Thursday, 3 December 2009

Games and Fun in Kerala

As I sit here writing this, my Internet cable connection has failed and there's no mains power. A couple of hours ago we had a bit of rain so the outages are not unexpected, at least not by me in my corner of India.  What is unexpected is the rain. The months following the monsoon are usually dry, as they were last year and the year before, but this year the monsoon didn't really happen and we've been having occasional unseasonal downpours instead. Other than the loss of connection I don't mind too much but the rain must come as a nasty surprise to the tourists who've now started to arrive in significant numbers.

I'm pleased to say that no more water has been coming out of the power sockets!

It's my afternoon off and I've actually just returned from a meeting with a couple of tourists down on Kovalam Beach. They are supporters of SISP, the organisation I work for, and I wanted to ask them if they'd mind if the money they'd recently donated was spent on something other than what they had requested.  They didn't mind at all and, in fact, added another £200 to their £150 donation. Nice folk!

We've now come to the end of two weeks of exams and team games. Thank God it's over - it was exhausting! But not as bad as last year, I'm pleased to say, and at least the chaos felt a little more organised this time.

As an incentive to do well in their exams, the marks the children achieved were added into their team's results. I'm not convinced the ploy worked. Anyway, I was in the 'Hunters' team and, like last year, it's teams like mine which generously allow others to come first, second and third ;) Despite my protestations, I was roped into doing three of the team games: chess, tug-of-war, and relay sponge. Surprisingly I won the first game of chess but I think my opponent's non-appearance may have had something to do with it. In the follow-up game I was annihilated! My team came second in the tug-of-war and I didn't fall over or get dragged along the ground like last year, so that was some kind of success. And in the sponge relay, where you fill a bottle with the water from a sponge, my team triumphed, but only after a false start because my bottle had holes in it. Subterfuge has not been ruled out! All in all it was good clean fun and kids of all sizes enjoyed it, including this one!

We have fifteen PCs at SISP. Eight are used by students, two by social workers, two for accounts, two by management and one by teachers.  They all run MS Windows XP (unlicenced), MS Office (unlicenced) and Photoshop (you guessed it), and other software. At least thirteen of them have viruses. Because the MS software is cracked the Help features don't work. Because XP doesn't have the latest service packs applied it is (presumably) more fault prone.  And because the Antivirus software (AVG) is free it gets blamed by the system retailers for all the crashes and breakdowns that we have. Or it's the extra-noisy mains power in Kovalam, the dust, the salt-air, powering-off before properly shutting down... whatever.  Rarely does a day go by when we don't have at least one PC out of action, and we have no spares. One of the problems is that volunteers here use USB pen drives to work in Internet caf├ęs and to carry their work (plus viruses) to SISP.  Or students use memory cards from mobiles to transfer music files (plus infections) via USB adaptors via our PCs, while others sometimes pop dodgy MP3 disks into the disk drives. It's a nightmare! And we can't repair or reinstall because we don't have any of the 'original' cracked software disks ourselves, so we have to wait several days for the technicians to arrive, then often several days more for a fix.

I would like to move to a Linux distribution (like Mint), OpenOffice and Gimp etc. At least then we'd be legal, more virus resistant, and have the disks ourselves. I use OpenOffice on Vista on my personal laptop and find it's excellent.  But no one else has confidence in the move, and finding someone to support it after I eventually leave SISP might be tricky...

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