the town.  I have been told that the house where I will be living (provided by the ELCA) has electricity several hours a day.  I think there may be solar panels on the roof, but don’t have details yet.  The ELCA has also recently installed a satellite dish so I will have Internet access – probably when the electricity is available!  I hope to have Skype access, but have not details about that yet.  I guess I will have running water, but am not sure about that yet.

Are you excited or apprehensive?
Yes.  I am pleased to be embarking on this adventure in which I can learn a lot personally and share some of my knowledge with the people I meet there.  So, I am excited.  On the other hand, there are many unknowns, so there is also some apprehension.  I hope excitement outweighs apprehension after the orientation I will have in July (2 weeks in Toronto and 1 week in Chicago and Kenosha, Wisconsin).

Please send your comments and questions!  I look forward to having “conversations” with you through this blog.