Friday, April 29, 2016

Reading Period 27: April 29 - May 5: Congo

Long Read: 

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, chapters 14-19

Short Read: 

"The Main Road Through the Heart of Africa" by Robert Draper (National Geographic)


"Le debut de l'histoire" by Brigitte Yengo

Seule dans la foule
Un an.
Un an de lutte intérieure.
Un an de combat personnel et de désespoir.
Au-delà de toute ma désespérance de cette année-là, il y avait un être que j'avais méconnu... Une question pourtant : aimes-tu ?
Trente matins de tristesse.
Soixante journées de morosité.
Cent vingt nuits de larmes...
Et ce n'est pas fini. Je n'avais pas tout compté...
Chaque jour est un jour... Un jour comme les autres, un jour avec des heures uniques. Et pourtant les mêmes.
Passe un éclair; un rayon de lumière. On dit que l'on est heureux alors, on se sent mieux... Un rêve ?... Non, c'est la vie... Alors on se tait. Quoi ? Dans ce désert social, chacun porte sa souffrance ; on voit des mirages et on marche sans s'arrêter.
Je n'écris pas pour contester ou me justifier. D'ailleurs, contester pour contester, ce n'est pas encore réellement lutter ou affronter la vie et ses réalités. On dit que j'aime ce mot : « lutter »... c'est parce que je n'en connais pas d'autres qui puissent désigner la force d'action qu'il représente.

Creative Assignments:

If you are in the French class, you must choose this option. Do your very best to translate Brigitte Yengo's poem into English from French. Turn in two versions. Your first attempt, with X's to denote words you don't know, and your second attempt, after you've looked up some words.


Illustrate the story of the flying tortoise that Ekwefi tells in chapter 11 of Things Fall Apart. You can do several scenes or just one, but you must use some kind of color and unlined paper.

Writing Assignments:

Watch this documentary, Congo: The Broken Heart of Africa. There is a second part that will show up in the right margin if you watch it on YouTube. Now write a short essay answering the question: If Congo has 23 trillion dollars in gold and diamonds, why are its people among the poorest in the world?


The Igbo people believe in the concept of "chi." In the story, we're told about a conflict that Okonkwo feels: "A man could not rise beyond the destiny of his chi." (p 131, chapter 14) This made Okonkwo uncomfortable because he felt that his goals were out of line with his fate -- he wanted more than he was fated to get. Do you believe in the concept of "chi" or fate, as it is used by the Igbo? Do you believe that each person has a destiny? It's certainly not a popular idea in our time. In fact, we've been told by a lot of movies and stories that we make our own destiny and control our own fate. But on the other hand, we often hear that "God has a plan" and "Everything happens for a reason." So why is the concept of fate or destiny so strong, even though we rationally reject it? Do you find comfort in the idea that your fate is set? Or does that frustrate you? Write a short personal essay about this topic, using Okonkwo's situation and idea of "chi" to illustrate or contrast with your own.


1. Uchendu is Okonkwo's uncle but is referred to as an "old man." What does this tell us about life expectancy for the Igbo? How old do you think Uchendu may actually be?
2. What meteorological phenomenon do the people call "nuts of the water of heaven"?
3. Why do you think Achebe spends so much time side-tracking from the story to describe rituals and stories of the villages?
4. What song do the people sing when women die?
5. Why was the Abame clan wiped out?
6. What does Uchendu mean when he says "There is no story that is not true"?
7. What does efulefu mean?
8. What does the white missionary say about Mbanta's gods?
9. What plot of land do the villagers give the missionaries and what is the result?
10. What metaphor does Okonkwo use to express his dissatisfaction with his own son?
11. Who are osu?
12. Why did the clan decide to ostracize the Christians?

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