Profiter (Tuesday, 2010 September 7)

September 8, 2010

School started yesterday. I wasn’t as prepared as I really should have been, since I was at a nightclub with Boris the night before, so I didn’t really have the energy to prepare solid lessons. It hardly mattered since there were hardly any students there. They were supposed to be there at 7:30 for the raising of the flag, and classes started at 8; many showed up at 8 or not at all. The raising of the flag was pushed back accordingly and the schedule was fucked up for the rest of the day.

The flag ceremony is where general announcements are made. The principal spoke briefly about how students needed to be there on time, and in uniform, and with short hair — girls and boys. The idea is that the less time you spend fussing with your hair, the more time you will be studying. To determine if your hair is too long, they take a pen (Bic, although stylo is more "French") and stick it into your hair. If it falls out, you’re fine. The principal also mentioned that the toilets were cleaned, and to use them; anyone caught shitting in the surrounding area would miss a whole day of class. He emphasized that if you shit in the field, and then it rains, you might pass on any gastrointestinal illnesses you have such as cholera, which is currently a big deal in the north. I found myself nodding at this sage advice.

I found myself enjoying class a bit more than I expected. I think this speaks to the fact that I needed more structure in my life. The first couple of classes were relatively small — a dozen students, twenty students — it’s only after the first pause when I had my third class (three students) that I got to that ennui point where I was just like "you don’t care and I don’t care so why are we here?" But the censeur (vice principal) said that if there is even one single student, I should give a lesson, so that the other students are encouraged to come. There were some other students hanging around from my next class (absent teacher? Pretty much everyone had gone home at this point) so I invited them in to join me, and that made it a little better. The lesson was supposed to be about networks, but we drifted because they wouldn’t/couldn’t answer the question of "what kind of information can you transmit over a network? .. OK, what kind of information can you store in a computer at all?" For homework I asked them to find me another type of information, tell me how it is transmitted, and who uses it. We’ll see if they actually come back with anything — at the end of class they had this kind of fuzzy half-confused look on their faces, but I’m hopeful that this will prompt them to think about something.

In the meantime one of my neighbors, who is also named Boris, has been seeking my help with computer-related stuff. He is the son of a fellow teacher, who is named Chantal (she teaches science). I believe this Boris is demonstrating another cultural concept in Cameroon, which is summarized with the French word profiter ("to take advantage of (an opportunity, etc)").. The word itself bothers me quite a bit, because it sounds too much like the English "profit" and thus selfish gain, but the idea seems to be much closer to the English "Well, as long as you’re here…". Even my host family suggested that while I was staying with them, it was necessary to take advantage of my laptop. So Boris is probably profiter‘ing also of my knowledge of computer stuff and even English. I don’t mind as much as I did in training — I’m here to help, and most of the time I’m not doing anything important, and I’m working with someone who has a computer in his home (i.e. already has a certain base level of knowledge and experience), and encouraging a self-starter. For me the experience is much like tutoring was — one-on-one, goal-directed sessions — and kind of enjoyable.

One of Boris’s projects is to fix one of the other computers in the neighborhood. Looks like it got so virus-infected that it just died. We don’t have a Windows CD (although we do seem to have an ISO), so I’m going to show him how to install a different operating system (since I happen to have a USB key ready) and we’ll see how that goes.

Bought a mattress today, and two pillows, with the help of the big Boris’s cousin Fabrice, who’s the one who was managing the Ubuntu room in Bafoussam. For a fairly large (1.40m x 1.90m) mattress of high quality, plus two high quality pillows, I paid 48,000 CFA. This does not include the frame itself, which I hope to get another day (perhaps next month; ha ha). Afterwards and during we naturally talked shop. It made me fairly happy to talk to someone who was actually an IT professional here. Apparently there’s a logiciel libre conference in Yaounde next week and he’s going. Naturally I am somewhat jealous.

I still need to work on my lessons for the rest of the week. Naturally I’m procrastinating. For troisieme and quatrieme I’m gonna give a crash/refresher course in Excel (so we can start doing lab sessions next week). For seconde I guess I’ll be like "So, let’s talk about Word again"; there’s really not much going on in their syllabus. Premieres get to do algorithms.. not sure how that’s going to play out. (DrPython?) Terminales just get a review of everything they’ve learned, so I’m completely at a loss there.

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