Thursday, February 4, 2010

Routine Begins or Debating Vocabulary

We are finally settling into something resembling a routine here, which for me is both very welcome and mildly depressing. Classes are coming together, we have met almost all of our professors and have enough of an idea what is expected of us. Days will be pretty chunky, that is to say class in the morning and class in the afternoon, which including travel/eating time means that 5 days a week we are confined to the Baobab Center neighborhood. As I said this is highly welcome given my Western desire for certainty and scheduling, but I have learned to revel in unpredictability. I don't want to give the impression that things will always go as planned from here on out - that is clearly not the case. Rather the constant, pressing newness of every moment will be something I will have to search out (whereas for the first week I never really knew for sure what to say or where to stand). It will be an interesting exercise to make sure I keep my eyes open at every moment and continue, as Gary says, questioning. The Baobab Center is good at keeping this spirit going, as it models a Sénégalese household in that there are always many people coming and going without notice, some of which you know like a best friend and others you have never seen, but everyone is somehow related. The main entryway to Baobab I is always a little tricky to navigate as you invariably have a half dozen people to greet at the same time, and as I said some of them you know, some of them you don't. Sometimes people just give you a "ça va?" and let it rest, but there is always that one person who wants to test your Wolof, which takes a while. Our professors are particularly talkative, just as they are in class. This is one of my secret joys here at Baobab: The professors are almost all endlessly energetic and engaging. I would describe learning at Baobab as a slight mix between French and American systems ... classes are two hour long lectures, which I recognize as French style, but the professors are truly, visibly passionate about what they are teaching and ask us to interrupt them when we have questions (this to me represents the best of American higher education). Even as I write this I feel it is an incredibly flawed way of looking at it but hey, those are my points of reference and I spent long enough typing it on this bad keyboard that I'm not about to erase it. The point is, the professors love it. They love their jobs. They take pride in it, perhaps largely affected by the general lack of education here. It's a struggle, they made it, they are smart, they got lucky, and they know it all. They understand their privilege and revel in it! What have we done to our education system to churn out such boring, inexpressive, sleep-inducing and depressive teachers?! (This sounds harsh. But seriously, sit in a classroom for two hours with our Wolof professor Zator and you will be blown away. There isn't a comparison to be made, really, it's just different. Culture is so huge. Another way of asking all these questions is "How can we get our culture of higher education in the United States to take its cue from the energy and enthusiasm displayed here?"). I asked my host brother if he thought all Sénégalese professors were so dynamic and he said something to the effect of "Bien sur, c'est leur métier!" - "Of course, it's their profession!" I rest my case.
I'm using the time I have at the moment to upload a few more photos to my Picasa, they are mostly old ones from l'Ile de Gorée, so check those out.

Ok, I've got to run. Happy Thursday!

Cheers,
Sean