28 August 2008

Dreaming I’s/EYES

This morning, I experienced through dreaming eyes, the realities and barriers of education in Niger. Today, through dreaming eyes, and willing hands, I met many school administrators that were motivated about changing their schools, finding more resources for the ever growing student population, and creating more educational opportunities for their students. My inspector asked me to accompany him to four schools located near the city. Two of the schools that I visted had middle school and high school students and the other two only had middle school students. The campuses were very quiet, very modest, and a few of them were noticeably overcrowded. At one of the schools that I visited, there were not enough classrooms from all of the students, so chalk boards had been affixed to the sides of buildings. Initially, I thought I would see only a few of these wall-side classrooms, but as I continued to tour the campus with the administrators, I saw more than six. Some of the buildings had been damaged by the water and heavy winds of the rainy season. As I continued to tour with many of the administrators, they told me that most of the children were without books, and the school had no money to provide them with notebooks, paper, and pens. After talking more with my inspector, he stressed the importance of working with the COGES organizations, and trying to find funding so that the students can have supplies. I hope that with Niger’s 10-year educational reform plan, many of these issues can be resolved. I was also very fortunate today to meet many students that were attending summer school classes. In the few classes that I observed, the students were learning chemistry, English, trigonometry, and French! In the states, most of us just take one or two subjects during the summertime, but these students were each taking about five or six. Pretty impressive huh!? As I had found out a day earlier, most of the students don’t really understand French, so I took the initiative to try and do some learning today. For about two days, I’ve been eyeing the hausa-english dictionary of the volunteer that I’m replacing. Today, I finally took the dictionary and a floor mat, and walked down the street in front of the fire station to practice my conversational Hausa with a few of the firefighters and the men that sit around there and talk. So, I figured out that I have a lot to learn, and that a lot of the Hausa that I’ve been learning at site doesn’t really correspond to the regional Hausa spoken here. Aahah, it’s never ending. But I guess it’s the hard work that makes it all worth it right? On Saturday, we head back to site for two more weeks, then swear in, and then I’ll be back here permanently. I feel so much better about staying here. My coworkers are really nice, and we share so many of the same interests. My neighbors are also very friendly, and I feel that they are really looking out for me. When I left the shady tree that we were all hanging out under this afternoon, they instructed me to come back after I ate lunch so that we could practice more vocabulary. I guess it really does take a village to raise a child. Their village is one more Peace Corps Volunteer strong!

27 August 2008

In Remembrance: For all those who strive for the world as it should be

Dedicated to my grandmother, Mrs. Catherine Seymour Forbes, whose spirit continues to shed light despite her physical absence- May your soul rest in peace.

Sage Woman
by Ryan Forbes Morris

The wise sage woman sips galaxies for thought-(!)-
To displace the immensity of her perfect light to my
Left coast…west coast…fifth dimensions
Where my mind reassembles the rigid conscious centerings of my afro descended experience
Against the wrinkled hieroglyphics of the woman who thrust my spirit across the ocean
Offering her soul as my ink
And giving her body as my vessel
Wise woman-you have sketched my existence into the sun
With a beauty seldom spoken beyond the lucid domain of the planets
Where angels taste the urban warmth of the stars beneath the bitter blues of desert nights
Peace, Sage Woman. Through you I am bestowed poetic freedom.

Borough Check: We Represent the Rest

It is finally week 7! Very hard to believe. We have all been working hard at the training site so that we can learn Hausa/Zarma/French and be as effective as possible. Last week, I was able to meet my supervisor when he came to the training site for a conference. I was really excited to meet him, and he seems very hard working, motivated, and I cannot wait to begin work with him. He wants to do a lot of work with the COGES, which are parent organizations that help regulate teaching within the schools. My supervisor really wants to do a lot of work with poorer families, which was something I felt very strongly about since the interview with Niger’s first female magistrate. Right now, I am visiting the town where I’ll be posted in about two and a half weeks. After we complete training and are sworn in, I’ll get to move here permanetnly. This visit is just to observe my future work and living conditions. I’m about 10 hours east of Niamey and about a few hours north of Nigeria. When I am permantely installed here at my post, I plan to go observe some of the classes at the local middle and high schools, and talk with members of the COGES so that I can start brainstorming some projects, see what needs exist in the community, and most importantly, INTEGRATE! This week, I’ve been able to meet the majority of my coworkers. Today, I had the opportunity to chat with a secretary who was a Geography/History teacher for twenty years. We talked Obama, politics, Latin American history, and a whole host of other things. Everyone is so nice here, and I feel very comfortable and respected here. I am in a big city, which makes “integration” a little bit more different than it was in the small town by the training site. I will not be living with a family, but I will do my best to make sure that I’m as visible as possible. Everyday I’ve been greeting all of the old men that sit together and drink tea on the side of the road, and the firemen that live fairly close to my future house. There are a whole host of development organizations in this city. I had come across some of their compounds as I had met some kids on my way home. I tried to talk to the kids but their French was about as limited as my hausa is. This made me realize, that I have to really step up my hausa skills. For those that don’t remember, when I interviewed the “successful” women of Niger, I felt like none of them could offer tips or suggestions to be people that weren’t middle class or above- the rest! In sum, their class status had a lot to do with their success. I have realized that if I really want to do goo work here, and work with as many people as possible across all class lines, it is imperative that I improve my hausa. I want to be able to work with students that cannot afford outside tutoring and that cannot afford to study abroad in neighboring countries. Next week, I return back to the training site for two more weeks, and then swear in. Everything has been moving so fast, but such is life!

08 August 2008

Noon-time Meditation # 1: From Amandine's Cafe

As I sit fully immersed in the smoke filled atmosphere of this café, I'll take a minute for poetic mediations...

Emotional humans fully suspend blue thoughts like jazz
Amongst the candid intermissions of the cunning lyricist
Whose lips ring truth to tired fragments of existentialist lo mein
It is she… that longs to recreate peace from stereo beat knick mind states
It is she…the queen that stands…and seeks to bestow light unto her daughters that will come NEXT…
Where funk upon a time…
‘woke vigilant souls spilled tomorrow from sun spaced trajectories
and slowly moved their fingers to recreate colors in the wind.
Reach for my hand so that I can kiss yours
So that we, mutually existing as stars, can shine as TWO beyond unfathomable limit

06 August 2008

Elliptical Axioms: The Beauty of Radical Openness

When we speak peace, freedom, equality, and justice to the sky, when we name our pain, we can join hands and bring beauty to our wounds. It is only though radical openness, through our candid and honest process of dreaming beyond ourselves, that we can bring change. As an education volunteer, one of my greatest tasks will be to tackle the problem of girl's education in Niger. This morning, I was fortunate enough to meet and interview Madame Salifou Fatima Bazey, the first female magistrate in the HISTORY of Niger, and Madame Diroumeye Dembello, a 25-year retired sociologist of the United Nations. Both of these women were deeply profound, both growing up in environments where women's education was not valued nor promoted. However, these women persevered. These women are trailblazers. Speaking with Madame Salifou Fatima Bazey, (my translation from French) Yes, Niger is a poor country. However, if we allow everyone to go to school- girls, boys, everyone!- and we welcome the knowledge that receive, then we will truly be able to develop. Without the education of women, we cannot progress!" These women were truly an inspiration to me. In this country, these women have been referred to as "femme leaders" or women leaders, but I think this term is fundamentally flawed. We do employ the term "homme leader" or male leader. These women are leaders, and they are the trailblazers of the change that has begun in Niger. I salute the radical openness of these women- their willingness and thier courage to break glass ceilings! These women dream of solidarity for all- and for the end of patriarchy in all its forms. I hope that in the future, I can do more work with these women in the sector of female education in Niger.