Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Day in the Life #1

Since joining the deployment team this summer, I have realized that a lot of people don’t really understand what exactly goes into making an XO deployment work. (I definitely did not understand the process before I became involved in it.) For example, when our team was in the process of registering this project through Indiana University’s Overseas Studies Office, it was suggested that 13 weeks would be way too much time to complete this project, as if we would distribute computers for a week or two and then sit around enjoying a two month vacation. (To be fair, the IU Overseas Studies Office is neither the first nor probably the last to feel this way, it is just one example.) To dispel any myths or misunderstandings about how we are spending our time, I am going to try to do a “Day in the Life” blog every week or two... here is the first, detailing what we have done today:

June 22, 2009

7:30am- Wake up, get ready for the day.

8:00am- Today we need to drop letters off to each school explaining our winter XO camp so that they can pass them out to the students. We already wrote the letter and had it translated from English into Sepedi, but then we realized that we needed to make a couple of changes to the times and dates listed on the letter. I went to Nancy's (our translator) office at 8:00am to make the small changes, only to find out that the computer system is down at Thusanang (the organization that we stay with). We have no letters. The schools are expecting letters today...

8:45am- We have to make an unexpected trip into town to re-type and print the letter at an internet cafe. We run into another problem when we realize that there is misinformation in the letter but we can't change it because we do not speak fluent Sepedi. We decide that the information is not terribly important and that we can probably just take it out. In order to do this, we tape a piece of white paper over this paragraph (yes, very professional, we know) before leaving to make copies at one of the schools.

9:30am- Leave for Katane. We need to make 100 copies of the letter that we made at the internet cafe and leave some at Katane to give to the students. We find Wilemina, the teacher in charge of the laptop program, who takes the letter to make our copies... we wait.... wait... talk to some kids... wait... eat some Sump (lunch that the kids eat)... wait... this is taking entirely too long... wait a little longer... Wilemina comes back and tells us that the copier ate our paper (stupid paper/tape idea) and the copies were not legible. Someone is now re-typing the letter. We wait a little longer, but use the time to talk to Wilemina about what the kids are currently learning and what programs they already know on the laptops. We find out that the school would like us to work on resumes with the kids (a very simple 'resume' to get them thinking about their future), so we develope a learning project around this idea with Wilemina while waiting for the copies. We then had to collect any laptops that need to be repaired (2) and the power strips that we gave each school last year. We need the power strips to charge the XOs during the camp. We wait a little longer for the copies... yes, still waiting... wondering if the copies will ever come... and they finally do! It took two hours, but they are perfect. As we leave, we get into a really interesting conversation with the school principal and ask him if we can interview him sometime soon. He is thrilled to help us.

11:30am- Leave for Driehoek. Everything goes very smoothly. We give the letters to the principal and collect any laptops that need repairs (2) and the power strips.

12:00pm- Leave for Mmaweshi. Everything goes very smoothly again. We trade the letters for the laptops/power strips, and we're off!

12:20pm- Leave to head back to Thusanang. Grab some lunch. Now we need to update the firmware and reflash the 100 new XOs that arrived yesterday. (We already unloaded them and marked them with their serial number on their handle for easy access when we distribute them to the kids). Each XO needs to have its firmware updated before we can begin a process called NandBlasting, which reflashes large numbers of computers at a time. In theory, we should be able to update the XOs firmware one by one and then immediately move them to NandBlast, so we would be updating and reflashing at the same time. We ran into another little obstacle, though, because both updating and NandBlasting require a specially formatted USB stick, and we only have one. We could copy the USB, but we don't have a stick with enough memory to hold all of the information, and the closest store with USB sticks is 30 minutes away. That means that we have to update the firmware on all 100 computers before we can begin NandBlasting. A small setback, but still slightly annoying.

1:00pm- Gordon, Carolyn, and I leave "the Joes" behind at Thusanang to update and reflash the XOs. It isn't really a 6 person job. We are now back at the internet cafe. We have a lot of e-mailing/communication to catch up on- as you can tell from the date of my last post, we have NOT had good luck with internet availability. Our schools have internet, but the organization that we are staying with does not. After I finish blogging, we need to make a few phone calls to set up exact times and plans for our after school program, which starts in 3 1/2 weeks. After we are done catching up here, we will head back to Thusanang to help the Joes update/reflash- I'm sure it will take the remainder of the day.

We'll need to have a group meeting tonight to prepare for tomorrow- we need to go to the three schools to collect ALL of the 100 laptops that were distributed last year so that we can update/reflash them (same thing we are doing to the new laptops today) and have them to use duing the workshop. We encourage anyone who is interested to come to the XO camp, even if they do not have an XO, so we need to make sure that we have as many on hand as possible. It should be a busy day!

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