Travis Smith: my resume, bio and photos back to the main blog page

After two weeks in Africa,  I know two things. They like their tea and they like their gin and tonic.

I think I can report that these two colonial behaviors are in no danger of dying out.

Let me bring you up to date with where I am today.

Grahamstown is a college town between two middle of nowheres: Port Elizabeth on the West and East London on the East.  Its main reason for being is Rhodes College, a liberal arts institution that was the host of the conference Susie and I were attending.  The conference is called Highway Africa, and it’s a five-day event dedicated to the study and practice of online journalism in Africa.  There were people from all over Africa, and while English was the lingua franca, there was definitely a strong mix of languages. The second most common was Afrikaans, spoken in fact as the first language of two of the people staying at the same bed and breakfast as us.  These two women were form another university south of Johannesburg in the east, and they and the four student they brought has quite strong accents, which only made it all the more interesting to converse with them.

The conference was held in a brand new conference center, with multiple media projectors and somewhat-high-speed Internet access in each of the rooms.

There were about 8 booths from various sponsors/marketers who wanted to either cover the conference (like the Southern Africa Community Radio booth and the SABC interview corner), or sell products to those attending.

There was also set up a newsroom of the future, which looked remarkably like a newsroom of the present, with papers strewn about and students hunched feverishly over terminals trying to put out a new edition of the paper every day of the conference. The “future” bit was that stories produced were simultaneously placed on the Web site, and perhaps also SMS (cell phone messaging) if I’m not mistaken.

I’m happy to report that I made the cover of day five, without having to resort to any sort of prank or stunt.

Susie was the moderator of two panels and a speaker in two others—she spoke on the topics of “Repurposing content for profit” and “Curricula in New Media.” I blathered on about “Producing for multiple platforms,” “Syndication and other content models” (I talked about the “other” part) and “Leadership Challenges for New Media Managers.”  That last was basically my opportunity to talk about all the tactics I’d devised to try and get the traditional newsroom to cooperate with the new media newsroom, which basically boiled down to “Bribe them, with candy or whatever it takes.”

Each lunch was held in the school cafeteria, a delightful journey down nostalgia road to its dead end.  But evening meals were better, being held in a number of cool venues around Grahamstown.

The first one was a traditional Africa meal of bland beans, bland spinach, bland ground wheat and bland potatoes, with a Smirnoff Ice to make one forgive the organizers.  The music was a steel drum band playing an assortment, and I do mean an assortment of songs.  This wasn’t just Top 40; I’d say it was closer to Top 40,000.

The second night Susie and I missed because that was the day of the terrorist attacks in New York and D.C., and we basically went back to our B&B and watched CNN curled in the fetal position.

The third night was a snack fest and a DJ (who latter turned out to also be an excellent Web site producer at a company called Don’t Look Down).  The dinner was mostly meat tidbits—meatballs, sausage things, curry chicken on sticks, crab from a tube, mussels, cold cuts, and a little bit of fruit of the pineapple variety.  No salads, no pastas, nothing to distract me from the glorious clarion (carrion?) call of meat.

On the fourth day, we did a little touristing of Grahamstown with Julia, an Argentinean from Johannesburg offering her car to us.  We all went together to see a large cathedral (large compared to the B&B, small compared to a European behemoth).  We also visited the Grahamstown Cultural Center, which was hosting a Conference on the Aged.  We got there right after lunch, and tried to go to the top floor to take in the view.  Boy, did people ever walk slowly up and down the stairs!  And the smell of lunch was the smell of a great many things, but all pureed. 😊

Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

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