Saturday, 25 September 2010

Introspection and Navel Gazing

In one and a half weeks I'll be flying back to the UK. The plan is to see family and friends (particularly my grown-up kids), get a new visa, and book a 6-month return flight back to Sri Lanka. Total time: three to four weeks. Thing is, I have no idea where I'll be staying or when I'll be doing what!

I've done this routine three times already - in April '09, Oct '09 and April '10, and it always feels like it's never enough time, it's never relaxed. It's certainly no holiday! Partly because I don't like the feeling of transience or unsettledness. And it's expensive - even if I'm staying with family or friends and they're kindly paying for everything, just the cost of a meal out or transport or petrol makes me think twice, especially when I can't help comparing with Asia. I've always been careful with money and now, when there's little coming in, I feel I have to be extra-careful even though I've budgeted my finances.

And there's the feeling that I'm reliant on others and that I'm expecting too much. Taking them for granted. I know it's their choice if they put me up but...

Before I set out volunteering I packed up my clothes, furniture, tools, bicycle, paperwork and bits n' pieces, and stored them in my brother's barn. He didn't mind but probably thought I'd remove them in a year or so, once I got bored.

My brother and sister offered to put me up when I came back every six months, but again they didn't know how long I'd be doing it for.  _I_ had no idea how long I'd be doing it for, and I still don't!

Two years and counting, it can't now NOT be an inconvenience.
I've thought about the alternatives - selling my things, living/storing in a caravan, couchsurfing, living in a cave, commercial storage and so on.  There is certainly stuff I could get rid of but not a huge amount - the it-might-come-in-handy-one-day stuff. The rest is either sentimental or useful or essential - it has to live somewhere. Accommodation-wise, Couchsurfing is perhaps a realistic possibility. B&B maybe, or hostels.

I'm uncomfortable with these feelings but the reality of all this is that what I'm doing is only possible because of the generosity of others, and that it's my choice to do what I do.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Photographic Evidence That I'm Here

I thought that perhaps you'd like to see some proof that I'm actually here, teaching! I always forget to take photos of myself but these two pics were snapped for an AdoptSriLanka progress report so I grabbed them while I remembered.

The classes are beginning to bear fruit - teachers are growing in confidence and ability, and are beginning to explore for themselves.  Since I don't have a set plan of work I sometimes find I miss aspects out - an example today was downloading and saving email attachments other than images.  This is where it's useful to have my little curriculum to remind me what's needed.  And now I've started pointing the teachers to it so that they can remind me themselves and become more involved in their learning.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Dentistry Finishes, Starts Again

You might remember I spent many weekends of the last few months traipsing backwards and forwards to the dentist in Galle to have a crown fitted on a back molar. Each visit takes the best part of a day - there's not only the travelling but also the recovering. The return journey is the worst part with the bus being packed, having to stand, squashed, thrown about, and no prospect of seeing out of a window, music blaring, heat... you get the picture. On my last trip I was actually sick but just managed to get off the bus before throwing up. So, now that the dental work is complete, you can imagine my relief at having uninterrupted two-day weekends, doing what I want to do.

Not So Fast! Yesterday a front crown fell out! The post just snapped while I was munching on a grapefruit. You know that denial feeling - "No, it's not, I'm mistaken, it can't be, it's just a pip, I'm imagining it, please, no" ...... then the realisation "Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!"

So today it all starts again, and I'm feeling down.

I visit the UK in less than three weeks so I'd like this over before I go. Chances are not great.  I could try local dentists but no one recommends them. I could wait till I'm back in the UK but I don't want that precious time dominated by dental work. Plus the expense - I don't have insurance. I don't have a lot of choices.

Oh well, better get on with it.


Post Script :
The appointment with the dentist went OK, as much as these things can go OK. Looks like I need a 'bridge' because the pin on the broken tooth can't be extracted.  It's going to be a long process and will have to wait till I return from the UK. I had to fit in between appointments, have an X-ray in another department and see an Orthodontist in another surgery, 5km away, for advice. It all took time so when I finally caught the bus home it was already starting to get dark.  I found a small a/c bus from Galle to Matara with a seat so the 44 km journey went well. Then I needed to catch a slow bus to Tangalle. Maybe because it was the last slow bus of the day, it was packed. There was only standing room and I could see nothing.  As we jostled along I started to feel bad so I made my way to the back and spent the last 10km on the steps, hanging onto the door and vomiting out of the doorway. Not nice! When we eventually arrived in Tangalle I had to lean on the railings to recover, probably looking like a drunk. Urgh. My stomach muscles are still aching as I write this, 16 hours later.
This is horrible. I'm going to have to find some travel pills which don't give me a vicious headache like the last ones, else I don't know what I'm going to do. I won't survive these journeys otherwise. Next appointment for a temporary tooth is Tuesday...

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Right Way To Go?

I'm hoping that my readers will give me guidance here. I don't know if I'm wasting my time and I'd like reassurance before I go on in the same direction. I'm going to invite my online PLN (Personal Learning Network) to come and be critical of my work...

(Please read then click links at bottom)

I've started building a Wiki with a curriculum of essential technology skills for teachers in developing countries.  These are pretty basic things that we, in the 'developed world', have learnt in classes or through osmosis during the last thirty years. Bear in mind that these teachers will have had very little previous exposure to technology, and English is a second language at best. I want to build a resource which self-motivated teachers can follow themselves, or follow with a little assistance.

The next step for me is likely to involve making a number of screencasts as well as continuing to build the rest of the Wiki. It's going to need quite a lot of effort so this is a good point to stop and review.

The "Provisional Driving Licence Curriculum" lists target skills and knowledge/understandings for email, web, photo-editing and so on - basic, essential stuff.  I'm currently undertaking this work for Adopt Sri Lanka, to enhance cultural exchanges between schools in Sri Lanka and English-speaking parts of the world. However, the units of the curriculum could have much wider application - not just by me but hopefully by other folk around the world if it's of sufficient quality and scope.

Please take a look and let me have your suggestions or comments below.  And finally, dear PLN, please tell me if you think I should open the Wiki up and invite folk to contribute tips, resources, tutorials, assessments. Do you think anyone would be willing to help, with no guarantees or rewards, and if they would, what are the problems you foresee?

Provisional Driving Licence - start at Essential Web

and if you've read this far you might like these Technology Resources!

Thank you,
Clive (@CliveSir)

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Breathe. Count to Ten.

This job can be damned frustrating. At times I feel I'm just not getting through. You know, like when you tell a teacher to close the browser window, pointing at the red "X", and they go and click on a bookmark.  WHY DID YOU DO THAT?? I scream inwardly, trying to hide it, though surely my incredulity must be obvious in my tone of voice.  I try to laugh it off but, after it's happened for the umpteenth time, I get near to pulling my hair out.

I have to remember that technology is so alien to some of these teachers. Some don't have a land-line phone, let alone a cell-phone. Some are in their fifties and sixties and approaching the end of their teaching careers.  Some have next to no English and struggle to understand.  They are actually quite brave coming to me - they are well outside their comfort zones, and they're still trying to learn. Credit where credit's due. I must remember this, when I'm so tempted to shout at them.  I need to try to find ways to communicate the concepts in familiar terms, and I need to take a step backwards to allow time and space for them to make mistakes and to make sense of it all. I must breathe a little! 

Then sometimes there are minor breakthroughs. Like today, when I described Google as a librarian in a vast library of books, and asked the teacher to picture herself asking the librarian to bring her books - what would she ask for? And when the librarian fetched the books she could only see the covers and needed to open them to read the details. Not the best of analogies but she suddenly "got it" and was asking about the English climate (iffy), the whereabouts of Princess Diana's burial (Althorp), how many rooms in Windsor Castle (over 1000!), flowers of Australia (so many!), house sizes in America and more. She still moves the mouse while double-clicking but she's getting there.