I think we’re going to need a bigger boat

This past week has been interesting, I’m happy to say. Although not directly related to my project, I participated in a worshop for the literacy side of the program I am with.  As part of its literacy program, the agency I work with supplies small villages with cases (“malles”) of books on various topics.  In some communities, the cases are stored in small literacy centres and in others whereever is possible.  The workshop participants are themselves former literacy learners and volunteerly manage the cases.  They don’t speak or write French and the workshop was held in their language, Goulmentia (?) and through a translator. The objectives of the workshop was, basically, to see how things are going.  The cases hold anywhere between 55 to 200 items, and all of them have a at least a few subscribers- some have dozens.  The participants talked about what they needed for their communities, the activities they do to attract people to the cases (mainly community meetings), who used the collections, how they think they can acquire new documents, and their challenges.  I was there mainly out of my own interest, but my colleagues coordinating the workshop had asked me to talk about programming ideas, so I tried to come up ideas that I thought may be appropriate for these volunteers in small communities with no resources, and I tried to focus on early literacy activities that incorporate their language and parents, or activities that incorporate their books (like scavenger hunts.) After I asked for an example, one young, enthusiastic man even volunteered to sing a song that moms sing to babies in their language. The experience was pretty humbling, seeing recent literacy learners pouring over and presenting their flipcharts to talk about a project they volunteer to take on.  With every presentation, they put themselves out there for reaction and criticism. It was a really good group.

Haussa class is still an embarassing struggle.  I know I don’t have much stake in it- I don’t have to work in the language, nor will I be here long enough to really use it- but when you undertake a challenge, it’s nice for it not to go badly.  There are really no reference points to other languages I know.  And, because I am the only “introductory” level student in the class, I really started to get the feeling that the instructor was picking on me a little. A classmate, married to a Nigerien geologist, confirmed as much the other evening when we out to dinner. It’s at such times that I didn’t have a good sense of humour which I think just *encourages* the instructor all the more. We had to take a dictation the other day, so here it just to give you an idea of the language. (Keep in mind that some of these k letters are not actually “k”s, but a little K with a hook at the top, which is only said at the back of the throat. And it’s way more difficult when you hear it spoken than when you go over it and see it written.)

“La bahin de Rodne da matasshi”
“Sunana Rodne sunan ubana Alex suma wata Louise. Daga Bristol nike. Bani da ya, bani da wa. Banida kane, ko knwa. Ama inaga kare sunanshi Reba (she changed that for me!), kuma inada susu. Sunanshi kit. Bya haka inada akou, sunanshi patsi. Ce karata ashirin da bokwoy. Ina da aure mattata sunanta gillian. Ce karata ashrinin da hutu. Nayi rantu tanrihi jami’a Cambridge cikin Inglia. Nayi aiki gidam radion BBC. Yazu ina aiki enjerida Times. Mattata karatun rawa Trinity College a Dublin. Kuma tahi karaha intquider a Paris. Kana aiki Queens Hospital da London.”

Yep, got that. After the dictation the teacher made me read what I had, and then she made me translate it verbally, to be corrected by a classmate who has lived here 20 years, married to a tamachek man, who complains she speaks haussa with a tamackek accent! Oh god, someone just shoot me! (And I don’t know how to say that in Haussa.)

We went through a big hot spot recently, in the forties celcius, but the dust is rolling in which has helped lower the temps into the thirties.  April and May are the really hot months, however, and I have already come up with some great things about living in forty plus temparatures, based on experience:

– Don’t know what to wear to work? No problem! Get up a little early, wash your favorite outfit, put it on the laundry line, have a cup of tea, and boom! Dry in an hour!
– You know what a pain it is making garlic butter when the butter is too hard? No problem! Insert butter into bowl and it starts to soften on contact!
– Weight loss! Never underestimate the power of a sweat diet… saunas are healthy, right?
– You have to keep hydrated, so have another drink, and finish it before the ice cubes melt!
– It’s too hot to worry about a coup d’etat!
– It’s too hot to work!
– You now have warm running water! You may not want it, but you have it.
– You didn’t need all that skin on your fingertips before you touched the side of the refrigerator, or any other metal object, in fact
– Hate using stinky bathrooms? No problem, you can drink two litres of liquid and never have to pee! Who knew you could sweat that much? I mean, like dripping out of every pore on your body. (See item on weight loss.)
– Chapstick in it’s solid form is over rated!

Yes, in case you’re wondering, that’s the insightful type of stuff I come up with with my spare time.

On another intellectual high, during the recent workshop, I encountered a baby goat that looks just like my dog! It’s cute, black and furry, with a white underbelly, and obviously far more intelligent than the other goats. It looks just like Reba, except for the stubby legs and that it’s a goat. I call her Kid Reba and I almost convinced someone to take her on his motorscooter, but he then reminded me that the owner may be *right there* as we discussed the kid-napping. That put quick end to that.

I took an unexpected boat trip on the river today, and saw a hippo rear his head. Their heads are really big! Made me worry there may others near by.  Did you know hippos kill more people in Africa than all other wild animals here? After all, have you ever seen the teeth on those lumbering creatures? I was told a story by a Canadian diplomat today,upon return from our trip, about a news story he saw on television regarding a tour guide who dove into the water to rescue an American tourist when their boat was rocked by a pissed off old hippo. The guide dove in, and recounted he dove into the water “but was dry”, because he had dove (dived?) directly into the hippo’s mouth, which swallowed him to the waist. He lost and arm and was pretty messed up. The American tourist was deemed to have had a heart attack had died hitting the water.

Stay tuned for more. Well, unless you have better things to do with your time. If you see them, hug my boyfriend and dog for me.

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2 Responses to “I think we’re going to need a bigger boat”

  1. Jeremy Tan Says:

    Kid-napping. That deserves a boo.

    Booooo.

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