Not to destroy anyone's fond childhood memories but The Lion King is not Africa. I know some people are thinking "Duh" and I used to think that went without saying...until I went there, set up an internship tracking animals for this summer, and came back. The misunderstandings range from the minorly annoying idea that all Africa is a jungle or the constant shock people feel when learning how "brutal" the animal world is. A point I find endlessly ironic, but I won't go into that. What was most surprising to me, however, were the reactions I got when I described my internship. I was asked if I would be working with "natives" and if I was nervous about it. The same person asked if I would be hiking through the game reserve in order to track the animals. I was stunned by the implication that I "should" be more nervous about working with the people who live there (who by the way are awesome, hilarious, and if I can learn 1/10th of what they know I will be beyond thrilled), then the animals I'm tracking. To give a little perspective there is a saying that Ben, the tracker I met in Ngala, eventually translated into English for me after 20 minutes of valient effort (and a fair amount of laughter) to teach me how to say it in Shangaan. The saying is this "You don't have to be the fastest--you just have to be faster than one other person". If I were indeed to wander around a game reserve by myself I can think of at least 15 ways I would die, only 5 of which involve predators.
The topic I keep returning to and reflecting on is World Travel. More specifically I was thinking about World Sharing and how amazing and beneficial it could be for students to be able to share things with other students in different countries. I took Japanese my first year at Bryn Mawr and towards the end of the class we would make video files of us speaking in Japanese and English and send them to "buddies" we had in a university in Japan. They would then send us videos of them speaking in English and Japanese. We would all also type what we said in the language we were learning and then the native student speaker would correct it and write a reply in the language they were trying to learn. This was an amazing experience and obviously we were all nervous at first but you ended up really connecting with your buddy because you'd see them laughing when they knew they got something wrong or pulling their friend into the video. Obviously this requires technology and money but I just think it is such a unique way to share the experience of learning across the world.
Right off the bat I want to thank Jenny and Jamey for handling the presentation so well in spite of my abscence due to illness. (Still sorry about that guys)
My part of the project focused on primary education in Ghana because primary education has always been my passion. What was most important for me to convey was the awe I felt when looking at how much work had gone into the education system. I know it seems strange because so much of the formal education history is filled with failure and inequality, but I found myself inspired by how many times the education system was built back up in the face of failure. Obviously there is still a long ways to go and a lot of improvements need to be made, but I was struck by how resilient people were in terms of pushing the education agenda. I wanted to convey some of that because I think it can often be too easy to get lost in the government policies and issues surrounding funding and jurisdiction and we often miss the drive of the people.
In case anyone missed what my face looks like when we discuss Twitter in class just picture a child in a sauna who keeps going outside to get ice cream, bringing it in, and watching sadly as it melts for the seventh time in a row. I go through these phases with Twitter, I think I vaguely get it, I get a little excited because I (kind of) know what's happening, and then I log on and see a massive jumble of tiny snippets of conversations I can never catch up on with a thousand links that send me all over the place and I'm back at square one. I think part of the reason I am so bad with Twitter is that I don't like it. That is my main point and already I would have used about three or more Twitter posts to say it, unless I simply wrote "I dislike Twitter and suspect it is mutual". I grew up in a house with more books than furniture, I've always read the book before the movie, and I still prefer to thumb through giant reference books for information. I am not built to sum things up succintly (as you have probably guessed by now).
This image is from an episode of West Wing, where people bring in a map of the world that is upside-down and explain why it changes everything. The initial reaction, of course, is to laugh because it's such an odd idea and seems so trivial. However, once I began actually looking into this after our class discussion of "world travel" and perceptions, I realized there is actually something to it. For one thing, the continents are re-sized more acurately, but also it does make you think about the relationship between North and South and Top and Bottom. Even if you don't realize it, I certaintly didn't, constantly seeing the US as near the top of the world, or at least above other countries on the map has an implication of power and importance. Imagine if we were no longer North America, but South? Besides the fact that it sounds weird, are there any other reasons we would object?
While listening to the TED talk I found myself both agreeing and disagreeing with this idea of a "single story". Initially I agreed because frequently there are single stories or party lines that get fed to us and when you actually research the topic you find out that there were a million other voices that got ignored in favor of one idea. However, it was that thought that made me question the conclusion even as I came to it. Is an idea a "single story" of sorts? When you hear an idea or story don't you automatically internalize it in one way or another and make it different? Even if it's just the difference between laughing at something or not, or agreeing with a statement or remaining silent--doesn't that change the way other people see it (or hear it, read it, etc.)?