Saturday, October 20, 2007

An Update from Carson

Hello Everyone. "Faamoo keeta" as they say, or "long time". Rachel's been really diligent about posting pictures and writing entries to keep you all apprised on our well being. I especially enjoy our before and after pic of little Yankuba peeing on the couch (we fell over laughing as we took that one). I however, have been inexcusably quiet. It's partly because life was so slow after our trip to France, partly because I don't have regular access to internet and mostly because I can be really lazy. So, now that life and school are back up and running, here's a quick update.
School has started. I'm teaching exclusively Grade 12 math and science this year and only pulling a single shift (heck yeah!). I'm getting computer classes up and running in the evenings to limited success but unlimited promise, so we'll see. I'm also holding almost daily tutoring sessions to prepare for the Grade 12 West African Examination Council (WAEC) Exams. This is quickly turning into a resounding success as attendance to an optional, free hour or two in the sweltering heat of mid-afternoon is growing more and more every day. I had 35 on Thursday and expect more on Monday. The proof is in the pudding (I don't know why I pick that saying) so we'll see if any of them pass this incredibly difficult exam in May.
Our most rewarding project (and least amount of work) is the Reading mentors program where Rachel and I couple my students with her nursery school kids twice a week for reading time. We aim to make it a formal school club and participation has exceeded all expectations. It's unbelievable. And, of course, every night is homework time at Jalamang and Liisandings as the neighborhood kids pile into our small front room for math and reading help. It's incredibly fulfilling so long as the DON'T PEE ON OUR COUCH! Too late.
Life at site is great and my LSATs went really well as Rachel and I begin to contemplate what's next. To top it all off, the cold season is rapidly approaching which means more to us than you can imagine.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Carson and boys walking back from the Mosque. We spent an hour at the mosque: forty-five minutes waiting for the town to arrive and fifteen minutes for prayer. The elders continued to pray as our host brothers and sister jumped up, grabbed our hands, and told us it was time to go. Lamin, far right, is carrying the prayer mat, in which four boys fit if laid horizontally. All Muslims pray on a mat, never directly on the ground.

Morning prayers for the Koriteh, or the Islamic holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan. Men and boys at the main mosque in Kerewan. This is just the spill over from the inside of the mosque. At least five hundred people were there. We kept our distance so as not to offend or get in the way of anyone.

The Alikalo, or the traditional leader of Kerewan, and his entourage coming to the mosque for Koriteh prayers. As we watched from a distance, the town came in droves. It was a bit like the red carpet. The man over the loud speaker would announce when important people or families arrived.

The women who go to the mosque must pray behind the men. Usually they are pushed outside because there is not enough room inside the mosque. Here at the main mosque they have a rectangular cement block structure to perform their prayers. The women who completed their pilgrimage to Mecca, or the Haj, wear the white shawls and black bands on top of their heads. Girls and women from the ages of 15 to 70 rarely or never go to the mosque to pray. It's rumored that this demographic of females receive "Islamic points" for staying home to pray.

Yesterday was the Islamic holiday of Koriteh celebrating the end of Ramadan (or the month of fasting). We went with our host brothers and sister to the main mosque in Kerewan. That's Karamo on the left in front. Everyone dresses up in their fanciest outfits for the holiday.