Monday, November 8, 2010


It’s funny how things work out, how things seem to fall in place, how solutions to difficult questions and issues often present themselves almost effortlessly if you don’t panic or stress or perhaps you just know(because you’ve lived longer than anyone who surrounds you) from experience the solution will eventually be evident.

At any rate..there’s not much I sweat about. I know if I keep working towards a goal, all the barriers will eventually be busted through in one way or another. Things will work out.

And so it has with my biggest challenge…..speaking French.

Language has been my biggest challenge in the Peace Corps. It’s possible learning French has been my biggest challenge, ever. Well certainly it has been the biggest challenge for my brain since long division and percentages. Not just French, but the local language, Ewe, as well.

There were times during my nine weeks of training that I firmly believed my French was better before training than after training. This is not a slight to the excellent formitures (teachers) we had, because they were excellent in every way…knowledge, teaching skills, patience, assessing a persons needs. And, as tit for tat would have it, I believe that I might have been one of their biggest challenges ever. Near the end I think that I was the subject of many discussions.... “what do we do with her?”

PCV’s from my group of 29 came to Togo with a wide variety of language proficiency. Some came having grown up in a bi-lingual family and could go toe to toe with President Sarkozy if necessary. Some came with 4 years of College French, a few had Spanish and no French (they say knowing Spanish makes learning French much easier). I came to Togo with one 5 hour semester of French that I took at the local community college. I finished the class two weeks before I came to Togo, and to my surprise I got a B for the class, which I repeatedly told my dis-believing teachers in Togo. Oh, I deserved the B, for effort alone, but I don’t think I could speak a B’s worth of French. God how I struggled with that class. My version of index cards were large poster boards set all over my house with conjugated verbs, articles, and etra written all over them. My son, Eric, who is a whiz with languages counseled me often. First, bless his heart, he kept saying…you can do it mom. You can do this! He kept telling me to put everything I know about language out of my mind, and just pretend I was learning a language for the first time…like a baby. Uhhhhh. Who can do that? A baby, maybe. I understood the concept he was trying to get across, and some people may have thought emptying my particular mind might not have been that much of a struggle, but I could not empty it, not in that way.

As it turned out the French Class was a great foundation for me to learn the language. At least I had a fairly, fairly good vocabulary. I understood the theory of etra and avoir and the articles, and how they all worked, but I still have a lot of problems with structuring my sentences, conjugating verbs, and pronouncing lias
Da-veed and his future wife, Emily

ons in a way that would be understandable to a French speaking person. I’ve gotten quite used to people laughing (with) me at my attempts, and also in seeing very confused looks on their faces when I say something; which brings me to the subject of Da-veed.

The Peace Corps pays for ongoing language tutoring for PCV’s once they get to village. I have heard that even the best French speakers have a lot of trouble when they get to village, because the French is so different. That gave me a little consolation. It took me six weeks to find just the right tutor in Tchekpo. My next door neighbor, Fidel, is a German teacher at the highschool. He introduced me to Da-veed. I knew as soon as I talked with him that he would be an excellent teacher. I told him I wasn’t a very good student, and he said, “then I will ask God for patience.” Ha!

Da-veed is not only a great tutor for me, he’s a fine young man, and he has become a good friend. He now partners with me on several projects. He is a gifted teacher. He is helping me teach my English Class for adults, and brings a lot of fun, and good teaching techniques into the class. He is having me help teach English to his highschool students, and he’s going to help me form a committee to get aid for one of the primary schools that is badly in need of a building, books and supplies. He tutors me for an hour, twice a week, but he always mixes it with other things, so I don’t feel like I’m in school, and yet, he gives me homework, grades it, and even writes very good (in red) on my papers, only when they are very good. He’s very religious, but not obtrusively so. He says God bless you when he arrives, and when he leaves, and when he says it, I feel like I’ve been blessed. One Sunday he dropped by with his French Bible, and he had me read a parable, Then we discussed it in French. Somehow, he doesn’t make it seem like such a struggle. It just finally clicked!

Several people have said that my French is improving, and I feel that it is. It’s workin out!

By George…..I think she’s GOT IT!!! (My Fair Lady). Almost.

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