Fier (Wednesday, 2011 October 19)

October 19, 2011

Today was a good day, my first good day since before exams, possibly my first good day since the beginning of the year. Good days make me happy, and technically French for happy is content — my neighbor Marie-Cha, approx my parents’ age, could tell I had been drinking wine the other weekend because I seemed content — but Boris in Douala at least, and I suspect other youth-y types too, use instead the word fier, literally "proud". My own armchair-linguistic theory about this (and of course I have one!) is that content sounds too passive and low-key, like it does in English, so kids are starting to switch to fier because it sounds more active and enthusiastic. Of course, this requires that the French word have the same connotations as the English one, and there’s no reason that should be the case…

I can think of three or four proximate causes for my fierèté:

  1. I bought a jar of pickles last week for one-five (approx $3). They are so, so good. Also, watched "Hot Fuzz" the other night.
  2. Finished grading papers. Calculated all the grades. Haven’t been in a hurry to fill out report cards yet, but maybe soon.
  3. Quality of Internet is acceptable. Cut out last night just before bedtime, but tonight I’m getting a pretty reliable 6-7 kilobytes/sec.
  4. Wednesdays are my Fridays, since I am free Thursdays. Fridays are also my Fridays, but I’m more often trying to go someplace on the weekends and not as able to just relax.
  5. One of my students from première came to me to look for extra lessons. In première I teach programming, it’s probably the most advanced material I teach or can teach at a lycée, and the "arts" première class I have is still kinda delinquent. That a student might recognize that he’s having difficulty, and try to come for more information, more practice, or whatever, is really heartening and encouraging. That I was able, after two or three hours, to kinda bring him up to speed, that he kinda got what the program was doing and how integers versus strings played a role, was cool. A lot more satisfying than talking about even RISC vs CISC (which nobody should care about nor ever will understand).

I’ve also been reading Lindsay’s blog. (Lindsay’s a couple villages over from me, close enough that we have the same patois, she’s the one dating Claude.) Here’s a post from about February about Christmas. She writes:

It’s funny, some days I dream of being back there where I can wash dishes in a kitchen sink and take a shower without a bucket and a cup but at the same time I know that when I do get back it’s going to be a major adjustment and in the end I’m going to damn sure miss it here. Ever since my first time on this continent it’s been under my skin. It’s a place that just changes you in ways you can’t explain. Maybe it is that being back closer to the way humans were designed to be, farther from all the technology and instant gratification. Where, when I think of my loved ones I’m forced to sit down and actually write them a letter instead of just sending them a text message or a face book chat. Where I have to appreciate every single drop of water that falls from the sky, every positive interaction with someone, where every indication of minute progress in any sense is a blissful reward. In fact, I think on the whole I was far more stressed out and miserable when I was suffering through making payments on time, rushing from meetings, sitting in traffic jams, and attempting to balance the scales of social and professional life without losing my mind, even despite coming home to a host of modern luxuries designed to make life easier and better.

(My italics.) I hesitate to endorse her perspective all the way — "the way humans were designed to be" involves procreating by 20 and dying by 40, and I certainly wasn’t more stressed out in NYC than I am here. But it’s true that this place changes you in ways that you can’t explain, soit the place itself or soit the experience of being a Volunteer here, alone, a long way from home..

Here’s a pasthèque, watermelon that I got at the last market day. It turns out it wasn’t as ripe as I’d hoped. Still, kinda bite-size, considering.

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