Saturday, September 28, 2013

There and Back Again

I had the chance to go to Baboua Monday to be at the opening teacher-training session there.  After much careful consideration, discussion with many people, and meetings Friday with Cameroonian and Central African officials on both sides of the border, I went.  And all went well.  (Pictures are of some teachers and staff at the training session.)

Yes, there are still many problems in the country and a lot of insecurity.  But, Baboua has been calm all along.  It is only 50 km. (30 miles) from Garoua Boulai, so It is easy to go for the day and be back in GB before dark – just to be on the safe side. After all, leaders I work with often come for the day.  Now it was my turn.

VSP Director
It took about 20 minutes (each way) to get across the border.  No problems, I just had to wait for the arrival of the right person with the key.  Talking to the officials Friday helped immensely.  From there, it took 40 minutes to get to Baboua.  Often, I could go 100 kph (about 60 mph) so it should have been ½ hour, but I had to slow down when passing through villages.  It is the safe thing to do, but there are also speed bumps.  Here they are called “dos d’an” or donkey’s backs, or, as Joe Troester called some of them, “dos d’elephant.”  Some are so wide and high; drivers have to be careful.  If they don’t see them coming, it can be very jarring!

It was a busy day in Baboua.  I went first to the Péouri School where the teacher training was already started.  (I couldn’t cross the border until about
8, so I didn’t get there until just before 9).  I greeted the teachers and introduced myself.  I had met many of them when I visited schools last December, but that was a long time ago.  They were very pleased to see me. 

In past years, all teaches (about 60) came to Baboua for training.  This year the Village School Program leadership team decided to run two sessions – one in Abba and one in Baboua.  Teachers from the schools along the main, paved road came to Baboua.  Those who work in the schools on the unpaved road toward and after Abba went there.  (I drove a lot of that road – it is in HORRIBLE shape.)   The training in Abba was first, running for two weeks.  I had not planned to be there this year.  I couldn’t get there and back in a day and that there has been more insecurity along parts of that road.
Teachers in our Lutheran schools, often called maître-parents (teacher-parents), have varying levels of education.  Many didn’t go to high school; they passed the BEPC, the test given at the end of eighth grade.  Maybe you have heard stories about schools in the past in the US when anyone who could read and write taught school.  It is similar here now.  There aren’t enough teachers to go around even with these lesser educational requirements. 

So, as you can imagine, two weeks of training is helpful to increase teachers’ content knowledge and boost their confidence.  Sessions include basic French language, mathematical concepts, pedagogy, and organization (keeping the roll book, paperwork, etc.)  I am sure the students in the Village School Program schools will benefit as much as the teachers.  Teacher response to the sessions has been positive. 

After I talked to the teachers, I went to the Lutheran station to visit my house, the people who work for me there, the house of the missionaries who left, and various people I saw along the way. 

I went back to the training session to sit in on a class – review of mathematical concepts.  About 15 minutes into the lesson, taught by an “inspecteur” from the state school system, it started to rain – buckets.  We were inside a brick building, so very dry. However, it has a tin roof.  I love the sound of rain on a tin roof at night – great for sleeping.  It is not great for teaching, though, since the rain is VERY loud.  It drowns out all voices except if someone is right beside you.  The trainer had to adjust and give the students time to copy things from the board – the schedule for the week, an outline of topics to be covered, etc.  I didn’t get much chance to see the actual lesson. 

Look sideways... Mathias, wife
When the rain slowed down, I left.  I was invited to lunch at Mathias Votoko’s house.  (He’s the VSP’s Community Developer, working with the Parent Organizations).  His wife prepared meat in a tomato sauce, rice, and manioc.  Delicious.

Then I left to go back to Garoua Bouali.  It was still raining, but just a little.  No problems on the road. I noticed that there was very little traffic on the road – less than before these problems.

By the way, I did not go on my own.  I went with a Lutheran pastor (pre-arranged) and a Community Developer who works with the FCC or Women for Christ (who needed a ride).  I was pleased to have the company.

I will now go to Baboua from time to time for meetings such as the EEL-RCA’s Education Committee meeting next week.  Leaders still come to GB to meet with me; we are working on planning and budgeting for 2014 and planning/reviewing other work.

Garoua Boulai
Old Curtains
New Ones
Even though I have now been to Baboua once, it is not yet time for me to move back there.  I have accepted that I will be in GB for some time and have decided to make this guest house more my home – at least for now. 

I have been cleaning things more thoroughly, such as the drawers in the kitchen.  I also decided to get some material to have new curtains made for the living/dining room.   I never really liked the blue ones that were there.  The color was fine, but they were made with a long piece hanging down in the back – not a lining, but just extra material – and they are a bit tattered.  Plus, they were the kind that you slip the rod though a pocket at the top, making them hard to open and close. 

I found some material I liked, and cut the pieces to size so that a local tailor could hem them and put on rings.  Then, since the old curtains were down, I decided it was time to wash the windows (never one of my strengths, but I did OK with water, vinegar, and a little soap). As I was washing the windows, I decided to use a knife to get off some of the many flecks of paint that had dripped there when the walls were painted at some time in the distant past.  One thing leads to another… 

I had measured and calculated for the living room curtains thinking the material would be the same width as most cloth (about 45 inches), but what I bought was about 80 inches wide!  That meant, I could also have new curtains in the bathroom and kitchen, too!  The bedrooms have fancier, lined drapes that are lovely the way they are.  I had a table cloth made of the same material since I still had more, but I don’t want to use it until I find some clear plastic to protect it.  And, I still have material left over.  I have been thinking of “The Sound of Music” and “Gone with the Wind.”  Maybe I’ll have a matching dress made!

It seems that there is too much rain and not enough new “lawnmowers”!  The sheep can’t keep up with the quick growth of the grass.  Jean was out yesterday with the regular lawnmower helping them out.   That makes me think: in the US we always say not to cut the grass when it is wet.  Here they do.  Well, think about it, with as much rain as we have been having at this point in the rainy season, the grass is never really dry!  I hope they know how to care for the lawnmower to clean out the wet/damp grass.  It looks like an “industrial-strength” lawnmower at least.

Sanitation is always an issue here.  People are used to relieving themselves anywhere – and it doesn’t matter if it is a public place.  This is not just the men, either; I see women squatting in places I would never do it!  The hospital – a place that needs to have the best sanitation possible, has been working to educate people, but it is a never ending struggle.  People use the small bits of land around the hospital to squat and defecate.  Yesterday, new signs went up, another step in the education process.  The hospital has two latrines – one is even a VIP model (Ventilated, Improved Pits).  But people are resistant.  Sometimes when they do use them, they squat on the hallway floor instead of over the hole.  They say that a hole shouldn’t go over a hole.  What can we do to help them understand the sanitation issues??? 

I wonder what they would think if they got the chance to use a flush toilet – not only a hole, but one with water in it!  And, you sit instead of squatting.  It has a lot to do with what we learn at home and what is available to us.  Even some of the visitors to the guest house start to head outside to relieve themselves.  I am sure they are looking for the latrine (well, at least I hope so).  How can people who have had no experience with toilets and latrines, truly understand the concept of germs in the feces (that get on the hands that are left unwashed afterward).  An uphill struggle, but one that is important to continue to address.

1 comment:

  1. The faithful work of God's people continues in all sorts of interesting ways, including teaching workshops, colorful curtains & VIP latrines. Thanks for sharing, Susan in the CAR!