Time flies..

July 13th, 2011

It is hard to believe it is 4 weeks already since I left Moshi. I basically went directly from the airport to the UXcamp in Berlin - that was a bit of a culture shock.To say the least.. I saw friends and family in Germany and moved into a new house and now that the thesis is out of the way (hopefully..) and the postdoc has started (sort of..), it is time to look for conferences and journals again! Here is my target list for the next little while. I’ll try to get a few papers into journals and hopefully attend a few international conferences.

Conferences I’d like to present at:

ACM Multimedia Systems 2012
February 22-24, 2012
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Paper Deadline: September 19, 2011

CHI 2012 : 30th Human Factors in Computing Systems
May 5 - May 10, 2012
Austin, TX
Paper Deadline: September 23, 2011

International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE)
June 2-9, 2012
Zurich, Switzerland
Paper Deadline: September 29, 2011

WWW - World Wide Web 2012
April 16 - 20, 2012
Lyon, France
Paper Deadline: November 1, 2011

9th International Cross-Disciplinary Conference on Web Accessibility (W4A)
16 - 17 April 2012
Lyon, France
Paper Deadline: February 4, 2012

ICALT 2012 : 12th IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies
July 4 - 6, 2012
Rome, Italy
Paper Deadline: December 30, 2011

Australasian User Interface Conference - AUIC 2012
30 January - 2 Febuary 2012
Melbourne, Australia
Paper Deadline: August 15, 2011

Conference on Mobile and Ubiquitous Multimedia (MUM)
December 7 - 9, 2011
Beijing, China
Paper Deadline: August 25, 2011

Interaction |12
February 1-4, 2012
Dublin, Ireland
Paper Deadline: July 31, 2011

Euro SPI


ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia


Journals I’d like to publish in (TBC):

So long, and thanks for all the chicken

June 11th, 2011

It was a strange journey in the sense that it clearly is an experience unmatched by any other. Like China, Tanzania is a country of big contrasts - very rich and very poor, unbelievable natural beauty and hard to believe tristesse. The best about this trip are the people I met. I will miss the women from the Rudisha Women’s Group, but mostly I will miss Johnson and his wonderful group of friends: Bumper2Bumper, Margaret, Rashid, Deb, to name a few.
The conference in Dar hopefully is the start of a good cooperation with Margaret Mushi from OU TZ and Brenda Mallinson from SADIE.
The most prominent feature, what I will probably never forget, is how welcoming people are, as well as how often you are the Muzungu. I guess you know you really have settled in here, when you are not referred to as the Muzungu any longer.
Elimu ni mali - Education is wealth. Yesterday I had the women write another test and, as expected, Aisha and Sara had by far the best results. But all of them did well. I hope Caroline will be able to continue the teaching; I left her most of my books and some ideas on how to continue. I hope the book I ordered for her will be helpful. These women really want to learn and they, do if they are given the chance.
I’m also glad Johnson took me on a trip to a small mountain village two days ago. The local secondary school will have students from an American school visiting next week. The best students were selected to host the American kids and we went with the teacher to visit the homes and to see what might be needed. I know, this is a worn out expression, but it did almost break my heart how some of them live and I’m full of respect that they are still the top students. One boy shares his home with his 90 year old grandfather, which means after school he takes care of everything. They live in a mud house without water and electricity. Another student, who is also an orphan, lives with her aunt, who has several children of her own, was left by her husband and on top of everything else has had breast cancer for the last 3 years. It seems she is in the terminal stage. I really hope that some of the American kids will keep in touch and that a few scholarships for those in worst circumstances come out of this. Having said all that, we also visited families, living in a nice house (however, without electricity), with parents who will do anything to help their children to make it through school. It was wonderful to see how neighbours or relatives take on the challenge and become guardians, despite their own difficult living conditions.
I will have to write about Margaret and children of destiny in a later posting. An extraordinary woman, taking care of very special children, orphans between 4 and 18 years of age.
On a more trivial note: I won’t eat chicken for a while and although I like it, I have also had enough avocados for a while… Not being able to eat tomatoes, sugar and beef turned out to be a real challenge. But obviously this is moaning on a very high level - considering that a lot of the people I met and worked with have to survive on 1-3$ per day.

What!!! It’s 31 May ALREADY???

June 11th, 2011

So this will be another long posting; sorry folks;)
Saturday, 21 May we went on a day trip to Marangu. Marangu is famous for it’s waterfalls and the Chagga culture you can experience during the walks. I had arranged the taxi and Deb, Maren, Sarafina and I left early on Saturday morning. I thought Salmin, the driver, could show us some of the sites. Well, it turned out he couldn’t and Msafiri saved the day: we called him, he called a guide he knew in Marangu and we were sorted;) We spent the day leisurely walking, listening to explanations about plants, buildings and history - from 9am until 5pm. It was quite the day! We saw stone potatoes, coffee trees, of course some avocado trees and the traditional grass hut of the Chagga - it used to house the whole family, a cow, food for the animal and humans and a place to cook. The Kilimanjaro Resort in Marangu was the stop after our lunch - a place I can definitely recommend.
Rose and Santa Maria - 23/24 May
Monday was a very normal day - teaching, going into town to find out about the bus to Dar on Wednesday - had to come back on Tuesday, because tickets are only sold one day in advance. I briefly talked to Caroline who had visited Sally on Sunday - I had assumed that Sally would go home for the weekend just like the strudents at St Jude. It seems she has settled in alright and has made a friend already who shared a few things she was missing - she just needed washing powder, flip flops and the snacks are a bit more expensive as we thought. So I got those things on Monday and gave it to Caroline, who will visit Sally either this week or at the weekend.
Tuesday I started teaching, the women started showing up, I explained something and while the women were copying it down I walked around the building. And who would I run into but Rose? She has a slightly tense relationship with Foot2Africa - to put it mildly. But that day she was all sweet - she asked about the class, she even sat in for a while and then she invited Olga and me for tea and a samosa. Well, I will not write more about this. It was a nice gesture, although a bit bizarre. I left the women with a big homework as I wouldn’t be back before Monday.
There was one thing to do: I had promised Aisha, one of the Rudisha women, we would walk to a nearby school together to investigate about the conditions and requirements to get into the school. Aisha has four children, two of which are currently not attending school, because she cannot afford to pay for secondary school, which is considersbly more expensive than primary school. The younger daughter just finished primary school last December, while her oldest daughter finished primary school in 2008 and has stayed home since, helping around the house. Santa Maria is a school run by catholic nuns and a 10 minute walk from Rudisha’s workshop. It is a school similar to Mount Kilimanjaro School, slightly less expensive, also with a high standard, but it requires students to pass an entrance exam. They will not accept students who have been out of school for longer than 1 year - which means Aisha’s older daughter cannot get in, while the younger daughter will now sit the entrance exam in October. Aisha has signed her up for tutoring to prepare for the tough exam. If she passes successfully she will need a sponsor/mentor. If you are interested - please get in touch with me. I am looking for someone interested in supporting a child through the six years of secondary school, which costs approximately 700€ per year, and who is also interested in taking some interest in the progress and provide some mentoring: give positive feedback, provide encouragement when things are getting more difficult and, depending on how things develop, help in a few years with finding information about university or vocational training.

St Jude’s Revisited

May 31st, 2011

At first we went to the Usa River campus. This is the location of the secondary school. It
was opened in 2008, when the first class reached secondary level. It would be an impressive school anywhere in the world - and even more so in Arusha. When I first saw it I thought for a minute I’m at a university campus. However, the St Jude tour was scheduled and visitors are usually welcomed at the Primary School. We traveled across town and 45 minutes later we reached our destination.
At first I thought, this is all a bit too polished - the visitor service, the assembly with students performing (for the visitors?). But now, more than a week later I still like to remember the visit. And I have a lot of good memories. The guests were invited up on a stage to briefly introduce themselves, so the students knew our names. During the tour with Adellah from the visitor service, a little girl about Sally’s age came up to me and said “Hello Sabine” - I was very surprised she remembered my name. Turns out we share the
same name;)

A few minutes later we passed a room with the dance club in action - practicing what I know as Ententanz, and before we knew it, Deb and I were dancing as well. The rooms are all organized practical - practical for the students and in friendly colors so it can be fun to be there. Each student has a space in the shelf for the bags and some space in a large shelf for text books and exercise books.
The grounds are divided into separate areas for lower and upper primary and the respective playgrounds reflect the different age groups. Similarly the colorful murals encompassing the school grounds are showing learning content from the syllabus. A great way to learn - apparently teachers use the large pictures, which are done in excellent detail, to explain for example the reproductive organs or the digestive tract of humans or some physical phenomenon.
What I still remember most though is the enthusiasm for kitchen staff and teachers alike, a lot of things that show attention to detail and the love of all the staff of St Jude’s for these children: children who fail a class can repeat and so far this hasn’t been much of a problem; if the teachers notice that the students are more upset than to be expected before going back home for the holiday, a group of 2-3 teachers will visit the family and talk to the neighbours again. Sometimes students know they won’t get more than 1 meal per day at most - that certainly would upset me as well. In such cases the school takes in lower primary students for boarding. Usually boarding is only from upper primary to give the students the chance to build a relationship with their family and, how Adellah put it, so they know where their home is.
The school has a computer room which has very restrictive internet settings for afternoon classes and no internet access in the morning, but the computer labs are equipped with state of the art hardware - in other words, the children really learn to use a computer as a helpful tool.
St Jude’s is teaching the syllabus for the international baccaleaureate - so in theory the graduates can study in most places worldwide. The first graduates are not expected for another two years, but then the next challenge is waiting: to find scholarships for these bright and highly motivated children. Their parents will still be among the poorest and won’t be able to support them. Anybody involved in scholarship management, feel free to get in touch with the school. You won’t regret it!

20 May, Friday - A short night and a long day..

May 20th, 2011

Thursday was a long night. Foot2Afrika only had all the documents for the next big group of volunteers complete for the visa forms last night. So Rashid and I ended up with a big pile. I can honestly say, I’m glad that I never seriously considered a pure administration career… It was a short night and a long day.
But on to much nicer things. After my session with the women, Salmin picked me up at the project, then we collected Deb and off we were to St Jude’s in Arusha. Of course we first went to the wrong place - they now have two campuses at opposite ends of Arusha (45 minute drive apart). We just made it in time to the Friday assembly at 1.30pm. The students meet on Friday in their respective age groups - lower or upper primary school, before they go home for the weekend. I didn’t really know what to expect, but it definitely wasn’t what we got. It was a very inspirational visit, to say the least. I will write in more detail about it when I have caught up on my sleep deficit, but I can tell you that this school is full of enthusiastic students, admin and support staff from kitchen to maintenance and of course teachers. They aim to involve everybody, including the visitors. That’s how Deb and I ended up on stage, handing out certificates and a small price to outstanding students. Their achievements ranged from excellent marks in Maths to exceptional kindness and caring for younger students.
Today it was time to recognize staff achievements. The enthusiastic applause and cheering of the students for kitchen staff and teachers alike was incredible. The whole campus shows attention to detail to create an enjoyable learning experience!

On the way back we saw Mount Kilimanjaro in full and leaving Arusha we had an excellent view on Mount Meru. It was a great day, but got to get to bed now. Just wanted to give a short feedback.

16-19 May: Time travels fast when you are having fun;)

May 19th, 2011

It was a bit of a mad week so far - glad it is Thursday evening already… But a very good mad;)
Monday I went into town with Sally and her mother Caroline after the class with the women to pay for the first semester and do some shopping to equip Sally for school. First we went to my bank to take the money out. After waiting in line for 1/2 hour we found out that we had to walk across town to the schools bank. Finally we were ready to buy new shoes, socks, pencils, a mathematical set, a sweater that matches her school uniform, a school bag and a bag to go home at the weekends. It was so nice and in a way heart-breaking to see Sally always choose the most economical option. For example the  mathematical set was available with Barbie and Hannah Montana and then the plain Oxford one. She picked the Oxfortd one, because it was not only cheaper, but also included more items. She did pick two pencils with Barack Obama on it - at least that;)
On Tuesday morning after my class the three of us took a taxi into town again, this time to go to the school. First we had to do all the administrative details; get her registered, hand the receipt from the bank to the school accountant. She told us that the second semester actually should also be paid for at the beginning of the school year and could I come back by the end of the week. Then it went all very fast, we just had time to take a picture, Sally ran off to class. Caroline and I had a brief chat with the headmaster and left. I went into town to take more money out of my account, Caroline went back home.
Wednesday I went to teach my English class in the morning, then I raced back to the hostel, dropped off my books I use for teaching and then I raced into town to take some money out again, met Deb to borrow the missing 20000TSh and continue as fast as possible to the bank. I actually managed to get there just on time. I was the last customer admitted into the bank, paid the 2nd term and left. By the time I had walked back to the hostel my feet were seriously hurting..
This morning (now it’s Thursday) I asked Salmin, our very reliable taxi driver, to pick me up at the project again to take me to the school once more. I had a very nice chat with the accountant and afterwards was introduced to the manager of the school (who’s name I forgot, unfortunately) and again met the headmaster, Mr Kimboka. Mr Kimboka and I have good common ground: he did a Master degree in hydrology engineering at the university in Galway in the 80s. The manager, who has been running the school since 2000, has all his family still in England and we talked about the queen’s visit to Ireland and how wonderful and important it was that she said sorry for some of the cruelties of the English in Ireland.
Back at the hostel I went back to work on an email regarding my in-country travel grant to meet potential project partners in Dar-es-Salaam next week. I got up early this morning to work on the reply, afraid that the one week power outage announced to
start today and to last for a week would cut off electricity during the day. Well, I can live with power outages like this: today has been the most stable since I arrived… To make a long story short - I first checked my email and what do I find?
My travel application has been confirmed! Yipieeh! Thanks Ms Jaskula and Mr O’Reilly - this email made my day!! :)
Now I’m all excited about tomorrow: after the class with the women I will travel to Arusha and visit the School of St Jude. We are invited to join the school assembly - so hopefully we will be there on time for it at 1.30pm. More news and interesting stories to come - it is also my first trip seriously out of town since I arrived.

15 May - a very lazy Sunday

May 15th, 2011

There wasn’t much happening today. I updated the blog as you might have noticed. Then I walked into town to get money out for tomorrow. When I came back our new volunteer, Maren, had arrived. A 21 year old Norwegian African Studies student who has spent the last few months in Dar-es-Salaam, studying in an exchange program. She brought a lot of laughs to the house already and it looks like she will be a good addition to the team. Then at 6pm I all of a sudden had this (brilliant) idea to check whether Kilimanjaro might be visible. And, yes, there it was.

14 May - Kilimanjaro does exist after all

May 15th, 2011

Saturday morning after class I had a chat with Sally’s mother, a very nice lady, and we decided the next steps. On Monday I will go into town with Sally and her mum, buy shoes, socks, a bag, a few things Sally will need and pay the school fees at the bank. Tuesday after my class, all three of us will go to Sally’s (boarding) school here in Moshi, get her registered, buy her uniform and the books and leave her there.

Yes, I will be broke and there won’t be a holiday budget left for travelling around Ireland this summer, but I think it’s worth it. I also talked to Sally’s mum, that I would like to continue supporting Sally’s schooling and also stay in touch with her. She is raising Sally by herself, living in a small room with two bunk beds right beside the two rooms which are the workshop of the women, but it is her number 1 priority to get her girl through school. Very brave woman!

I am NOT writing this so you think: That’s great of Sabine. BUT maybe some of you readers feel inclined to do something similar. If that’s the case, go to the website of School of St Jude’s. I hope to go and visit them next Friday after my lesson with the women. St Jude has a very special mission: provide school for the poorest and brightest children. I will report back after my visit;)

We went to Pamela’s bar across the road (imagine a well used biergarten set up) for lunch and soon after Julia had to leave for the airport. The rest of the day was very uneventful - except for one thing. I finally saw Kilimanjaro! First Msafiri pointed out that a little piece of it was visible. And around 8pm Sarafina dragged me outside and there I finally saw the top of the mountain in the dark. But the moonlight and the snow made it visible. Great sight! Sorry, no pics. My camera just showed a lot of very dark night…

13 May - Katanini, Sally, the touts & Kaesspaetzle

May 15th, 2011

Things I have learned today: the village I go to every day is called Katanini, don’t go shopping by yourself, children love going to school (knew that for some anyway) and it is possible to make kaesspaetzle and potato salad on a gas camp cooker.

After the lesson with the women I had another talk with Sally - she is a very smart and friendly girl with excellent English. She spent her first few years in Kenya; that’s were she learned English so well. I asked her if she shouldn’t be in school. She was a bit emberassed and then told me that her mother didn’t have the money to pay for school. Her mother is working as an assistant teacher in the school next door - which is actually something like kindergarten cum 1st grade.  Well, combined with all my thinking about the baby-hugging volunteer tourism I decided to figure out what to do about Sally. I asked Debbie about her and she told me, that Kevin, another Foot2Afrika volunteer who is planning to come back in autumn, had been looking into it, but so far nothing had happened. I offered to be the sponsor, if it is within my budget. Well, to make a long story short, I talked to Kevin on skype that evening, got the costs (~500€) and what to do and decided to pay for it.

Well, the rest of the day was a bit hectic (very unusual occurrence here) between 1pm and 8 pm. I had to wait for several hours for another volunteer; because of that I was late getting into town. I had to buy a big pot or pan, because I had promissed to cook dinner for everybody as a farewell dinner for Julia, the other Irish volunteer who has been here for 2 weeks andf who will leave Saturday afternoon. - Julia, it has been a blast!! ;))
In town I was picked up by a bunch of touts who were extremely aggressive and hard to get rid of. I did something that is considered very rude in Tanzania (didn’t know): I expressed my anger about what I considered very rude behaviour by these touts. Anyway, in the end I had everything I needed. Just when I was getting ready to start cooking we had yet another power outage - but there is always the back-up gas cooker. And, what can I say? 3 hours later dinner was ready, everybody enjoyed it, I managed to talk to Debbie and Kevin about Sally and overall the day had a very good overall result.

12 May- Thursday

May 15th, 2011

It has been raining most of the night, but not as much as the night before and it stopped early in the morning. Salmin was right on time at 8.30 am and we left for the project. It was quite an adventurous drive and Salmin had to take a detour, but we made it. On the way we picked up Prisca and she and Apollonia were the first ones there. We played the vocabulary game and one by one Aisha, Happiness and the rest of the group joined us. Overall a very uneventful day - which is nice as well;)
Oh, well, I did do something: I had a long talk with Sally, a little girl that is around most mornings, looking after the smaller children and sometimes listening in on our class. I asked her if she would like some kind of toy - she asked for a book. Ok, she had me right there. I remember saving all my pocket money for my first book and everybody else considering that a strange choice for a little girl… Why is she not in school? She loves fairy tales; there is my mini project cut out for the rest of the week. I have to find out, why she is not in school.