The country is beautiful, and I’ll let these pictures speak for themselves.
Category Archives: Africa
Reading the comments below that various students e-mailed me, you’ll easily see why this teaching gig has been so much fun and so rewarding.
The comments are from students at the Pretoria West and Soshanguve campuses of Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, South Africa.
- Blogging has allowed me to go where I never thought I’d go. That is because I am now able to share my ideas with other people outside of South Africa and know how they feel about my ideas. Thank you.
- I found a tool which I can use to write my thoughts and communicate with the entire world.
- We had a lot of fun, I have fallen in love with my Blog(www.scepticalmatshatr.blogspot.com) already. Siyabonga (Zulu), Re a leboga (Tswana), Ha Khensa (tsonga), Dankie (Afrikaans) –all meaning Thank you — at least now you know how to say thank you in four South African languages.
- Teaching us how to create our own blogs was awesome and I will use it until the end of time.
- Your contribution made a difference.
Kruger National Park, a wildlife park the size of Wales, is like the best Easter egg hunt you’ve ever been on.
Remember as a kid when you would lift a pillow in the living room and find an egg, or look under a bush in the yard and find another? You never knew where the next would be, but you just kept looking everywhere.
That is a small example of what driving around in Kruger National Park is like. One minute you see rocks and brush, and then you go down a valley or over a ridge and there’s a herd of elephants, or a lion chasing an impala or a baby white rhinoceros. It’s unbelievable. It’s incredible.
During a three-day weekend, I saw four of the park’s “Big Five”: lion, elephant, rhinoceros, water buffalo. I did not see a leopard, the remaining biggie in the Big Five.
I also saw baboons, giraffe, impala, kudu, warthogs, zebra, crocodiles and hippopotamuses.
I most enjoyed watching the colony of about 15 baboons and later the herd of 20 elephants interacting in their natural environment. I couldn’t do anything except stare.
Flying into the park was a little reminiscent of scenes from Jurassic Park. When you enter the camps, with their big, electrified gates that close promptly at 6 p.m., and when you stand on the balcony of the restaurant and see an elephant trudge by, and when you realize that electrified fences surround the camp, you get even more of a feeling of Jurassic Park.
Dusk at the camps in the park is the time for the most fantastic, loud symphony of bird songs you’ve ever heard. It truly is the Symphony of a Thousand. (They definitely have Mahler beat.)
I’m not sure if I can ever go to a zoo again.
My students’ Internet skills range from those who are not quite sure what’s happening when they create a link from their blogs to another web page, to those who are looking for audio and video to add to their blogs and who have their own Facebook pages.
Almost all of the students use a mobile social networking site called Mixit. I was at a party last week where a young man didn’t know anyone there, but heard about the party through Mixit and an SMS.
I was more than a little surprised two days ago when having lunch at Skukuza Camp in the middle of Kruger National (Wildlife) Park, to overhear a group of thirty-somethings next to me talking about how Facebook has made it easier to steal the identities of those people who fill out detailed profiles. They are giving a little too much information to those who want to use it for illegal purposes.
Then, when driving out of the park and listening to a South African rock station, the DJ announced that he was going to read from a Facebook page he likes. It was a list of “You know you’re South African if …”
(Even after just a few weeks here, I could understand some of the jokes, particularly those dealing with driving. Like, “You know you’re South African if you run a red robot (stoplight) and three cars follow you.” Or, “You know you’re South African if you’re driving 120 kph on the highway, and you’re the slowest one.”)
South Africa contains many of the landscapes familiar in the United States — and you don’t have to drive as far to see them.
Cape Town is as beautiful (and fun, I’m told) as San Francisco.
Johannesburg is South Africa’s New York City.
Pretoria’s suburbs remind me of new suburbs nearPhoenix, Ariz.
The desert areas here are like the U.S. Southwest.
The many rolling plains remind me of the Great Plains in the U.S.
The wine country is like California’s Napa Valley or New York’s Finger Lakes Region.
The mountains remind me of driving in Colorado.
And the beaches are like Florida — with a lot colder water.
Then there are wildlife parks with no U.S. equivalent. You feel as if you stepped into a world hundreds of thousands of years old, where all the wild beasts still roam.
I’ve been having a fun teaching students here to create blogs using Blogger.com and create web pages using Adobe GoLive.
It’s such a pleasure to see their smiles when they realize that what they have just done is on the web. A week before I got here, they went to Cape Town to cover parliament. So their next assignment from me is to write their parliament coverage on their blog.
I’m particularly pleased because at the beginning of the class, many of them told me they don’t read blogs, they think blogs are junk and irresponsible, and they want to do serious journalism.
That’s when I told them the story of NOLA.com, the web site of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. They all had heard about how Hurricane Katrina had devastated New Orleans. I told them that the only way they knew about New Orleans after Katrina was because of blogs.
The Times-Picayune offices, presses and computers were flooded. Their reporters and editors were dispersed. The only way they could publish was via the blogs that their owners (Newhouse) had recently installed. The blogs were hosted elsewhere. Their servers weren’t flooded. Much of what we know about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in Orleans is because of the tool called a blog.
I think I made it clear to the students that a blog is just another tool they should have in their toolbox.
Once they saw that they could be serious journalists and use blogs, they let loose and had a great time.
Wednesday, the students at the Tshwane and the Soshanguve campuses of Tshwane University of Technology met on the downtown Arcadia campus for a daylong conference on science journalism. Pedro Diederichs, head of the journalism department, organized the conference as part of his expansion of the journalism department. His next hire will be a chair in science reporting.
There were excellent talks on AIDS reporting, the ethics of science reporting and great case studies in investigative science journalism.
The students (freshmen and sophomores) were very involved and asked questions that showed they were paying attention to the speakers. There was a lot of back and forth between the students and the speakers, but the comment that riled the students was from Elsabe Brits, a science reporter for Die Burger, in Cape Town. She was encouraging students to test claims about scientific advances against reason and logic. She said, for instance, there are about 1.7 million species of creatures on the Earth. How big do you think Noah’s Ark would have to be to carry two of each of those species? It would be a lot bigger than what is stated in the Bible. It’s impossible. It couldn’t have happened in that way, she said.
That’s when I learned how deeply religious many people are in South Africa. Quite a few students started arguing with that comment. The discussion extended to intelligent design, which the speakers trashed as pure rubbish and one student in particular adamantly defended.
At this conference, I was invited to lecture to grad students at the University of Pretoria next week.
My time here is passing too fast, and I’m having such fun.