OLPCorps Tulane University & UC Davis – Sierra Leone

The OLPC Roller Coaster by Katie McCarthy
June 16, 2009, 4:21 am
Filed under: OLPCorps, Rants and Raves

For those of you from the Pennsylvania area, or those who have visited – this week has been like the Batman ride at Dorney Park – zero to sixty miles per hour in three seconds, with several loops following.

roller coasterI (Katie M) haven’t had much time to reflect on this week’s events. It seems we are shuttled around, constantly going, with little time for introspection or reflection. And, as those of you who know me well, this does not make me a pleasant person to be around (Katie R disagrees- she thinks Katie M was still pleasant this week). So, now I plan on taking the time to reflect and hopefully gain some insights and resolutions. On that note, please bear with me as I take you on the roller coaster that has been the last seven days.

Day 1 – Saturday, June 6

Left for Rwanda today – Also on the agenda, a phone interview with a CDC office in Tanzania about the fellowship I applied for and driving into the Bronx to visit my great aunt and aunt. Doesn’t make for the best mental stability (or stomach), but somehow almost everything went off without a hitch. I arrived in Brussels early, met Katie R, and got through security without problem.

Day 2 – Sunday, June 7

In Brussels, Katie R and I navigated the airport with skill and grace… we follow signs to gate T69 (note: there is no T terminal – it’s actually a part of the A terminal but they make you go through additional passport and visa screening for those travelling to Africa). We discovered wireless internet costs 20 Euro for 4 hours and, without 4 hours to spare or 20 Euro, we passed on the internet and prepared for our next flight by trying to figure out whom else waiting for the plane might be a part of OLPC and comparing notes on our mental images of OLPC people. Our BRU-KGL flight also passed without problems, with all of our luggage arriving in a timely fashion, passing through the easiest entry procedures I’ve encountered, and meeting up with our OLPC bus once in Kigali. The rest is mainly a blur of people, places, and smells – but Kigali made an impression. As Sierra Leone (and Freetown, in particular) is my only source of African country comparison, Kigali is incredibly developed. The roads are smooth with clear signs, markings and pedestrian crossings; there is extensive landscaping; and there is relatively consistent electricity. These ideas made it through my jetlagged mind before I passed out for the night.

Saturday and Sunday were the 0à60 mph part of the roller coaster.

Days 3-6 – Monday, June 8 – Thursday, June 11

Let the loops begin! Monday passed through a series of highs and lows – breakfast was wonderful; meeting people from all over the world continues to be incredible; but listening to endless lectures about OLPC with poor sound systems. In addition to the long day of lectures, introductions and technical sessions (the latter of which actually were helpful), we attended a “happy hour.” Now, I’ve nothing against happy hours, but by this time, I was exhausted and desperately looking forward to passing out on my bed.

Tuesday came much too early, as our Guest of Honor (Paul Kagame) required intensive security procedures prior to beginning the sessions, requiring us to get up at 5am. “Jet lag” and “5am” should never be in the same thoughts. Look to our other post for more information about Tuesday. In addition, Katie and I were accosted by a misogynistic politician, who upon refusing to shake our hands or look at us, proceeded to tell us (and the other Sierra Leonean team, males) of our project’s ultimate failure.  Katie R had to leave the immediate area in order to avoid instigating physical confrontation.  Wednesday and Thursday continued in a reflection of Monday, with a little more constructionist teaching but much less structure. The highs included learning how to take the laptops apart and collaborating with other teams; the lows included long sessions, unconstructive teamwork and dashed hopes of sustainability (see: Caught in a Ponzi scheme).

For details on Friday, see “Spinning Cats and Petites Histoires.”

Day 7 – Saturday, June 13

Saturday dawned bright and early! The day began with a beautiful trip to the southern part of Rwanda to visit the King’s Palace (an amazingly detailed, handcrafted hut and a Belgium-bribe house) and a trip to the National Institutes of Museums of Rwanda (I think that was the title). The King’s Palace was very interesting, as we learned about Rwandan culture, history, and hairstyles. However, the National Institutes only concerned the history of Rwanda until 1987, when the facility was built, and carried a disclaimer about the authenticity. The afternoon continued with a full lunch, people jumping in the hotel pool (not our hotel) and a poorly organized technical session. I was a little disappointed by the technical session, considering it was one in which I was most interested. The day ended with late night plans for Sunday (another post later).


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

This blog is amazing! You all are doing a great job and I can’t wait to hear more!

Stay safe and wash your hands 🙂

Katie I.

Comment by Katie Izenour

OLPCorps Africa Weeks 1-2: A Training Roller Coaster…

What happens when you throw 30 teams of jet-lagged college students into a two week training course on OLPC deployment with the President of Rwanda, Nicholas Negroponte, and the promise of $10,000 + 100 XO laptops? An OLPCoprs Africa experience that p…

Trackback by One Laptop Per Child News

Cool site, love the info.

Comment by Bill Bartmann

Our team was putting XO systems in Kibwezi, Kenya, 2009 July after delivering six twelve months earlier.

Comment by Robert Braxton

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