July 6, 2015 – the first-ever Cebu Open Source Software Championship! It’s been a dream for at least a couple of years for us at Reneal IEO to host a competition for schools with the Reneal system, and what a thrill to finally see it realized. As with all of our work, we were humbled and grateful for all of the support of colleagues and friends to make it possible.
Two weeks since the last blog entry, and what a shock to already be back here in Korea on our way home to California. Two months always sounds like a long time, and we even think there will be time for some leisure travel, but tasks expand to fill the time available. Even with very long days of work, it still came down to the wire to get things finished up.
The municipal fiesta here in Compostela is on July 25th, and the town is already humming with preparation and anticipation. I just got back from an early morning coastal clean-up activity. The local government workers and schools joined together for this event, and I was a part of the Compostela National High School contingent. We filled many bags with trash, and it definitely looks nicer now down by the seafront area! And as the clock ticks down toward our departure, the tension is rising for Neal and me to finish up our planned (and unplanned) Reneal IEO work.
One thing about our time overseas, we definitely experience wide emotional swings – both highs and lows – well beyond those that occur in our daily life in America. This week was a classic case of that: the thrill of watching students use the Reneal IEO system, followed by discovering a laptop with a dead screen that needs replacement. The intense worry about computers frequently hanging up at one of the schools, and then the joy of Neal finding a solution… only to have a different system problem emerge. The bonding and sharing with teachers at the different schools where we work, but tempered by the sadness of seeing so many needs yet unfulfilled following the destruction of Typhoon Yolanda. It’s definitely a roller-coaster, but these trips are what makes it all worthwhile! And for all of our worrying and complaining, it is clear how fortunate we are in the grand scheme of things.
It’s Independence Day here in the Philippines, so we’ve headed to the seaside to enjoy the cooling breeze in the midst of the heat. Neal is out snorkeling while I relax under a thatched umbrella. We recently celebrated the ninth anniversary of our first arrival in Compostela, and one of our early memories is joining in the special Independence Day flag-raising ceremony at the municipal hall back in 2006.
A big chunk of this trip is being devoted to updates to the Reneal IEO servers at each of the 14 schools in Cebu where we’ve installed the system. Updates allow us to add new capabilities at each school, fix bugs, and just in general check out how things are going. This time Neal is adding the PhET package to the server, a really fantastic collection of science simulations for students (http://phet.colorado.edu/). We have some science and math songs on different topics that we’ll store on the server, plus the FET timetabling program and updated templates for the new K-12 grading system. Neal has also installed the PyCharm environment for teaching Python code development. Bug fixes include a correction to the “RemoveStudentDirectories” program that will remove last year’s student files in preparation for the new school year, plus a fix to the interface configuration file.
I’m writing this in the dark in our apartment, as the power has gone out again. These outages, referred to locally as “brownouts”, have been following us around perniciously for the last few days: from Ormoc City to Compostela to Consolacion and now back again in Compostela. And – HURRAH! – the electricity has just begun again, giving me that intense feeling of joy that one seldom experiences in America where utilities are taken for granted. How unbelievably lucky we are to have such reliable services in the U.S.
I’m sitting here in the IT lab at Compostela National High School, preparing for in-service training next week and waiting on a download to finish. It’s been a good first week for us. As usual, we expected to have more done at this point than we do… but one step at a time.
Well, in just under 24 hours, we traveled from home base #1 in Fremont, California to home base #2 in Compostela, Cebu. Priscilla Batty, Reneal IEO Board Member, picked us up at 10 a.m. Thursday for our flight out of San Francisco International Airport. We traveled light, although that’s a relative term: two duffel bags, one balikbayan box, and our daypacks. The flights were close to on-time and everything went smoothly. We arrived at Mactan International last night at midnight and got to our apartment in Compostela right around 1 a.m. Saturday morning. What a joy to be met at the other end by friend and Team Philippines member Raul Lorenzana!
It’s the typical pre-trip whirlwind already: seeing friends and family before we go, wrapping up my consulting work, last minute purchases of equipment, and making piles of stuff to take for our two-month stay in Cebu. The packing list has been honed after many trips for Reneal IEO, but there are always extras for each individual trip. For example, Neal is going to bring his Raspberry Pi and ODROID-C1 computers this time for testing and evaluation. Since we left quite a few items there in Compostela when we left in March (our trusty green tool bag, for example), we’ll be able to travel a bit lighter than usual.