Monday, October 4, 2004

In the Loupe, Chapter 3

Hello all,

Maybe I should be spacing these things out a little better, but it's raining again (ah yes, they told me, it's the rainy season) and I'm enjoying the dry shelter of the cyber cafe. So are my missionary friends, who are back and in serious computer action -- don't they have anything better to do? Isn't there Jesus love to spread around? I mean, really now.

I started teaching today and it was very exciting. Not so exciting the 20-minute uphill climb to school - I'm going to dish out the extra 40 cents for a second bus, since being sweaty and gross first thing in the morning isn't so much my bag - but definitely a party once in the classrooms. Man, are these kids ever happy about taking English! I saw that on Friday when I went around to meet the teachers and kids in my three schools, and as they saw Karine and me walking towards the classroom, they all started yelling "eenglish! hello eenglish! hello mees! I speak eenglish!" and I was like the Rolling Stones. No, I WAS the Rolling Stones. If these are the greetings you get in daily life here, I really see no reason to leave.

The first lesson was all about English around the world and Canada, and all four classes (I start with the other four tomorrow) sat either in rapt silence, or oohing and aahing as I showed them pictures of Canada. Eventually they applauded, and Niagara Falls and the CN Tower got standing ovations. So did Hallowe'en (so those of you who were at Dave's house for last year's Hallowe'en, you also are the Rolling Stones) and everybody, across the board, loved totem poles and traditional Six Nations dancing and teepees. You know what else they loved? Snow as seen from my front door. That killed them.

And their accents! You could just eat them up! So I think it will be good. I spent the week-end inventing a curriculum and drawing lots of flash cards of colours and food and clothes - not so much in the way of teaching materials or suggestions here. Except for this crazy cd that Karine gave me, nursery rhymes and songs and whatever - it's so bad! I don't know how to tell her: please don't sing these terrible songs with the kids; they will hate English forever. And I think the singer is Irish but her accent is all weird, and she has this really slow kid with her who repeats the songs in mangled English afterwards - why? how does this help anyone? - and really bad rhythms and tunes. It's really bad. Especially when she attempts an American accent during the short shorts blues and her voice goes all low and weird. Why couldn't they get an English-speaking kid? They couldn't shell out an extra ten bucks?

On the less successful teaching front, I "helped" neighbour Manon with her math-in-English. It's a Euro-Caribbean program, kind of a French immersion idea, and her mom thought that I could help because of the English - turns out there are four words in English and the rest is grade ten graphing. Grade ten was the year when Mr. Bissylas thought that enhanced meant doing grade twelve trigonometry, and he mostly hung out with math-smart Corey and Trevor. And I don't know what I did get to that year, but I sure as hell never touched graphing, which I remember from looking in panicky rage at the exam, having not even realized it was a unit. (I told him he had screwed me over and he said "what grade do you think you've earned?" and gave me the 85 I claimed. The guy was a champion.)

So English tutoring ended up being me saying "right, right, I see what you're doing there; you are on the right track; gotcha; keep up the good work" as Manon explained grade ten graphing to me in French, and then we looked at pictures of Carnaval on the internet and then I stayed for dinner and they drove me home. I'm the best teacher ever.

It's still raining really hard but I don't have anything else to say... it rains at least twice a day in every region, so I've been caught and soaked through many times.

Oh! It's not mosquitoes eating me alive, or at least not only mosquitoes. Ants! Little tiny buggers that you actually can't see unless they're moving around on a solid-coloured surface, and even then it's not so obvious. And they're in everything, and there's nothing you can do, and you might as well stop complaining about it, is the basic deal. So I will be hideous all year and I need to just accept that.

Exciting creature story: it's hot at night and I sleep with the doors open for a cross breeze. Once a cat came in and I shooed it out, but when I tried to sleep with the doors closed I almost died. I actually almost died. So Saturday morning I wake up and I hear a swishing in the room. I don't have my glasses and the mosquito net makes it fuzzy, but as it leaves, I realize it's an iguana! About half the length of my body, this big fat iguana hanging out in my bedroom. Hopefully eating some of the damn ants. How cool is that? There are a bajillion tiny little lizards (kept thinking mice were streaking across the porch, but now I realize they're lizards) and sometimes they jump on your arm and sit for a bit before taking off again. It's all very exciting.

Okay, that's it. I guess I'll just get rainy; one of the missionaries saw my English computer screen and I can tell he's eyeing me with salvation on his mind. Time for me to leave.


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