Les enfants relinquent (Wednesday, 2010 June 23)

June 29, 2010

Today we had a language test, and that meant a lot of time hanging out and doing nothing. Some of us got there early since we didn’t want to hang out with our families. I brought Pandemic but nothing came of it because people were studying. I think it’s silly to study for a language assessment, but there you are. Anyhow, one of the little girls in blue dresses (we later learned they were primary school students at the Anglophone school not too far away) came over, and I decided to teach her Set. In no time there were a crowd of little girls, most around 10 or 11, who were all trying to find sets. They weren’t very good, but enough of them were playing that eventually they would find one or two out of sheer dumb luck. After enough of a mob formed that I got sick of it, I told them that it was all for today. Allison got a picture or two; hopefully she’ll upload it at some point.

Later a bunch of them showed up outside our testing area, including the first one (Cynthia). She asked if we could play later and I said maybe after class. And indeed, we did play for a little bit after class, but I eventually had to meet my host brother Francis to take him to the cybercafe, and was late for it, so had to ditch before the game finished. Everyone’s bad at first, but their enthusiasm (or whatever) is kind of neat. The only problem is they pick up cards when they’re using them to try to find a set, which is inconvenient for the other players. I keep telling them "Laissez!" ("Leave it!"), "Posez les cartes!" ("Place the cards!") but they usually pick them right back up again. It’s a little bit like managing a class, I think. They’ve got the two-are-but-one-isn’t rule, I think, but haven’t really got a good grasp on the things that are sets, or how to look for them. They’re 11ish and school is maybe out for them.

Latest Franglais sightings. In conversation with another trainee:

  • Veux-tu jouer avec eux? ("Do you want to play with them?")
  • No, I don’t veux. ("No, I don’t want to.")


  • It fautes that I put more water in the filter. (From "il faut que", "it is necessary that")

One of the formateurs ("trainers"):

  • The trainees will be able to detaily discuss [some organization acronym].

Here "detaily" means "in a detailful manner".

Yesterday my family replaced the broken socket in my room. A kid who looked like a teenager showed up, took the broken socket, disappeared to get a replacement, and then basically climbed onto my bed and replaced it with his bare hands. Like most things Cameroonian, it was done by a local, often a kid, probably not the same way we would have done it at home, but it got the job done. Hard to find fault with that.

While they were changing the socket, they did me the courtesy of changing the light bulb, which had been colored blue, with one that is more white. CFLs, naturally. I have some before pictures which I’ll upload later. Speaking of pictures, I realized I don’t have a single one of Gus at all. (Please send help.) It was pretty easy to check thoroughly because apparently I haven’t taken any pictures between my birthday party, which she wasn’t at, and my last hangout, which she hadn’t yet arrived to when I put my camera away.

I regave my presentation to an empty classroom for practice. I kept much better control this time. I think it’s stage fright, and it probably helps if I can have a surfeit of material. This is one thing I’ve always been bad at: I always stop when I have "enough", but then I talk faster than I think I will and I run out of stuff. I have been accumulating for my 30 minute presentation Saturday. Writing things on the board takes a long time.

Speaking of methodology. Some things that were blatantly wrong in some recent IT classes: we were told that power fluctuations will increase the number of temp files in Windows (if anything can be called cargo-cult science, it’s this). Also, the instructor doesn’t know how to say "boot order"; he keeps saying "boof order".

Lastly: at the bar yesterday I took a brief poll to see how many of the trainees have people back home. A surprising number of us are in the "Lonely Hearts Club Band": Jeneca, Rosalie, Jared, Timothy, myself of course, Martin, Lynne, Jacqueline, Jenny, and a few others I’m forgetting right now. That’s like 25%. But none of us ever talk about things like that. We’re all living so much in the present — maybe we’re afraid of the past. I asked the other table, at which Jake, Claire, Julia, and Andrew were sitting, and they just seized up, couldn’t figure out how to answer. Some of them have sort-ofs, and I guess more than a few have not-reallys. Claire mentioned that she had someone she’d met only a few weeks or months ago, and how there had been a connection, but: most of us seem to be in accord that no matter what you think you have, what you really have is a wait-and-see, or even a commitment to give it a shot when you get back — except Timothy, who gave power of attorney to his significant other, who maybe has a little bit more. And obviously those older trainees like Lynne and Jacqueline who have "partners" and "husbands" are probably a little more stable than the rest of us pretend-to-be-adults.

Interesting statistic: apparently most of the people who serve in the Organization as a married couple got married just for the Organization and apparently most of those marriages don’t last.

Hoping to get up early tomorrow and wash my sheets in time for the room inspection Saturday. Wish you were here.

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