Sunday, August 28, 2011

One week into classes, and... cockroaches!

They live in my house. On Tuesday night I had the first encounter; I was peacefully sitting in my room writing as I saw a bug-like thing scurrying over the floor. I grabbed a cup that I had at hand and put it over the thing -- not very big, maybe a centimeter long, and looking rather ordinary. Then I went into the kitchen to boil some water, and saw another very similar bug. Trapped that one under a cup as well.

The next day I got home, and was greeted by two tiny and two larger copies of my bug in the bathroom. When I went into the kitchen, one of them was wandering around on the ground.

On Thursday, my roommate Emma reported drowning about four of them during her evening shower. One of them was waving at me with his little quivering feelers from the top of the fridge, and about two or three more from the kitchen floor. I didn't really dare even step into the bathroom before turning on the light for fear of stepping onto one with my naked feet. By now the little guys were pretty sizable as well, and quite clearly -- cockroaches. Lovely.

I take it there isn't much you can do about them, and they're not really dangerous... but when I got a chance to flee Muizenberg and stay at a friend's house in Stellenbosch on Friday, I was sure as hell pleased to get away from my six-legged cohabitants for a night.
(The first one I trapped in my room is still alive. I think I'm getting kind of used to him. I might adopt him as a pet.)

Aside from that distinctively new experience, I survived the first week of AIMS! My students are learning English -- it seems the Sudanese are struggling a bit, maybe also due to their Ramadan fasting this month. The Congolese prefer speaking French, and so communication with them is sometimes difficult as well.
Everyone is also getting familiar with computers. AIMS runs on Ubuntu, and all the software is free -- I'm quite excited about this, because it means I'll learn some of that myself. But first, these African students need to learn how to type (I put up little color-coded keyboard printouts on every screen in the computer room), and, within three days of starting to type, to write LaTeX.

More exciting for me: I got to take photographs of all my students for us to properly learn their names. AIMS doesn't currently own a camera, so I whipped out my little Canon and offered to help. We managed to find what I suppose is an old stage lighting spot and a tripod somewhere at the institute, and I set up a little studio in the main lounge. Everyone's complaints about how terrible last year's pictures were motivated me to try and do a good job, despite the limitations of my equipment -- and I think it worked, at least I got them all to smile!
In fact, some administrator was so pleased with it that they asked me to take pictures of all the staff as well, and I spent my Friday morning taking more portraits. For the first time ever I did all the settings on my camera manually, to get consistent colors and exposure for all the pictures, and I had a lot of fun with it. Although some of the kitchen staff was rather reluctant to have their pictures taken, as you can see here with Lennox, the chef:

And some people's vanity surfaced in quite surprising ways, like my co-tutor 's, who insisted that I take his photograph about 20 times total.

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