What did you expect? Gbaka riders.

The guidebooks tell you to avoid taking the gbaka, the vans that serve as public mass transit, because they are frequently involved in accidents. This is true. We take them anyway because the taxis are equally terrifying and you are alone in them.

90% of the time the gbaka is full of people (and vegetables and occasionally an animal or two) who just want to get home/to work/ to school/ to families and really is not up for nonsense. If there is a hangup or trouble, the other passengers apply pressure until we’re moving again. I’ve never been cheated or given a hard time on a gbaka, with the exception of the occasional flirty neighbor if you sit in the front. People don’t stare the whole ride. You feel anonymous. It’s nice, actually.

You do have to be prepared for that 10% of adventure, though.

Continue reading What did you expect? Gbaka riders.

Week 4

Well, my class has several students making an effort this semester, and most understand English. That’s nice. It’s still been a struggle, this time dealing with adults, the story I began on the last post.

First, some humor.

“Love me SVP” – written in dirt on one of the cars in the garage.

Taxi driver *says something I don’t understand*
Me: I’m sorry, I don’t speak French well.
Taxi driver, in slow English: Oh, why you don’t speak French? (This is the response 90% of the time).
Me: Oh, you speak English?
Taxi driver: I speak French, I speak Dutch… (repeats this in Dutch)
Me, half genuinely impressed in spite of prior experience: Wow.
Taxi driver: Yes, I speak Spanish….
Me: Ah, hablas espanol.
Taxi driver: ….no.

Continue reading Week 4

You do what you can.

I’m happy to be helpful. I’m happy to do some extra work for the common good, even if it’s cleaning up after somebody hasn’t done their job. SOMEONE has to do it, and I deeply respect those who take responsibility. Efficiency makes me smile. But there is a limit.

What follows is a list of some of the retelling of some of the weirdness that has gone on this semester. Are other universities like this? It’s exhausting and disheartening.

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Weird signs and cheeses

“I’ve been going to the Indian restaurant almost every week and it’s the highlight of my week,” said LM yesterday. On the bus heading to the Indian restaurant. By the way, our staple is Namaste Indian Restaurant. If you are in Abidjan you should go there. But by the way, if you get there early-ish and the sign says ‘closed’ he probably just forgot to flip it.

We saw lots of weird stuff yesterday, so here you go.

Continue reading Weird signs and cheeses

Faculty orientation spring 2020

This is really kind of a collection of stuff.

Shout-out to the guys despondently shoveling the garbage back into the garbage truck.

We just finished faculty ‘orientation.’ Now we have a few days to prepare our classes before they start. I could use a good long hike in a forest, but we’re settling for the best thing available today: a trip to Abidjan to the Indian restaurant and then the big grocery store.

Continue reading Faculty orientation spring 2020

Happy New Year; SARA

I hope you all had a Christmas full of peace and joy, and I wish you a wonderful 2020.

There have been few posts lately because there is little to write about. I’m a bit of a Scrooge this year, finding this a time to get my feet under me before classes hit. We had a lunch on Christmas Day, I mean the two Americans and host originally from Guadalupe but resident here for ages, and several people I don’t know. I confess it was not particularly enjoyable, but better than being alone.

New Year’s Eve I feel asleep early (not really my intention) and woke up every time people set off fireworks, then finally at midnight when EVERYONE set off fireworks. On the balcony, I saw my neighbor the next apartment over also watching and we wished each other happy new year. New Year is a big thing here, and it’s sad that she is alone.

Did I talk about Star Wars yet? We also went to see Star Wars. It didn’t get great critical reviews, but I loved it. I don’t care that there’s unnecessary fan service, or holes in the story (is there ANY universe with such complex lore that doesn’t have holes?), or that there’s nothing new. I want the magic of the Jedi, and twists, and a satisfying, balanced conclusion to the story. Well certainly not conclusion to the story but to the sets of trilogies. Good luck to the galaxy trying to clean up the mess the movie left the governmental structure.

In more amusing news, my AC had been making noises. Part of this was from low voltage, but there was another loud but not worrying noise that sounded like something was loose. It was time for maintenance anyway, so I told them about the noise (and was reminded of the Brian Regan skit about replicating car noises for the mechanic).

Guesses as to what it was?

A gecko living in the indoor unit.

My friend LM is from Texas, and her relatives own farms. She grew up going to ag fairs. So she gets very excited when SARA ( Salon international de l’Agriculture et des Ressources Animales ) happens every other year in Abidjan, AND we get to go. This year was one of those years.

Continue reading Happy New Year; SARA

Christmas decorations, Finals week

We’re going to see Star Wars this evening and I am too excited to concentrate on anything else so here we are. Finals week and Christmas season.

Aside from the excitement over the movie, I am desperately missing Christmas. I miss the decorations and the candy canes and the Santa hats and the Advent candle lighting and caroling and wantonly donating to all the charities and the spirit of generosity and joy and Christmas songs and lights and EVERYTHING.

Both of these sentiments, however, are quite welcome after the past week of panic and axiety. My colleague and I submitted a research proposal that we’d first tried to submit over a year ago, and I did not believe it would be accepted because I feel wholly unqualified and was honest on the application. But she’s the lead and wholly qualified, and it was accepted, so the time after finals has been spent in utter panic and long, mentally taxing days trying to figure out how to plan a research project for which we have only a month and no pilot. I have a plan, now. So plenty of work left to do but not so much panic.

Continue reading Christmas decorations, Finals week

Thanksgiving 2019

This was written many weeks ago about Thanksgiving but I kept forgetting to put the photos up. Grades were turned in yesterday, resignation procedure figured out, research planning underway, Christmas decor partially up, so now I’m starting to remember all the things I’ve been putting off for three weeks. Expect more posts about SARA and Christmas things in the weeks to come.

Continue reading Thanksgiving 2019

Oh, Well, That’s OK Then.

Yesterday, a young man called to me as I walked home.

There are a couple of choices I have when this happens:
1. Ignore it, walk faster. Usually they give up, and I am left feeling bad for being rude.
2. Give a brusque but as polite as possible reply in French, and keep moving. Moderate risk of the conversation continuing.
3. Smile and politely reply, pausing to see what is wanted: Guaranteed to continue to the conversation much longer than I want. Almost always ends in either a request for English lessons, a proposition for sex (would you like me to accompany you?), a request for a phone number, or a request for a job at the University.
4. Emergency situation: hail a taxi and quickly think of somewhere to go.

“Good afternoon!” I ignored him. “My sister!” I ignored him harder. “Sister [name here]!” Crap.
So I look over my shoulder, still walking. “Hello. I’m sorry, where do I know you from?”
“I have an uncle who works at the university.” Oh, so someone at the university is describing me to people. Super. “My English was not so good, but then I spent a few years in Australia.”
“Oh. Ok.”
“Where are you from?”
“The US.”
“Oh. Where in the US?”
“The Eastern part.”
“Where specifically?”
“Pennsylvania.”
“Oh. He told me you were from London.” White people tend to look the same. There is a pause. “Well, I can tell you are not feeling well… you are not feeling well, right?”
I explain why I’m totally brushing him off.
“Oh, yes, I see. The attitude is different from what you are used to since you are from Utah.” No comment.
There is a pause.
“Thank you for understanding, have a good evening,” I say.
He keeps following, and now I’m starting to think of how to shake him, because I’m near my house and would have to backtrack for a taxi.
“Oh, do not worry, I also agree with those values, because of my church. I am part of the church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. Have you heard of them? Would you be interested in learning more?”

Oh, the relief. Not hitting on me, trying to convert me? That’s ok, then.

The Hard Parts

We are now in the part of the year where I am sweating in the evenings with the fan directly pointed at me, yet still grateful that it’s not freezing and dark at 4:30 PM.

Fair warning, this is not a happy post. My goal is not to vent or complain, but if you get that vibe let me know and this will be promptly deleted. Part of my goal for this blog is to give you a window into overseas teaching. I hope it will strike a cord with someone. More, I hope someone will be able to better support their African or European or Middle Eastern or Asian or other expat friend or coworker, or their GED class teacher, or community college teacher. Take care of those around you.

Continue reading The Hard Parts