Sunday, August 10, 2003

Deconstructing Dhaka: Day 4

An early start this morning, the first of the Teaching with Information and Communication Technologies Workshop. George arrived at the hotel by 7:30 with vehicles and drivers. A coffee and a hurry-up later the group of by-now eight international workshop participants – two Indians, two Tajikistans, two Kurdistans, a Kenyan and a Pakistani, all Aga Khan school teachers in their own countries – drove off in the van. Henry, Azra, George and myself followed in George’s car with driver Ibrahim behind the wheel as always. After a relatively uneventful drive down the main airport road, by which I mean we hit no one but came within a hairs breadth of both mad-dash pedestrians and pre-scraped-up busses carrying the usual overload of morning commuters, we arrived at the school to earn our paychecks.

Henry led the morning session , a period of introduction and brainstorm about the benefits of and obstacles to technology integration, so well we ended an hour early, leaving me happy but ultimately exhausted and hoarse in filling the next several hours with mostly-lecture on the subject of terminology, most specifically the way in which the language and mental constructs we use to discuss and teach technology affect the ways in which students and selves develop habits of use.

Although far fewer international travelers ultimately came to Dhaka for the program, even with the late arrival of two recently-deplaned Tanzanians during a seriously spicy take-out lunch of Chinese food in an upstairs classroom, George had padded the workshop back up past the original cap of fifty with what must have been his entire teaching staff – the library was filled, the acoustics terrible, the air conditioning barely helpful. Post-workshop feedback seemed generally positive but suggested less lecture, and language barriers seem to be a subtle but insidious difficulty; Azra and I were already talking about how to make tomorrow more hands-on by the time we arrived back at the hotel by 4:00.

Azra and I joined this afternoon by Noureddine and Patricia for our afternoon constitutional. The four of us got very lost but remained confident, and once we recaptured our bearings, spent about a half an hour in the cybercafe of yesterday’s search. Left Patricia behind and Nourreddine went back alone; I found a nice men’s clothing store for later purchases and then, still on our feet, Azra bought me a cappuccino and fries in the half-American New Yorker Café, a surprisingly diner-like place with a Bangladeshi twist.

Emerged into an unexpected rain too heavy to walk back in, the water washing the gritty skies clean onto our heads and shirts and hands. We huddled under a shopping plaza outpost and discussed colonialism while we watched college students smoke across the street, and went back for much-needed showers. You know you’re in a foreign land where you need to take a shower to wash the rain off.

A hair-dryer and a frantic hour redesigning tomorrow’s communications technology curriculum and it was time for dinner again. Tonight’s meal was nothing special, but the lamb chops and prawn salad were solid and just unfamiliar enough to be interesting. Couldn’t keep my eyes open after three cups of served-with-hot-milk coffee, though, so Henry and Azra generously gave me the night off to sleep and blog while they went off to divide our band of merry teachers, now fifty strong, into subject-specific pairs and quadrates. I think dehydration’s the biggest culprit – I drink as much as I can, but the sweat just pours out of me here. Funny how most of the others seem fine with it – must be a cultural thing, or an unfortunate symptom of the long thick hair I ultimately decided not to chop off before arriving.

More tomorrow, assuming sleep tonight. ‘till then…

posted by boyhowdy | 1:45 PM |

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