In a few minutes I’m going to practice driving on the left side of the road, because the Journalism Department got a car for me to enable me to travel to the different campuses. Here goes!
I arrived in Pretoria Saturday morning. Two of my students picked me up at the Johannesburg airport, and a little later the head of the Tshwane Universiity of Technology Journalism Department, Pedro Diederichs, came by my apartment to tell me take me to lunch and tell me how the month will shape up. I will be teaching on three campuses in Pretoria, and guest lecturing in Johannseburg and Cape Town.On Sunday, Pedro invited me to a barbeque at his house – lamb, pork and sausage. He and his family are delightful. I almost hate the fact that I have to start work on Monday, because this weekend has been so nice. But I’m really looking forward learning how to teach students in a country that has 11 official languages – and English is only the fifth most popular. Internet connectivity and availability is only a small fraction of what it is in the U.S.
Last night I met Rainer Erlinger, who writes an ethics column for Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung. He’s a lawyer and a doctor who still practices in both fields. He says his real fun is writing the ethics column for the past five years. We talked about column writing and blogging, and he’s amazed at how popular blogging is in the U.S., compared to Germany. A friend of his is an urban planning student, whose goal is to create public spaces that encourage people to meet one another. That goal ties in nicely with Knight Foundation’s Knight News Challenge, where the goal is to use digital news and information to bring people together in a geographic area. So, I realized there’s another discipline from which we can recruit News Challenge applicants.
Click here for some photos of my first day in Berlin, including the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedaechtnis Kirche
It takes a vocabulary of about 100 words — which is about what’s left of my college German. All you need to do is nod and smile at the right times and ever so rarely throw in one word, like “bestimmt” (definitely). The people you’re talking to might think you’re the deep, quiet kind. The hard part is trying to follow the conversation well enough so that you don’t really screw up your one word. In trying to say I liked the restaurant in this neighborhood (die Naehe), I think I said I like my toe (die Zehe).
As I get ready to leave for vacation in Berlin and a month of teaching and consulting at Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, South Africa, I made sure I knew where my malaria pills were. They mainly are a precaution, but if I travel outside of Pretoria, I could go to malaria-prone areas. The pills actually have become a story I’m often repeating: My insurance company wouldn’t pay for them because, in their words, “malaria prophylaxis when traveling is a benefit exclusion under the pharmacy plan. Coverage … will be authorized if the member has a documented diagnosis of malaria.” It’s a benefit I’m going to try not to take advantage of.
I’ve started to think that the world divides into three kinds of people: 1) bloggers, 2) those who blog and 3) those who don’t. Bloggers are good at this, do it regularly and often have interesting observations and reports. Those who blog are part of the self-publishing-enabled mass who blog because they can. Their blogs often aren’t as interesting as those of the bloggers. And then there was my group. Those who don’t blog.
Blogging is difficult work that needs to be done regularly. That’s why I haven’t done it. But circumstances have forced me to enter the group of those who blog. I’ve received a great opportunity to spend a month at Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, South Africa, to work with the journalism faculty there, to teach some classes and to do some consulting.
Everyone here says, and I’m sure they’re right, that this will be a life-changing experience. Consequently, I feel a responsibility to blog about what I observe and what I hope I learn in a part of the world I know nothing about.
I’ve already had the pains of crack withdrawal when I learned yesterday that the apartment I’ll be staying in for a month has no Internet connection. Eventually, I thought, well, I could read books or go to cafes and talk to people. This might be good for me.
And it’s not as if I’ll have no Internet connection for a month. All day on campus I’ll be connected. So maybe what I need to do in the evening is get a life … or at least a hobby.