Monday, October 21, 2013

Not A Normal Day

So, today is NOT a normal school day, but it has been normal in other ways. Since tomorrow is the Muslim Feast of the Ram and a public holiday, there is no school, at least for teachers. The students will still sit in class and "study." There had been some confusion about whether or not Monday would in turn be a holiday as well, because usually when a public day happens two days before or after a public day (Sunday, in this case) the day in the middle is declared a public day, too. Everyone was assuming that Monday there would be no school, but nobody was sure of it. This was the normal part of the day: Nobody, teachers and administration and students alike, knew for sure whether or not there was school. Simultaneously, nobody seemed to care. Either there would be school or there wouldn't, and life would go on.
I asked at Mass on Sunday, but there was no definite ruling yet, and then at Mass Monday morning, I tried to ascertain the situation... but got no definite answer. So, I showed up to the Monday Assembly, which usually eats up almost all my teaching time for first period, and thought that perhaps I would be teaching after all, as the students were gathered like usual and some teachers were arriving. There weren't many teachers there yet, but then again, there aren't normally many teachers until the end of Assembly. It's like Mass: the Church looks half-empty when Mass starts, but by the time the Offertory comes around, it is packed and you risk losing your seat if you get up to take a squirmy child outside.
So, by the end of the assembly I find out that there is no need for me to teach today. This whole experience is an example of a cultural difference: I wanted to know whether or not I needed to teach, and nobody else really cared one way or the other. I was going slightly crazy being stuck in a scheduling limbo, but it was just no big deal for anyone else. It wasn't actually that "bad," just slightly frustrating. But it's an example of the kind of thing that happens here when cultures bump up against each other: my Western need of advance notice of how I can spend my time butting up against the Cameroonian "M yo' ci," or "I don't mind." (pronounced mmyo chee) It's not a big problem (today) because it is also that case for me that M yo' ci. I'll just find something else to do today, which is no problem with five kids and life in Cameroon.

Post Script: Just what IS a normal school day, you are wondering? Well, I typically get up at 5 am and cook a small breakfast and have coffee while I read or knit or stare into space, then head out to 6am Mass at the SAC chapel. Mon and Fri there's a 7:15 assembly it starts at 7:20 at the assembly grounds, and the other days the 7:25 first period starts at 7:35. So, I either prepare lessons in the staff room, read, or head home for a brief time to help Logan with the kids in the morning. I especially head home if I haven't had breakfast yet. Then, there's class. I teach four or six periods every day, except Thursday which is my off day (helpful when you have business to take care of around town.) I teach Maths to forms I and II, which is like middle school in the US. If I have a free period I'll go to the staff room and prepare lessons or socialize, or to check if any important announcements have been posted. It is fascinating to listen to the various conversations in order to learn about the culture here. Slowly I am beginning to understand more and more. I am usually done teaching by 11-ish if I only teach four periods or 1-ish if I teach 6 periods, so I go home and hug my babies. Friday afternoons I supervise the Lamnso' club (which is now more like  teach the kimbang teacher the dialect club) and every month or so I have afternoon supervision duties, which means I wander the campus making sure the students are seated and quiet, or I break up arguments about who stole what from whom in the dorm, or I correct the grammar, spelling, and punctuation of the chalk graffiti I find on the board.


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