Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Training Day 2

After yesterday afternoon's struggles, we had no idea what to expect for today. The training team had collected a list of desired topics from the staff, and the times they were available. We'd planned to use the list to put together a training plan for the remainder of the week -- but the staff understood it as a commitment.

We arrived this morning to find about fifteen staff members assembled and ready for the PowerPoint workshop they requested yesterday. So, we worked team-style, alternating teaching and circulating. This class again lacked a translator, but many of the staff have enough English that they could understand and help the others.

We assembled the class again after lunch to allow them to give their presentations to the class, which worked out amazingly well. Without specific direction from us as to a topic, each person put together a PowerPoint, complete with clip-art and slide transitions, describing some aspect of their job or life. One by one, they got up in front of the class and presented to us and to each other. We saw some really professional presentations, and felt as if we'd made a small difference in helping the staff's effectiveness.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The week so far... part 1

Monday: our week with the staff begins – classes all day for the trainers and frantic network/system work for the other guys.

We planned a beginning Excel class for 8 a.m. to noon, and an intermediate class for 2 to 4 p.m. The beginning class went fairly well. I had expected a different concept of time, but really had trouble adjusting it to with so much ground to cover in training. The classroom wasn't completely set up, so we got started around 9:00. We had a pretty full class (13), and they all had set aside that time for training, so they were focused. Our approach was to team-teach, each of us taking turns at the front while the other two circulated and offered individual help.

We had a translator, Raphael, who knows some Excel and whose English is very good. He translated our instructions into French (with some Kinyarwanda thrown in), and also circulated to help out, which was really great. We wrapped up at noon, but nearly all the class wanted to stay and work – so we hung around until 1:00 answering questions. Their work ethic is amazing.

The afternoon's intermediate class wasn't so smooth. Again, we ran into the time issue. The staff takes lunch from 1:00 to 2:00, and the class was scheduled for 2:00 to 4:00. Our 2-hour lesson plan was quite full, with specific topics requested by the IT director. The students showed up around 2:30 (we found out that many had attended a funeral over the lunch hour). The afternoon's class had no translator, so communication was a challenge. And each of the three trainers has our own agenda and training method, which really diverged when we got to the intermediate level. Of the 6 people who showed up, three left before 4 p.m. It just felt really disorganized and difficult. My head was pounding by the end, and I was feeling extremely frustrated and ineffective. It was a hard way to end the first day's training.

We ended the day by going out to dinner for our group's last meal all together, before Mark and Bill took off for home. We went to the New Cactus Café, a pizza restaurant whose menu is written in French. Yep, you read that right – in the middle of Africa, we ate at a southwest-themed pizza restaurant and ordered in French! (I had my pizze with chevre, poulet, champignons, et basilic. It was magnifique!) The time was relaxing, and helped me finish the day in better spirits.

Kigali weekend in review

Kigali, Rwanda – Monday 6/20 – what a weekend we had!

Saturday, we worked on projects at the World Relief office for most of the morning, then attended lunch and joined a WR orientation with a group from a Buffalo-area church that's considering a partnership. It was an interesting dynamic, having the two groups together – our team, from a church already partnering with WR, and this group, considering such a relationship.

In the late afternoon, our team and the group from Buffalo both went to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. The experience was indescribable.

Sunday, we worshipped at a Rwandese church. We were aided by five translators, each of whom sat between two team members and translated the service, from the singing and announcements right through the message. The service was an experience I'll not soon forget. But what amazed me more than the service itself was the sacrifice of the translators, who gave up their worship so that we could understand and participate in the service. Over and over, I've been impressed by the gracious spirit of these people. Although the atrocities of 1994 are still fresh in their memories, we've sensed no hostility or bitterness toward us or toward each other – only welcome and grace. It's overwhelming.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Kigali Day 1

Kigali, Rwanda – 10 p.m. local time Friday 6/17 – The travel to get here was a full day long, but a night's rest in Nairobi gave us the strength to start in on our projects. After a short flight over Lake Victoria, we arrived in the Kigali office around noon today and started right to work. The training team spent a good deal of the afternoon talking with several key staff members about their work, and came away with a solid training plan for our time here. When we left the office, we had a tremendous feeling that we will be able to help their work in a big way – what a high!

The server and network teams also made great progress, taking advantage of the staff's lunch hour to work on the network and quickly expand the staff's potential network connections from 25 to 50.

Their triumph was followed by a slight glitch in the WC. Those who have visited Europe will recognize this term as shorthand for water closet (or bathroom), and those who have set up networks will think of it as a wiring closet. In this case, both groups would be correct! In a staff restroom, which serves double-duty as both types of WC, a shelf came loose from the wall and spilled several pieces of network equipment. Fortunately, a small plastic wastebasket was underneath the shelf and sacrificed itself to break the equipment's fall. No permanent damage was done… although the wastebasket may never recover…

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Prayer calendar

If you would like to know our itinerary in order to pray specifically for us, just click the image below to enlarge it. You can then print it out (landscape works well) and post it on your fridge!

Rwanda IT prayer calendar -- click to enlarge

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Listing to port

I've been realizing how list-driven my life has become.

Especially now. In various forms and locations, I have:

    a list of immunizations
    a list of items to take on the trip
    a list of items to leave at home
    a list of people going on the trip
    a list of supportive friends staying stateside (cheerleaders!)
    a list of tasks to prepare for the trip
    a list of projects for work
    a list of plants to get in the ground before I leave...
...and the list of lists could continue.

I wonder how list-bound our African friends are? I hear the culture is less time-driven than ours, and the people are less linear (more global) in their thought processes, and maybe less structured. It seems reasonable to expect them to be less dependent on lists.

We'll want to come in with our lists of tasks -- cable to run, servers to set up, concepts to cover in training -- and we might find a group of people with a very different approach. Not to say their goals are different than ours, but just that their method of getting there might be a little less task-focused.

And I wonder how we'll respond. Will we realize what's happening and flex to meet our friends' work style? Will we rigidly insist on powering through our list and become frustrated when not everything gets accomplished?

Will we learn something from our new friends? Or will we continue to list, growing increasingly off-balance?

I'm looking forward to finding out.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Online catharsis

...that's what one of my profs calls it.

When a class discussion turned to blogging as a form of journaling, a classmate asked the innocent question: "What's a blog?" As several students struggled to describe or explain the odd world of blogging, the prof quickly summed it up: "It's online catharsis." Well said, Dr. L.

My immediate goal for this blog is to have a place to post updates on my upcoming ministry trip to Africa. Will there be a longer-range goal? I'm not sure. But thanks for joining me on the journey.