After much anticipation, patience, and a some troubleshooting with installing the video technology (which fortunately was fixed within an hour or two), the Building Cultural Bridges virtual meeting was ready to happen.
Traveling from Windhoek to Brett’s site, roughly a nine hour adventure driving through dry and intensely sunny central and southern Namibia, certainly didn’t hinder Mike and Brett’s abilities to quickly settle in, set up a game plan for the installation and get some well needed shut eye.
As the sun rose over the Namib desert and brought the town to life, Brett and Mike got breakfast and proceeded to head over to the school to introduce Mike to all the participating teachers and students. Although emailing between one another prior to the actual in-person introduction, Mike had never met any of the teachers or students involved; only hearing stories and highlights from Brett’s previous interactions with them. Immediately, you could tell that there was a mutual connection between Mike, the teachers, and the students. His drive, friendliness, and openness came shining through in which the learners and teachers reciprocated.
Past the introductions and small get-to-know-you conversations, Mike and Brett went to work configuring the Cisco TelePresence for optimal use. Finding the strongest signal in the school, ensuring all software was up-to-date, and then correctly connecting to the appropriate internet network were all in the lineup of tasks to complete. Also, we should mention that another Peace Corps Volunteer, Angel, was finding the best angles and locations to film the entire launch and interviews as well.
Needless to say, everyone’s hands were full. But you know what they say, there is no substitute for hard work.
With some incredible help from the school’s staff and IT expert, the internet connection problem was solved and the Cisco TelePresence was ready for some excited and anxious smiling faces.
Cue the following day. It’s the make or break day. No prior test runs with the TelePresence. The learners are ready to meet their counterparts. They’re primed to experience something so novel, they can barely stand still for some group pictures.
Post-picture taking, joke cracking, and a few free throws on the netball court, it was time. Angel was instructing the learners on what to do when they entered the computer centre (so they wouldn’t look directly at the camera) and Mrs. Nel was informing the learners of the best sitting and standing situation so everyone could be seen on the screen.
The levels of eagerness, tension, and enthusiasm could’ve been cut with a pair of dull scissors. Would the technology work? Would the Namibian learners be overcome with joy? What about the American students? How are they going to react?…All questions buzzing through the minds of Brett, Mike, the teachers, and learners.
The video connection was clearer than the water in the Maldives. And the sound, it sounded as if you were in an IMAX theatre. Everyone was surprised on how clear the audio was and how precise the video was. There was no drag or interruptions. To put the reaction into words is nearly impossible to do, so we suggest you go ahead and watch the artistically crafted video below…
Educators of America would like to thank Peace Corps Namibia, Oranjemund Private School, Cisco Technology, Bob Miller Middle School, the Oranjemund community and all those who were integral in making this project happen.
If you are a school in the United States that wants to become part of the Building Cultural Bridges program, please click here and download the application in PDF or Word form and send back to us!