The pressure is on!

We’re going in just over 3 weeks, just 2 weeks for the co-ordinators. A distant dream is fast becoming a reality. The team has finally all met. Some have most of their volunteer hours done, others are just starting, but everyone is now focused on teaching plans. Three of us are supposed to do basic and intermediate training, 4 the advanced, and then two are working on the operations manual for the Kenya hub, which is now a permanent fixture. If computers break down in schools, there is support locally now, and they will be able to send them back to the hub for repair. We also have one of the Camara directors, Gary, coming with us, and an environmental consultant, Mairead, who is looking at the environmental aspects of the project, including recycling dead computers, and electricity generation from solar panels.

Basic training will be for those with no or little computer experience – this is the one I’m most worried about, as its hard to remember when you didn’t know how to use a mouse and keyboard; intermediate is a “train the trainer” where we want to pass on our teaching skills to our local course facilitators so they can teach after we’ve gone; and advanced, where we will teach networking, web design, hardware maintenance and Linux. On top of that, we are doing a pilot program this year in Kenya – where instead of teaching the Camara basic literacy course, we are working with FETAC, the Irish educational authority, and a local college, Dorset College, to hopefully award FETAC level 3 certificates to students. Emphasis here will be on quality rather than quantity, we only have 80 Dorset certificates to give out. The idea came from both the difficulties caused by the recent Kenyan crisis, and Camara’s desire to make everything we do more sustainable after we leave.

Word from Mombasa in Kenya is 1700 people have registered for training, but we think we have just two classrooms and quality teaching mandates not more than two to a computer! Its good our two co-ordinators, Lothar and Gayle are going out a week early, so we’ll get a clearer idea of space and student levels, but it looks like its going to be busy! Our original plan was to spend two weeks in Mombassa, and then get up to Malindi, supposedly the tourist destination of the Italian mafia, and Lamu, a beautiful archipelago of islands, for the second two weeks. But Ali, our local co-ordinator, has scheduled the graduation ceremony in Mombassa at the end of week 3, and with so many students, we could stay there the whole time.

Time will tell. Its great to make plans, and then slowly watch them crumble. In Cormac’s pep talk to the team, the big word was flexibility – as a Murphy I’m used to this concept from the law that hung on our wall at home “Nothing is as easy as it looks, everything takes longer than you expect, and if anything can go wrong, it will, at the worst possible moment”. Lets hope its better than that! We’ve had a few hiccups locally already – problems with Tommy’s visa (now thankfully sorted), late laptops and what not – perhaps it’s not just Africa!

Well, we’ve all met now – and we’re a motley crew. 3 women – Joan from Dublin, Gayl from Tipperary, and myself, from Cork; Paul, Rory and Dan are Dubs (I think!), Matthew’s a Mullingar man, and then there’s Lothar from Spain, and Tommy from China. Not quite the United Nations, but we will feel like it in Kenya!

I asked everyone what’s their pre-trip expectations were and here’s what they said:

Lothar

I do something similar every year in another country, Western Sahara. Even in the conditions we stay in Western Sahara are quite rough, the human experience is fantastic.
It seems that the less people have, the more they want to share. People are more genuine and have better heart. So by being exposed to that environment, you become a better person. A great feeling altogether. I imagine that the Kenyan experience will be something similar.

Tommy

“Afric! This word for me is same meaning as mysterious, wild, remote… I am always expect to travel around Afric which is the most ancient land in the world and I would like to have dinner with lion, I think this would be the wonderful day in all my life!”

Joan McGrane

Just as I thought I’d seen the end of my reign of “course “indulgence, I have to face another 3 afternoons next week in preparation for Kenya! So hard to keep myself grounded – with so much preparation ahead of me:

  • Making sure I’ve looked after everything for my horrible teenagers whilst away. (Gardai alerted re loud arguments, Fire station alerted re burnt pots and pans – have anonymously sent near neighbours packs of earplugs for the inevitable Boom Boom music)
  • My packing “to do” list has now become my “Jebus! Do I really need all this” list. I’ve no idea what to pack clothes wise – just that I’ve to keep myself covered as a mark of respect of the culture that we will be staying in.
  • My preparation for the Lesson Plans: Am I ever going to be competent and confident with all this new learning – will I remember it!
  • On a more humane level: Will there be enough loo roll in Africa for me and my IBS J Am anxious that I am not sure how the change in climate will effect me – will Gayl and Mary get sick of waiting for me each day.

I don’t have any great expectations re trip: I like to keep them non existent – therefore each day will be a bonus.

Dan Atkins

My expectations are to experience a different culture and learn as much as I can from the people I meet. I want to make friends and understand the world they live in, and the differences to mine. Ill do my best to leave as much knowledge as possible as I teach the multimedia course. I am also expecting to have some fun, with my team mates and the new friends I will make.

And finally — from the guy who’s gone before …

Rory McCann:

My expectations are to have a good time, to have an easy time, to have a hard time, to be very hot and very cold, to see poverty, to see wealth, to see hard working people, to see lazy people. I’m expecting to see a new world in which everyday you notice a new thing and to see something that makes me realize that all us humans are all the same and we should cop on and make the place better for the lot of us. I’m hoping that as I’m plunged into living with about 10 other people that we all get on, and form relationships because we’ve lived so close to each other for 4 weeks. I’m hoping that in the 4 weeks I’m there that I’ll be able to form some local contacts with good people over there, and continue on my goal of slowly changing the world, which will take a long, long time.

I’m expecting to spend a few days vomiting from being sick, I’m expecting to get bitten to bits by mozzies. I’m expecting to be too hot all the time and being so cold at night I need a jumper. I’m expecting to be living in dirty clothes for 4 weeks, I’m expecting to be eating simple foods for 4 weeks. I’m expecting nothing to run on time. I’m expecting to be treated massively differently because I’m viewed as a rich white man. I’m expecting people trying to sell me things (tourist knick knacks, safari tours, their bodies) all the time.