I've been wanting to write you at various times so I've previewed them in my notebook in preparation.
Man, now I'm all worried and can't even concentrate on emailing, moooooom.
First, in brief, things are going well. Vomit count is still steady at 3. Saturday I went to visit Elom at his house in Kasseh and we ate coconuts with a cool lady named Beauty. Saturday she's teaching me a fufu cooking class. Fufu is like the national delicacy. It's...umm...not very pleasant. It's a gooey lump, like a sticky dumpling, composed of plantain and cassava that you pound for a long time. Sunday I went on a walk with Nicholas and Lawer and it was really nice. We mucked through bogs and ran into foxy farmer who we caught farming in his boxer briefs. He quickly put his pants on as soon as he saw me (what a pity!) and proceeded to dote on me while consistently calling me "white man!" Then he gave me a ton of sugar cane to bring home. Delicious!
Today I led my first teacher training workshop. I taught them 4-mat class construction (per Rebecca, of course) and I think it went well. They all took notes and I am excited to see what they have to show for themselves next week. Next week I'll teach them sensory integration. Good stuff since I know what that is. :)
Caning is...well...driving me crazy. I can't explain how much I fear bursting into flames of ire. Actually, I wrote about it in my notebook, just wait.
Grade 4 is still in English boot camp. Grade 5 starts poetry tomorrow. All is well with the kiddos. OH! Guess what? Grade 5 moved into the new building. it's not done-done, but it's done enough and, lordy me, it's wonderful! I can hear students when they talk and they can hear me too!
Anyhow, per my notes:
Stop caning. Stop caning. Stop caning.
Seriously. Stop hitting children.
Teaching here and having the opportunity to watch others do the same has caused me to reflect on my own education. I'm incredibly grateful for the education you provided for me, both in terms of my formal schooling and my informal education.
I'm grateful that my teachers in grade school believed in fun. To Ms. Opitz in grade 1 for playing guitar. To Ms. Krebsbach in grade 2 for having such a loud, easy laugh. To Mrs. Kuennen in grade 3 for being such a good sport in dealing with our whoopie cushion exploits on April Fool's. To Mrs. Scott in grade 4 for...well, I don't remember much of grade 4, but I do remember that she had no eyebrows, only a line drawn in and that fact was both hilarious and incredibly strange. To Ms. Younger, grade 5, for letting us giggle throughout the Family Education section of class upon every uttering of the word "penis." To Ms. Neiber in grade 6 for the cool science experiments.
I'm grateful that I adore reading. For this I thank you. I remember you reading me stories at bedtime from my earliest years. I remember feeling myself doze off and cautioning you, "Mom, I'm closing my eyes, but I am not sleeping, so don't stop reading, okay?" Followed by your, "Yes, of course."
I'm grateful, of course, that, other than my time in France, I never worried that I might be hit at school. Though we weren't in Cannes long and I was quite young, I still remember the fear of getting slapped with a ruler or seeing my classmates yanked off the floor by their ears. I remember the black hair, red lipstick, and oft worn black cape of the teacher (how I thought she was a witch!). I remember how hard it was to lose yourself in learning when already completely preoccupied with thoughts of self-preservation.
The kids skip school here a lot, sometimes because they are sick, working, or just uninterested, but I don't blame them too much. As an adult, there is no way you could convince me to go to school if I knew I would/could/might be caned.
Heck no. Seems to me that my time would better be spent making ant cities in the sand.
On that note, I'm grateful to the teacher/s that taught me (in junior or senior high, perhaps elementary as well) about ethnocentrism. I'm guessing many teachers taught it because it's a term so strong in my mind. Ethnocentrism: looking at other cultures' thoughts, beliefs, and practices without the immediate conception that your own are better.
Many things here are different, of course, and I'm grateful that I've been trained to approach most of these differences with an immediate reaction of "Whoah! That's totally different!" without labeling them as good or bad.
Even with caning, I've been deliberating whether my disapproval is based on ethnocentrism and, after consideration, I think it's not important whether or not it is or could be - caning is wrong. I say that not just as a white American in an African country, I say it as a woman and as a human.
Children are pretty perfect. They're still free to dream and think without too much fact bogging them down. They're still housed in bodies overflowing with energy that sometimes they can't possibly stand to sit still or slowly walk somewhere, else they might explode. They are still so open and vulnerable that every moment has the opportunity to change their lives as every moment they experience now is aiding in the creation of their adult minds.
So, no, it's not okay to cane. It's never okay to cane. I don't care if it's "part of the African culture." It's wrong.
Stop caning. Stop caning. Stop caning. Seriously.