School’s (not quite) Out for Summer

School may be out for summer back home, but in Congo the kids won’t start their break until the 2nd of July, the coldest part of winter here. My hometown friend with the pen pal project managed to grab another round of letters and videos from her son’s class before they finished out the year, and on Friday I went back to the school to see what we could accomplish. It had been several weeks without any news from our liaison, so I figured there hadn’t been much progress. I went expecting to have to present the newest letter and video from Kansas for the first time.

It turned out I was totally wrong. Not only had the kids already received the materials, but they had already studied them, started their responses, and posted the printouts up on the wall.

But not on the wall of their classroom… they were on the wall of the principal’s office! Along with those of the first round, the Kansas kids’ photos have a prominent position next to a poster of the Presidents of Africa. Continue reading

Getting Schooled in the Congo

Exactly 3 years ago I wrote about an idea to start a video pen-pal arrangement between a school in Congo and a school back home. A friend of mine took me up on it and today this vision is a reality! In fact if it weren’t for her optimism, patience, and clever ideas, it never would have happened. I’m indebted to her and her fifth-grade son who worked hard to make sure it did.

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Lukutola Visit

Fellow geologist and friend Sergio took us on a visit to Lukutola today, a Spanish Catholic mission in a small village on the concession.  The mission is run by one priest and three volunteers, guys from Mexico or Spain.  Sergio is from the Canary Islands, so he speaks Spanish fluently with the others.  The volunteers are learning the local language quickly, and some French as well (which is less important in the villages).  Hugo from Oaxaca speaks English perfectly; he said he studied in the States for a bit.  I studied Spanish not very long at all, but it’s funny how it lodged itself in my brain as “the foreign language”… so every time I reach for a new word, out it comes.  Since I arrived I’ve been struggling to switch from the Spanish article “el” to the French “le” and from the rolled “r” to the throaty French one.  Ugh.  Even though now with the guys I can say only a couple of sentences in Spanish, somehow this break from French feels like a relief. Continue reading