Friday, February 1, 2013

Work Day - Distance - Dust

Hello.  Bonjour. Balaala. Mɔ sąą nɛ? Sanu.  Can you tell that I am surrounded by languages?  I continue to study Sango (the 3rd greeting) and that is going pretty well.  I can write about my day, my family, and carry on a conversation with only some difficulties.  Reading the Sango Bible is harder since there are lots of abstract and/or difficult ideas.

I am also studying Gbaya (although to our Western untrained ears that sounds like Baya, it is not the same sound… It’s the 4th greeting and you can tell that there are different sounds – the a with the funny squiggle is a nasal sound.  It is repeated because it is a longer sound.)  Gbaya is much more musical to my ear since it has many nasal sounds and tones.  I can now read and write simple sentences – and sometimes pronounce them accurately.  Since we are using a textbook designed for people to learn to read their own language (Gbaya) we are able to focus on sounds/spelling relationships and the focus is simple sentences.  Of course, they are not so useful for everyday conversation!  “The sheep climbed the hill.”  “Dad found the hoe beside the fence post.”  “The horse is pregnant.”  Still, I am slowly – at one hour a day of lessons and some homework – training my ear to hear the difference between d and ɗ (nasal d) and other such sounds.  I have to say that ŋ is the hardest for me, especially at the beginnings of words or when combined with other letters as in ŋmaa.  Try to say ŋmaŋa! I have decided that no one and nothing will be “fat” since that is the meaning of this word that I have such trouble pronouncing!

By the way, the final greeting I threw in for fun.  It is from the Fululde language, spoken by the Fulbe people who are mostly Muslem.  There are a lot of them in N’gaoundéré and Garaou Boulai.  I am not studying that language (I have enough already!), but know how to say hello, good (jam), and thank you (osoko – the same as in Gbaya). 

How do you define your work day?  Is it by the number of hours you are in an office?  The number of tasks to be accomplished?  How much say do you have in defining that day?  I have been thinking about these questions as the structure of my work has changed.  In Baboua, I really hadn’t had time to set up a work schedule – not really.  The leadership team at that time wanted to work from 8 or 8:30 through until 3 or 3:30 and then go home to eat.  My body is not set up on that schedule!  Then, too, we had many end of the year activities and reports to work on.   Important work, but not “normal” in that they come only at the end of the year. 

Now, we have a lot of planning to do – to start a new year, and for the Village School Program because 2 of 3 people are new to the leadership team (not counting me who is sort of new).  Also, I am working at a distance.  Teams from the Village School Program and Christian Education come to Garoua Boulai to meet with me and we have had very productive meetings, but they cannot come every day – other work to do, expense of fuel, time involved, etc.  So, we set up some tasks for each team member to do between meetings (very American – wonder how well it will work).  Then we talk on the telephone.  I am, actually, very glad there are cell phones – 10 years ago there wouldn’t have been and the road then was horrible, making the 50 km. much more difficult to cross.  Still, there is usually a delay on the line and the connections between phone lines across the border make it a challenge.  We are, however, moving slowly forward in our work.

I am also practicing Sango and learning some Gbaya (which is definitely work!).  But how do I organize my work day?  On days where there are team meetings, it is more “normal” according to my past experiences in the US.  Other days, like today, it is much more flexible – especially since just when my computer battery told me it must be recharged, I realized that there was no electricity.  I am fortunate that it came back after a couple of hours, and that I have language studies to switch to.  Well, everyone told me that I would have to be flexible.  I am practicing. 

The other thought on my mind is dust – and weather.  It is the dry season which means – surprise, surprise – everything dries out and there is lots of dust.  I am cooking and cleaning for myself, but could be doing the latter much more often.  This picture shows the amount of dust that accumulated in the kitchen in 24 hours.  The floors of this house (and mine in Baboua) are cement which make them easy to sweep and clean.  Tables and other surfaces have a film of dust after a very short time.  I can’t see it in the air, but I am sure it is everywhere.  I am not complaining though.  I like this weather.  It gets hot during the day (most often between 75 and 85) and cools off at night (60s, I’d guess).  As I sat in the living room this morning – with the windows all wide open – feeling cold (65 or so), I couldn’t help but think about those of you currently in cold climes!  I went and put on pants and long sleeves (which are now, a couple of hours later, too warm) and thought that the 
temperature is about what it would be in my Pittsburgh house at this time of year.  Can’t say that I miss it… 

Now you get to practice being flexible.  As I tried to transfer pictures of the leadership teams and my language teachers from the camera to the computer, they all disappeared!  I was able to retake a couple of pictures but will have to redo the others later when the people are here again.  How sad.  Technology is great when it works…

I leave you with some pictures of a mango tree just outside my guest house.  There are blooms and beginning fruit.  It is almost their season!  Yeah!

May you all stay warm enough, but not too hot!  May you be able to accomplish the tasks you need and want to – no matter how you organize your work day.  Stay flexible!  (Good advice for us all.)

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