Sunday, October 02, 2005

greetings to all from, a very very very hot extreme north!!!

Well, my intention to keep this blog up to date hasn't really worked thus far as I didn't really realise before coming here how little access to Internet I would have! Anyway, where even to begin with updating you all...finally left what now seems like the very pleasant climate of Yaounde the capital on our 2 day trek up here to the extreme north. Not exactly the most pleasant of journeys it has to be said after standing on a platform for 2hrs in the baking sun waiting for a train (not much different to national rail i grant you), then having to spend a further 18hrs on this train which derailed on numerous occasions throughout the night because the track and train are so old. We very pleasantly had couchettes to sleep on though we could have saved the money considering the fact that sleep was most definitely not an option - smooth the ride was not. Hideous as the train journey felt it was nothing compared to the following 9 hour bus ride up to the extreme north which consisted of being crammed into an old american school bus (after waiting 3hrs for it to arrive of course) with plastic seats and windows that didnt open properly in 40° heat with a driver who insisted on travelling at 80 miles an hour. For anyone who has been to this part of the world I'm sure you can imagine the ass pain resulting from the not so smooth roads! I wont even go into the part of the journey where our driver decided to drive through the river rather than take the bridge to avoid some traffic.

Spent last week on our second week of in country training and VSO kindly put us up in a baptist mission in the centre of town which even had air con! luxury! I got the shock of my life last Saturday when I arrived in my tinned roof house with only my bucket shower to cool me down!
We met our employers last friday and then went for dinner with them and we were all then shipped off to our placements on Saturday morning. My principal collected me with another teacher, Sardi and I waved goodbye to what now seems like a big city to head out into the sticks! Fortunatey they got the bus (which is like a small campervan) to come to the Mission to collect all my stuff as there was no way we could have taken it on motorbikes to the bus station! (Here in Maroua, there are no car taxis, only motos, so anything you need to transport you have to cling on to it for dear life of the back of a bike!) No hitches on the hour long journey to my village, except for the realisation on arrival that we had actually taken someone elses suitcase with us - oopps!
My village, Moutourwa is actually really beautiful and is fairly big - there are about 6000 people who live there. There are amazing rock formations dotted around the village which make for great scenary. The houses are fairly spaced out and are a complete mix of mud huts with straw roofs and larger concrete houses. The roads are dust tracks and it takes me about 20 minutes to walk to school. My house is a small concrete two roomed house. In the main room there is a table and chairs and a counter with a gas stove on top. There is also a traditional wooden bed which makeshifts as a sofa. The bedroom has a wardrobe and a double bed. The house actually belongs to the neighbours who rent it to VSO.

So, the weekend was spent with my headteacher who took me round to meet all the important people in the village including the chief who was the sleaziest guy ever and who i spent the whole of saturday night attempting to run away from!! I also met the deputy and the Mayor and the Policeman, the priest at the Catholic Mission (my village is predominantly Christian even though the extreme north province is mainly Muslim) and everyone who is considered to have any status in the village. Everyon is ery welcoming and very happy I am here. However I have never answered so many questions about why I am not married before in my life!! That's the first question anyone asks!

Monday was the first day at school and I met lots of the teachers and was introduced to the pupils at morning assembly. The school has about 1000 pupils and about 20 teachers, although only about 8 of them are qualified. The school is made up of about 10 buildings dotted around and each class stays in their classroom and the teachers move around. School starts at 715am and doesnt finish until 1500 with a one 15minute and one 30 minute break in between. I did a few days observation before starting classes on Thursday.....i have been promloted to head of department and have been given the exam classes already (I am the only English teacher!)......the panic is setting in! On average my classes have 90 students but a few of them have 120!! (roleplays are probably not an option!) They are all very enthusisatic, although in the afternoon lots of the students fall asleep as they have eaten nothing all day and the heat is unbearable.

Anyway, the rest of the week was spent seeing friends and sorting out my little house but I will email more when I'm next in the 'big city'!

take care xxx