Greetings from Kenya, where I am on a 24-hour layover en route back to Egypt. I have a bunch of random blog entries which I wrote in RDC but was not able to post immediately. I spent very little time online; internet access was hard. Anyway, I will be posting some of these in no particular order over the next couple of days.
I am typing this blog entry in the classroom at the University of Kinshasa while my students are taking their final examination. The scene is somewhat unusual because there is no electricity on campus. I had printed out a copy of the examination, but since the photocopiers are run by enterprising students (more on this in a moment) so I wanted to wait until immediately before the exam to make copies. Well, my plan was foiled. Without electricity, my colleagues offered me some carbon paper. That is oftentimes how things work here. Instead, I started writing the examination including instructions on the board. The exam requires the students to identify and analyze a series of quotations from works we read this semester. I had to shorten a couple of them, but otherwise it seems to have worked out. I won’t blog too long; I need to conserve my battery.
The course, by the way, is modernism, and the exam quotes are from Hughes, Rich, Hemingway, Kincaid, Moore, Faulkner, Lahiri, and Ives.
As for the photocopiers, people plug them in independently in classrooms, college hallways, in dormitories, or running cables into the road. They are all older desktop models. They make some sort of arrangements with people who let them store them in offices or supply closets overnight. It has always been this way since I have been here, but recently I was surprised to learn that two of my students own photocopiers. They buy them, hire someone to operate them for them, and collect the revenue. One of my students seems to be doing pretty well with it (and I don’t know what pretty well means other than that he seems satisfied) and another doesn’t like his location in front of some of the dormitories. This is one of the most Kinois things I can imagine. There is this incredible spirit of creative entrepreneurship here—everyone is always doing something to try to make some money. (I need to blog more about entrepreneurship too, but for now I am going to save my battery.)