For those of you who missed the first email…Here is what has happened since we arrived.
Dearest Family and Friends,
Well kids, school is in session! I am rounding off week one and let me tell you, the kids are wonderful. In this issue of the Brazza Bulletin (I’m test driving this name) you will find the following:
– a bit of info on my first week
– some woes of working at a brand new school
– details on a surprise tour of the city
– some info on our night with les sapeurs
– and a comment on the weather
This has been such a rewarding first week. My students are very eager to get started and continue improving their English. My grade 5/6 class has 10 students and my grade 7 class has 8 students. So far this week we have been doing lots of writing and discussions. I would say as a whole their written English is much better than their spoken English. But, I expected that coming in.
Most of my students have been speaking English for just one year. For three of my students this is their first year in an English speaking school. With these language barriers I found myself spending 15 minutes on explain the meaning of the word “know” and another 15 minutes learning that “biscuit kwik” pronounced “bisqueak squeak” is a type of cookie.
I am truly in love with my students and I can’t wait for the rest of the year!
Working at a new school has it’s down falls of course. There are a lot of kinks to work out for a school in its second year. Firstly, the scheduling. This has been my nemesis for the past three weeks. My middle school students do not have art or music or any other option listed on their schedule. (not my call) So I am a bit choked. They should be getting some sort of option or arts class. The other headache is that our gigantic crate full of school supplies has yet to arrive. Apparently, it arrived in Pointe Noir a couple of days ago and now it is in limbo until paper work goes through. Such things on the shipment are all of my middle school resources, as this is the first year for middle school. No Social or language resources until they arrive:(
Next on the agenda, touring Brazzaville. Matt and I have been taking taxis any time we need to get around the city. Taxis cost about $2. However thanks to my poor French accent we were taken to the clothing market instead of the vegetable market. So we got a wonderful tour of the city only to tell the taxi driver that he took us to the wrong place. Needless to say, he was more understanding when we tipped him extra.
Now for Les Sapeurs. By far my favorite experience yet. If you have done any research on Brazzaville or the Congo you will see pictures of men dressed in expensive suits. These are Les Sapeurs. Most of the Sapeurs live in Paris and come back to Brazzaville in August for vacation. So this was a once in a year opportunity. We went to a club that they hang out in. As they show up, they are announced on the PA system and we hear what brand they are wearing. Then they literally strut around and everyone takes pictures. We saw lots of Sapeurs showing off their socks. Yes, they are wearing a brand name, right down to the socks.
Once it started getting dark, more dancing ensued. Did you know the Congolese have certain dance moves for specific songs? Luckily, we had some great locals teaching us the moves. The announcer also often welcomed us teachers from AISB and everyone would turn and take pictures of us. At one point I took a picture of someone taking a picture of us. The guy laughed and insisted on seeing the photo.
Another fun fact, the big night to go out is Sunday. Congolese people work six days a week, so in order to get a full day of fun and party before it gets dark, Sunday is the day.
Soooo, the night we saw the Sapeurs was the day before the first day of school! Don’t worry folks, Matt and I only had two beer each.
Lastly, what is a friendly email without a mention of the weather. Neither of us has burnt to a crisp on the equator. It’s been about 30 degrees everyday, but definitely not unbearable. Both our apartment and school have AC so we have been sporting the pants on occasion.
This email has taken me multiple days to construct so, that is all for now. For those who are eager, we still don’t have WiFi at our apartment so Skype is still only a distant possibility.