May 24, 2008

Sean Goes To Africa, Part III


Our globe-trotting pal Sean Blaschke is at it again. Previously, he was in the Gambia from 2001-2004 doing work for the Peace Corps. After that, in 2005 (and some of '06) he spent time driving halfway around the continent with three other intrepid souls as part of an African Aids Awareness campaign. They went all the way down the west coast, making the turn and ending up in Mozambique before the money ran out His dispatches via email and blog ran the gamut from poignant to hilarious to harrowing to downright inscrutable (but hey, that's Sean for you), and they were always a great read.

This time, Sean has journeyed to Uganda, monitoring and evaluating schools there as part of a joint project between UNICEF and an American NGO, I.Could.Be., called "Connecting Classrooms." In Kampala, the capital, he once again witnessed the full range of life there, from computer-supported classrooms:

The students are going out into their communities, interviewing people, taking pictures and writing stories on topics including health and poverty. I was tasked with troubleshooting a number of technical issues that were impeding full implementation of the project. Over the course of a couple days, we were able to resolve them all. During the site visits, I was very impressed with the high levels of motivation from both teachers and students. The students at some of the schools had put tremendous efforts into creating great pages. Producing a wiki is not always an easy or intuitive process. I was surprised at how quickly the students caught on.
...to squalid slums:
Navigating through a maze of narrow alleys lined with open sewage canals and all manner of rotting trash, small tin roofed brick houses intermingled with local eateries, bakeries, hair salons and butcher shops displaying huge slabs of meat masked by flies. The area is much to heavilypopulated, most houses do not have bathrooms, there is little way to dispose of the rotting trash, and everything sprawls to within a few feet of the railway tracks. When the rains come, flooding in the town is considerable, inundating many houses with up to three feet of raw sewage and driving people from their homes.
Sean even had his very own ZooTV-to-Sarajevo-linkup moment, when an AIDS victim from the slums literally got in his face, asking "I have AIDS. What do you think of that?!?" Now, Sean has a little more experience than most of us floppy and useless westerners when it comes to dealing with the crushingly uncomfortable realities of life outside the social bubble of American suburbia. Nevertheless he's still lost for words: "I still do not know how I should have answered [him]." Sean's had culture shock, coming and going more than a few times, but that's a pretty heavy way to start one's second stint in sub-Saharan Africa. He's gonna be there for a while, though, so hopefully Sean's Uganda blog will see regular updates.

1 comment:

  1. I totally missed this the first time I checked out your blog... Nice! Looking forward to reading more of your novel when I get time.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts with Thumbnails