Went on down to the university today, wearing my wool pinstriped jacket, to meet Mme Ilboudo, the department chair. She had told me to come in the morning and it was technically still morning when I showed up – around 11 – but I didn’t hold up the American reputation for promptness very well. My friend Djibi was taking me once again, and he had to go to the eye doctor first. Also, he was looking for a young woman who was going to come and wash my clothes; long story on which more later.
Mme Ilboudo, Elise, was very welcoming and we had a long talk. She seems interested in having me lead undergraduate classes. They have an Americanist and an Atlanticist, but they also have lecture sections with 500 people in them. So we will share the load. We went to see the Americanist, Yacoub Banhoro, who actually did his graduate work on American medical missionaries in Africa, making him a sort of cross-regional guy like me. His US History survey starts with the Constitution, so we discussed creating an early America class for me. It isn’t in the required curriculum, so presumably it would attract only those truly interested. And then I can give some lectures to the main survey on African-American topics. I told them about the US Military Conflict survey and suggested maybe we could do a seminar. I could also do a seminar on the Haitian Revolution – they perked up at that. I don’t think they know much about Latin America here. Most of the departmental colleagues are off on vacation but we talked for half an hour or so with Yacoub and met an Archaeology student named Jean-Baptiste and another colleague whose name I didn’t catch who is going on a research trip this year. Presumably, the guy I’m replacing?
The return from the university was much more stylish than the trip down, since we did it in Mme Ilboudo’s air-conditioned SUV. She mentioned that she had a car to spare but I’m scared to drive here. People are alternatively, or perhaps simultaneously, aggressive and confused. I’m sure I would kill somebody. I mentioned that in almost 40 years of driving, I have had three accidents, two in Togo and one in Haiti. I’m becoming more committed to the idea of a bicycle. If it gets too hot for the bike there are always taxis.
After I got back to the house, along came the indispensable Djibi once again with a young woman on his bike. Her name is Hadjata, and she looks to be about 16. She is a niece or cousin, I didn’t catch which, of Bousso, Maty’s sister, who I met the first night. She and Djibi went off shopping for household goods for me – towels, mop, duster, sheets, soap for washing clothes, and the like. Hadjata managed to wash all my dirty clothes before leaving for the evening. Tomorrow she will come back to clean up and then I can return to the African custom I keep even at home of taking my shoes off indoors. I have been afraid to here because the floor is covered in dust and plenty of other stuff too – the occasional nail from the work the carpenter did the first day on the screens being the most noteworthy.
There is a swing in my courtyard, and it has provoked a good bit of diplomacy on my part. The first day, three little boys came and asked politely if they could swing on it, and I said sure. The next day, there were a dozen, and they took to fighting over whose turn it was so I threw them all out. Now, the rule is I have to see your parents first and get their permission and no more than four at a time. I just had a visit from a very stylish young woman who told me that it was fine that her little sister play on the swing. Before that, it was an older lady, who did not speak French but managed to convey her agreement. The lady who sells bananas up on the corner of the main street said her son could come.
While all this was going on, I managed to put all my slides up for my US Military Conflict class at Clackamas. Several of them are without the recorded lecture because the very helpful Joel at Clackamas is still inserting the audio files I recorded over the summer. But at least I can go ahead with making up the comprehension questions and getting the course website set up. I looked on the CCC registration report and I already have 29 students, so this had better be good. I think better of the Internet connection today – I discovered that somehow either my clumsiness with Power Point or the transition to Youtube had deleted all the audio from one of my lectures – 25 minutes of dead air. I re-recorded the lecture, and put the new file up. The upload time for a 200+MB .mp4 file was something like 90 minutes, not impossibly longer than at home. Once you start, I think the system lets you finish.
I also managed to have a 40-minute conversation with my family on Skype without cutoff last night, finishing after midnight, though the audio was laggy at times. I often felt like back in the 70s when they were sending people to the moon and you would hear these conversations with the long silences between sentences for speed-of-light delay. I assume that was the issue here as well – the packets were going not by fiber-optic line over land and sea on the surface of the earth but instead bouncing up and down to geosynchronous orbit a couple of times. We found ourselves talking at cross-purposes a bit but it was good to hear their voices. I miss my family. It is pretty lonely even though everybody I meet has been very hospitable.