A triumphant finish

Well! What a turnaround today has been.

Today we held a workshop at Rongo University with a number of students.  The customary meet and greet, presentations and speeches were made, punctuated with many coffee and tea breaks (which I add, made me a very happy person).  Groups were made out of decisions made by the students – audio or video production.  Five students; Mercy, Thomas, Khadija, Benedict and Jackson chose to work with Emily and I on audio. Before the training begun, I felt a hint of apprehension but, mostly enthusiasm and more at ease.  We both felt more in control of what we were doing albeit, a moment or two when it came to making the chosen topic into a coherent rounded narrative through storyboarding.  I can only improve with this.  Peter would come over now and then to observe which, although helpful a lot of the time, at other times we – I speak for myself – would feel a little pressure and under scrutiny (sorry Peter!).  I think because of our sense of control, and by no means in control of the students but of the situation, and increased confidence, made things run more smoothly and this work seemed more like fun and a better learning experience for everyone.  We pretty much had a narrative and the objective nailed soon on, and were recording after only an hour or so spent on the mind mapping and the same for storyboarding.  Admittedly our students were absolutely wonderful; engaging, excited and eager to express ideas on what they wanted to narrate.  As an observation, in any dynamic you will find different personalities, strengths and weaknesses. We found an especially strong character; Khadija, who expressed passionately her ideas in the most articulate fashion.  Whilst on a tea break, Khadija told me with conviction that all she wanted to do was learn and to change things in this world – and that she didn’t think that she knew enough.  I told her that we are all still learning and that as long as she maintained her passion, belief and focus that she could indeed contribute to change.  In contrast, we had Mercy who, I am certain has the same attributes, remained reserved and at times distant from the group.  We tried on a number of times to include Mercy, in order to draw out her thoughts and to get her more involved – I hope she finds more trust in us and in the work tomorrow.  The boys were all glued to the audacity editing – eyes on stalks whilst cutting, chopping and moving around content, which I found quite endearing.

At the end of the day, Jackson took both Emily and I on a tour around the campus.  Jackson is studying Informatics and whilst not particularly keen on narrating stories, was great fun, polite and engaging. An exceptional sweet young man, I truly hope he goes far.  This sentiment extends to all of our participants today

So, this is the end of my stay in Kenya as I am flying back to the UK before everybody else.  I’ve left the workshop and this particular audio work half way through but am 110% confident that with the guidance from Emily (all on her own – which I think is amazing) will pull together a brilliant piece of work.  I cannot wait to hear it

more challenges

So, after yesterday’s challenges, once again Emily and I were faced with many more. This time mostly technical.  To begin with, we discovered a compatibility issue with the editing software and recording equipment.  Our participants had to record their content five times as the microphones failed to recognise/save any work. This became embarrassing for us; we had to deal with this by way of apology and trying our best to maintain a sense of humour with a ‘can-do’ attitude, jesting with the guys that they’d face just the same – if not more – if they were on a big budget film set; cuts, re-takes and headaches in order to reach some kind of perfection (clutching at straws but it raised a smile nonetheless!).

One notable memory I have is when feeling tremendously disappointed and upset with our circumstances and accountable for its failing, especially when one of the participants – Kevin – eagerly ready with pen and notepad anticipated to write what we were about to demonstrate, only to be once again faced with confusion from Emily and I at another glitch.  I couldn’t help but feel that he must have felt over promised and so under delivered.

Due to time restrictions, we couldn’t edit the material at the workshop with the participants.  A decision was made to set a task for the both us – the facilitators, and participants, to take home the audio clip and edit it separately (the participants would be given audacity and soundcloud guidance with the manuals that were produced before the trip). We would then both post our finished product onto the collective blog to make comparisons, however, not of a competitive nature but more so a comparison of style preference.   Emily and I got to work as soon as we got back to camp. Yet again, clarity came through from painful episodes of trial and error; we were still finding out techniques and solutions long into the night. But alas, we managed to pull together a tidy final version complete with music and without errors.  We’ve given the participants until Tuesday to ideally have their content up the collective blog…. given the problematic issues of internet connection, we might have to hold back a little longer.

Out of today came an awful lot of embarrassment, notes to self that this was a learning process and that some of the best learning comes out of making mistakes and being faced with nasty challenges.  I learnt some fascinating narratives about the division of the Massai region – which resulted in one side motivated and governed by capitalist ideology and the other, more socialist and its consequences.  I grant our hosts and participants total admiration for their story telling and informative minds, I think we’ve all learnt so much about the Kenyan culture. 

A difficult day


This blog is being written two days after the experience and at the time I thought this particular day was by far the most stressful and uncomfortable.  However, at the beginning of this day and because of the day before (day 2) I envisioned an easier one… I felt confident and more prepared.  The workshop began differently than expected; due to a computer glitch, a video that was to be presented to the whole group was shelved and now we were put into smaller groups to facilitate training. Emily and I was now in charge of audio training for a group of four guys; Moses, James, Gideon and Kevin.  We began by explaining in detail what mind-mapping was about, its relevance, followed by the steps we’d be taking for the rest of the day.  The mind-mapping went really well, all four participants had a vast amount of information to give about their background, communities and the issues within.  This was followed by storyboarding which was the most difficult part; we had to condense many stories (as well as exclude a lot of the work from the mind-map) into points which, was challenging.  Reiterating and summarising a political anecdote that was packed and woven with other issues was near on impossible, at times both Emily and I struggled to pull it together.  This in addition to an awareness that we needed to move onto the next step felt pressurised.   Peter came over and pointed out that we should be finding an overall point with a beginning, middle and end to conclude the message the participants wanted to give.  What we had so far was although strong, lacked direction.  Both Emily and I were now trying to organise what the main focus and points should be but when we did, another point would be raised and we’d be back to digressing, meanwhile another participant would leave the room and or look at their phone.  My discomfort with an attempt at cutting any more explaining or reiterated points was excruciating – I felt both stressed and overwhelmed.  I explained this to Peter whilst we broke for lunch – and was advised that we were the facilitators and we needed to assert some direction. After lunch and removing ourselves from the heat, Emily and I took a stronger position in handling this issue and managed to get three themes together and a plan.

This particular day can only be described as painful at times. Nonetheless, I did come away knowing for the next time that the issue of time would need to be highlighted – a lot, and to find the right balance between being chatty and engaged in the stories being told – which can often lead to deviation – and pushing the things forward which might take a little more assertiveness but will lead to a more focussed goal.

UN day….

After my first post about communication I think it’s apt to return the same point again, after our visit to the UN HQ for the first workshop of the trip.  The day kicked off with a couple of introductory speeches in a conference room that we’d be using for the remainder of the day.  It came as a bit of a shock to us (the students) that the figures who were making speeches were in fact our participants to train.  This mostly because most of the students/trainers who were meant to be there, were not – due to work commitments. We had assumed a typical make up of students; young, casual and probably for most of them – unlikely having much experience in the workplace. We were faced with an older crowd, in suits and for most of them – in a professional workplace. However, students and trainers can cover many demographics and backgrounds and it was our job to face this challenge and just get on with it.  Which we did.  I must express my thanks now to a fantastic group I was working with – the girls conquered on despite what we were faced with.  Still, there were challenges ahead of us…

Even after a quick ‘warm-up’ game between all participants (before splitting in to two groups) there after followed some awkwardness.  We started with mind mapping.  Had we defined  – in detail – what a mind map was and why it was important for prompting ideas and brainstorming, we wouldn’t have been left looking at blank faces and body language that seemed to suggest discomfort. Nonetheless, things began to slowly progress.  Storyboarding didn’t come without its own challenge, although was a little easier.

Again today, as I have done before, I found myself making misjudged assumptions about the people around me and in this case our participants.  I felt at times amateurish in the limited knowledge that I had and that our participants would be critically assessing this incompetence.  However in fact, they could not have been more engaging and committed to the video project.

The arrival

After a fairly successful journey to Nairobi, I was driven to the camp by a friendly Kenyan by the name of David. We got chatting about the weather and the like however, things got tricky when we tried to converse over time; every question I asked, whether it be time estimated to the camp/time it took for the others to get to camp/how long some new road tax machines had been in place…was met by the same generic answer of “20 minutes”. I was then reminded that I’d probably need to get used to this – misunderstandings and miscommunication when training our communities and students due to inexperience of any teaching skills and especially in another culture. 

Yesterday was spent mostly making some collective decision making on the order our first day of training; which although successful took a few turns and alterations to reach a conclusion for a smooth running day. Emily and myself decided to take on the role of audacity and audio trainers – a big turnaround for me as I’d been working on video editing up until the trip.  We got a lot done, which was probably because it was just us two – no distractions (well, a few minor ones!).  We ended our session feeling fairly confident albeit a few glitches and have adopted a ‘we’ll be okay’ attitude. We’ve done the best we can with what we’ve got. Today we venture to our first training sessions and although feeling a bit apprehensive, I’m sure it’ll be just fine.