I officially have 3 phones, so I think that makes me almost Zambian. Here there are 3 major phone lines – Airtel, MTN, Zamtel – and most people have a sim card from each company. I only have Airtel and MTN so I’m a little behind, but I’m not even sure I could keep up with 4 different phones.
I use my U.S. phone any time I am connected to Wi-Fi. Then I bought a cheap go phone with a MTN sim card for ZMK 80, and as soon as I finally add airtime to this number I will use it primarily for phone calls or sending text messages. Most people here, though, use Whatsapp on smartphones. Electronics are very, very expensive in Zambia. The cheapest Blackberry I was able to find in stores ran for ZMK 990 (≈USD 129). Samsung phones and iPhones range in the greater ZMK 1,000s, and tablets and laptops are even more expensive. Since I will be here a year and wireless internet access is not always guaranteed, especially with power outages, I opted for a used, much cheaper Blackberry Curve (shout out to Effie and Humphrey for helping me snag a deal). I’m a few decades late, but I finally have a Blackberry! Now I have access to unlimited data on my Airtel BB for only USD 6 a month! So if you are looking to get in touch with me, right now, WhatsApp on my BB is the best bet (if it’s charged).
After living in a world of electronics, unlimited internet access, and a best friend that works for Google (love you, Kev), adjusting to this new digital world is not exactly a seamless transition. But last week I discovered that CHEP offers a computer class for youth in the afternoons as a part of their peer education program!
In summer 2012, I spent 9 weeks in Yorito, Yoro, Honduras interning with the Fundación para la Investigación Participativa con Agricultores de Honduras (FIPAH) to teach English and computer-literacy classes. The second I heard about this class I got so excited and asked if I could sit in on a lesson. Kai, the coordinator, explained that a consultant volunteers to give these classes for an hour every afternoon for 2 weeks, though the group is often so engaged that the classes run longer than an hour. This is a crash course on basic computer skills, but I was so impressed by what they were learning. In Yorito, we taught the basics – names of computer parts, how to control a mouse, capitalization, bold, italics, underlining, and we learned how to use cameras and created PowerPoint presentations of the photos but that was it! Here, they are already learning Excel, formulas, computing cash accounts, and more. Kai explained that this course is to equip youth with practical computer skills that they can apply to any career in the future!
My U.S. ZamFam already makes fun of me for being a forever Unicorn, but I am not ashamed to admit that I was geeking out from the moment I entered the class until the very end. Seeing 16 students grouped around laptops, so engaged in learning Excel is a wondrous moment, and I was so excited to be able to help out during the lesson. While in Yorito, my teaching skills were basic, but after going through a summer of teaching with Breakthrough Collaborative in Miami, my mind was racing with lesson plan ideas for this class. I plan on attending as often as I can, and I cannot wait to see how else I can be involved in the peer education program!