Monday, September 30, 2013

I have an "Obama" and "Chris Brown" in my group

“How are you? Are you fine?”
International English books and every surrounding munchkin and adult alike cling to the routine response- Fine! Although we Americans hardly ever mean it when we exchange a polite greeting (or when a woman expects you to decipher when she is employing the “fine red flag”), it seems to take on a more playful flavor here. Fine, Nice, and Cool are hip phrases in metropolitan areas, folded in with the local languages. Im not sure that we have an equivalent in the US since there is miraculously a common language across the huge country (Senegal compares to South Dakota in size). Plus, it would be inappropriate to racially profile someone passing at the grocery store with a – “Que paso?!” Fortunately, Senegal and West Africa are still culturally rich with more than 2000 local languages dominating the perhaps official,  colonized languages. They are also nonchalant about different ethnic groups and races. Its not that they haven’t had rifts, religious and political, or slavery, they simply aren’t resentful and hypersensitive. Their curiosity converges with the need for conversational stimuli with outspoken tendencies, which can be perceived as hospitable or, on the wrong day, hostile and aggressive.
With one month left in Senegal, I dedicated a week of it to teaching at English Access Camp, a program organized by the US Embassy and carried out by PCVs in conjunction with local school teachers. Kids are chosen from underserved districts far and wide across the country to participate (with a 2 year limit) to hear our American accents, practice in a semi-submersive environment, and like many summer camps, to have fun! The kids are eager to compare our accents to the British and Jamacian-like Gambian accents. Its amazing to hear them push through to express themselves and surprising how advance their functional classroom English is. Much like my grander PC service, I hope that I, as an extension of the Access Program, can help some of the kids continue in their studies or even pursue a career previously thought unattainable. Volunteers across Senegal, and Africa for that matter, have similar aspirations of seeing their work contribute to the positive rippling effect for deserving kids. This year, 755 middle school Senegalese students played baseball, translated cultural folk stories, and practiced English through a variety of games. 

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