The plan was to spend a significant portion of Sunday in Amsterdam
asleep in a bed adjusting to jet lag so that I could hop off the
plane Monday in Johannesburg and proceed immediately to the meeting.
Unfortunately, Amsterdam was most uncooperative -- warm temperatures,
brilliant blue sky -- so I spent a superb day wandering around the
old city before catching the 11:30pm flight to Johannesburg. I had
excellent lasagna, by the way, at a corner bistro near Anne Frank's
house. As good as the lasagna in Bamako...
On Monday after my 10 hour flight, I passed quickly through
immigration and collected my bag. I purchased local currency in a
cash machine just outside customs with my Visa card, then negotiated
with a few taxi drivers for the 20 minute ride into town.
Here in Johannesburg, cold. Close to 0 degrees Celsius. It seems to
me the last time I was here it was cold. And dry. And I am told
that a significant portion of the population is in bed with a flu
A brisk walk through the Melville neighborhood on the west side of
Johannesburg and one arrives at the Melville Guest House, venue for a
meeting to discuss a new guide for Internet trainers being developed
by Friesen Kaye and Associates on contract to the IDRC. Drafts have
been circulated to a selection of key people in Africa, Asia, and
Latin America, and tests have been undertaken. Some of those who
have performed tests are participating in the meeting here, and the
group is collectively trying to hammer out improvements to the
I joined the meeting just before lunch. While I struggled to
concentrate and stay awake, the group determined the key issues to
be reviewed. Participants were quick to point out the "North
American" language problem, and set about removing such words as
"cram" and "demo". The tone of the presentation was critiqued, as
participants urged that the materials speak directly to trainers and
be presented as an aid to them. There was also a discussion of how
to incorporate important gender issues, with participants noting
that in general it is a mistake to assume that all trainees give the
same meanings to examples or have the same goals and values.
A critical issue is one of customization. Given the diversity of
training situations in Africa, trainers will need and should be
encouraged to customize training materials. This poses a challenge
to the designers, who must assure that the materials are divided into
components from which trainers can select. Each component must stand
on its own.
Today we break into groups and focus on specific sections. This
morning, for example, one group will look at the section on Pegasus
Mail, while another will examine the section on Eudora.
My B&B in Melville is lovely -- star quality but cheaper than a
hotel. Peculiar though. The shower is outdoors in a small private
courtyard. I contemplated the logistics of walking through freezing
air and then standing there waiting for hot water to emerge, then
the cold damp walk back to the room. I took a hot bath instead.
The telephone system in my room is nice, conveniently rigged with a
free RJ-11 outlet. There's a small Telkom box next to the phone that
keeps track of the number of "units" used, and the price per unit is
clearly specified. A short call within Johannesburg is .6 rand. I
transfered mail for less than 5 rand (about $1) to my IPASS
provider's SITA dialup number in town, throughput about 14,4.
I awoke at 3am with lingering jetlag. But the wee hours are
certainly productive. Time for breakfast.
Jeff @ Johannesburg
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