Wednesday, September 17, 2008

wet and dusty

You'd think that one would be able to adjust to cold showers. With the heat here, sometimes the water is a welcome reprieve. But usually, it still takes a few seconds for the skin to cool enough to adjust. Since arriving in Africa, we've had only about 5 warm showers, and those were only in hotel rooms during the first weeks of travelling. In Ghana, hot running water is a rare luxury. Heck, even running water is scarce. Despite the frequent thunderstorms which pour buckets of water upon the city, indoor plumbing among the shacks and mud thatched homes doesn't exist, so many residents make a daily commute to a nearby dam or a local burst water pipe for their drinnking water, fill buckets with rainwater for showers, and make their local ditch their toilets.

It is now rainy season, and the lush vegetation keeps the roaming goats and chickens constantly eating and the maize and rice fields growing (that is, for those fields protected from the goats). The rains here accelerate the deterioration of the dirt roads, etching rivers and softening potholes, leading to natural speedbumps that keeps traffic below 30km/h amongst the livestock and the children.

Despite the moisture, dust permeates everything, from the inside of our home to the insides of the computer classrooms. Each day, the classrooms are swept, raising clouds of dust which are then sucked into the computers. It's amazing the machines don't overheat more often. However, it isn't the dust that is the greatest threat to our hardware, but our fluctuating power supply. The 230V is generally stable, but is known to spike and burn out electronics. When the power goes out, which has happened twice at home and a couple times at school, it is standard practice to turn off the power switches connected to the outlets to protect against the spike that will inevitably follow when the power returns. I watched a monitor blow up last week when its wall power was not turned off properly.

I've now taught 5 classes, and with any class in any country, there those who are keenly learninng, and there are those who just want the certificate. It's quite easy to tell who from who by their attention in class as well as where they sit. But all are grateful for my teaching, and tell me so. As with Dora, I struggle with their trisyllabic local names, and their family name may not necessarily be the last name. Not only do I need to match the name of the student to their face, but also how to pronounce their name, and what name they would like to be called. Not that I actually need to know their names to teach, but in this relatinship driven
society, being able to call them by name would increase my effectiveness as a teacher.

Geek talk: there are two viruses here that propogate prolificly: one that abuses autoconf.inf to run viral code that is copied to pen drives (which in turn will execute automaticly when inserted in most Windows computers), and another that hides all folders and creates .exe files with the same name as the folders and an icon as a folder in the hopes that the hapless user would incorrectly doubleclick the .exe .

1 comment:

Irene said...

wow! that must have been scary to have that monitor explode... is there anything that can be done to keep the dust out of the hardware without affecting the computer's cooling system? It sounds like you have your share of things to deal with/overcome. Name tags? or get them to write their name on a sheet of paper (whatever they want to be called) then take a picture of them holding up their name. Then go home and keep going through the class photos?

Hearing about the water situation, I really do appreciate the water systems in Van a lot more.

Hope you guys are staying healthy and adjusting to all the new conventions :D