Sparky returns

The electricity has been a continuing source of amusement here lately, and lets face it, I’ve needed some amusement. Here are some samples:-

On monday,while I was teaching a Unix class, there came a series of loud bangs from the other side of the wooden screen that divides the lab. Teachers were running in all directions, three of them had been tinkering with one of the donated machines that we’ve not set up yet. It was brought from the USA… you can guess what happened can’t you? They had connected it to 240v Kenyan Stima and its used to 110v USA power. Bang went the PSU with an attractive puff of smoke. When the students stopped screaming and sat back down, we continued with our class.

Thursday was the Feast Of Holy Rosary so there was a special mass in the morning which delayed the start of my class for an hour. Those students can really sing! And they were doing some wild counterpoint clapping thing too in one of the songs. I could have listened to it all day. When we finally got to the lab the uninterruptable power supplies started singing to us on-and-off, though the lights were still on. Finally the UPSs started to give up the holy ghost and the students moved from one machine to another when the one they were working on blinked out of existence. Kioko and I ran about in panic shutting down computers and looking at circuit breakers and turning off fans, but all to no avail. Finally my 7 students were using the last 7 computers that still had a little Stima left. And then, one by one, they too blinked out. The students doubled up, two to a machine, they are accustomed to this sort of behaviour. After a while even the lights went out and we took up pens and paper.


  1. Sparky Says:

    Later that day I received a visit from Megan, a Peace Corps volunteer who lives an hour’s walk from Tala in a small house with no electricity at all. We sat in my house and she enjoyed my refrigerated water. We talked for a couple of hours, it was great to meet her and to hear her side of the cultural differences story. I certainly have a lot to learn.

    My tutorial with the I Hate Javascript student went like this: I sat talking quietly to her for ages, patiently pointing to the screen and asking "is this a string or a number"? and starting to think it was all hopeless. But then, when considering why her Javascript program displayed ’22’ instead of the expected ‘4’ she exclaimed ‘ooh!’ and fixed the error.

    We call those Aha moments I think. They are more valuable Gold; more precious than Gollum’s ring. We who teach will sell our souls for them. If I’d not seen it, I could have given up hope and felt no guilt. Because I know the potential for them is there, I am bound (in at least two senses of the word) to keep trying.

    I have seen the student twice more since then and she is doing reasonable thinking now. It seems her difficulties were not due to lack of ability but because of what Sister calls a psychological problem and I was calling attitude. I’m not sure which but Im sure its true.

    But teaching **is** psychology.

    I summoned her to see me today and asked how she got on with the work I set her yesterday.
    "I’ve not finished it"
    "OK. And have you __started it__?"
    She told me it was in the hostel; I sent her to fetch it and made my self comfortable with some work because I knew it would take her some time to ‘find’ it. After 20 minutes she brought a hastily written page. But what it contained was mostly right, the right kind of thinking at least.

  2. Natty Says:

    There’s something I’m curious about: how is the Peace Corps doing? I know Bush in his big post-9/11 joint congress speech he made a huge deal about increasing funding to peace corps and americorps and urged people to give up their time, but in the end their budgets got slashed, along with everything else in this country, so that we could fund the war machine.

  3. Mark Says:

    The Peace Corps I have met had their in-country trainin time cut from three months weeks to 8 weeks. someone from Peace Corps kenya came to our copund the other day in a fat toyota hilux. They seem to be coping. There two hundred odd PCs in kenya as opposed to about 40 VSOs i think.

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