Wednesday 31 March 2010

eLearning Africa - Lusaka

I am delighted that me and my colleague Stephen have been invited to present our African Digital Diaries project at this year's eLearning Africa Conference in Lusaka in May.

We have been scheduled in a keynote session at the conference and we are getting a lot of attention. The fight is now on to raise the funds -- in a matter of weeks -- to bring some of our African colleagues to the conference. Our aim is to give a voice to the ordinary Africans who are making their way in the digital universe through a mixture of ingenuity, adaptation and sheer persistence. It is an unashamedly grassroots and narrative-led look at things. We aim to be a bit disruptive.

Orwell Prize

In my enthusiasm for Winston Smith I forgot to mention that Mary Beard and Hopi Sen -- both old favourites of mine -- are also on the shortlist for the Orwell Prize Blog Category. Just these three show a really great range of what blogging can do. I will enjoy exploring the others as well.

While I was Away II

Christmas was a long time ago, we are now approaching Easter. But as I look out of the window and see the snow falling again Spring also seems a long way away.

Lookig back though, my Christmas Day was fabulous. I had somewhere between 30 and 40 guests for lunch.
 Here are some of them:
It was bakingly hot and Zanzibar was in the middle of a 3 month power cut. My chefs Zaharani and Masoudi, however, did a sterling job getting food ready for the crowd

And they also did a great job with "Chef Service" making sure the food got distributed quickly and fairly

They needn't have worried they had made plenty

Even the Maasai -- who can be fussy guests -- were happy

  And the gifts went down well...

Playing Santa I was a little concerned I hadn't brought enough pressies. Luckily I did have a fallback... As a seasoned traveller I never leave home without a supply of false moustaches and these were called into play to make up numbers. Very popular too!

But respect must utlimately go to the chefs who deserved their rest at the end of a busy Christmas Day...

While I was Away...

We reached Uhuru Peak on Kilimanjaro at 0715 on January 8th. Picture (from right) shows me, Head Guide Happyson, Bob, Assistant Guide Jonas and Pete. It was a beautiful morning and a great feeling.   

Animal Farm

I recommend Winston Smith's blog . It's this year's Nightjack. Given both its quality and the writer's nom de guerre it is apt that it has been chosen for the Orwell Prize blog shortlist.

Winston's diary is subtitled "Working with the Underclass".  It is an occasional but harrowing journal of his professional life as a care worker for young people. It's really more Hogarth than Orwell. He portrays the gallery of grotesques he encounters working with troubled, out of control, and -- peculiarly to me -- often obese teens. I say peculiar because my imagination always gives me skinny and rat-like when I hear the word "feral" and that is one of Winston's favourite epithets.

Like Nightjack it is compelling because it is real life -- stories not statistics, grassroots not theory,  reportage by someone on the frontline in some of the places we would generally not know about. It is genuinely disturbing. Not so much in its descriptions of unruly, unpleasant, a-social young people -- anyone who walks the streets, travels public transport, lingers in a school or A&E in our big cities will recognise the cast of characters. What is shocking is how "authority" deals with them. What is truly shocking is the complicity of councils, social workers, procedures and ideologies in creating these miserable lives that go on to inflcit misery on those around them. The failures of these "systems" and the System are abject.

We may not agree with all of Winston's analyses or proposed solutions but his witness has to be heard.

Saturday 27 March 2010

Young Fashionistas

My nieces practise their fashion styling skills on grandpa. He is, they say, now dressed as a beautiful young woman.