Happy Dragon Year!

I did this etching for my youngest brother, some years ago, and I have absolutely no memory of having done so. I am getting old. I like the design: it's a nice variant on the theme of the Dragon and the Clown, this time with a young dragon. HAPPY DRAGON YEAR!


Religion is to education...

Seeing an Arab brushing his teeth with a piece of wood, I remember that this is one of the many coranical orders related to hygiene.
A thought crosses my mind, unexpected and surprising, as if told softly in my ear: "Religion is to education what dictatorship is to democracy"

I guess that what brought the thought to mind is a recent discussion about how religion used to bring much more than a relationship to god, such as a context for the development of art, birth and deathless accounting, health,politics and, of course, education. The sentence sounds well but I am not sure I agree with it: finding as much education in religion, as democracy in a dictatorship requires some fine tuning of the definitions.


The School of Kindiri

I visited the primary school of Kindiri. The first of the three classes is simply a space in the shadow of a large tree. The setting is very poetic, and the professor who asked for walls so that the children would not look out and focus on the class was surprised when I told him that, in classrooms with walls and windows, the children look out too! They do need walls and roof still, to protect the board from the wind and the children from the rain in September and October, in the rain season.

The content of the course is mostly repetition (I saw the same scheme repeated in junior and high schools in bigger cities), and from what I understood, many students are left behind by the system, attending English classes without understanding anything.

Visit to Kindiri, Chad, Africa

Clamra spent several years at my parent's house when I was 14, we are like brothers. His mother had visited my parent's place when I was 18 and died two years ago. I had organized several visits to his native village of Kindiri, Chad, Africa, but each has been abruptly canceled (once because there were protests against French people in the capital!). This one went through (not without some stress about the visa from the Chadian embassy), and I finally visited the native village of my friend and brother, Clamra, and got a first taste of central Africa.

The occasion was the inauguration of a mausoleum in the memory of Clamra's mother, joined with new year celebrations. I already knew that Clamra's mother was a remarkable woman (and Clamra is remarkable in his own way) but I realize even more the incredible scope of their greatness now that I visited Kindiri. I am impatient to read Clamra's pseudo-autobiographical book (which is available only in French so far). I learned some 10 words of Sara (which never fails me in my attempts to socialize, and put me in strong contrast with the two other foreigners present, a French and an American), conversed in broken French with the old women, in fluent French with the adolescents and some adults, and even in English with some elite students. Everybody was quite nice with the usual few exceptions (which were still much less than in other countries that I visited)

The village's electricity comes from a gasoline engine which they run occasionally (and from my solar panels while I was there), the water comes from two wells, one of the three classes of the primary school happens under a tree, without walls. Nevertheless each adult has a cell phone (or two) and everybody was brightly dressed for the occasion (let it be the new year or the inauguration of the mausoleum). I offered to children some contact cards and a bunch of pairs of strong magnets, using it as an opportunity to teach some basics about science, magnetism, and magic tricks. Some children picked up much more quickly than others!

As always I took the opportunity to visit the local school (and some high-schools in the nearby city, Koumra, and the university in the capital N'djamena) and discuss with the professors. An American visitor was interviewing the three professors and I was invited to participate. We discussed about the applicability of some of the techniques that I saw or proposed in Chile. Among other things we discussed the possibility that former students of the school, who now study in the city but still regularly come back to their native village, could help with teaching. It seems doable but would require some organisation at the university level, which seems unlikely. To finish the interview I offered to each a contact card and a pair of my last strong magnets, using it to illustrate how to catch student's attention before teaching them: both the professors and the village's VIP seemed very pleased by the presents :)


First thoughts from Chad

I should have visited center Africa a long time ago. The experience is astounding.

The difference of living conditions makes one realize how much is taken for granted in the Western world. I am not talking merely about tap water and electricity (there is both, although in communal place), but of simple things which are unexpectedly missing, given that I saw them in places with less ressources (such as no electricity nor tap water). For instance, in Cuba water reserves on the roof give warm water and pression for short showers,  but none of this here: bath water is always fetched from the village well or concession's tap and boiled on the fire. The cause might be cultural rather than technological: other cultural differences are obvious, such as communal life, sanctity of guests, food and visit rituals.

When visiting cities I am reminded of the 2010 scifi movie "zone XX" where stranded ETs live in a ghetto. Now I known where the writers found their inspiration for this movie! Westerners who dream of communication with extra terrestrial aliens should work on intercultural communication first as a first step: from what I see we don't do too well. Those who hope that benevolent advanced ETs will come and help us should come and help here first and stop holding extra-terrestrial visitors to a higher moral standard than us.

Yet beyond the difference the people are the same, caring for their youngs, mourning for their deads,  hoping for a better future (and flirting shamelessly). Cell phones are ubiquitous, the batteries recharged at shops dedicated to this unique task, the credit charged for a small comission through agents who have a special chip in their phone. The same agents permit also the electronic transfer of money between cities, an African invention about which I had read before, that I now explore at the source, explained in details by one of the agent himself, a student in med school who traveled with me.

I have a bit of a cold, most probably due to the accumulated lack of sleep since my arrival, but I am quite well otherwise and in particular with no digestive problem (so far) , which I receive as a blessing. My mood is high (without being maniac) as I made many friends, dealt well with events, and feel in control of my life.

"Jusque là, tout va bien"!