I Still Go To School

on teaching, learning, travelling

On dit quoi!

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Ondiqoi (How are you/ do you have time/ what are you doing?)

I thought I’d let you know how “life” is here. Specifically, what I am actually doing day in, day out.

The days start really early here. I get up every day at five a.m., which I thought was an accomplishment, until some of my Muslim students told me they got up at four a.m. every day. It seems to be normal not to sleep much at all, and despite the scorching heat, there’s no such thing as Siesta either. Bedtime is between 10 p.m. and midnight.

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Traditionally, you start your day with an early “bucketshower”. There is no shortage of water, but there is little reliability on the pumps. Often you’d want to wash your hands, but there’s only a faint cough and a few drops of water escaping the tap. Storing water in buckets is a smart thing in two ways. First, it’s building your own reservoir for use. Secondly… bucket showers are more eco-friendly! While in Europe an average shower takes 80 litres of water, a bucket holds 20 litres, which is more than enough. Furthermore, the water remains unheated, saving electricity.

To my own surprise, tap water is drinkable here. If you’re not used to it though, it will mess up your stomach pretty badly until you adapt. By now I’m fine with it.

Breakfast consists of the same palette every day: white baguette with jam. Fortunately there is fruit as well.

I used to go to school by public transport. The more common way is school-busses. As most sub-Saharan countries, Cote d’Ivoire has a very young population, so in the mornings, the streets are crowded with students and school-busses. Good luck though finding a reliable and safe driver! And even then, with our school-bus, we were involved in three crashes and had a narrow escape in another case. The school-bus costs 40.000 CFA per month.

Upon arrival, I seek the calmest spot at school: the library. I link up with the internet. The only chance to get a connection is in the early morning, as not so many people are online at this time. By 10 a.m. all websites are only displayed in text mode, and scripts stopped working.

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An equivalent to the bucketshower are these emergency batteries for the computers. You never know when a power outage hits the district, or sometimes the entire city. The more severe problem of outages at school is that the ACs stop working, and with all the heat in the classroom, focus is lost completely.

So after checking mails etc, I teach. I will write another entry solely about that part later on.

I get back home at around 6 p.m. every day. My district is called “Riviera Palmerai”, the Palmtree Forest. It’s the local burgoise, who built nice houses and estates round here. Europeans/whities settled rather in the districts “Golf” and “Marcory”. I barely see any.

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This is where I live. Rue Baobab, Riviera Palmerai. I share a room with Rodrigue Kisung Aka.

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Rodrigue’s dad holds an important position at RTI, the main TV channel of Cote d’Ivoire, so there is always a bodyguard with a Kalashnikov round. There is a guard for the gate, a driver, and there are two cooks. They are treated almost as part of the family, though.

It gets dark between 6 and 6:30 pm every day, so most of my evenings are spent inside, studying French, and preparing lessons for my students. To relax a bit in between, I read books. Right now I’m reading Charles Dickens’ “Nicholas Nickleby”, which I can really recommend.

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I was finally able to get a haircut at a place in Palmerai. 3000 CFA (€ 4,60). Hair cutting is an entirely male job here! So instead of “your holidays”, the main subject of small talk is football, haha! Also, so far I have spotted three hairdressers who use pictures of Puff Daddy on their posters. I wonder if he knows…

Saturdays, I try to go out a bit more. Until now, though, I am dependent on other people’s guidance. Today, I am meeting with So-Sheloba, who has a project for a new school in plans.

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