Tag Archive for 'sustainability'

Day Off

After an exhausting week, a day trip up to Kilifi (one hour north of Mombasa) helped a bit, but it created a new problem: I have the worst sunburn I have ever had in my life.  No, I wasn’t wearing sunscreen, and as a result I know your pity ends there, but it is a bit odd because normally I only apply sunscreen to my nose and shoulders with no trouble, but in this case, my feet are burnt!  So are my hands, and, well, everything, although my face is okay because it was shaded by the book I was reading.

I took this picture before I realized I was being slow-roasted:

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So today I’m not teaching because my knees hurt so much from the sunburn and it pains me to wear long pants.  So, while my students go neglected thanks to me, I thought I might as well update the old blog.

While I was in Kilifi I visited a volunteer who bought me a delicious mango and who also let me into her Deaf School’s computer lab, which has a dozen or so Pentium 4 machines, all donated by CFSK, putting my school’s library to shame.  I brought my laptop along and with a little help I was able to load up the computers with an array of educational software, and the one machine that wasn’t booting at all worked just fine with my custom DOS Educational Disk, which is pretty cool, as I designed it, after all, to be a “quick fix” for times like these.

From the sustainability perspective, the experience was less than ideal, just because running all the separate installation programs would have taken too much time for a non-IT person, but nonetheless the students can now do more than just “learn computers.”  They can use computers to learn all sorts of subjects.  I wrote to the NGO that donated the computers to ask if I could help arrange a better suite of pre-loaded software for future donations.

Here are some kids who wanted a glimpse of what the grown-ups were doing in the lab:

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Since I’m sidelined at the moment, I’ve been watching movies (I bought a war movie compilation a while back, so I don’t fall out of touch with violence while I’m in the Peace Corps) and I’ve been doing more research on educational software.  For those of you with the interest and the time, I have really been enjoying one particular site.  Here are a few pages from it that I found particularly relevant to what I’ve been researching:

This is the only site I’ve found so far that actually reviews educational software in a meaningful way.  It was a great find, because some 500+ educational softwares are released every year, so how the heck am I supposed to know which ones to look at?

In any case, I’ve started drafting a short design document for what I think will be best for teaching the kids here with computers.  It’s a ways off from completion, but it’s nice to be entering that stage.

In totally unrelated news, I recently noted in my far-less-prolific movie blog that The Mustachioed Bandit Meets His End now has an IMDB page.  I’ve submitted more info to them that’s not yet public, but even in its incomplete state, the page isn’t half bad.  Unfortunately my name is in IMDB in two different places, so I’m waiting for them to merge the entries so my giant moviemaking ego can be consolidated into one easy-to-read page.

1 Response to “Day Off”


  • i tell u to go the beach as an ejoyable activity and what do u do get urself miserably burnt…not the outcome i was hoping for..who knew u were so distructive.

The Challenges Ahead

What am I worried about these days?  Well, let’s see:

  • Language: I am likely to test as "Intermediate" in KSL on the 31st.  I am regularly dreaming in sign language, but because training is in Loitokitok, where there is one deaf man in the whole town, our entire group is lagging compared to previous years.  I hope that when I go to my final site sometime around Jan 6, there will be a supportive deaf community to help me out.  I also know zero Swahili… basically only what’s on the inside cover of the Lonely Planet quick reference book.
  • Secondary project: The Peace Corps recommends that in my down time, rather than sitting around doing nothing, I should pursue a "Secondary Project."  Before coming here I anticipated that this might involve further development of the Adobe Flash sign language tutorials that I saw online, but…
    I do not yet have access to original source files.
    I am not sure what else might have been done already on this front.
    …so when I go to Nairobi for the swearing-in, I am going to scour the Peace Corps office to see what I can find.  There is an overall sense here that things got lost when everything shut down during the election violence, but there is another, most systemic, problem with "memory loss," that is, the lack of a structured year-by-year progress tracking for the overall deaf education project.  I worry that any progress I make might be forgotten in a few years— how can I help this organization to make sure my own work builds effectively on progress already made?  "Sustainability" is a key part of the Peace Corps’ mission!  Ken, the Country Director, seems keenly aware of the problem and has already taken some steps in organizing some of what’s out there, and he also mentioned some initiatives that I hope I can be a part of.
  • Connectivity: I’m getting pretty good at surfing the Internet on my phone, but I’m still seeking a better solution.  The fact that I got Skype Video to work with ErinRose makes me want a better laptop solution, because the pay-by-the-megabyte model would be painful for video chatting (and it’s also the reason you never see high-res photos on my blog).  There are now four mobile operators in Kenya and their data plans are shrouded in mystery and hearsay.  Ultimately I will wait until I move to my site to determine which carrier(s) are even viable, but it’s nonetheless frustrating to try to do research in advance.

Here is your reward for reading this post, a picture I took when walking home today from town, thinking about all this stuff.  You can see it raining on my home in the distance.

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And here is a picture I took in Ohio not long before I left for Kenya, at the 102nd Annual Circleville Pumpkin Show.  The goal is to grow the biggest pumpkin, but clearly this farmer had a secondary project of his own.  Perhaps there is a lesson for me here somewhere?

pumpkin heads

5 Responses to “The Challenges Ahead”


  • Hello PAUL!!! Merry Xmas a little late – sorry! But I am thinking of you and so honored to know you. This is Joelle BTW – Erinrose’s girrrrrl and I am giving you a shot out here from Hollywood CA! I love that necklace you got her- so pretty. I can also see you in her eyes when we talk about you and she smiles. It’s like I get to see you when I see her. – I don’t know you very well but I think you are doing something really special.

  • Some choices for connectivity:

    1. BGAN is by far the most powerful SAT solution with highest reliability, and likely highest cost, but you get up to 240/384kbps (send/receive) and telephone. Connections are USB, Bluetooth, Ethernet so it’s supper cool, esp for those real outback moments.

    2. Wikipedia in English only shows:
    Kenya having 12.75 million subscribers in total, or a 34% penetration rate as of December 2007
    A. Safaricom [74] GSM
    B. Zain – Part of One Network GSM
    C. Telkom Wireless CdmaOne
    Could not find a fourth.

    Also very interesting from wikipedia.com is:

    Flashback service

    As a result of the limited income of most of Safaricom’s customers, network congestion emerges from a practice called ‘flashing’. Flashing is the practice of calling another mobile user, but disconnecting before the connected call is answered. It provides a method for mobile users to alert someone that they wish to be called, but either can’t, or won’t, pay for the call. The method is cost-free for the users; but costly in network bandwidth.

    That is why Safaricom sometime ago introduced a flashback service that gave every subscriber 5 free SMS messages with a single pre-defined message stating “Please call me. Thank you”. Although the messages can be annoying when sent just for fun they are very useful when one is in trouble and has no airtime. It also gives parents more of a reason to get mobile phone for their children without the real need for getting them airtime. Unfortanately, at this time, the flashbacks can only be sent to Safaricom subscribers due to some feuds with Zain, Safaricom’s main competitor.

    Electronic cash service

    Safaricom has developed and launched nationwide an mobile banking service called M-PESA, that allows Kenyans to transfer money via SMS.[1] The service does not require users to have bank accounts, an important aspect in a country like Kenya, where many people do not have bank accounts. With M-PESA, the user can buy digital funds at any M-PESA agent and send that electric cash to any other mobile phone user in Kenya, who can then redeem it for conventional cash at any agent. This system is remotely comparable to hawala banking or services like Western Union. An M-PESA enabled mobile phone can also function as an electronic wallet and can hold up to 50,000 Kenyan shilling.[2] Safaricom stakeholder Vodafone, which partnered in the development of M-PESA, has announced that it intends to roll out M-PESA internationally as well.

    One of the more interesting problems is non-necessary traffic, and “noise” from just connecting your laptop to the internet. You need finer control over this issue, your going to need some kind of outbound IP traffic filter.

    How is the shortwave radio working out?

  • Thanks joelle. Very kind words. I like your descriptions.

  • Josh the sat upload speeds are enticing but the fact that i need to contact sales for pricing is not a good omen for my wallet. Safaricom and Zain are currently the two nationwide carriers. Orange and Yu are the newcomers but theyll probably have no coverage where ill be going, at least for another year. Safaricom has 3G in Nairobi and Mombasa and EDGE elsewhere. Supposedly Zain is all EDGE but here in Loitokitok with Zain i get a terrible sub-EDGE connection, which is too bad because Zain is the only one that offers an unlimited data plan. Hopefully Zain will be EDGE at my site. Anyhow i didnt know about the special flash sms so thanks for the tip. Ill pass it on. I havent used MPESA yet but it seems cool. The govt here has recently started debating how to regulate it because its got the same bank-but-not-really problem that Paypal has. In nairobi I plan on downloading zonealarm and Mozillas mobile browser for windows to help control the laptop bandwidth usage. I havent turned on the shortwave yet because my family always has the tv on. Tv here is terribly novel, which is weird to me because its finally starting to die in america. . . . .Wow i think ill eventually need to dedicate a post to all this internet stuff for the non technical people.

  • woo. pretty picture =D