On the road again…

5/20/2015,  Blog by Steven Kay, Computer Science and Software Engineering, Reconciliation via Digital Storytelling in the US and South Africa

dfsaThis will be my second experience with study abroad, a little bit older and, I like to think, a little bit wiser. I’ll be heading out to South Africa come July 2nd to attend a Global Leadership Summit at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein. But first I’ll be taking a couple of intensive summer session courses designed to get me educated on South African culture and societal issues, and digital storytelling. I’m not even sure what digital storytelling is yet, but I’m excited to find out.

Last summer I traveled to Beijing, and made the serious mistake of not studying anything about Chinese culture or history before traveling there.

Due to a massive language barrier in China, I ended up learning far more about China via Wikipedia perusing when I got back than I ever learned while there. In hindsight, I wished that I had acquired that contextual information BEFORE visiting those awesome places and experiencing that awesome culture. So this time around I’m digging deep.

I looked at my library for a book recommended to me by an professor here at UW Bothell called “Cry, the Beloved Country” that goes deep into societal tensions in South Africa. Unfortunately, I was able to find nothing but Cliff’s notes and the like. I finally resorted to buying it online through a Thrift book retailer for 5 bucks. I think I’ll also have to re-read “The Power of One”, a story about a young English boy growing up to become a professional boxer in South Africa. It was made into a move back in the 90’s as well, which was decent, but I think the rule of “the book was better than the movie” holds here.

Besides delving into these literary works, I think I’ll have to get some cinema going, as well. I loved District 9, and may have to re-watch that as part of a personal going away party. I’ve also heard “Searching for Sugarman” is a great documentary about an little-known American musician who became the musical voice of Apartheid. Being a musician myself, I think this will be enjoyable, as well as a possibly great introduction to the history of Apartheid (which I know next to nothing about). Maybe “Long Walk to Freedom” and the autobiography it’s based on (written by Nelson Mandela) might be worth checking out, as well.

After courses, books, and movies, the last gaps will no doubt be filled by Wikipedia.   The amount of information organized and made available on Wikipedia is amazing to me. I can spend (and have spent) all night on Wikipedia jumping from article to article, learning things I would never have touched in a University setting.

I’m excited for South Africa, but equally excited to expand my brain. Let the learning begin!

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