Archive for February, 2007

Computer Training

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Today we went to the Bungoma FFS network office (we have been working with the Kakamega FFS network with DrumNet). All of the FFS offices have recently received a computer and Joseph (the FFS Peace Corps volunteer) now has the job of training them. He recruited us to help train the Bungoma office.

Unfortunately this morning Joseph realized that his phone had been stolen, so while he went to deal with that, we were on our own. The Bungoma FFS office is on the Farmer Training College campus and eventually we found the FFS office. We began with the usual Kenyan introductions. Next we had to go to the head of the Farmer Training College to be introduced to him….back through the same introductions…and of course then we had to sign the guest book (have we told you how many times we’ve signed guest books…sometimes the same one over and over every time we visit!) Finally we headed back to the FFS office to begin. Where did we begin? Yes…at the very, very beginning….the power button. Mark walked them through all the parts of the computer, or at least the ones they needed to know about. He talked about CD’s and how to take care of them, different keys on the keyboard, and what a USB port was. All 3 “students” (the network officials) practiced plugging in and unplugging the mouse from the USB port. A the end of the “hardware” section Mark gave them a quick oral quiz and they passed with flying colors!!
Next we taught them a little about Microsoft Word. This began with how to open the program. Next we did a little typing, how to highlight, make bold, make bullets, and the ever-important “undo”. Finally we covered save and open. The group was very quick to pick up all the skills we taught them.
Eventually lunchtime came just as power started flickering so we decided it was a good time to break for lunch. We headed off to the sister of the chairman’s house to eat. We were the first Wazungu she had ever had in her house, so you can imagine the stir it caused. We had a very yummy lunch of ugali, sukumawiki (kale) and meat. We met EVERYONE on the compound and Mark caused a stir every time by greeting each one in the local language (Kibokusu) instead of Swahili. Seriously, you can’t imagine how this affects them. Its almost like if you walked in the house one night and the dog greeted you in English!
The rest of the afternoon was spent teaching them how to organize files in different folders, delete files, open files, etc. At the right are 2 pictures of your fearless leaders at work!

Visit to the school (Bebeth)

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

Recently Mark and I had gone to a local secondary school to introduce ourselves and see if there was a way we/I could get involved there. I had specifically been interested in finding a girls school. It took me many, many weeks, but finally I found the one girls high school in Bungoma. (The ministry of education had even told me that there wasn’t one!) So, after a number of meetings with the headmistress, we agreed that I would come one afternoon and meet a large number of girls so that they would have some idea of who this mzungu was wandering around the school. After this initial meeting the headmistress and I would figure out how I could best be utilized at the school. I’ve been very clear that I won’t be teaching a class, and that I can’t even commit to anything very regular right now as our work is COMPLETELY irregular.

So…today was the appointed day for the meeting. Mark decided to come with me since there is a possibility that they’ll be getting computers soon and then he might be helping out at the school as well. We arrived at 2:15 and Mrs. Khaemba (the headmistress) sent someone out to organize the form 3 and 4 girls (11th and 12th grade). They quickly figured out that they couldn’t fit them all in one room, so we decided that we would just talk to the form 4 girls. What were we going to talk about? Good question!!! We too had no idea. Mr. Khaemba had just said talk. So we figured we introduce ourselves, tell them a little about what we did in America, what we’re doing here, and then hope that they had questions.

We headed over to the classroom and Mrs. Khaemba introduced us briefly and then turned it over to us. 63 faces looking at us! We gave our little introductions, told them why we were at the school (to learn about them and to have them learn about us) and then eventually opened it up to questions. Silence….silence….silence. Great! What do we do now? Fortunately one girl asked a question, then another, we asked them some questions and so on….for over an hour! I think everyone involved ended up having fun.

In the end they weren’t too shy….in fact they asked ALL sorts of questions. One of the first ones was about circumcision! Below is a list of some of the questions I can remember:

Do you have albinos in America? Then when I said yes, another one asked how it was possible for us to know that they were albino.
What kind of foods do we eat?
What are the highest and lowest paid jobs in America?
How much school do children get in America?
Do school children wear uniforms?
Are their tribes and sub-tribes in America like there are in Kenya?
Do people have traditions in America?
Do people get married in Churches?
What things could keep you from becoming an American citizen?
Why do so many Wazungu wear eye glasses?
Can you get married as soon as you stop school, even if you stop at 16? (We had told them you were only required by law to go to school until 16 in USA)

We also asked them a bunch of questions, but once they got warmed up, we let them do most of the asking. We talked a bit about the kind of music they listen to, and when the listed Rap, Mark decided to take the plunge and have a real cross-cultural moment. Many young Kenyans listen to a lot of rap and a lot of the songs they listen to use the “N” word. Because of this, we have heard a number of young Kenyans use the word….only they have no idea what it means. It has been quite a shock, especially for the Black American Volunteers, to hear the word used. Equally shocking is that the Kenyan kids have no idea what connotations it has for Americans. So we *briefly* tried to explain what it meant.

All in all it was pretty fun. Hopefully I’ll get to start going to some of the after-school clubs on Tuesdays and then as I get to know the school better and my work schedule better (haha) then I’ll be able to get more involved.

Cool Gadgets

Saturday, February 24th, 2007
So when I went to my first Internet Cafe here in Kenya, I found this cool website called AfriGadget.com. It’s basically a showcase of user submitted African gadgets and the ingenuity of the African people with. Things like water filters, home made windmills, espresso machines made from spent mortor shells, etc. If you are interested in some very cool things check it out:
http://www.afrigadget.com
Also I submitted the Bio-Gas generator from Kittui, and it made onto their website, which in turn was picked up by blog.wired.com, which is connected with the technology magazine, Wired. You can see their post on it here:
http://blog.wired.com/gadgets/2007/02/homemade_biomas.html
Mark