Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Nancy Drew and Technonolgy

Technology in my town
The Burkinabè need to have copies of all sorts of papers, like identity cards, school completion certificates, and birth certificates, in order to apply for jobs or to be admitted to the next level of school. As a result, there is a market for a copy center, which I was surprised to find here. It is a little one room place with a copy machine, two computers and a printer. It is not an internet café because it does not have a connection to the internet, but you can see that it would like to be, because their sign has “Yahoo” on it. It is only open during the hours when there is electricity in town, 8AM to noon. It may be open in the evening when the power comes back on, but I don’t ride my bicycle in the dark so I have never been there at night.

While there is electricity a few hours a day in the center of town, out where I live there are no electric lines. People who live in this area and can afford them use big batteries, even bigger than car batteries, to run electrical things like CD players and TVs. My neighbor, Prosper, has a solar panel that is hooked up to his battery and whoever is home moves the solar panel around during the day to keep it facing the sun. Other people take their batteries into the part of town that has electricity to get them charged. As I mentioned before, Prosper connects my little battery into the circuit and charges it whenever I let him know I need to have it charged.

I have not yet been invited into a house that has electricity so I do not know whether people with power use other appliances, but I would bet they have fans and refrigerators. I am pretty sure that things like washing machines and dishwashers are unheard of in this town, but I could be wrong about that. Several of the larger boutiques and the small marques that sell drinks have refrigerators, and someone has a freezer because a lady was selling frozen beesap at the marché.

Beesap is a local drink that is made by boiling the leaves of some plant in water, with a lot of sugar and a touch of ginger. It is relatively safe for me to drink it because it is boiled in the process of making it. I just have to hope that they did not decide to dilute it with water from the well if they made it too strong. When I first tasted it, I did not like it all that much, but since then I have had some that was pretty good. Maybe it was just that it was a cold drink on a hot day that made it taste better, but I think there are different versions and that the first one I had was a little heavy on the ginger.

Because there is not electricity all day, the tailors I told about in the clothing blog use old fashioned treadle machines. Some look like they are really old machines like people used to use in the states, but some are more modern, with zig-zag and embroidery options. They appear to have been retro fitted for the foot treadles. A belt from the treadle goes around the motor shaft and runs the machine.

Nancy Drew in French?
I have been trying to study French by reading some young reader type books from our local “lending library” that consists of maybe 150 books in random piles on shelves at the place in town that has a copy machine and a couple of computers. I selected a book called “Alice and the Candlemaker” as my first one to try. It features a teenage girl, old enough to drive, named Alice Roy. Her father, James Roy, is a lawyer and she has two girlfriends who share her adventures, Bess and Marion, and a boyfriend called Ned Nickerson who makes an occasional appearance. My first thought as I began the book was that it seemed a lot like a Nancy Drew book. When I encountered Ned Nickerson, I decided it WAS a Nancy Drew book with a few changes. Then I thought to look at the author and that settled it, Caroline Quine.

Those of you who were Nancy Drew fans when you were younger, help me out here. I am curious about what has been changed and what is the same. In these books Alice lives in River City that is, I think, in some southern state because they drink ice tea with mint. They have a live-in house keeper (named Sarah), because Nancy’s mother is dead. Sound familiar? Let me know by replying to my message that I have posted, or send e-mail to Larsen@jcu.edu.

I am now on the third Alice Roy book, and the reading is getting easier. I try to “read through” words I don’t know and get the meaning from the context, but sometimes I have to do a translation word by word, using the dictionary, because I can’t understand the story if I don’t. I think if I keep on reading books at this level I will learn a few new words, and will get to be better at reading French. They are not as engaging as Harry Potter, but about the same reading level.

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