Everybody’s Feeling Good (Thursday, 2010 July 22)

July 22, 2010

Randomly happy today, and also yesterday. Some of it comes from talking to Gus online. Some of it was before that. It’s true what they say, that stage is a roller-coaster.

There are lots of things to be legitimately happy about. I am finally understanding a little bit about teaching. Example: today I reordered my lesson on binary, deciding that converting from base 10 to binary would be more useful to understand fractional numbers in binary than the other way around. Last week it wouldn’t have occurred to me that one of the operators I could use is "reorder the lesson you’re giving".

I think the real thing that makes the difference, though, is having a plan. Knowing that I’m going to my post as planned, knowing that I can apply myself to learn how to teach better (the way I have decided to apply brute-force-and-ignorance to learn a million other things here), knowing that I can find and study my weaknesses in French (which are: I tend to fuck up conjugating 3rd person plural; I tend to fuck up gender of nouns; I need to remember to use que and qui when introducing relative clauses); all of this makes me feel like I’m on solid ground, even if there’s lots I have to work on.

But maybe I should stop drinking so much, all the same. 4:30? Time for a drink! PC really does change you..

Oh, or maybe it’s the outfits:


This is the Informatique pagne ("pan-yuh") which has writing on it as follows: "video club", "continuity girl", "je suis le show", "boy", "happy", "kartier show", which my host sister Nadege explains is Camfranglais for a location in the city where there is an impromptu party, with music and a bunch of people hanging out.

I’m also very proud of my 3e class, which contained a student that understood the following problem. Imagine, you’re trying to take the mean of two numbers, 18 and 18. The computer gives you 27.

  1. This is a problem, isn’t it? If you said "yes", you are already doing better than some of my 3e students.
  2. Why is this happening? The formula you are using is x + y / 2. That’s how you compute means, isn’t it?

It’s an order-of-operations error, naturally, and it’s pretty common when writing code. Someone who understands this is well on their way to becoming a kickass informaticien (wc?) because they understand the difference between what they wanted the computer to do and what they told the computer to do. I’m really goddamned pleased about this, and even more pleased that it was a girl who had the answer.

I just wanted to write once where I wasn’t in a trough, but for once at a peak, so that you know not everything sucks here. I know how to fry plantains! I can actually communicate basic things in French! I still have friends back home! Not everyone here is a tool! I’m not even deranged by the fairly large spider I saw in the bathroom last night! I thought, "I am going to have nightmares about this for sure", especially its sinuous movements, but actually nothing untoward happened. My host brother wants to listen to my MP3 player, so I set him on Bridges and Powerlines! That’ll learn you to borrow my music.

I made a life behind a mask
Just one more night
Then we’ll cross the border
Like a pair of spirits
In disguise

—Bridges and Powerlines, "The Thieves They Are Everywhere"

Aside: I am currently teaching a 5e and a 3e class. These symbols mean: cinqième and troisième, or, translated, fifth and third. Cardinal numbers in French are generally number + superscript e. In this context, they correspond to levels of school. The Francophone system, which is based on the French system, starts at 6e, sixième, or sixth grade, and descends year-by-year until 1er, première, or first, which is the second-to-last year. Afterwards there is terminale. Model school ends after two more weeks, and I have no idea what I will be teaching at post, so..!

Random other things: in French, I have many of the same verbal tics I have in English, including: "I think so", "I’m not sure", "a little bit"; "something like that"; "hey, what’s up? How are you?" as two separate questions. You can say "pendant on y est", "while one is there", which is sort of "by the way".

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