Abstract classes and power outages

Ghana Summer 2012 Blog

Written by: Alessondra Springmann

June 29, 2012

Our second Friday is here!  Our first week was a nice dry introduction to Ghana, but the rainy season has returned this last week starting with a torrential downpour and a thunder and lightning storm on Sunday.  The road outside the apartment has turned even bumpier and squishier than it was before; it's a fun bounce down it in our daily taxis on our way to and from UGL in the mornings and evenings.  

Yesterday afternoon we had the students scope out what the relevant classes and objects would be for a zoo, from structures to animals to zookeepers.  Why would certain classes be abstract?  Which ones are subclasses?  How do you diagram your class stru... power outage!  Pen and paper and laptops to the rescue.  Push it to github in the morning when the network returns!  

With 20 minutes left at the end of the day and no power for presentations, we called everyone outside and had them do competitive rock-paper-scissors.  This is a great icebreaker and teaches names super well, even though lot of students had never played this game before, but picked it up pretty quickly.  Everyone pairs off for rock-paper-scissors and plays until someone's won two out of three rounds.  Then, the winner becomes the champion and the loser becomes the champion's #1 fan, rooting for the champion during the next round of rock-paper-scissors.  Eventually you get huge mobs of players standing behind their champions, all cheering the champion's name.  The students got really into it, separating the competitors in the final rounds for rest breaks; clearly someone'd watched a lot of boxing or wrestling.  Our final two players were Ben and Diana, each with a mob of about 15 fans standing around them, chanting their names.  Diana ultimately won to many cheers and the students scattered off into the evening.  I looked up and saw Jovana and Louis, hanging out of the first floor windows, smiling behind their cameras.

They may be college students but you're never too young to have fun in a group.  Since personal space isn't so much of an issue here like it is in the US, we may try the team building activity where you all stand in a circle, everyone turns in one direction, then tries to sit down on the knees of the person behind as the person in front tries to do the same thing.  Louis: "I don't understand the math behind that exercise."

Names here are a funny thing: everyone has their own name (first name), and a surname, but sometimes they go by a nickname or their surname or the day of the week they were born on or their own name or will write their names four or five different ways using different combinations of their first two names or hyphenated surnames.  You can learn the students' official names, but it's not what people call themselves.  Name confusion is all part of getting used to Ghana (though I hear it's similar in Tanzania).  

They just finished presentations on how they would structure their zoo classes, their animal subclasses, and how they thought about their designs.  For people who've maintained that public speaking is terrifying, their first presentations with PowerPoint slides are pretty good!  I'm looking forward in the coming weeks to give some pointers on more effective slide stack delivery.  They're getting much louder and are speaking more clearly as time goes on, actually holding the microphone by their mouths when speaking.  Huzzah!  Next up: regular expressions and literal patterns as delivered by Louis.

The students have also formed their own final project teams on their own.  There was one 'orphan' who was quickly adopted by another team.  They're throwing around ideas, practicing elevator pitches, and thinking about what's feasible in the few weeks we have remaining.  This afternoon, they'll submit team contracts and decide who's serving what roles in their groups.  I'm excited to see how they work together, and what their final projects will be.

Our students are wearing dresses and shirts made out of traditional Ghanaian fabrics, whether kente or batik, in support of the local textile industry.  Ghana used to have a thriving textile trade and a lot of clothes used to be made here until the US and Europe started flooding the market with cheap imported used clothing.  This is really unfortunate, as the seamstresses here are highly talented and astoundingly quick.  It's inspiring Jovana, LiAn, and I to ask our local seamstresses to sew us dresses out of Ghanaian cloth, but probably not in kente or batik as the patterns on those cloths have cultural and religious significance that we don't quite comprehend as foreigners.  

Enjoy the rain!