Saturday, January 3, 2015

A Lifetime Experience!

When I first saw the FRE 124 poster put up around the campus, I immediately knew I wanted to take the class. The idea of learning something new especially involving culture, has always appealed to me and so I instantly registered for the class.

Storming the Bastille & Toussaint Louverture

In the first few classes we covered French history and these classes really opened my eyes to a new way of learning. Unlike in high school where history involved memorizing years, having perfect chronological knowledge of events and studying because "it's expected", FRE 124 was all about enjoying learning and not dreading it. The French history classes were a good base for understanding French culture for future classes. I enjoyed learning and singing 'La Marseillaise", France's national anthem. The Haitian revolution was one of the most interesting classes as it made me aware of the successful struggle of the Haitian people who are of African descent. It felt closer to home as it reminded me of Kenya's struggle for independence.

French citizenship & French Fashion

One of the greatest moments in class was when we got a chance to have guest teachers and hear their stories or learn from their respective fields. The first guest we got was Mitchell, a Daystar student from Burundi. He talked in detail about Rwanda's and Burundi's history with focus on major events like the Genocide of 1994. We (my classmates and I) were able to get first hand knowledge about these countries which we would not have known about elsewhere. Nathalie Ethoke's class was amazing! She is an accomplished writer and professor based in the United States and we were privileged to have her share with us her experiences living in France via a live Skype chat. I would not have known about her without being part of the class. She sparked in me thoughts of Pan-Africanism and the importance of black pride. Pat Lulu Mbela, a talented Kenyan fashion designer was our final teaching guest during a class where we were discussing the fashion industry. I love fashion and so I was really excited to have this opportunity to ask questions and learn from an established designer.

From left: Mayi Moulen (Haiti), Tigadeguena (Mali) & Ratatouille (France)

Food, food and more food!!! FRE 124 proved to be a culinary adventure as we explored different cuisines from the Francophone world. My cooking skills were really put to the test this semester and I am amazed at how much I have learnt in the kitchen. Cooking for the class was such a wonderful thing and I loved the surprised looks I would get from other students when I would carry up steaming hot dishes and cutlery to DAC 104 and I would tell them I am going for a class. This made the class feel special to me. The cooking also brought us together with  guests whom we invited to share the class experience with us and they also contributed to the blog whether it was making an unfamiliar dessert, writing a captivating poem or acquainting oneself with a salad recipe we were glad to interact with our guests.

From left: A griot, the Dogon mask dance & Tinariwen's Tassili album cover

Another fantastic thing about the FRE 124 class experience was getting exposed to the African culture. A number of African countries are Francophone and thus we also learnt about their history and culture as part of the curriculum. We covered West African countries like Senegal, Cameroon and Mali. Nothing captures my attention more than learning about African food, fashion, music and ancient traditions. I think it would be right to declare myself an amateur Africanist!
I ended up learning more about African culture and hence myself, in this class than I ever had in my four years of history class in high school.

Eiffel tower & Notre Dame de Paris

The City of Lights has definitely landed on my "Places to visit" list. The city is filled with ancient medieval style buildings, lively cafes on the streets and a burgeoning art culture that inspires artists and art lovers alike globally. Paris is important to European and world history and it's almost impossible to exhaust it's rich culture. The class on Paris was exciting and I saw the beauty of France in this famous city.

I now feel ready to take on the world with all the information that I absorbed as a result of being in FRE 124. Dr. Wandia instilled practicality in the learning process and this forever changed my experience as a student and a person. The laughter during class, discovery of new information and sampling of different cuisines will forever be etched in my memory. As the class title goes, 'Introduction to the Francophone World', this class opened the door to a whole new world and it is just the beginning of discovering what the Francophone culture has to offer.

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