Update on What I am Actually Doing

Ok, so remember way back when I asked people to tell me things to write about? Maybe not. But I did, and still do. If you have a topic you want me to explore a little more, go ahead and ask, and I will write about it. The following if fulfilling a request from mum to basically give an update on what I have actual ly been doing, because, even when I read my blog I get the impression I am not doing much. I’ll just give you some info and let you all decide. I will try to break it up as much as possible into discrete topics.

Training

Training was a lot of… time spent in Nairobi. I don’t care how many people at PCHQ/Kenya read this blog, but come on!, did you really expect we would think training was all fun? However, one of the best parts of training was that us ICT (Information and Communication Tech) volutneers finally got some sector-specific attention. I know it’s hard to budget for only three people, but it was a nice gesture that I really appreciate.

Our special attention came in the form of a certain Mr. Tom Omamo, who basically turned into our ICT in Kenya Safari Tour Guide. While the SED people were out on business tours or in more lectures, and the teachers were continuing to learn how to teach (I think that’s what they were doing anyway…) we were on a whirlwind tour of anything and everything ICT. Our first stop was to sit in on a presentation being given to Safaricom preferred dealers on ICT in the business, as well as interpersonal business skills and whatnot. It was a good presentation given by Tom’s co worker, and the mzungu got to speak up and answer some questions as well.

Our second stop was Tom’s current place of employment as a professor of the Jomo Kenyatta University Agriculture and Technical College. We got to see how some university computer labs functioned, talked about class structure, learned how the university also operates as a pseudo enterprise, selling technical consulting (such as the Safaricom presentation…) and acting as a custom software shop. In the end we came to the conclusion that completely modern ICT infrastructure exists at the top, so how do we get it down to the bottom?

Then it was off to shopping in Nairobi. Tom took us to all the off-street computer dealers, the low cost guys, the refurbishers and maintainers. Good practical knowledge that we can share with PCVs and organizations alike. It’s always good in Kenya to know where to go to buy at the best price. More so than in America where fixed-price purchasing is a given. Kenya is very much a bargaining society.

On Monday, it was off to Google Nairobi HQ where we met with the local Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialists. It turns out there is a Returned PCV (RPCV) who works for google and set up this little meeting. Thanks by the way! We got to learn how the Google Maps API works and are trying to see where we can fit it into life as a PCV. PS, anyone want to donate a GPS unit. All I need is latitude and longitude. No fancy maps or anything. And I am being completely serious! Admittedly, I am not 100% sold on the maps as effective at the lowest level of development, due to a lack of internet infrastructure, but I can certainly see niches it could fill in other areas. And I hopefully will get to go back and meet the localization guys as well. Not holding my breath, but it would be nice.

The final afternoon (these were all afternoon sessions by the way) was spent at University of Nairobi, Kenya’s premier CS/IT/IS university. Saw more facilities, talked with some students, and talked to Tom about the university system in general in kenya. That’s a blog post for another day. Was hoping to meet the head of the department, but scheduling got in the way. Just save it for another trip I guess.

So that was training. Now back to life in general:

NYS

Remember these guys? These are the guys who got my in the first place, pay my rent, provide me with housing, and have asked me to be a teacher. That’s still what I am doing primarily here, though we have been on holiday for April. Teaching will start again next week and I am hoping to have a stronger performance than first semester. I am working on a few new angles, trying to get the new lab/classroom opened, and even trying to get other teachers to assign computer-based homework. We will see how it goes. But if all fails, I still have plenty of secondary projects to fall back on.

Voice of Africa

Voices of Africa is an NGO started by an American who is now living in Likoni (the home of “The Ferry!”). Basically she is teaching computers and trying to find out more to do with tech in the likoni area. Which is perfect for me. Together we annoy the guys over at Camarra, which is another NGO (Irish) teaching computers and refurbishing computers, and using linux and being all geeky. There are also tentative plans right now for a tuk tuk mobile information center. More on that as it develops.

NYOTA

Another NGO, also in Likoni. These guys are helping young musicians get produced, and hopefully heard. I am helping with tech support, and trying to get these guys switched over to Free and Open Source Software. I am also a general ideas guy with some different thinking and trying to make contacts. By the way, anyone in the States interested in helping out some musicians? And I am not talking money. Anyone know anyone with even amateur computer music production skills or anything of that sort. Preferably hip-hop (these guys aren’t into rock, and the producing is a bit different I think…), but I am not picky and neither are they. In fact, money wouldn’t help at all at this point. They just need ideas and some sharing of experience if possible.

Traveling Tech Support

I am also a traveling tech guy for other Peace Corps Volunteer projects. I am working on a website for a coffe co-op at the moment, and have helped with a computer lab, and offer other volunteers tech advice on a fairly regular basis. I am also working on a tech manual for all PCVs in Kenya, and hope to be running a new session at training in June about personal tech in kenya, and the general ICT scene here. Hopefully. If all pans out. My bosses seemed interested in the idea, though it wasn’t mine. A fellow ICT Volunteer, David, saw it at a conference in Lesotho, and thought we should bring it here.

So yeah. That’s where I am at right now. I know it sounds like a lot, but it comes in spurts and then fades and then comes back. Admittedly it’s only been 4 months, not really enough time to figure it all out and get a pattern. Some contacts turn into projects, some don’t. Some projects turn into full efforts and some fizzle. That’s why I haven’t been writing about things. It’s hard to say what’s concrete and what’s not. But mum was concerned that I am not actually doing anything over here, and I am, just not all the time. Which itself is another trick to being a PCV. Handling these intense times with a lot of work followed by complete dry spells.

Also updated with pictures, so check those out. Pictures of the solifugae are up, as well as some baby elephants and my new bicycle!

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One response to “Update on What I am Actually Doing

  1. kim

    Jon, love all the info. It is interesting to us although it may not seem that way to you. Just don’t hit any of the black market computer places on your own. Remember MASH.

    Keep up the good work!