Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Living without Crutches

Last night, I worked a concert here in the city. It was a young pop star whose audience basically consists of young pre-teen and teenaged girls and their obligated mothers. Sometimes, as security at these shows, we are bound to enforce rules that the artist or his/her promoter has for the audience. Last night, for the first time ever since I've worked there, we were asked as security to enforce the "No Photography" rule. Now, to be fair, this is actually always in place, it's printed on tickets and you agree to it when you buy the ticket. But, seriously, in this day of cellphones in hand, it's pretty much impossible to expect that people wouldn't snap a pic or a video at a concert. So, with great trepidation, we set out to let people know that their fave artist had asked for no photography. So many people were very, very respectful to us. Yet, there is always, always those that aren't. And last night was no exception. I had one lady who basically video'ed the whole concert and had several good shots of my back because I was standing right in front of her and had asked her not to. Right or wrong, after asking her several times, I just didn't have it in me to hound her. I did however wonder about her enjoyment of the concert. I mean, we were in the back of the arena, not close enough for good footage and too dark/far for a flash to work, even if she'd had one. And she watched the whole concert, I mean, literally, save for about 5 - 10 mins where she complied with our request not to video, through the 4x5 inch screen of her iPhone. Why would you pay to go to a live concert and then watch the whole thing through your small screen. She didn't dance or clap or cheer or sing along once. She seemed more concerned with her battery life than the real one going on around her. I beginning to think that technology is holding us far more captive than we imagine. And ironically, we won't be able to imagine if we keep letting it keep us in that space.

Earlier in the day, my friend, Jessi and I travelled out to a small town about an hour away and spoke to a couple classes of grade six and seven students about Africa. It's somewhat intimidating in that these students are learning a lot about Africa, the continent, and yet we were asked to share some of our experiences of having travelled and volunteered in Zambia.

We arrived to the classroom and there were about 40 students, half sitting on the floor, half in desks, waiting for us. We went to plug in our computer and set up the projector for the photos we had prepared and it quickly became apparent that technology was not going to be our friend. Not surprising, given my technological giftedness, but still, it left us a little breathless with panic thinking, now what? As a couple of teachers tried to figure out the intricacies of our Mac, Jessi and I introduced ourselves and began just chatting with the kids. We asked them what they knew about Africa and were quickly school in the topography and the climate, the populations and the diversity of the continent. I'm not going to lie, the intimidation factor went up about a thousand percent at that point. What could we teach?  But, without photos or technology to back us up, we began to tell the stories of the people that we encounter when volunteering in the communities that we work in. We had brought a few props along, some Zambian kwachaa, a cooker, a wooden nshima spoon, and most popular, a handmade soccer ball. The kids were more excited than I had expected to handle some of these things and they asked some great questions. My favourite was from a fresh faced young girl in the front row who asked if I had any special friends now in Zambia. I felt like that was the heart of the stories we were telling.

The things we see in our little corner of Zambia are not indicative of Africa as a whole. They are repeated with slight variations on the same stories throughout Africa, but there is so much more to this beautiful continent, and we emphasized that much as speaking about kids and life in Saskatoon isn't a real representation of kids and life in Tenessee or in Mexico city. The kids got it. And we watched them process parts of it and ask great questions. When we spoke about schools and how kids sat for hours on dirt floors or shared benches, pointing out that the kids on the floor were just beginning to squirm with discomfort after only 30 mins, you could see the connections being made. When we talked about children having to bring their younger siblings to school because there was no one home to care for them, and that a class the size of the one we were in having at least 2-3 infants in the room as well, you could see them wondering about what that would be like.

About 7 mins before the class ended, one of the teachers rigged his iPad to video our slide show and project it onto the projector and suddenly, with the ingenuity and improvised technology, the photos of who and what we spoke of were right in front of the kids. In the end, I think that the kids were able to formulate and process much of what we spoke because they weren't spoon fed the images or our limited focus. The photos probably only fine-tuned the images that they had to imagine without the crutch of photographic evidence. And that's learning.

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