I am happy I am not allergic and can eat almost anything. Most of the food is familiar however the mode of cooking is different and even some of the combinations. I am used to eating food fried with onion, tomatoes etc and having green vegetables in almost all meals but I have never seen any kales on this side and have eaten spinach only once. Most of the food too is oven – cooked. I do enjoy making my own food once in a while as I can dump in all the groceries I want and cook my ugali too (my Jogoo-maize flour is still surviving). One of my now favourite dishes that I have never heard of until I came here is the accra, I still do not know what they use to make it but I will be happy to share my findings. The food here also comes with a lot of wine, rum and punch drinking so non-alcoholics brace yourselves to make heads turn every time during a meal when you’ll say, ‘No, thank you. I don’t drink’. Cheese lovers this will be your haven, I just don’t understand how the worse the cheese smells the good it is. There’s also wine and cheese tasting.
I remember during one of our orientations, we were cautioned on wearing sandals to school or any type of shoe that resembled sandals reason being to enable easy evacuation in case of an emergency like people can move/run faster. I can say even the dress code in school is very casual; I remember my teachers would never come to school in jeans. I love the fact that most people wear their natural hair even the news anchors on TV rock their afros. In terms on climate and dressing, it is generally a hot area, I can count the number of times I have put on a sweater.
Culture is a big part of the Guadeloupian people and it is seen in their dressing (they also wear vitenges) in their music and dance (gwoka) plus greeting people is a big thing even those you do not know e.g. you enter the bank, you find people you say hi and people respond.
The School System
I love the number of holidays that I have thanks to how the school calendar is. Once school opens from summer break in September, school runs for 8 weeks then break for 2 weeks, this goes on until school breaks off for summer in June. There are 4 major holidays in the entire 2week breaks; (I will talk more about them in a different post)
- Toussant Holiday (All Saints ) – 19th Oct – 4th Nov
- Christmas Holiday – 21st Dec – 6th Jan
- Carnival Holiday – 15th Feb – 2nd March
- Easter Holiday – 8th April – 23rd April
The French education system is very different, an example their equivalent to Kenya’s primary school is divided into 2 different schools (école primaire and collège) and the higher the number of class the lower the level an example is in collège the numbers run from sixième (6e), cinqième (5e), quatrième (4e) and troisième (3e). 6e in this case stands for class 5 while 3e for class 8. Yes, it also confused me a lot.
I must admit learning the French names of my students have been difficult and so is the French keyboard, sometimes I just key in random figures until I find the letter or punctuation mark that I was looking for and delete the rest. The students’ exercise books are also not the normal ones with lines, like they are somehow squared and another thing that quickly caught my attention was that all the students have a cursive handwriting whereas I was taught (I do not know our handwriting….)
French schools have students who are in their last year of primary (collège) going for internships. This is new to me. My first internship was when I was in campus. Before class starts I have noticed all students enter the class and stand and wait until the teacher in charge gives them permission to sit. They also do stand up in respect whenever an adult steps in during the class session. I remember during the first days in class some didn’t know where Kenya was or even Africa. It has been a learning roller coaster.
Strike – this has been a big part of this academic year with 3 weeks straight of no school in January. What amazed me was that the teachers used to meet every day in front of the school to share breakfast and even have barbecue and the police would pass by just to take a picture confirming that the school was closed.
In case you’re wondering what I do – I am a fun English language Assistant. My role is to work close with the main teacher to assist in the class and encourage the students to speak in English. I am not responsible for the setting or marking exams. I normally get lesson instructions from the main teacher and plan before class and sometimes I am free to choose what I would like to do with my students.