Wednesday, 26 October 2011

as the crow flies: a researchers guide to logistics

So it's week six of the semester and I have so far managed to avoid the 5th floor west wing. Instead I spend some of my week working for the comfort (if not cold) of the CSU common room. Since i've been back in Edinburgh I've been contacting many of the schools which have links with schools in Malawi - sending out emails is not exactly difficult - or at least you may think that is the case! Sending the same email to multiple people became very complicated, but thanks to IT guidance I eventually managed to send them! One set of schools had automatic replies set up, some others had full inboxes and some sent me an email thanking me for emailing them!

I've also been arranging my pending visit to Sanday in Orkney! Now you might think travelling to a small island off the North East of Scotland, would not be particularly complicate! Not true! Sanday is one of the Northern Islands of The Orkney Islands - Getting there can be complicated or expensive. You can fly to Kirkwall for Edinburgh - if you want to pay using legs and arms - or you can get a combination or trains and ferries! Now I decided to go for the latter - train to Aberdeen, Ferry from Aberdeen to Kirkwall - or so I thought!

It's turned into getting the train from Edinburgh to Thurso, via Stirling and Inverness, then getting the ferry from Scrabster and Stromness! Now that may sound straight forward, but the logistics of three trains, a ferry and a bus just to get to Kirkwall is actually rather complicated! The reverse journey is just as complicated, but thankfully I only need to change train once! There is one benefit of sitting on a train for most of the journey - I won't be on a ferry for most of the night...

I've came to the conclusion planning a journey to the Orkney Isles is almost as complicated as getting to Malawi - just with trains rather than planes! So it may not always be a case of as the crow flies, but with my thermals packed, i'm ready to enjoy the train journey and look forward to spending time in Stromness (even if it is at a ridiculous time in the morning), Kirkwall and Sanday!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Back in Edinburgh and it's been ages since I posted a blog!

Ok so it's been ages since I posted an update.. since my last update i've returned to Scotland, started tutoring again at uni and I'm still missing Malawi.

I really enjoyed my last couple of weeks in Malawi, I spent some of it visiting the schools around Chiradzulu and Blantyre, trying to write up notes, and generally enjoying travelling around different parts of Malawi.  Seeing some of the rural areas were amazing and I got to meet some amazing people. Being able to see some of the schools in rural areas and the lack of resources was actually quite upsetting.  We take for granted the access to resources and teaching  - think of having a seat to sit on being a privilege.

Since I've been back in Scotland, it's made me think about all the things that we take for granted. When there were riots in England, at the time I was returning from Malawi, it made me feel that we live in such a materialistic world. There had been demonstrations in Malawi in the weeks previous and it was weird to think that people here were stealing TVs and IPods when during the demonstrations in Malawi, people were stealing food. 

I must admit getting back to Edinburgh felt very odd! - it felt weird to be back at university, walking around Edinburgh (in the dark as well) and not being covered in dust. You would be surprised how quickly get to used to having your feet covered in dust, in fact having everything covered in dust.

OK so since I've been back, i've basically been planning my varying research around Scotland and thinking how i'm going to conduct the research in the light of my experiences in Malawi. Its certainly made me appreciate much more the situation of the schools across Malawi and the varying experiences that both teachers and students (or Learners as they are known in Malawi) have.

I suspect seeing the differences between the Schools across Malawi, has made me appreciate more the importance of the links they have with Scotland. So the next step of the research is to schools across Scotland...