(from Thursday)


Motorcycles riding three, four, five people scoot by as we walk towards town to class. As they turn corners they honk loudly. We greet people as we walk by and they smile at us. “Bonjou,” we say as we step over piles of rubble, the remains of people’s houses, stores. Darbonne is a town but sometimes it feels more rural. I suppose that’s what happens when you lose a lot of the buildings you used to have.

Yesterday was our first Etoys lesson. We started as one large group of students and talked about what we learned yesterday. We explained to the students that they would need to come to class with a fully charged battery, and that if they didn’t feel they could do that at home, they were welcome to leave their computers at the school overnight. We also discussed basic computer care, tangentially related to taking the computers home. Then came the Etoys introduction.

The mentors had received the first ten Etoys lessons written down yesterday. We expected them to have those lessons in their hands as they taught but apparently they chose instead to read the lessons before class and then to proceed without them during class. At first, class seemed a little disorganized. Both groups of teachers seemed to favor reviewing what we did yesterday and talking a LOT without jumping into Etoys. For the first 20 minutes Bill and I paced around, muttering to ourselves, “Just click the little star button. Just CLICK IT!!!!” We looked at the teachers and finally butted in. They needed to get Etoys started or they would never actually begin.

Once Etoys started, the first lesson went well. One group finished the lesson completely, while another group just has a little bit more to do. A group of boys sat under a tent, patiently waiting during the entire length of the class. Some of the boys were students of ours, but that wasn’t communicated to us. We asked Elizabeth, one of our mentors, to take them under her wing and give them a couple of private classes so that they could be up to speed. She took the initiative and asked if she could come to class with them early, so that they could learn at about 1pm and then participate in class, which, from today on, is starting at 2 since the school building closes at 4.

The other boys that were not students of ours were turned away. We are getting regular visits from very quiet, patient children who nearly beg us to be a part of the program. With everything they have been through and the difficulty of their lives right now post-earthquake, they are still begging with everything they have to be part of this laptop program. It is heartbreaking to have to tell them no because we simply do not have enough computers.

After class, we all sat down and met in a group. We started with five minutes of journaling. You can talk as much as you want about class and how we want the mentors to report on what they did and how it went, but until you actually start asking them to do it, I’m not sure we get through to them. So starting with five minutes of journaling per day is a way to make sure the teachers understand that, at the end of the week, we want the group leaders to file a report online. We told the group leaders that this Sunday we would go with them to use the internet and show them how we want them to write their email. We gave both group leaders funding for five weeks to take motorcycles out of town and to use the internet for two hours. Before they leave, they’ll need to gather information from the rest of their group so that they know what to report.

Bill and I also gave two weeks’ worth of motorcycle money to three of the mentors, who need to travel quite a ways to get here. Naomi, one of the mentors (also known as Finance) has to take a 20-minute motorcycle ride and then walk up hill for 30 minutes. She lives in the caves and also has asthma, so it ends up being quite a trek!

On Monday, we’re going to have a repair class for teachers interested in learning how to take apart their computers and fix various hardware problems (I suppose we’ll talk about reflashing, replacing screens, opening up the motherboard, replacing the keyboard, etc). We asked if two people would be interested in being responsible for this and nearly everyone raised their hand. We told them that everyone who wanted to participate was welcome. Joseph is going to bring a friend of his who is also interested in learning. We explained to his friend that there was no money in it and that the computers are different from the ones he is used to learning, but welcomed his interest. There is a store down the street where we can buy a couple of screwdrivers to leave with the mentors here so they will be able to fix their computers themselves.

All in all, mentors were pleased with the way class went and we were pleased as well. Elizabeth suggested that we meet for 15 minutes before class each day (in addition to our post-class meetings) for groups to sit down together and decide how they want to organize the class period. That way if one mentor is teaching and gets stuck, other mentors can jump in without hesitation. Upon Elizabeth’s suggestion, we are now all meeting at 1:45, have class from 2pm to about 3:30pm, and then meet until about 4pm with mentors. That allows people like Finance to get home at a reasonable hour while still giving us time to have class.

After class, Joseph, Benaja, Bill and I took a walk around town and visited Matanya and Magela’s houses. When we got back, we saw one of Joseph’s cousins (I believe) playing with an XO. She’s probably in her early teens. I asked Benaja if she was in our class and he said no. But Joseph has been letting her use his computer in the evenings, because when she found out she couldn’t be a part of the program, she started to cry and would not stop. Her mother came to class yesterday and begged Joseph to let her be a part of the program, because she was upsetting the whole house.

When we got home, we drank hot chocolate and sat around and talked. Then Joseph broke out the beers and we played hand games until relatively late in the evening. Though yesterday was truly the first day of class, I think today is going to be exponentially more organized and successful, and I’m very excited to see it go down.

The next morning, Benaja asked me if I felt the earthquake last night. I said I didn’t. But I wonder if other people felt it. No doubt they all did.

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