Cultural programming?

One of the things I sometimes say to my programming students is that the purpose of each instruction in a program is to bring about some sort of change. But, as one of the othe volunteers pointed out, they might have trouble understanding this if the concept of bringing about change is missing from their culture. Many kenyans are powerless to bring about change in their own lives.

I’ve heard the term fatalistic patience used to describe the national condition. Sitting, waiting, waiting for things to get better, waiting for the donors to send more money, waiting for a mzungu to come by and sponsor one’s daughters through highschool. I can see it in my classes too. Sitting waiting for the program to write itself, for someone else to answer the question, for the teacher to get bored and give out the correct answer.

If I believe myself to be powerless to chang my own life, if I believe that things are the way they are because that’s the way they are, then I might expect my education to consisted of the wise telling me how things are, and I might unquestioningly write it down in my notebook, and learn it off by heart in the belief that knowing the way things are would give me some advantage in my predestined journey through life. How woudl I react to someone strange and foreign trying to tell me about change? Bringing about change? Following a sequence of steps to achieve a stated goal (the definition of an algorithm)? Bemuzement? Intrigue, perhaps. And if I got the idea that this strange foreigner believed that humans can achieve stated goals in their lives by following a sequence of steps, I could even be offended, angry. If I have become comfortable with my fatalistic patience, this stranger spouting personal (and computational) empowerment could even seem like a threat to my personal comfort and security.
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ugali-flowchart (30k image) Tom asked me a good question about Ugali. In response I include here a flowchart that I used in a C programming class yesterday.

The maize meal is white and makes a kind of sticky lump slightly more stodgey than mashed potatoe. Some people laughed at me for putting “add salt” in the recipe, but the on-line recipes I have seen for it include salt. Some say add a blueband margerine to the water before the maizemeal goes in, to make it taste good and help stop it burning and sticking to the pan.

When you eat Ugali here you describe the meal as Ugali with whatever… meat stew or Sukuma Wiki (green vegetable) or whatever, not the other way round as would be the case in England. And, traditionally, it is eaten with the fingers, pulling lumps off and kneading into a little thumb pot which is used to scoup up stew.

By itself it is tasteless and has an odd texture, but with a rich stew, it is delicious.


ladder (12k image) Continuing my theme this week of old photos, here’s one of the builders raising sand and gravel up to the to of the new building. The scaffhold seemed to be made of twigs and there was a man on each level armed with a shovel. The rest was pure hard work!


{{popup treeAndCow.jpg treeAndCow 640×480}}Tree And Cow (2k image) Ukambani is Kamba Land, the area of the Kamba tribe; it’s where I live. Tala is on a flat plain and somewhat dull from a landscape perspective. But out where I visited on Saturday, it’s quite beautiful.

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