Saturday, September 20, 2014

Four Weeks Down… Eleven to Go

I’m NOT counting down the days until the end of the semester.  Really! I promise!  It’s just that this is right about the time when I realize I am starting to get behind in teaching and if I don’t speed things up a bit (read: discourage my students from asking questions about topics they are interested in which are related to the class) then I won’t get to cover everything I want.  And the truth is, there is no chance I will tell my students to stop asking questions, because hey, at least they are interested and taking an active role in their learning.  So I’m not going to fault them for that.  The truth is, there really needs to be two tourism classes in order to cover everything to the level I would prefer.

Yesterday I gave my students index cards and asked them for feedback about my class.  These were anonymous comments, so they could say anything they liked, good or bad.  But I specifically asked them to tell me if there was a destination or topic they wanted me to cover.  I figured if I asked them for feedback now there was enough time in the semester for me to work these areas into my class.  Apparently I need to talk more about Australia.  Mention of tourism in Area 51 would also be appreciated (by someONE).  That’s the first time I ever got that request. I just hope that area 51 person is present the day we talk about it.

There is a little bit of concern over the impending map quiz they will receive.  At the beginning of the semester I asked my students to draw a map of the world and name whatever they could.  Some were quite impressive.  Others were…. Creative.  According to a recent poll by the Washington Post one in six Americans can locate Ukraine on a map.  Granted, that’s a weird one.  After all, until the recent argument with Russia over Crimea, and then the Malaysian airlines crash in Ukraine, what would make Ukraine stand out?  Ok, bad example.  Let’s talk Iraq.  We should know Iraq, right?  We’ve only been AT WAR with/in that country for over a decade.  Apparently our geographic literacy is even worse than we think.  Six in ten Americans canNOT find Iraq on a map.  That makes me sad.  One more shot…. CHINA!  The Olympics, they are taking over the world with their ever-growing population, they are responsible for more pollution that anywhere else and most importantly ALL THINGS ARE MADE IN CHINA!  Survey says, 70% of Americans can point out China.  Ok, that’s better.

I’m not worried though.  I am confident my students will ace their map quiz in a few weeks.  In the meantime, here are a few maps we discussed in class:

There is one thing we know.  That is where Ebola comes from.  Of course, Ebola is only in five countries in Africa.  The other 49 are chugging along just fine.  So, the spread of Ebola seems to be overstated here.  Then again, the Panama Canal is also overstated here as it is HUGE!:

Now, we do have some Americans at the opposite end of the spectrum.  This is probably similar to how my map would look if I was asked to draw it, smart-ass comments and all:

In case you were curious how Europeans view the U.S. here you go:

I’m pretty sure this is exactly how Texans view America as well.  I will give them one thing.  More than half my class identified the U.S. on their maps, and then specifically added Texas to demonstrate they knew exactly where it was.  Apparently, no other states are all that important.

Friday, September 12, 2014

That is Sedition!... That is the Truth!

One of my favorite movies growing up was The Last of the Mohicans. If you are unfamiliar, it is based on the historical novel of the same name about the French and Indian War and the use of Native Americans by the French and British Armies.  If you are not up on your history, here’s the Cliff Notes: the French and the British fought each other from 1754 to 1763 for control of North America.  Since neither the French nor the British knew the continent all that well they used American Indians as informants in an effort to outmaneuver each another. Obviously the British won which is why we don’t speak French. Moving on…

As I was saying my favorite movie was The Last of the Mohicans.  My brother’s favorite movie is equally cerebral, thus proving we are related: Dumb and Dumber.  In The Last of the Mohicans there is a scene where one of the Native American informants is arguing with a British army officer.  The British officer didn’t like that the Mohican was questioning his judgment and shouted, “That is Sedition!”  The Mohican responded, “That is the Truth!”

Sedition is a word which is seldom, if ever heard in developed, western countries.  Sedition involves speaking out against a political ruler (or nation) and encouraging others to rebel as well.  In the U.S. we have freedom of speech (or freedom of expression), so we can voice our opinions regardless of whether they are in opposition to authority figures. We have freedom of assembly, so people can gather together and protest.  We have freedom of the press, so the media can report without fear of legal repercussions.  There are countless examples every day of acts which could be considered seditious, but in reality they aren’t.  That is the benefit of being American.

Botswana is different.  Botswana recently arrested a newspaper editor and charged him with sedition.  The paper ran a story stating that President Khama had been involved in a car accident and apparently compensated the other driver by giving him a new Jeep.  And what is seditious about this?  I don’t know either.  Here is the article if you would like to read it.  Seems pretty straightforward if you ask me.

I will say the one thing I found curious about the article is that, “…while someone is holding the office of president and during his tenure, no civil or criminal proceedings can be instituted against them.”  Hmmm… that is unsettling.  And it reminds me a lot of our evil dictator to the north, President Mugabe of Zimbabwe.  At 90, you would think Mugabe would have retired by now, particularly since he’s been at the helm 34 years.  Of course, that will never happen.  He must die in office.  If he retires he will either be tried by The Hague for human rights violations or his own people will kill him for all the suffering he’s put them through.

Back to Botswana, I have to say, I am disappointed.  Botswana has been the shining beacon of hope for Africa for decades.  It is the only consistently stable democracy which has never had any major problems, aside from HIV/AIDs and poverty, but then again, you can’t change the weather. Of course, there was that issue with the student elections which demonstrated the government is more corrupt than people give them credit forI do hope this sedition situation is an outlier and not a sign that Botswana is moving the way of many of the other African countries (i.e. dictatorships).  This is yet one more thing that reminds me why I am proud to be an American.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Requiem for a Suitcase

Another one bites the dust.  Actually, another one, two, three bites the dust.  Remember how when I first arrived in Botswana one of my bags had a giant hole in it?  Well, there is something to be said for duct tape and shrink wrap.  I didn’t want to buy another piece of luggage while in Africa, so I saved it, duct taped it back together, filled it with a bunch of stuff, and then had it plastic wrapped at the Joburg airport.  TA-DA!  It actually made it all the way home.

And then there was my luggage that was forever lost.  First in Ethiopia for several weeks.  Then it went MIA when they forgot to put it on the plane from Joburg to Gabs.  I used that one most of the time I was travelling around Africa for the past year.  But by May the zipper had broken, so I could only half unzip it.  By June it had deteriorated to not opening at all.  So, yet again, I duct taped it together and then had it wrapped at the airport.  Thankfully, that one made it all the way back to the U.S. as well.

Then there was my rolling carry-on.  The wheels on that broke months ago.  So by Christmas it no longer rolled.  It was simply a “drag it all over the place and explain to porters, bellmen and anyone else who tried to help me with my bag not to worry because it was already broken” kind of bag.

Well, today I finally made the move to bury (in the dumpster) my three pieces of luggage, taken to Africa, only to meet their maker and return lifeless.  I suppose this is just one of the steps to moving forward and saying good-bye to my time in Africa.

On the bright side, I got new luggage!  I highly recommend my new TravelPro roller bags.  They are lighter and seem to have more room than my old luggage (which by the way lasted me a record 239 passport stamps!).

Out with the old….
In with the new….
Of course, that being said, I wouldn’t be terribly heartbroken if I didn’t take an international trip for a while.  Then again, you never know.