2012/01/18

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 :)
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