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Pressé (Monday, 2011 Septemeber 12)

September 12th, 2011

Sometimes in transport you’ll hear "Pardon! Chauffeur, on part! Je suis pressé!" or similar, which translates as "Come on, driver! Let’s go! I’m in a hurry!" But the semi-literal idea of being pressed (pression means pressure) is kind of catchy when there’s eight zillion things to do. Was the beginning of the school year like this last year? I don’t recall it being.

Last Wednesday, as I was cooking, I started to feel a little congested, and couldn’t stop sneezing. One of the Boys suggested that I had the flu and that he’d be immune since he’d had it in Yaoundé or Bafoussam or someplace like that. Sure enough, my fever mounted with sincerity until around midnight, when it was 102 degrees. I took some Tylenol and managed to get some sleep, and when I woke up on my day off, I was back to 98 degrees. Despite its being my day off, though, there was assemblée générale, so after I did laundry and dishes I went to that. It was short enough, and then beer was produced, and I managed to talk M. Teukeu into buying my next 100 hours of Internet on his way back to Bafoussam, then I got back home and my temperature was up to 99.6. Cyclical fever is associated with malaria, and I wanted to go to the pool party on Friday in Dschang, so I decided to go to the hospital to get some malaria tests done. They sadly informed me that they couldn’t really do it, since it was already almost nighttime and the lamp in the microscope was kind of broken, so could I come back tomorrow during the daytime? I already had three hours of class plus I still hadn’t arranged my hours with M. Dinesso plus I also had 2000 CFA of tofu on order that I needed to pick up. So going to the hospital AGAIN seemed like it would be super annoying, but maybe I’d get lucky and wake up at 5 AM again when my fever broke and I found myself in a puddle of sweaty clothing.

But instead when I got home again I wanted to take my temperature again as I got dressed to ward off the chill. Turns out that putting shirts on isn’t compatible with mouth-things like thermometers, which fell on the floor and broke. Whoever is responsible for Cameroonian Volunteers having mercury thermometers, congratulations! You utterly ruined my evening, which was spent frantically doing research and obsessively trying to clean mercury as best as I could before I could relax. Mercury gets EVERYWHERE. The good news is that handling it or even swallowing it isn’t that dangerous, because it has poor absorption as a liquid. What you have to watch out for is mercury vapor, which has very good absorption — but a very short half-life in the blood, so that’s something too. For four or five hours I wrapped duct tape to my fingers and tried to gently pick up miniscule little balls of mercury that I’d tried to ramasse with a piece of cardboard, and put the tape with the mercury in a ziploc bag before the mercury fell off. By the time I was finished, my legs were sore and my feet had fallen asleep from crouching because I was too terrified to put my knees on the floor that might have gotten mercury on it. It was midnight, and I had produced a ziploc bag with mercury in it. At least I was able to air my house for a few days while I fled to Dschang.

Friday I almost overslept, managed to teach ALL the classes, visit the hospital again BOTH to give blood and then AGAIN to get the results (it’s not malaria), fend off M. Dinesso (no I’m not giving you anything. No I’m not even selling you anything), draw up a schedule for who’s going to be teaching what class in the lab on what days, and still made it to Bafoussam in time to visit some stores to get a crossover cable (câble croisé) so I could do a demo showing off what a network was, at least to a small extent. Right now I’m exhausted but at the time I felt great, super accomplished, especially when I was presented a price of 2000 CFA and I pulled out my trump card — "You know it’s not for me, right? It’s for my poor students at the Lycée de [Village]" — which surprisingly often gets responses of "Wait, you’re at Lycée de [Village]? I’m FROM [Village]!" Price went down to 1000 CFA and I made some new friends, who may be coming by this week. Between that and the tofu, I’m beginning to think that my village is the best. Apparently people from my post are envahisseurs, "invaders" — they’re just all over the place. Playing this card has worked for me in Bafoussam, Yaoundé (the spaghetti-omelet sandwich guy is from my village, and so is the guy who runs the draft beer bar, and Hotel Grand Moulin has a big map of my village in the lobby), lots of places where you wouldn’t expect it to. The guys from the shop mused that it has to do with the hills here, and the associated high costs of investing or starting a farm here. It’s just way easier for us to diasporate.

Got to the party before sundown, drank, danced. Dschang is a college town, but college doesn’t start until next month sometime (around the elections?), so it was almost a ghost town. Still, it’s just an unbelievably beautiful place. The swimming pool was nice too. Barely slept; up again to head to the lake (!) and have a brief drink before heading out again to Bafoussam to hang out with Barbara and Billie, who are both leaving soon — Barbara because she’s been transferred back to Yaoundé (where her family is) and Billie because she got a visa (or a green card?) and is going to the United States for a few months. Hung out there and ate, crashed there, woke up Sunday, watched a movie, headed back to post where I could wash my school bag that I’d left soaking so I could get the tofu oil out. Too tired to do anything but plan my lessons rudimentarily, but through some stroke of genius luck brilliance, all of my classes on Monday are lab hours, so it wasn’t as hard as it should have been.

I’m almost done with classes today. Mostly they went fine. Surprise, all of the Compaq machines stopped working over the vacation. Not sure why, they’re not lighting up at all. Maybe it’s a problem with the power supplies, which are some quirky Compaq thing that are screwed on using Torx screws. Whatever, we mostly have enough computers if students are willing to be friendly. The only thing that sucked is that I couldn’t get two computers talking sufficiently for a demo. The Windows machines were missing drivers, and the Linux machines didn’t have any kind of server software at all — HTTP, FTP, even telnet or SSH — so instead did another theory lesson in 4e about the shapes of networks. I’m downloading the Windows drivers now, but I’m already anticipating a night full of bouncing from my house with the Internet to the lab to try to get this stuff working before class tomorrow. Come on, I just want one demo..

So I’m tired. Even with fourteen hours a week instead of sixteen, I still have to plan those lessons, I still have to draw up my projets pédagogiques. Every day I don’t have time to do those things, I half-ass them, and that makes me a shitty teacher, and that makes class harder, and that makes every day that much more of a struggle, and that makes me even less inclined to actually do work on anything. This is the vicious cycle I got into last year, and it can be quite vicious indeed. I STILL need to somehow convince Dinesso to change his 4e class with my 3e class; that would make my life easier because I wouldn’t have to anticipate the different material we’ll have covered by the end of the year. But despite all of that, everything’s going all right so far, by and large. You know how it is: when it’s good, it’s really good. But when it’s bad, well, you know how it goes.

I haven’t had anyone to answer to in a long time
So forgive me if I’m rusty
I can take the time if it’s what you want
So here I am now, there you are
‘Cause when it’s good, it’s really good
But when it’s bad,
Well, you know how it goes
‘Cause we are alone and we are together
Each inside our own heads, we can be like this for hours
And we can be good, yeah,
If we try to be good
If we try, I know that we can be good

—Via Audio, "We Can Be Good"


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