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23.10.11

WAFLT 2011 - Pasco, WA

Le congrès de la WAFLT 2011 a eu lieu du 14 au 15 octobre 2011 à l’hôtel Red Lion à Pasco, WA. L’assistance des professeurs de français a été prodigieuse et les présentations ont été formidables !


L’AATF a organisé une réunion vendredi après-midi et un déjeuner samedi. Lors du déjeuner, Sarah Hulburt, professeur à Whitman College à Walla Walla, Washington nous a présenté l’usage des courts métrages afin d’entamer des discussions dirigées et culturelles dans les cours. Les courts métrages nous ont fait rire et perdre le souffle avec leurs conclusions inattendues. 
 Ce qui est agréable avec les courts métrages, c’est la brièveté et le niveau de langue. Pour la plupart, ces films sont très courts (de trois minutes ou moins !) et faciles à comprendre à tous les niveaux. En utilisant un court métrage, il ne faut pas que l’enseignant prépare une leçon complexe ou une explication détaillée d’un extrait d’un film à long métrage.

Je vous signale que je viens d’afficher une playlist sur la chaine YouTube del’AATF avec des courts métrages suggérés par la présentatrice. Professeur Hulburt a également montré «Scènes de ménages», une émission de M6.  Il vaut mieux les visionner avant de les montrer en classe afin d’assurer que le film soit d’un niveau approprié pour vos apprenants. 

Pourrions-nous collaborer sur des questions de discussion pour ces courts métrages ? Si jamais vous en utilisez un, veuillez m’envoyer vos questions, votre plan ou vos suggestions ? Je les afficherai au site Web et ici. 

Je remercie infiniment Sarah Hulburt. Sa présentation m’a donné tant d’idées que j’ai passé tout le week-end à rechercher des exemples pour ce bulletin. Regardez ci-dessus et vous verrez mes coups de cœur!


N’oubliez pas de penser au Grand Concours ! Je vous enverrai tous les détails vers le 15 novembre. Nos élèves ont vraiment du talent dans ce domaine – il faut y participer !


Bonne rentrée (un peu tardive !) et bonne continuation !
Catherine Ousselin

«Cui-Cui» 

«Les petits sablés» 

5.10.11

Bien mangé, bien discuté! Day 3 of N'Djamena


Bonjour encore une fois ! Hello again !
As I have made very long posts about the first few days of my voyage, I will be providing an abbreviated capsule of today’s adventures.
Today began with a short training on Facebook for the local staff of the Embassy. The staff member and I worked on the Embassy’s French Facebook page. Anyone who knows me understands that tech training is my second passion. I enjoyed the linguistic workout as I have never explained Facebook pages in French. I guided the staffer through the new parameters and offered a few ideas for future posts.


At 11h00, I met with two members of the FAWE (Forum of Women Educationalists) organization. This organization is highly proficient in providing training to teachers and students about healthy living, school attendance, and family life. We discussed for nearly one and half hours our respective philosophies on retaining students. Additionally, we shared videos of our students. This perhaps will be one of the strongest contacts that I have made during the trip. Although we wish to remain in contact, the “directrices” of FAWE use a USB modem for their laptop. At midday, it was nearly impossible to load my basic home page. Fiber optics has arrived in the country, thanks to companies like Exxon and others, but due to the lack of electricity, computers become a challenge. The Catholic school that I visited yesterday has installed solar panels to run their computers, but there are no computers in the lab. If the school had inexpensive tablets, refurbished iPod Touches, or the $100 computer, perhaps the connectivity situation would be less of an issue. Regrettably, the predominance of generators in the poorer neighborhoods cause noise and air pollution. Wood is still a common energy source and N’Djamena is cutting down trees to fuel its needs. Perhaps you have ever heard of the cardboard/aluminum foil solar ovens that are used in Afghanistan. These ovens provide enough heat to cook meals and decrease the amount of wood needed. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, women are less obliged to leave their villages to search for wood, therefore reducing the exposure to physical harm and rape. Why these ovens are not used or known in N’Djamena is to be investigated.

Sharon and I enjoyed a delectable lunch at “Le Bistrot” on the Rue Charles de Gaulle. This restaurant/deli offers French cuisine (their version) and products of all delicacies, including the finer choices of alcohol! 
I had a “salade landaise” with lardons (salt pork) instead of duck and creamy dressing instead of the traditional dressing – basically, it wasn’t a real salade landaise, but it was appetizing. My plat principal was tournedos (beef) with a Roquefort (cheese) sauce.

Ridiculously well-fed, I prepared for the next visit to the ISCAM (Institut Supérieur de Commerce et d’Administration des Affaires et de Management). This school is for students who have completed their Baccalauréat diploma. It is housed in a three level building in a favorable area of N’Djamena. I met with the Secretaire general who informed me that classes did not begin until the 15th of October. My heart skipped a beat. Perhaps this was to be the case for many appointments – lack of students. However, after waiting for a half hour, the director led me into a large room with about twenty students. The director provided me with an Orange Fanta and a bottle of water – we were ready! 


My talk centered around the similarities between Mount Vernon and N’Djamena. These include absenteeism, early pregnancy, and dropout rates. My presentation was short, but to the point – females must be supported and treated as equals at school, at home, and in the professional environment. A good discussion followed with a few difficult questions that I, as a high school teacher, could not answer. The students and I agreed that to demonstrate the potential of women to the Chadian culture, they must provide concrete examples of their intentions and projects. Whereas ideas are plentiful, money and time is often wasted due to a lack of organization on the receiving end. The women that I have met in the past two days have proven that they can impose positive influence and impact in their communities with little support. With directed guidance and support, these women will lead their country toward a more democratic and organized society. And I was part of that discussion! A truly memorable day.
Dinner was a chicken club sandwich.

4.10.11

Catherine Ousselin au Tchad! L'aventure continue!


Bonjour ! Today is Tuesday, 4 October 2011 and I am in N’Djamena, Chad. I am using the AATF-Northwest blog to recount my experience as a “conferencière” (speaker) for the Department of State’s US Specialist and Speaker Program. In my first post, I described how I was awarded this honor and how I arrived in N’Djamena, the capitol of Chad. In this bulletin, I will describe the Embassy and the schools that I visited today.
Sharon Blaine, the Public Affaires Officer with whom I am working, brought me to the Embassy Monday morning for a security briefing and to introduce me to the staff. This was my first embassy visit and I was impressed by the amount of security that protects our soil in foreign countries. Upon each arrival, cars pass through special gates and are searched for explosives or tampering. It is a detailed routine that I have come to appreciate each time I enter the grounds. The Marine who provided me with the security information is a congenial man with a solemn position. I shared with him that my grandfather was a Marine in World War II in Italy and acknowledge my gratitude for his service. After the security briefing, Félix (a Chadian who works for the Embassy’s Public Affaires office) presented me with an updated schedule of the schools that I am to visit.  Six school visits in four days plus the ISCAM (business school) and a meeting with female teachers who belong to a local women’s group make for an eventful schedule.
Monday night, I had the pleasure of attending the German National Day celebration at the German embassy, staffed by two Germans! I met the German ambassador by chance. He was speaking French and I asked him if he knew anyone at the party. With great humor in his voice, he informed me that he was the ambassador and that it was his party, so he knew everyone! Sharon presented me to the American ambassador, an amiable person. Diplomatic introductions aside, I reveled in the heat of the night, the lightning storm, and the copious amounts of meats and sauerkraut. Smechlich! It was an educational, but overwhelming, day and I looked forward to a good rest that night.

My travels around the city and to various functions are conducted by the embassy carpool. The gentleman (All Chadians) who brave the outrageous streets of N’Djamena are pure geniuses! There is a “code de route” here, but no one, except the embassy drivers, follows it. The few paved streets are completely overrun by motorcycles, trucks, SUVs, and people. I will ask the drivers if I may take their pictures. However, I imagine that they wish to keep a low profile, considering their connection to the embassy.

Tuesday! Mardi merveilleux! Although I had wanted to begin the day well rested, I stayed up late working on the blog, my lesson plans, and chatting with friends. At 2:3o Tuesday morning, I finally closed the laptop and my eyes! My alarm at 7:45 rang too early for my tired mind, but I can function quite well on adrenaline!
At the embassy, I prepared the gifts for the students at the “Lycée Assomption,” a private Catholic school for girls. The ride to the school was longer than expected. We left the paved roads and typical city dwellings and entered an environment that I have never experienced. The residences were beyond modest… Trash heaps abounded throughout the streets and young children were out in the heat of midday. 
Bricks and other building materials littered the area. The dirt road to the school was riddled with potholes that rival Québec!
Upon arrival at the school, Sharon, Ali (the photographer), Féix and I were met by Soeur Marthe (Sister Martha). Her contagious and charming beam reassured me that the voyage to the school was worth the tailbone shattering. As I entered the school, dozens of students crowded around me; each girl with a shy smile and a friendly handshake. As it became apparent that there was a visitor, the group swelled into a hundred students. Sister Marthe lead us into the community room where I was to present. It was a humble room with chairs, a stage, a blackboard, a microphone! The microphone was most appreciated! As Sister Marthe calmed the students down, a remarkable rush of emotion came over me. 

Looking at the 200 students gathered in the room, I grasped the reality of the situation. These students had come to see me, Catherine Ousselin, French teacher from the Midwest and Northwest. I could have never imagined that my life story would lead me to this moment. This feeling compared in no way to the numerous presentations that I had given in the past. Although they were important and meaningful learning experiences, this moment put those presentations into a powerful perspective. The students that I teach in Mount Vernon are students of lower social-economic status. They yearn to raise themselves and their communities through education. However, none of my students live in the situations from which these girls come. There is no comparison to the poverty that faces these students in the United States. Whereas my students enjoy my quirky teaching style and, at times, take their education for granted, these young women appreciate the smallest of luxuries such as electricity in the classroom and the small gifts that I brought them. Tears welled in my eyes and I had to turn momentarily from the group. My joy and anticipation had come to a pinnacle. It was time to begin!
Sharon Blaine introduced me to the students in beautiful French. Her well chosen words calmed my nerves and invigorated my enthusiasm. Perhaps the minimal stage and workshop experience that I have prepares me for this moment. All eyes fix on the stage, anticipating the first words of the speaker. I took the microphone and greeted the students who replied in perfect unison. (Hint to my students: Watch the video! This is how to reply to the teacher when he/she greets you.)
My presentation was to engage the students in TPR commands in English. My theme was animals and their actions. It was a powerful feeling as I went through the body parts with the girls. They giggled loudly when I directed them to touch their ears and wiggle them. The giggles lead to raucous laughter as we swayed our hips. They must have thought that I was rather silly, the American teacher who tried to shake gracefully. Our lesson continued with drawings, vocabulary, recitations, gestures, and songs. I rewarded each student who drew the board or who wrote out the vocabulary words with the donated gifts. Remarkably, the participation rate soared! Our session ended with a few rounds of, “Head, shoulders, knees, and toes” and Charades with animals. I was soaked with sweat; my voice was raw, but radiant with joy. The students and I discussed the importance of imagination and creation at school and the necessity to finish a diploma. One student offered me a sweet farewell saying, “Please don’t forget us.” I reassured them that there was no danger of this. We exchanged addresses and smiles. 


 Exhausted and with dripping hair, I returned to the embassy to meet the Chargé d’affaires, the second in command at the embassy. He hails from Michigan, a kindred Midwest spirit. I feel a bit culpable for leaving a sweat mark on his chair. However, I feel that it’s a sign that I had worked hard.

After my visit, I returned to the hotel for restorative purposes: shower, nap, clothing change, and lunch! My second visit was organized with the “Lycée Hérédité,” a private, non-religious school of nearly 1900 students. The driver took the same route as the morning. I managed to snap a few quick pictures of the neighborhood, but I understood that the residents of the area did not wish to be used a tourist fodder. The arrival at this school was a bit unnerving. There were no students in the courtyard and the local seemed closed for the day. Baye, another office employee, inquired about our visit. We were directed to the Provisoire (school headmaster) who seemed somewhat surprised to see us. He informed me that the students had left for the day, but that he hoped that they would return for the presentation! Understandably, I was disappointed. I had built up my energy to share a similar presentation as the morning. We waited for nearly an hour for the students to return, but no one did. The head master offered me a fizzy drink and some excuses, but it seems as though he was not explaining the entire situation. After a half an hour, the “directeur fondateur” entered and stated that the embassy was to have sent an official letter stating my visit and its purposes. The sweltering heat and lack of fresh air dampened my spirits. 

Baye and I decided that it was best to leave. It was suggested that I make time in my schedule to visit again. I offered a vague promise to consider the idea, but in reality, I have no extra time on this visit. The school knew that I was coming and yet dismissed the students early for the day. As my chauffeur and I agreed, the results of the day were 50%. However, I would weigh the morning’s visit much stronger, therefore balancing the results to a fantastic 90% perfect day!

Questions pour moi? Questions pour les élèves ou professeurs à qui je présente? Ecrivez-moi un message ici, sur Twitter (@catherineku1972) ou par courriel : catherineku72@gmail.com
Merci encore de m’avoir suivie ! Je vous promets un nouveau bulletin demain !   

3.10.11

Catherine Ousselin au Tchad! Days 1&2


Bienvenue au Tchad, Catherine!
Through a grant from the Department of State’s “US Speakers and Specialist Program,” I have been sent to N’Djamena, Chad to speak to women about empowerment through education. Jayne Abrate, Executive Director of the American Association of Teachers of French, recommended me to a representative of the Department of State.  Michael Bandler contacted me three days before the beginning of school and asked if I was interested in participating in the program. After requesting and receiving leave from my district, I was able to accept the offer. My previous travel experience to the African continent was in Marrakech, Morocco. The fact that I had been chosen to represent my country in an area so far from Mount Vernon, Washington, USA greatly honored me. 

Upon announcing the news to my colleagues and students, their amazement and accolades invigorated my anticipation for the voyage. After completing the Yellow Fever vaccination and renewing my passport, and finding guest teachers to replace me in a remarkably short time, I was on the plane! My first flight from Bellingham to Seattle took 25 minutes! The flight from Seattle to Paris on Air France took nine hours. I had an eight hour layover in Paris, so I spent the time at the Sheraton at Charles de Gaulle. It was worth the price! A hot bath and a great nap in a comfortable bed refreshed me for the last leg of the trip.

I boarded Air France flight 558 to N’Djamena with people speaking in many languages. For a linguist like me, it was heaven to hear the strains of conversations in languages that I had never heard. The flight went by fairly quickly and I had the chance to watch “Case Départ,” a French-Antillais film about two brothers living in Paris who visit their dying father in Martinique. Due to their lack of sympathy for their Antillaise heritage, an aunt sends them back to the year 1760 so that they may experience the hardships of the sugar cane plantations. My second film was a truly difficult story to watch. “Omar m’a tuer” (sic) is based on a true event of a Moroccan gardener accused of killing his employee. He is sent to prison on non-existent evidence. In the spirit of “True Blood,” by Truman Capote, a writer takes up the case of Omar in order to find the true killer. Please consider either of these films for your 3rd year and advanced classes. The demonstration of race relations and history in both reminded me that French teachers should use a variety of films from all Francophone backgrounds.


The food and service on both Air France flights was outstanding. True, I did fly business class! I was most impressed by the chairs in the AirBus A330. They folded out 180 degrees for a flat sleeping surface. The multiple meals were served in an appealing fashion and in courses. I took great care as not to consume too much alcohol for fear that I might not recover from the combined jetlag and after effects!

Arrival in N’Djamena! The airport was about as basic as it could possibly be. I stepped off the plane and was bombarded by thousands of grasshoppers that were swarming the bright lights of the airport building. The passport control room was an open room with bright lights as well. And thousands of bugs of all types flying into my hair, my face, everywhere. I did my best to keep my composure, but at one point, I tried to pull my sweater over my head. Luckily, I was met by an embassy employee who took me to the front of the line, completed my passport check, and fetched my one checked bag. Side note, the bag contains many gifts for the students at the schools I will be visiting. These gifts were donated by the teachers and students of Mount Vernon schools. Quelle gentillesse! So kind!


I was in my hotel room within 20 minutes. It is clean and comfortable at “Le Méridien Chari” (the river between Chad and Cameroun). The satellite television has great options for French and English speakers. France24 and Afrique24 are helpful linguistic resources. The breakfast buffet has been copious and delicious. After a hot shower and a few moments of relaxation, I was ready to sleep. However, I was met with a knock at the door. It was the Public Affaires Officer, Sharon Blaine. (Attachée aux Affaires Culturelles et de Presse). She has taken me under her knowledgeable wing and has offered me a thorough introduction to life in N’Djamena. Her prowess for driving in these uncontrolled circumstances is a marvel. I have now met her cats, seen her house, and had a linguistically appealing dinner at a great Lebanese restaurant with Sharon. She has offered me two incredible opportunities during my trip: The German embassy’s Oktoberfest and the Marine party on Friday night. More about the Marines later!
I will be blogging more each day as long as the WiFi holds out! Pictures may be rare until I get home, but I have posted a few on my Twitter stream: @catherineku1972. The other reason for rare photos: Photography is illegal in N'Djamena! Yes, the government has strict rules about photographing any public places. Security is an issue. I will be discreet and not take pictures in important areas.
Bon, je suis épuisée et je me coucherai bientôt! Merci d’avoir lu mes premières pensées. C’est un grand honneur d’être ici et je tâcherai de faire de mon mieux ! 
Bonne nuit!
Catherine

Catherine Ousselin au Tchad!

Chers lectures et chères lectrices! 
Bonjour du Tchad! Si vous ne le saviez pas, je suis actuellement au Tchad a N'Djamena. J’écrirai bientôt des bulletins avec mes aventures ici. Pour le moment, veuillez bien lire l'annonce de mon voyage ici. 
Ou ici. 
A très bientot! 
Catherine Ousselin