i’m not sure why, but africans often put on very serious faces when having their picture taken. so i decided to introduce my students to the concept of saying “cheese!” and it worked! except for one student that had a really hard time with the “ch” sound, scrunching his face in a not-so-happy look.

see, each student got to choose an “english” name to be used in class. my students in porto novo mostly chose the english equivalent of their own name, but my students in cotonou chose names like “jesus” and “king.” one student chose the name “bill” (we had to practice NOT saying “beel”), one chose “matthew” (we had to practice NOT saying “maTTew”), and one student chose “stephen” (knowing it was the name of my dad and brother, he wanted to be in my family). after going around the room practicing, “what’s up, dave? what’s up, joe?” while i took pictures of “dave” or “joe” saying, “cheese,” the students decided it was time to name me. they chose a name in fon: jesuwamè, which means “in the hand of Jesus.” that was enough to put a smile on my face.

click here to see the pictures (and names) of some of my beautiful students!


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