Saturday, August 16, 2008

Pizza in Benin...

Remember how I said the chicken was the best thing I had had in Benin? I take it back. Today we had another cooking session this time with western food and we made pizza. That's right...Pizza. But not only pizza, we made cookies too. Some of the PCVs took a taxi to cotonou to search out mozarella cheese and we all made these little personal pizzas with delicious fresh vegetables from the marché. We even baked the crusts ourselves. It was honestly better than a lot of pizza I've had at home because it was SO fresh and not processed. You can find the yeast packets and baking sodas and all that jazz in the little marchés and stores around, and they bought chocolate in cotonou to chop up and toss in the cookie dough. Plus I thought that when I left that I wouldn't be able to bake for 2 years but they showed us how to make a little dutch oven by propping up tomato paste cans in the bottom of a pot and baking in a pan over a low flame with the lid closed. You just have to doucement with your hands because it is tricky to get the pan out at the end. It was pretty exciting for everyone, to be entirely honest. Especially after this week because pretty much everyone is getting worn out from training and all the french and the cultural overload. Post visit is this week so it should be good to have a slight break from the routine and get out of Porto Novo for a few days.

Yesterday we went to a school to teach a class for kids on diarrhea and hand washing. It actually went really well. The kids were really well behaved except for when you ask for someone to answer a question because they all jump up raising their hands, smacking their lips in a kissing noise, and repeat ad nauseum "Ici, ici" (here, here). It might not sound annoying...but it is. And it is just generally not tolerated by TEFL volunteers so they tell us not to tolerate it either, even if it is how Beninese instructors run their classrooms. I think it can be avoided if you lay down your ground rules when you walk into a classroom and say that you will not call on students who conduct themselves that way but we didn't do that so it was our own faux pas. So the demonstration was a little difficult because there wer five of us ranging in french levels from the highly proficient to the barely proficient and non-engaging. Some parts were great and the kids were really engaged and answering, but in the beginning it took a few minutes for them to get going. The teacher also pretty much repeated everything we said anyway because even with high proficiency the kids didn't understand us all of the time. Now, I don't know if that is due to our bad accents or if they are just thrown by the fact that yovos are speaking french, because I've had this problem before (some of the younger children don't actually speak french though, and only know local languages like Fon and Goun).

But for example, a few weeks ago I went to a little boutique to buy credit for my phone and said to the woman sitting there (after saluer-ing her, naturally) "Je voudrais une carte de recharge pour glo." (I'd like a recharge card for glo--my company). She looked at me with a blank expression and said to me "Je ne parle pas anglais." (I don't speak english). Well, frankly I was a little thrown off because I hadn't spoken a word of english so I thought I'd give it another try and spoke a little slower, saying "Je veux acheter une carte de recharge pour glo." (I want to buy a recharge card for glow). Well...if you could only see the look of yovo frustration that I got at that moment when she perfect and slowly articulated english, mind you, "I do not speak English very well." I'm pretty sure that after a few seconds of surprise at hearing her speak English, I threw her a look of equal exasperation as i whipped out my phone and a 2,000CFA bill, and started gesturing at the sign for glo, but that seemed to get the message across, and there wasn't really a problem after that. Money talks, right? haha. And if all else fails, gesture wildly with props. But definitely can be frustrating sometimes, as amusing as it is in retrospect.

But anyway, so the school was a great experience and the children are very energetic but intense. I have to go for now (this is just a short post on my way home) but I will talk more about the school systems here some other time because it is definitely interesting. Ta-ta for now.

PS-Aunt Loretta...better get on didn't beat my mom and dad AND i beat you with a second post...uh oh. :) Miss you all

Oh...and yeah, there is definitely a cholera outbreak in Southern Benin right now that has already killed one person and has over 100 people sick. How delightful is that? Ou est l'eau de javel?


Aunt Nancy said...

I am sooo the winner!! Just got home from vacation, so I'll write more later.
Be well and be safe, Love Aunt Nancy xx

maman et papa said...

And we are second!

Can't wait to hear more about the classroom. Talk to you later!
Love You!!

Nancy - can't wait to hear about Italy!

Aunt Linda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aunt Linda said...

And I get the bronze! Last night I had my sister over and I was reading her some of your posts, like everyone she is amazed at your courage! Keep up the great work and I hope you get your pkg and snail mail soon! Love ya God Bless!!!

Aunt Loretta said...

Aren't we all smarty-pants??? Michael and I were camping in Southampton since Thursday night, so I fell behind the 8-ball ... Catherine ..... I look forward to all your updates. I was telling several people we were camping with all about you and your experiences in Benib. They are all truly amazed and some have asked for your blog address so they can read up on it. Friday night we were sitting out .. we did not have a fire pit this trip (oh well) but the sky put on a wonderful lightening show which was truly amazing. Any way I thought of you, because as we sat there watching the lightening, rats were coming out of the dunes along the beach an attempting to eat the dog food our neighbors had out for their Dog, Mac ... Mike wanted to sat rat traps to catch them and all I could think about was your Bushrat story at the Marche'. I must confess that you have me somewhat worried after your last post about the marriage proposal and what not. Do these people know who your God-Mother is?? They are truly messing with the wrong girl. I will so be there to protect you in a moments notice ... :) love and miss you... Aunt Loretta

P.S. I'll be in touch soon. Our package has been in transit for a month now, so I hope you'll be getting it shortly.

Catherine said...

Hey buddy,
Making pizza and cookies? Wow, that's like soooo, soooo, Betty Crocker, hehe. That must be really cool to find news to cook good ole favorites like pizza. Very resourceful. The classroom experience sounded interesting, kids just need a little discipline. It's funny what you say about the language. When I was in Italy, I tried speaking Italian (as much as I knew) as often as possible. Sometimes people's wouldn't understand. I think part of it is the accent also you're a foreigner so its another variable. Sometimes it was just easier going somewhere in between, a compromise of English and Italian. And yes, hand gestures are essential, hehe. So hope you're doing well and good luck w/ all dude! Cath

P.S Not sure what you're hearing about the Olympics, but our dream boy Michael Phelps won his 8th medal for swimming, yay!

Jan Jan said...

Hey Wauters,

Don't you just love children who raise their hand with such excitement you think they will die if you do not call on them? lol Laying the ground rules is definitely important, i love to hear such teacher like comments!

I love that you learned how to bake, you are becoming such a nature girl lol and pizza sounds right up my alley!

miss you lots <3 janjan

Gigi said...

Hello Catherine,
Sounds like your experiences will never be forgotten. And I thought I had an exciting career!!!
Stay cool.
Gigi, John and Charlie

Aunt Linda said...

Morning Catherine, I was looking foward to a little more education about Benin but I see you haven't posted in a while. I'm sure you are so busy. Can't wait to hear from you, hope your happy and safe. By the way have you received any snail mail or pkgs yet? Love ya!