26 February 2011

World map beginnings

Whoa...Long time! I finally have a brand spanking new charger, but a few nights ago, I had one of those TIA/DNA (This is Africa, or Dis Na Africa) moments that put my excitement firmly in check. I asked our Peace Corps Medical Officer (PCMO) who recently went on leave in the U.S. to buy a macbook pro charger for me while there. My parents had already shipped one over, but with the inconsistencies of the Sierra Leonean postal service, I went ahead and asked my PCMO to buy one while there so that it would be virtually guaranteed that I would have a charger upon her return to Sierra Leone. If during the process the charger my parents sent me arrived in the mail, no problem, two chargers are better than one, especially in this place! And for the TIA/DNA moment? Thursday night I was packing for my weekend trip to Freetown. My laptop for the past two months or so was stored in my suitcase, away from the heavy dust buildup in the air that is so common during this time of the year in the dry season. When I opened up my suitcase to pack my laptop, I noticed to my horror, that the battery case was bulging! Luckily none of the chemical components leaked into the hardrive. So as of now, I have a charger, but no battery!!

On the bright side, lately I have begun lately a few interesting projects at my school that I think are worth mentioning.

The world map project was started by Barbara Jo White during her time as a PCV in the Dominican Republic back in the late 1980s. In my opinion it's one of the most educational and fun ways to get students thinking about the world and all of its enormity and diversity. Essentially she devised an easy method of constructing a political world map with nothing but pencils, a ruler/level/and paint (primary colors + white). All you do is find a clean wall, ideally visible to a majority of people if outside, draw your box (the dimensions of my map are: Width:280cm; Length:140cm), then you draw 56 vertical lines, and 28 horizontal lines which will give you a total of 1.568 grid squares. The trick is making sure that the lines you draw are straight, something that isn't possible with a ruler alone. That's where the level comes in handy. Making sure that the air bubble is in the middle will ensure that your straight lines aren't being drawn ever so slightly askew. It is those squares that you will use to draw the actual map. The guidebook divides the overall box into 18 quadrants and each quadrant is further subdivided into the individual grid boxes with the countries overlaid on them. All you have to do is simply copy the drawings, box by ever so tedious box onto the grid you constructed on the wall and before you know it, you have a map of the world!

It's really a great way to get students and teachers (those who can draw of course) involved and it is a great learning exercise for those who are not even participating in the drawing phase. Practically everyday I work on the map, large crowds of students, teachers, and random passerbys will gather at the base of my ladder to inquire as to what exactly what I'm doing even after I've explained it for umpteenth time. Their curiosity is overwhelming at times, and it's absolutely wonderful! "Ikenna which country are you drawing today" is the number one question I receive from those not helping and I will patiently reply trying my best to make it as educational and informative as possible.I drew all of the box and some of the lines. For the rest, I had a random selection of students at the primary and secondary school levels assist with drawing the lines, both boys and girls of course! As of now, I'm having a friend of mine in town who is an Australian help with the drawing of Australia and all of its associated territories. There are Brits, an American (ME!) Italians, working here in the village under either African Minerals or Salini Construction. My plan is to have them all participate in the drawing of the map so as to increase their own visibility around the school/community.

Once the drawing is complete, the real fun will begin...Painting!! My plan is to have an organized painting free-for-all so as to give those students who weren't able to help with the drawing an opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way. I believe that with a little guidance, almost everyone has the ability to paint, you just have to give them a chance. We haven't figured out a color scheme for all of the countries yet, nor have I figured out how we are going to decorate the map to make it look aesthetically pleasing, but we will get there eventually...

Students intently looking at my work from below

One of my students, finishing off the grid!!

About a month ago or so, A representative from the NGO World Hope came to visit me at my home in Bumbuna. There is a man by the name of Daniel who does a lot of work with World Hope and assists them in implementing projects in the northern provinces. He and I had talked about the sorry state of fruit preservation in Bumbuna. What typically happens is that when a particularly desirable fruit is in season, the market will flooded with them, prices will be relatively low, demand high, and as a result, before you know it, they are gone. I got my first lesson of that with oranges. They are no longer in season, and I crave them constantly! Fruits like Papaya, banana, papaya, are available for longer periods of time during the year, but mangoes, pineapples, and avocados, are not easy to find in the villages all year-round at low prices. This man came because he had learned through daniel that I was interested in starting a fruit preservation project here in Bumbuna. According to him, World Hope is trying to start some sort of micro-enterprise project here in Bumbuna with fruit preservation and canning. I expressed my interest to daniel sometime back in building from scratch a solar dryer with the hopes of demonstrating its efficacy to people in the community. If that failed, the least I could do is make it an educational activity. Maybe having a solar dryer at my school to use as a way to teach mathematical, biological, and nutritional principles, would help to increase the awareness and effectiveness of a solar dryer in keeping nutritionally rich fruits available for longer periods of time during the year

It's all conjecture for now. Only once we're finished with the world map will I attempt to build a solar dryer. In preliminary discussions Ive had with a few farmers around Bumbuna, there seems to be interest in the idea of utilizing a solar dryer, but only time will tell just how serious people are in pursuing it. We shall see!