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Ventures For Good
Serving the under-served in the US and Africa with education and technology

TypSunday April 17, 2011Just in case someone else has the same problem: We did not have an internet connection when I attempted to write my blogs in the evening (sometimes it was the power that was missing- oh well) so I wrote my blog in Word, only to find that it would NOT copy and paste into this blog. I found a way. I copied and pasted into DreamWeaver, copied the html code from DreamWeaver and pasted into this blog using the Edit Html tab. Wahoo!


Sunday: We slept under the nets, showered and were up at 6  on Sunday to catch the Murchinson Falls tour, guided by Larry through the Savannah. The motel had prepared us hardboiled egg and bread, but we forgot to take the coffee----big mistake. In all, the Murchinson Falls safari traversed about 100 miles of the savannah on a very bumpy, did I say VERY bumpy road. At one point we left the seat flying. Larry speeds. We stopped to take pictures of many types of antelopes (kolb, and others), elephants, giraffes –so beautiful, buffalos, birds, warthogs but no lions were visible. We did see one oil rig- Murchinson Falls is the site of newly discovered oil and fighter jets were purchased to protect this oil, much to the upset of the poor people who protested the high taxes, etc., as evidenced by demonstrations during the week.  By the time we got to the beautiful  5 star hotel for lunch, I was suffering from heat prostration, dehydration and a mad-dog headache. The last 15 -20 minutes were so agonizing that I almost told him to stop the jeep, but I saw the hotel in the distance and held on. I was soaking wet.  At lunch I guzzled some coffee, took benedryl and the one Advil that Mara had along with the tissue that was stuck to it, ate what I could (beautiful buffet lunch actually) and lots of sugary desserts. Miraculously, my headache lifted. Very thankful for that! After lunch, we went on a double-decker boat tour to Murchinson Falls. Along the way, (we had the best seats along the left side of the boat, thanks to a tip from Larry) and saw tons of hippos, elephants, egrets, birds, a crocodile too. It took two hours, some rain, to track upstream to the Falls and 1 hour to return. The falls were a narrow cavern with powerful water flow so we could not get too close. We intended to drive to the top at the end of the boat ride. A really nice boat ride, very relaxing. Jim insisted on photographing the beautiful young wife of a couple, Stella and Patrick. (Jim is too funny with his fascination with beautiful young women- where di d he come from?) Patrick was OK with it. I asked if I could sell her picture for a fund-raiser. They both agreed, Stella very shyly. We disembarked and were met by Larry, who informed us that the gas truck we had passed on the way in had overturned blocking our exit over a narrow but necessary egress bridge. That fact cost us another 3 hours of driving because the alternate exit was further east and our trip home was in the westerly direction. VERY dark, populated roads described our return to Kampala. Larry sped along against oncoming truck traffic using their brights. People, children, bicycles lined the roads. I closed my eyes at times and Mara sat vigilant in the suicide seat. The long, exhausting day ended at 11. Luckily I was packed so that I could get up at 5 to get ready to catch my 9 a.m. flight.Posted by Director at 2:10 PM No comments:

Saturday, April 16, 2011Saturday

We left at about 11 am to drive to Murchnson Falls park. It was on the road to Gulu, thankfully a paved road. Along the long drive, we stopped at “McDonald’s”, a favorite stop of Jim and mine. It frightened Mara who had never been swarmed by a pack of teens shoving chicken, goat, sodas or whatever elese they had into the car. Jim and I had some goat, grizzly goat, but tasty. It is about 2,000 shillings a skewer but it was a hassle trying to find the right hand to place the money into. A phenomenon. Drove some more. We ate at late lunch at a nice club behind locked gates with an armed guard. I had chicken, no menu- just chicken, fish or goat or another round of rice and beans, and chatted. It was Larry, Mara, the music professor from the University of Cincinnati, Jim and I.  Our next stop was Mara’s trip to see the rhinos. Jim and I waited and had something to drink outdoors. A sweet dicdic entertained us and we shopped a bit. The last rhino in Uganda died in the 80’s so the US started their collection. There were 9 now and 12 more were expected to increase their population. Apparently poachers would cut off the horn to make and sell its products and leave the rhinos to die a slow death. So now, there are armed guards.

Then we continued to a motel near the falls. Mara and I shared a room; Larry and Jim the same. We ate dinner outdoors. I had fish, which I wish I hadn’t, and chatted. A beautiful moon-lit evening was shared. Larry kept on his computer –frankly everywhere we went. He had this month long subscription to a modem that worked EVERYWHERE. It cost about $40 initially and then about $15 a month. If I were staying longer, and I knew how many times the internet would be down, I would have known enough to get one of those. Next time!
Posted by Director at 2:09 PM No comments:

Friday April 15,2011Today, we set out to meet SOMEONE at the Ministry of Education. We went without an appointment because I have been trying as far back as I can remember to get a name and a contact to no avail. So after, a day Tuesday at the local commissioner's office, where we learned that the place to be was in the Ministry of Education, we decided to go into the center of Kampala to the head office. We missed the Commissioner of Pre-Primary and Primary Education , Dr. Daniel Nkaada, because he was at a meeting and a late lunch, but were able to meet with the Assistant Commissioner of Instructor/Tutor Education, Dr. Jane Egau Okou, who received us warmly. She loved the laptop project, called it perfect and really educated me further on how the whole system operates. apparently, Primary School Teachers are educated at institutes but the curriculum is created at only one university. Kyambogo University (pronounce Chambogo). She indicated that the person to contact is Mr. Bakaira, gave me his phone number and I asked that she contact him for an introduction through email. At least I got to the right place finally. This Ministry of Education oversees the entire network of schools. Dr. Jane would like to see the Memorandum of Understanding so she may further research the status of the OLPC project.

The irony of this trip was that Kyambogo University was on the grounds of the local commissioner's office where we were on Tuesday! But I am happy because I now have at least 2 email addresses with which to pursue my mission. This is my last day- so what else is new.


In the afternoon, I had an appointment with Makerere University Dean of Education and David. We had communicated by email previously. This is my contact at Makerere where we left two laptops last year. Another colleague was supposed to come but couldn't make it. It appears that there was a strike by students at Makerere protesting the hike in tuition. So far, everyday has been impacted by demonstrations and strikes. I guess it is just my luck. We discussed the project. Kenneth, my buddy from Silver Shadows Technology with whom I have had a strong relationship, accompanied us. He was my go-between during our grant writing process. I explained the project to the Dean, Dr. Connie Msembe, and David, and they were anxious to collaborate with Kampala University at the school where we placed the 15 computers. I also informed them of the 80 XOs I located at Old Kampala Primary School whose teachers needed training. So I said I would again contact the head master with an introduction to Makerere and Kenneth and some Makerere Students would be able to provide instruction on the use of the XOs as well as visit the Jinja Campus to see the ones I left.


 

Posted by Director at 2:08 PM No comments:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Thursday April 14, 2011Thursday

I rose early 5:30 a.m. in a sauna sweat. The “air conditioner” was more like a heater, the door would not open (my fault), and the mosquito net too confining. So there I was at 5:30 a.m. going over my presentation. Today was the most important day. I was to address 32 Primary School teachers, some administrators and college personnel. They decided to move the “class” to the open air under a tent. Truthfully, this was such good news because the 10 by 10 classroom they had selected would be hot, the 16 computers would make it hotter. The projector under my nose would be hottest but the 32 bodies huddled together would make it scorch. So instead, we were outside in a corridor between two buildings. The director of Development, my buddy, Dan Bwanika wanted it cleaned. So how is this done? Buckets of water are poured on the ground and we scoot around avoiding it, then the sweeper comes in and pushes the water into a gulley (Professor Jim Metz, my math teacher colleague, who I barely know really) became a sweeper too.  Then the wiper comes and manually pulls a towel across the floor in sections until it is just wet but not puddly. Voila, a clean classroom. When is the last time you were greeted in such a manner that they literally wipe the floor to honor you.

Next the whiteboard (the plastic white board was nailed to a window frame, the projector was connected via two extension cords through a window to the power inside and…it’s showtime!

All the teachers arrived on time.  After some introductory comments by the director and the administrators, I then introduced myself and the project, the OLPC mission, its reach and purpose.

I then presented a slide show on the descriptions of what the XO can and does do, its physical features, it’s operation- the neighborhood, group , home, journal activities, the frame, the connectivity. I emphasized the collaboration/cooperation  aspects and that value if we had a future world with the ability to cooperate.

Then we passed out the computers – 2 teachers to a machine. These are head teachers at various primary schools, some have traveled very far for this event. We had them open, start, and work on various activities. I began with memorize, then speak.  We then moved to record, write and the labyrinth. With each activity I showed how students could learn from them and how it supported the curriculum. The we briefly used Colors and spent some time on the Typing Turtle. I must say that some of these teachers had never used a keyboard so there were some challenges. Luckily they were in pairs and had no trouble looking over at a neighbor. Speaking of neighbors, I could not get the XOs to see each other, even if 2 were connected to the same mesh network. It had worked in practice the night before! Very frustrating so we had to avoid group activities, which I am sure they would have loved.  Troubleshooting that will be problematic without the computers so I must get another one.

All together we went for 3 hours with just a 5 minute break!

Lunch was served. It was a typical Ugandan meal of beans, rice and beef. I turned down the pasho and bananas- the carbs are killing me!

After lunch, I thought I would show them Turtle Logo – probably a mistake. It was hard for them to figure out how to make a box using the repeat function. We got through it, but we were having trouble with some computer freezes. I think it was from pressing too many keys and the computer was trying to catch up. So I decided to cut my losses and move over to distance learning. I explained that these computers were a gift from my husband’s company, Clemente Orthodontics but that the sponsor of our distance learning course was Jenzabar, who might offer us a donation to help fund more computers. Photo Ops were taken.  I again used my laptop to show thejenzabarfoundation.org site and gave out login numbers and passwords. Apparently there were new teachers there so I had to take more names and email addresses to submit to Jenzabar for enrollments. I took them through the parts of the course that were set up and explained that I would be using google docs in the cloud rather than downloads because the internet was too slow and costly in Uganda. I showed them that I would provide instructions online and monitor various discussions where information could be requested and returned.

Lastly, I distributed LiveCDs and showed how to boot from it. Of course, there were some glitches but I showed enough to indicate they would be able to learn the XO from the disk. I would love to say it all ran smoothly, but anyone who deals with technology knows that even with advanced planning there are many surprises and problems to solve.  My colleague, Jim Metz was a remarkable support TEAM, yes TEAM. He was everywhere helping everyone. Because the XO would not project to the wall, we had to roam the room to help. He barely knew the XO but he was a wiz at figuring out problems. Sometimes, we just had to put the problem aside for later review.

Then, the ceremonies began. I presented  5 computers to Francis Etyang for his diligence in pursuing contact with me last year when we began this collaboration. He was so excited to bring him to his classroom.

Then 15 were presented to the primary school administrators who were present. They would be using them as a demonstration site for teacher education and collaboration. More photo ops, more speeches thanking me for the visit, the education, the computers.  Finally, we visited the elementary school, took pictures of some remaining children with the XOs. One special moment was the visit to the school for the blind on the primary school campus. There were about 25 children in various states of blindness, a common condition in this area due to both malaria and the poor hygiene conditions. I distributed the toothbrushes and toothpaste to each child and they sang a beautiful song about the love in their hearts. I told them I would carry their love to America and sent love back from America who loves them.  Hard to take but I am so happy they were included in the visit.

Back at the college campus, we packed up and began the harrowing night drive back to the TATS guest house where I am writing this blog. Jim and I rode back with Dan Bwanika, Ronald Ssemyalo and Kathy…. We chatted all the way home on topics of traffic, government, mosquitos, malaria, drug resistance, bird watching, deforestation, town organizations, laws and lack of enforcement of them.  Our talks ran the gamut between serious and funny. We were all very compatible.\Posted by Director at 11:24 AM No comments:

Wednesday April 13, 2011Wednesday-waited for Sophie who was supposed to pick us up at 10 but arrived at 2 with the projector we needed for the next day in Jinja. Larry then drove us all the way to the Jinja campus, about a 2 hour ride, and dropped us off. As we crossed the bridge over the Nile, the only bridge into Jinja, we took some photos. On the other side, the police stopped us and made us delete the photos. Don’t really know why. We spent the rest of the evening trying to connect my laptop to projector, to internet and then the xo to the same. The laptop worked fine but the xo even with my fancy little adapter did not, although it did work in NY. The classroom was about 10 by 10 and the next day 32 students (primary teachers) would be holding 20 laptops, with heat generated by all. We finally went to the Paradise Hotel, near the Nile, had a very big dinner (thanks to Jim who ordered everything). I settled for a long nights rest---well not really….I went over my presentation until 12:30 a.m., turned on the “air conditioner” timed for 2 hours and tried to sleep.

Whew! What a day!
Posted by Director at 11:23 AM No comments:

Tuesday April 12, 2011

Tuesday: morning emails flying back and forth to DHL. Lillian accompanied me or shall I say I clung to Lillian as we boarded the public minivans on our way to the center of Kampala proper to find the DHL office. They had informed us that we would have to pay $100 customs fee. The minivan was packed and each person leaving climbs over you and you move in further. Look ing back, not so terrible. However we had to walk uphill both ways to find the DHL building. It was not easy to find so we had to ask seveal people. I learned that you don’t just ask for directions. You must stop, Say, “Good Afternoon” How are you, and THEN ask for directions. The Ugandans are very polite, but I am told that sometimes a greetin g could last ½ hour! So we did this a few times and finally found the building. We were meeting Daniel from Kampala university because we had to change the receiver ship to his name and he needed to bring documentation. So what does documentation mean to you- identification, right? Nooooo.

It meant he needed an official letter from the college. OMG! Luckily I had brought my laptop and Daniel had a flash drive. He plugged in, wrote the letter, and then we could not email. But DHL was kind enough to allow Daniel to insert his flash drive into their computer to transfer the letter. OK done? Nooo now they wanted a letter from Larry saying that he was no longer the receiver. As nicely as I could, under the circumstances,, I said that Larry had previously written an email to that effect. OK, done? Can we have the computers? Noooo, they are still at Customs! She copied by $100 bill both sides, faxed it to DHL at Customs (Entebbe airport and politely told us they were following the rules and that they would try to get the computers today, no guarantees, they would let us know!!! Sooo, we thanked everyone- they were very nice, parted with Danile and took the minivan back to the guest house. A whole morning for very little and $100 lighter!

Visit to the Commission of Education. Had an appointment with Joyce but when we got there, she had not returned from a meeting. So we explained the project to the Inspector, then he recommended that we speak to the Director but we had to wait – he was speaking to someone else so we waited out a rain storm in another office, finally spoke to the Director and explained the project once again. He had seen the computers before. He suggested we speak to Joyce, our intended visit. We said she was out at a meeting. Oh no, he said, we arrived from the meeting together. She is back. So all the time we waited, we could have been speaking with Joyce the Commissioner. We again explained the project. She indicated that the curriculum is developed at Kyambogo College and it was under revision at the moment. However, she was gracious enough to give me a copy of the current curriculum (2 books) .One book was for the lower grades, based on themes and one for the older grades. We spoke about the project but she suggested we go into Central Kampala to visit the Ministry of Education where all things are decided. I was expected in Jinja on Wednesday and Thursday and I still did not have the other 10 computers which were locked in customs. So our only other option was to try to get to the Ministry on Friday morning because I had a meeting with Makerere University on Friday afternoon. I made a plan with Anita to leave at 11 a.m. Friday and take our chances that we would find someone at the Ministry. I have been trying to get that close for over a month and now I was running out of time. We went back to the guest house and checked the email to see if any progress was made on the 10 computers. More emails flew back and forth and FINALLY they were released (whatever that means) Belinda, diligent contact at DHL, said to show up in the back parking lot at DHL, ask for Judas to pick them up. We were getting closer. So we left and arrived at 7:30, asked quite a few people and found Judas. He said to wait outside for the truck to arrive, copied my passport, so we waited and waited and waited. Now I am getting nervous. After all, tomorrow we were leaving for Jinja. The truck DID come after 9 p.m. The computers were on it and we returned to the guest house satisfied. I am just glad we were not going to have to take a boda boda with the 20 computers, the projector and all the other paraphernalia and clothes HA. For $30, Larry would drive us.


Posted by Director at 11:06 AM No comments:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday April 11, 2011Today was a nice day although there were political protests in the town where I am staying. It is Ntinda outside of Kampala central. The opposition leader walked to work and called for others to do the same to protest rising taxes. They labeled it when it is a crime to walk. He was arrested. There was some tear gas thrown at the crowds and some children found themselves caught between the walkers and the police. We did not have class this evening and the students did not want to risk it. However, this morning we went to Tropical Primary School, a lovely growing school. Lots of construction going on this year. Last year, it was the worst and now it is well on its way to becoming the best... My colleague did a Math lesson. The children -grade 6 - responded well but we were amazed at how they could not think differently than the exact way they were taught. The class was asked which days of the year could be written with only ones. It literally took about 20 minutes to draw that out of a class of 21 students. they answered with 2s or with Monday. Somehow the concept was off their scope. Other similar problems were noted. However, if the teacher asked them to solve a problem they were learning, they could do it. Not a lot of constructivist learning, not a lot of imagination. Not good. After lunch, we started out to find Kampala Primary School where some OLPCs left some 80 XOs in 2009. It took forever. No one could lead us to the school and along the way, we introduced ourselves to the boda boda (the roving motorcyclists that are like taxis), passed the secondary school, spoke with the headmaster at Old Kampala primary school, then the workers at a craft place for the elders, and finally the Kampala Primary School! It was a Muslim school and the headmaster greeted us warmly. He told us that they do not have power so the computers were put away and sorry, the person with the key to the closet was gone. I asked him if there was anything I could do and he said the teachers did not have enough training. We exchanged contact information and I told him, I would train his teachers online if they joined my distance learning course. Hopefully, they will enroll. The children gathered all around us. It is amazing how warm and friendly they are- so excited to see us, take pictures, laugh and run. Only one adorable little girl (perhaps 1 year old) cried. I suppose a camera is a strange machine for one so young and sheltered. Back at the ranch, we watched the videos of the protests. Hopefully, all will remain peaceful. We still have not gotten the other 10 XOs that are in Customs. It seems now that we are operating on a 10 hour time difference from here (Customs) to Texas (where we are trying to get a letter to Customs re-routing them to Kampala University). I only have tomorrow to settle this because I will be off to Jinja for 2 days of training, hopefully with all 20 XOs. I also STILL do not have any appointment with a minister of Education. I also learned today that Kenya's government is not sponsoring the XOs there as I had previously thought. I suppose for right now, my only option is to fund-raise. Of course all the places we visit really want the computers. So many children...so little education available. HELP!
Posted by Director at 1:28 PM No comments:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday April 10, 2011We started today with a visit to Church, this time in English. It was still 2 hours long. They do use a lot of words here. Then we went to lunch, a Starbucks look-alike called Java Cafe. The highlight of the day was the visit to AGYA, Amagezi Germaanyi, an after-school program that uses XOs. I was anxious to see how they were being used and luckily we got there just as there was a computer class going on. They were using the Write program with pictures. We met Kenny, the computer facilitator, Brian, the textile teacher and a girl(name?) who was the photography teacher. The headmistress, Divinity, was in the US fundraising but did arrange for this visit. THEY DO SO MUCH WITH SO LITTLE! They operate out of one or two rooms and schedule their classes tightly. They give workshops for students and for those who do not attend school. They host community meetings in the open courtyard and make outreach giving workshops to the local schools. They do it for LOVE. Such warm, friendly and gracious young people teaching and mentoring the younger ones. We took lots of pictures of all the children hanging around. The children are beautiful. We gave out toothbrushes and toothpaste, compliments of my husband and daughters' office. Children came out of everywhere. I asked if there parents knew where they were and Kenneth explained that parents know they are in the neighborhood and that everyone treats every child as if he/she was their own. "It takes a village" has new meaning for me- first-hand evidence. How Divinity left the US to take on this mission is beyond my comprehension and deserving of respect. This place was so hidden down the craggiest of dirt roads. Our car got stuck on rocks several times as we wound around small houses dotting the trail. We barely found it- we had to be located and then we followed. Yet, the children and parents of that community and the surrounding communities find it! It's no wonder; it is like an oasis in the desert with natural springs of youth, love, determination and dedication. A trip of a lifetime! When we came home, I ate a jackfruit for the first time. Huge melon-like fruit, sticky and sweet.
Posted by Director at 11:39 AM No comments:

Saturday April 9, 2011Today is Saturday so Larry, (our host), Jim (the Math Professor) and I took a tour of the sites of Uganda. First, we went to the Uganda museum, where the guide gave us a tour of the place, recounted the history of Uganda, its independence, its traditions, tribes, music, fossils, etc. She even played the instruments and a student danced. I took pictures and will use the music in a video. The employees were worried about the museum closing in favor of a 60, yes, 60 story building to be erected on the site. It might work out, though, because they will give the museum 2 floors. I hope so; it would be a shame if they moved the museum to a far away place. Then we went to the King's Tomb. This was the original site of the first palace, but last year, it burned down. So plans are underway to rebuild it in the same authentic way. They are practicing on smaller huts. It looks like a huge straw roofed round African hut. One of the descendents (3rd king?) visited Europe and found stone structures and steel buildings, so the original palace was then reinforced with those modern materials. We were toured by a prince who was a direct descendent of the 5th king. His grandfather who is still alive in his 90s was the last born son of the last king. He told us the story of a conversation with this grandfather. His grandfather asked him what is the value of life. He said he failed because his answer was not what his grandfather wanted. His grandfather said the value of life is death. He explained that if it were not for death, no one would care about life or how they lived. In the same way, no one valued the palace that was burned as much as now because it is gone. So, when they rebuild it, it will be cherished. He was a painter and I bought one of his paintings of women going to a wedding ceremony. Very colorful. He is studying tourism and he was most princely. We will exchange emails as I would like to use his art to raise funds for the XOs. Third, we went to the site of the death of the Christian martyrs. It is called Ugandan Martyrs Church and School. When the early Christians were perceived by the king to be a threat to his authority, the missionaries who converted them were burned alive. The thought that there was another kingdom (kingdom of heaven) seemed to undermine his kingdom and the witchdoctors and Muslims encouraged the king to do away with the missionaries. Eventually, the king was exiled and the irony was that he became a Christian before he died. The site was now a church and the home to many children who boarded for school. They were very curious and listened as our guide spoke. In the church, many children were praying fervently and later we went to the gift shop. I bought a rosary for my friend Angela which was blessed and prayed over by the resident priest. When we came back to the guest house, and after we ate, the power went out, so thanks to the long battery life of the XOs, I was able to work with some of the activities to prepare for my Jinja visit on Thursday.
Posted by Director at 11:19 AM No comments:

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday April 8, 2011Today was very rainy; and lack of sleep, change of diet, weather and a head-ache got the best of me. I spent a good part of the day trying to get the other 10 XOs delivered. They are stuck in Customs. They have been all over the world, it seems, and now, they are so close but I cannot get them. Apparently, they were addressed to my host at the guest house and he needs to provide a tax id number which he does not have. They were shipped with a value of $1800, which triggered a full customs clearance. Had they been shipped for under $1000 (5 at a time), they may have cleared. So now, although computers are not taxed normally, these appear to be listed as commercial. They are asking for an official letter from the sender that would re-route them to someone with a Tax ID number. Thankfully, Kampala University (where I am working) is willing to provide that, but they still need that letter from OLPC. So now, we will be into next week, my last week, and I am so nervous that I won't have them for the students on Wednesday when I am scheduled to teach with them. Who knew! This evening, I taught a small class of college students about the XOs. This was their third lesson with me, and they so enjoy the problem-solving. What is really neat is that the professor who teaches Math before my class (very coincidentally) teaches concepts that are TOTALLY reinforced by my activities. We laugh about how we couldn't have planned it better if we knew what the other was doing! or if we worked it out together! Life has its rewards and its synchronizations, doesn't it. He from Hawaii, me from NY, and the students in Uganda. Nice karma!
Posted by Director at 11:44 AM No comments:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thursday April 7, 2011I was graciously picked up by Vincent Ssekate, Dean of Faculty, of Kisubi Brothers College Campus of Ugandan Martyr's University. Got that? We experienced a harrowing ride through Kampala. You do not know traffic until you come here. In other countries, traffic lights are optional but here, living is optional. There are trucks and cars coming in all directions and motorcyclists, sans protection, just weave right, left, behind, in front, on both sides of the road. Luckily speeding is impossible. I mentioned the police presence. Well, apparently, they look for unsuspecting souls. My poor driver missed a red light, well they are hard to see with cars stacked in front of you and in many intersections, even though the light is red, the police wave you on. It is a bigger infraction to tie up traffic. Well, anyway, one very angry female police officer decided to stop us and asked for Brother Vincent's (with the crucifix on) driver's permit. She spoke English but differently and could find at least 1000 words and ways to say, "I am going to give you a ticket" Brother Vincent didn't want a ticket and I, certainly, didn't want to accompany him to court? or wherever they go. Then she gets in the car and asks him to move up and park, which he did. It became somewhat obvious that she wanted money but she wouldn't ask and he wouldn't offer because he did not want another ticket for bribery. So they went round and round with her insisting she was going to give him a ticket but no ticket emerged. She told him to get out of the car, so he did, and then she said why are you getting out of the car -that he could offer something. FINALLY! This is about 20 minutes later. I am as quiet as a church mouse, pretending I don't speak English although Vincent kept saying that he told me he might have passed a red light. So now I am deaf instead. (I kept remembering my family saying not to get into trouble. I was dying to offer her something but I kept my cool- didn't want to find myself in a Ugandan jail.) He reaches for his wallet and he only had larger bills. She told him where to get change so we drove WITH THE POLICE OFFICER IN THE BACK SEAT to a gas station to make change. He then gave her about $10 ---and then WE DROVE HER BACK to her post. Unbelievable. Getting the ticket would have cost about $30 but they might also confiscate your license until you pay up in a bank. I know that was not the story you were expecting. Sorry. So, we traveled to Kisubi Brothers College and tried to figure out why, when I was collaborating with the three colleges last year, I was never getting any emails from Vincent. I thought he didn't know how to use email and I kept sending Larry and Kenneth (other collaborators) there to get information. They all assured me that the emails were sent. Today, I could even see they were in his Sent box. Hmmmnnn. Because we were using a yahoogroups listserv, I then asked him to log into the listserv to see if they got THAT far. HA! None had made it to the listserv. Something was happening on his end. Sooo.... I (cleverly) put the listserve and my personal email address in his Trusted Sites and voila! problem solved! That took a while. Then I gave a small demonstration to some administrators, met lots of Kisubi employees. The registrar actually wanted to know more about our registration system. Vincent and I made a plan to meet with 6 people to train them on the XOs and the distance learning platform I set up on Jenzabar. Mission accomplished in that we finally secured a communications plan for the next grant proposal. We made the careful but harrowing journey back, just amazed at how everyone went through the red lights because it was really up to the police officer at the corner. The red and green lights were for decoration. Merry Christmas! Spent a couple of hours trying to get my computer online at the guest house again. The tech at Kisubi changed the IP address but I didn't know it. It wasn't until I took the IP from another computer at the house and changed the number by one did I finally get on. So here I am at midnight, blogging. Good Night!!!
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

April 6, 2011Well, today, we are getting more productive. This morning, I worked on Then, at 1, I had a meeting with Kenneth Mwandara, of Silver Shadows Technology. He was a huge help in drafting our grant proposal for USAID, even though we couldn't submit it. It was not a failure, though, because by writing out the proposal, we developed a plan, we ascertained the problems, priced the whole thing out, and found that we had a team of about 25 collaborators in the US and Uganda. We are more poised to write for another grant when the opportunity arises. OK, back to Kenneth. We talked about how we could collaborate better in spite of internet failures, email missed transmissions and how to resolve those pesky communication problems. I showed him how he could create free Blackboard sites because he is very interested in e-learning (as they call it here). I showed him the site I created for the students at TATS (where I am staying). Then I explained that there was another company, Jenzabar, who is willing to help us. They also have a learning management system. So, I demonstrated that one and showed him the basic similarities to Blackboard. Then I showed the olpcmap.net site. He knew of Nick Doiron, another of the grant collaborators, and was indeed impressed. We also looked online at the Ugandan invention for UNICEF, which was a kiosk made of oil drums with an embedded computer, solar powered and battery charged. Amazing invention. It was a requirement of our grant proposal that we work with UNICEF and while we knew they were working on a kiosk idea to teach about HIV/AIDS/Health, we finally got to see in what way. We also talked about Google's visit to Africa and the efforts they are making with mobile apps. He indicated that he is working with Nokia for a similar purpose. We plan to meet again tomorrow. At 5, I taught the TATS students again. Last night, we realized that downloading and uploading with such slow internet made distance learning very troublesome. So before they came, I experimented with Google docs, particularly with publishing a Google Doc. Then in Jenzabar, or Blackboard, instead of uploading a file, going to a document was merely a link in the cloud-MUCH FASTER. Great, in fact. Now I have a better methodology to deliver online learning. I can keep the class cohesive with Course Info, Course Documents, etc. but I can carry the deliverables on Google Docs. I showed this to the students but I could NOT help also showing them the XOs. After all, I had not distributed them yet. They were amazed, giggling, trying things, listening intently. I prefaced this all with my little lecture of how cooperation and collaboration amongst children will lead to the same in adults, would be the antidote to war and conflict. You could see the aha expressions on their faces. We spent a good hour on the XOs and they want more. Hey, these are college students! Finally, after dinner, at 7, I met with Sophie Lagose, who is an administrator at Kampala University's Jinja Campus. We discussed the best place to deploy my 20 laptops and we came to the conclusion that they would best be placed in the primary school closest to the Jinja campus. This way, not only do the children benefit but the teachers attending the campus to "upgrade" could do their fieldwork there, observing, teaching and learning of course. We made an arrangement to bring me to campus next Wednesday to test out the facilities, internet, projector, Jenzabar system, meet with some teachers, sleep overnight there (2 hours away) and spend all of Thursday training about 30 teachers on Jenzabar, the XOs and the philosphy underlying these amazing machines. By the way, 10 are still stuck in customs and I am getting nervous. My host had to fill out papers and they said it could take 2-22 days to get these machines out. they have gone from Texas to Ohio, to Texas again, to London, to Kampala, to Kenya and back to Kampala. Unbelievable. On the other hand, the 10 I carried in a suitcase are fine. Yes there is a police presence all over town.
Posted by Director at 1:20 PM No comments:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tuesday, April 5, 2011Whoa, cowboy! Larry banged on my door saying I was expected at Kampala University for a meeting at 9 a.m. It was 8:30 a.m. and it would be a 30 minute drive. My email clearly stated the meeting was for April 5th- OMG, it is April 5th. Jet lag, I suppose, or pure stupidity. Did I mention my hair dryer fried yesterday. Can you imagine me running in and out of the downstairs shower with little water - big, big hair and flying on bumpy roads to Kampala University- maybe you can't but my friends can! So now, I am meeting all the people with whom from KU that I had collaborated on a grant proposal in the last few months. What a great experience it was! Ronald looks a lot like Obama, Mary a slight woman who is a computer scientist (rare) and Dan who led the charge for finding colleagues for the proposal. Dr. Atambo, a student, Andreas, - all my online collaborators from KU. We hugged Ugandan style and had a very nice meeting. The Dean of ICT was there and I gave a small impromptu demonstration of the XO. I explained that it is meant for primary school children so that I wanted to work with teacher education students and that the computer science students could learn Python to create activities. The dean was concerned that his curriculum required Java and C++ but admitted that this would be a good project. We made an arrangement to meet the teacher ed person on Thursday at 8 a.m. and work on further details about deploying the 20 XOs. My husband's office donated $5000 to the contributors program to get these computers for the trip. Thank you to Clemente Orthodontics, our first sponsor! Larry would like me to place them in the local "Police School" where the children of police officers attend school. He feels that by helping the government and gaining visibility, there will be progress or support from the government. I am still trying to get an appointment with a Commissioner or Minister of Education. This is NOT easy, but perhaps the police officers will usher me in. This will be the topic of discussion on Thursday with the good folks at Kampala University. There is another meeting scheduled for the 14th as well. Another interesting happening: I met with Andreas Frowen, the film teacher that helped us last year by having his students film Ugandan students for me. This film was incorporated into our EdMedia program as an assignment so that this OLPC project would have a video. He showed me a very new trailer of a film that one of his students would show at a film festival. It was about female circumcision and very moving. The student film maker had been a victim of this tribal custom and cried throughout the making of the film. Watch for it! Very moving, sad, important to expose. Change of subject: Later, we had a nice lunch. Then I observed one of the other professors teach a math lesson at a local Catholic School, St. Catherines. What a joy! The kids were great; the professor was very engaging and had them calculating on their fingers, in their brains and on the floor. Pictures. Finally, we returned to the guest house and I spent a couple of hours showing the students the online class that I created. We were able to connect with another colleague, Sheila in NY and she showed how a synchronous class could be had using Adobe Connect. Her microphone worked but she couldn't hear us. Such is life with technology! We only had two laptops- one was set up as a teacher, the other as a student and we tried to emulate. The student laptop failed us, and internet was flaky but they got the idea. Downloading was really sluggish, so without a stronger internet connection, I am not sure how feasible it is from the guest house. More investigation necessary! Went to the grocery store finally to buy some much needed WATER--- and cookies too.
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Monday, April 4, 2011Well, waking up was a rude awakening! I went downstairs and worked on my computer most of the day. I emailed everyone I knew or could find with a deployment in Uganda with the hopes of visiting their locations. Got lots of correspondence back, but all but two are way too far to visit. I have a possible appointment with Amagezi Gemaanyi and we just cannot find the address of Kampala Primary School. Those that wanted XOs asked if I could help them. Maybe... Larry wanted me to show a group of students at the guest house how online education is conducted. I said OK because, after all, that is my job in the US. However, none of my existing courses would make sense to them. He wanted to find a way for other professors who frequent the guest house to teach in various Ugandan places to continue their teaching online after they left Uganda. I knew I could not use my college's Blackboard System for other professors, so luckily, I knew that Blackboard allows 5 free courses per individual at coursesites.com. I spent most of the day setting up a beginner course for the students that would be coming on Tuesday evening. We also arranged appointments for later in the week and I spent an hour with my colleague Brenda using Adobe Connect Pro to practice a synchronous classroom experience. I wanted to see if it would be possible to do live sessions from NY to Uganda. Her microphone never worked but she could hear me loud and clear. For some miraculous reason, the Internet worked at a nice pace despite the rain. Had a really hard time falling asleep so emailed and texted into the wee hours of the morning. That jet lag!
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Sunday April 3, 2011 ArrivalHaving left from NY Friday evening, where I had to pay extra for my clothes suitcase, I began my journey to meet up with my Ugandan colleagues who are helping to deploy hopefully 20 XOs as a pilot (more on that tomorrow). The handler at American Airlines let me take 2 suitcases and she weighed both. One had 10 XOs so I was a bit nervous that I would get stopped along the way in London and again in Uganda. She weighed the XO suitcase and it came up at 53 or 56 lbs. She said it was heavy but let it go. Then she weighed my clothing suitcase and it came up at 43 lbs. I was happy for a split second because then, she decided her scale was not working. She brought my clothing suitcase to another scale and it weighed 73 lbs. Hmmmnnn but she did NOT reweigh the XO suitcase (which had a lot of peripheral stuff as well) I paid the $60 overage begrudgingly mumbling something about humanitarian work- too little too late. So now Sunday. I was picked up promptly at 8 a.m. at the airport by Larry, my indispensible guide, who works for Teach and Tour Sojourners (TATS). I stay at their guest house. I flew through the visa process. Not a soul questioned me about that XO suitcase. Whew! (Had a minor heart attack when it did not immediately appear on the conveyor belt though.) I quickly unpacked and showered (it was almost a 3 day trek, and went to an Ugandan Catholic Mass. Same thing as last June! Local language and customs prevail, which include a whole lot of talking by a whole lot of people. Didn't understand a word and tried to keep my head from bobbing as my body craved a bed and sleep. Afterwards, I went back to the guest house. I tried setting up my laptop, the XOs and get familiar with the 1.5s. The internet would not work on my laptop, even though the wireless router was working. A technician had to set up an IP address even though my computer could see the router. A bit strange. This took a couple of hours and $12. Such is life with technology. I forced myself to stay up until 4 p.m. local time, at which point I fell dead asleep locked in my room and they had to sandblast me out of bed the next morning at 10 a.m. Apparently, they hollered and hollered to no avail; guess they got nervous.
Posted by Director at 2:51 PM No comments:
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