Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tanzania 2011, Day 4

I am writing this while desperately trying NOT to scratch my poor itchy legs. Yesterday afternoon sometime (probably while wandering the market) something was biting my legs & I didn't notice until later when the damage was done. I think it's fleas. So now I have 30+ bites on each leg & am plastered with bug dope to prevent any more. But honestly, I think it's a losing battle.

It was a long & frustrating day. We have been invited back to the Mineral Resources Institute, this time to help them learn about 4 topics:

* digital library: how feasible is this?
* setting up a computer lab
* locating IT training & resources, increasing capacity in this area
* e-learning: how to get started?

Anyway, every one of the topics deals specifically with locating & using internet resources so of course we need access to the internet to teach these topics. We were assured before we arrived that the teachers we're working with would have internet access & technically this was true. When we arrived at the Institute this morning they did indeed have a little room nicely set up with 9 or 10 laptops, all plugged in & hooked up to an internet connection via an amazing spiderweb of cables & cords. It was a bit challenging -- although kind of fun -- to navigate around the room without getting snarled in the cables running every which way. Trying to navigate the internet was not nearly so fun. We only had a little bandwidth to begin with & when split 10 ways it made for a very slow connection indeed. The frustration of trying to demonstrate things while having to wait a full minute between clicks just about drove me crazy. Nevertheless, we got through the day & during our debriefing walk afterwards, Doug pointed out that my frustration really was out of place since a slow, slow connection was the daily reality for our teacher-students, they were used to it, & anything they learned from us would have to be adapted to work within that parameter. Made sense. So tomorrow we will try a slower pace, let the teachers work through things at whatever pace is realisitic, & relax.

What else? It really was great to be back at MRI, reconnecting with people we hadn't seen in a year. MRI is a small place so we had come to recognize every secretary, every teacher, & they all remembered us with lots of hugs & handshaking. At noon, the Institute principal took us all out to another outdoor cafe which offered a generous lunch, buffet-style. We sat on the plastic chairs under the trees & talked with a very interesting teacher who has just returned from a year's study in northern Sweden. I ate ugali (the East African maize paste which I have come to like), well-roasted tilapia pieces, & some kind of stewed okra & cabbage. A very thin cat, calico coloured, waited patiently under my chair until I dropped some fish skin onto the sand beside her. She ate the fish, delicately avoiding the lumps of sand, & when she was done looked up with a silent mew before heading for the next table.

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