Monday, August 11, 2003

Dhaka Disasters

Day five at the Aga Khan School began badly, got worse rapidly. The email addresses we needed set up on the Intranet were unsurprisingly not when we arrived at 8:30, the Microsoft Outlook walkthrough necessary to use that email went too slow for words and didn’t work anyway, and then, when we finally got driv ers hand-loaded on the eight Eudora-based computers ready to add to the bunch, Outlook became buggy as Dhaka in the winter months.

But the biggest problem was the monsoon rain falling by nine thirty, which in turn caused the server to crash, which in turn made the above moot. No email sent was received after the first few minutes, and our attempt at a hands-on activity, developed late last night in response to high demand via our daily evaluation forms, finally went bust about 11:30.

To be fair, the real problem here was a temporary and rash error of judgment on our part, to wit, our willingness to change things so drastically based on feedback; as I later explained to both Henry and Azra, the whole reason we’re here is to broaden the minds and possibility-spectra of our foreign compatriot teachers, and that assumes that we know what’s best for the workshop form and function. It shouldn’t matter if teachers think they want more skills training; we know, as professionals, that awareness and curricular consideration need to come before skills. I think we just got carried away in our earnest desire to make everyone happy, and forgot that our jobs assume that we, not our workshop participants, khow best to build a platform from which one can integrate technology into one’s teaching with aplomb and application. Now we know better. Chose not to read today’s evaluation forms in fear of further stupidity, although my co-leaders seemed relatively happy with what they read themselves.

On the bright side, this afternoon’s demonstration on forums and message boards was extraordinarily well-received, even if I managed to half-electrocute myself on a 220 current unplugging the laptop at the end of the workday. I feel badly for Azra, though – the morning’s activity set was her first leadership role so far, and not much went right.

We stopped on the drive back from AKS so George could show us the new site for the K-12 school they’ll be moving to once building begins and then is completed. Like much of Dhaka, the land is what George calls “reclaimed” – several months ago, it was all underwater riverbank, and the “beach” flanks the site, at least for now. A bit farther down the new crushed-brick path (there is no gravel in this delta country) we got to watch further reclamation in progress, an ingenious phenomenon in which barges are loaded with silt and sand from upriver within millimeters of the boatrim, trucked upstream; the sludge is then forced through hand-wrenched iron pipes constantly being rebuilt by poverty-stricken locals, and the water rushes away, leaving the silt behind as a solid foundation for the terraformed.

Tonight’s shopping expedition with Azra netted a few high-quality-but-cheap button-downs, flowers for an Azra surely in need of some good cheering up, some crazy-named snackfood from a tiny supermarket. We even bought some crazy socks for Henry, although the bright spotted shirt we had hoped could go with it was far too small for his deceptively muscular frame. After a quick and by-now process-knowledgeable curriculum brainstorm/planning session, I ordered the same lambchop and prawn supper as the night before, and then feel off to blog and sleep, once again exhausted. Tomorrow is another day, but does it have to come so soon?

posted by boyhowdy | 2:07 PM |

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