Épuisé (Wednesday, 2010 November 24)

November 24, 2010

Title by request of Julia. Épuiser means to fatigue, or wear out, and I think it comes from the word puiser, meaning to draw water (i.e. from a well). Saying you’re épuisé is therefore akin to saying you’re all used up, all drawn out, or simply worn out. In our discussion on franglais this past weekend, Timothy distinguished this from the word crever, "blown out", said of a tire, which also can be used to say "I’m completely exhausted", but whereas épuisé implies that you’re tired because of working really hard, crevé could just mean something came along and creved you.

Rather than hand-writing the tests on the board this sequence, like I did last time, I decided it would be easier to control the cheating if I handed out photocopied tests for each student. This way, I could replace talking while I was writing on the board and questions about my illegible handwriting, with talking while I was handing out tests and questions about the illegible photocopies. So today I went to the secretary’s office to photocopy my exams for tomorrow, and possibly the day after if there was time, but after an hour and a half I just didn’t feel up to waiting any longer and quit while I was ahead (with the tests for tomorrow). I guess I should be glad our school even has a photocopier (photocopieuse), but it almost turned out to be more work.

Then there was club. Hysterics ensue when you open the lab door in front of 40 students. I don’t mind getting pushed around a little bit, but I am worried that one of these kids is going to get damaged. So we practiced entering the lab in an orderly fashion a few times, including a comedic scene in which I yanked the fuses out of the wall, shutting off (almost?) all the computers (and possibly damaging one? It still boots, more or less), until I gave up and handed control over to the officers of the club, who exert too much control for my American taste. And then of course everyone just uses the computers to play games. I guess this is as much my fault as theirs, since they already know how to play games, and if they don’t understand the things I am asking them to do ("Find the software called GIMP"), they’ll just revert to what they know will amuse them. I guess a similar principle explains why, even when they decide they want to draw, they whip out Paint and not, say, GIMP. (Let’s leave aside the question of whether GIMP’s interface sucks. It’s not like they know how to use Paint either.)

I mean, I understand on some level that video games are still new and fascinating to them. But for chrissakes how many fucking times are you gonna win the race-the-moto game before you get sick of it? How many times are you gonna play Spider Solitaire on Easy, with hints? Or is the answer, "We’ll just put more games on the machine"?

And then afterwards, I got a support call from "the boys", who weren’t capable of operating their machine the way Big Brother Boris had set it up, and then a random girl from Première came in and wanted a bunch of English tutoring. She came with a copy of a test — the test that she was going to have tomorrow? — and wanted to know how to turn verbs into nouns — she had started with "to succeed" -> "success" and so I went with that, but towards the end when she started employing gerunds I started to wonder what the hell the teacher was looking for. Vocab? Grammar? Sure enough there was a chapter on gerunds in her notebook, despite her swearing up and down that teacher hadn’t taught anything about verbs or nouns in the time she’d been in class. Towards the end of the two hours I spent with her, I was getting fed up. It is hard for me to accept that a student in première, which is the equivalent of junior in high school, does not know words like "they", "gold", or "talk". Of course, it doesn’t help that they barely know French either. "A rebel? That’s a kind of monster, right?"

A quick glance at the Critical Periods in the Life of an Organization Volunteer chart suggests that I am towards the end of month 6 and moving into months 7-10, so there’s a forecast of "Slow work progress", "Language plateaus", "Cross-cultural frustration", and the long-awaited "Culture shock". That’s the one I’m really excited about.

All of which is a fancy way of saying "So that’s why I’ve spent a lot of time lying in bed playing Nintendo DS". Which, yeah, isn’t as satisfying as working on my "How to teach Python" stuff, or (what I really want to do) sinking into a Nerd Trance for 8-10 days and adding IMAP IDLE support to offlineimap or otherwise just writing code and pretend I’m not in a country where "computer literacy" means understanding Caps Lock, but it’s a lot less work.

Anyhow, I hope all of you are having a happy Thanksgiving, plus or minus. Tomorrow I will be at some wedding or whatever, so don’t worry about me! I definitely have plans and friends and things!


This is what things looked from the balcony in Bangou. Well, it was a little like this, only a million times more beautiful in person. See that mountain off to the right, whose peak is hidden in the clouds? Apparently there are a whole range of them.

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