Well, it’s almost certainly premature to declare completion here in Tanzania but finishing the system administration training yesterday for the computer teachers here in Arusha certainly felt like hitting an important finish line. This was the first time we’ve brought all of the computer teachers together in Arusha, and it was a good experience. We were so appreciative of Enyoito Secondary School for hosting the event and for all of the computer teachers for spending their Saturday morning with us! We had lots of technical questions from the group of 25 during Neal’s presentations. Our trusted colleague and friend David Nyangaka from the Arusha District Council office had a chance to discuss with them the factors leading to low usage of the computer labs to date and how to improve that metric.
It’s been a long time since my last post, and I’ll use the excuse that we’ve been at six different locations in the last week. We finished the teacher and student orientation training at Oldadai Secondary School and installed a server at the United African Alliance Community Center (UAACC). We also visited the four schools that had labs installed in 2013 and 2014: Ilkiding’a SS, Mwandet SS, Mlangarini SS, and Mukulat SS. We are looking forward to a quieter day tomorrow, when we will visit the Arusha District Office and go through some of their used computers to see if they can be used for clients.
I postponed my blogging until today so I could triumphantly report that we had finished the work at all four of the schools in our project plan. But, as often happens in our work, there was a bit of a glitch this morning so we’re not quite done yet. The good news – electricity was on when we arrived at Oldadai Secondary School. The bad news – the voltage was varying between 130 volts and 155 volts (with the nominal range here being between 220 and 240!!!). We think the problem is fixable by running a line from the main switch box (which was showing a steady 165 volts) directly to the computer lab, but the clicking UPS and the buzzing servo voltage regulator meant that we weren’t going to work today.
So much has happened since the last post, I don’t really even know where to begin. Last week we completed the installation at Ilboru Secondary School and held two sessions of teacher orientation training. This past Monday we started at Enyoito Secondary School and, with the help of a great team, got everything installed in one day. In between, Neal and I joined Robin and Jacque Kimzey, volunteers from Kids on Computers (www.kidsoncompters.org), on a safari to three of Tanzania’s spectacular parks. The four of us also paid a visit to the United African Alliance Community Center (UAACC) to prepare for an installation later this month.
It’s been a whirlwind this week, but I’m so happy to report that we’ve finished the installation at our first school and will start the second school today. And at last, all of our boxes are now here! We were also excited to welcome two volunteers from Kids on Computers (www.kidsoncomputers.org) who arrived yesterday to work with us. So even though the electricity continues to come and go, we’ve had a really good start on our work here.
Well, it’s amazing how one’s mood improves when a missing utility returns! The electricity popped back on about 6:20 p.m., and Neal is happily testing again. Maybe it’s just me, but I do feel such a sense of euphoria when either water or electricity has been out for a while and then comes back on. Who knows what tomorrow will bring – unfortunately probably another outage – but for the moment it is good to be doing what we’ve come here to do.
Here we are, back in Arusha again! It’s wonderful to see good friends again and so many familiar faces around town! Having said that, we’ve had a few trials so far as we always seem to at the beginning of each Africa trip. We’re just trying to shed our American mania for multi-tasking and high efficiency and slip into the mode of patient acceptance of things beyond one’s control – a state in which much of the world must live with no choice. I feel so much again how unbelievably fortunate we are in America and don’t really realize or appreciate it.
With all of the recent box-packing for the Philippines, it’s been easy to lose track of the fact that we’re now just five days away from departure to Tanzania! Seven boxes with the rest of the Free Geek hardware, some donated books and fabric, and a few other computer hardware donations were picked up Friday to support ten different schools in Cebu. We reclaimed our living room space for exactly one evening before the chaos of packing struck yet again, this time for Tanzania.
Just 10 days ago, we were in Oregon picking up monitors, desktops, keyboards, and mice at Free Geek (www.freegeek.org). It was really exciting yesterday to already fire out five boxes with 26 monitors, 5 desktops, 15 keyboards, and 15 mice! Packing the monitors was definitely a mind-bending 3D puzzle though! When I was a kid I loved playing with the Soma cube, and trying to find a way to make the many variants of monitor stands fit together efficiently into a nice rectangular parallelepiped volume reminded me of the hours spent moving and turning the Soma cube pieces. It was a combination of fun and headache!
We’re in the happy position of being awash in hardware again! We spent a week bicycling in Oregon, but on the way home we passed through Portland to visit an important shrine of techno-philanthropy, Free Geek (www.freegeek.org). This was our first visit, and it was truly inspiring! Free Geek serves the community in so many ways: as a trustworthy handler of computer equipment donations, a meticulous refurbisher, a generous granter, a responsible recycler, a technology educator, and a role model for service to all. The most exciting thing to me is that even if someone has no money, they can receive a full computer system (including legal software) for a donation of 24 hours of service to Free Geek. That is truly making a difference in so many lives!