Our teacher training day in Minya was terrific. We had already worked closely with all of the teachers when they helped us set up the Classmate PCs in their schools, so everyone was very friendly, comfortable and engaged. Ali and Dina led the training in Arabic until the class was broken into small groups and Max, Leroy and I helped those who spoke the most English. Taking and writing quizzes was a big hit as well as drawing and controlling Classmates from the teacher laptop. It was a lot of information and when I checked-in with one small group who had created large Arabic words on their screens they told me it said, “Khalasna”or “We have finished.” They were done for the day. When I asked Ehab, a computer teacher, how he was enjoying the class he said, “It is a very good class. Very good information. But the teachers are CRAZY!”
When we were setting up CMPCs in Ehab’s computer room he told us that when the charging cart first arrived they all thought it was a refrigerator. He demonstrated putting a bottle of water in and out of the cabinet. (He’s got a very good sense of humor.)
While Ali and Dina taught the morning session in Arabic the rest of us had a chance to meet students. In the library we found Amr, a ten-year old boy who loves math and computers. He showed Leroy a CD he made of math problems. He and Max became such good friends that Amr offered Max his wallet as a gift. When Max said he could not accept it, Amr ran away in tears. As we were driving out of the village at the end of the day, followed by a mob of kids, Amr stood-out in the crowd. Max got out of the car to give him a hug and Amr said, “I will never forget you.”
The schools are full of special kids. Today I met Hemet, a 13-year old girl who wants to be a professor of religion, and her friend Aisha who wants to be a doctor. They posed for the camera like budding super models. We also met Ahmed, a 13-year old boy whose English is excellent, and who helped us wire the last charging cart of the day. Ahmed is a romantic. He loves “Romeo and Juliet,” and “Titanic,” and asked me to hand write him a note he could keep.
When we aren’t speaking with students in their classrooms or in small groups we are mobbed in the hallways, school courtyard or after we leave campus. They all want to be filmed or have their picture taken. They run after our cars and shout, “I love you!” Now I know what it’s like to be Barack Obama, Angelina Jolie or the cast of “Twilight”!
We have constant security detail with us here in Upper Egypt. They are from the Tourism and Antiquities Police. (In Egypt they have the water police and the electricity police too.) In Minya we became friendly with “The General,” the chief of our security detail. When I first took note of his cool dark sunglasses, the epaulets on his big shoulders, and his gun-toting belt I assumed his ever-present ear buds were tuned to top secret Tourism and Antiquities security transmissions. It turned out he’s always on the phone or listening to a movie. While we were in schools he sat in the principal’s office watching films on his laptop. By the end of our visit he was joining us for meals and swapping movie recommendations.