Something that I forgot to mention in yesterday’s entry was that we ran around like crazy for a couple of hours, trying to set up the process of bringing broadband to the boys’ high school. We managed to get the principal to cut the phone company a check for the required amount, and we turned in the necessary forms, but we’ll see tomorrow if our efforts will actually pay off and result in Internet access.

The schools were all closed today for Muharram, so we didn’t go anywhere. We had wanted to work with the computers at the boys’ high school, but people felt it wasn’t safe for women to be wandering around an otherwise isolated area of the village while large groups of young men would be marching in processions past us. This concern reflected the classic attitude that women bear the responsibility for ensuring that men do not harass or assault them, which of course strikes me as unfair victim-blaming. What made it worse was the implication that Muslim men somehow can’t be trusted not to assault any Hindu women who they come across. At some level, I might be able to understand the general sense that large groups of men in this country have a history of violence towards women (although don’t get me wrong – it still rankles), but the addition of religion into the mix made this attitude completely unbearable. The constant sniping at anyone who is Muslim has been bothering me from the day we came here. I understand the tense history of Hindu-Muslim relations in this country, but it still frustrates me at a fundamental level to hear otherwise mostly reasonable people speak with disgust about Muslims as a group.

Although I wanted to do the work that we came here to do, I think it would have been foolish to openly disregard the advice of people who live here, even if I believe much of what they were saying amounts to little more than fearmongering. We decided not to take an unnecessary chance (typing that still feels like a copout), so we didn’t go to the boys’ high school.

Instead, we worked on the report card and grading sheet templates for the various pieces of paperwork that all of the teachers and administrators spend hours and hours filling out by hand. Above is one example – these sheets report each student in the school and their grades in every subject, which they use to calculate class rank. If we automate this sort of thing in Excel, the tedious data entry will become much faster.

In the evening, after working with the women teachers on Excel and the Internet, we talked for a couple of hours about our plans for the next four days.

The feeling that we’ve been unfocused for the last few days came to a head last night, and during the subsequent six-hour discussion that stretched until 4am, we realized that our nightly routine of debriefing (about what we’d accomplished that day, any new issues that had developed, and what our plan for the next day was) had fallen by the wayside. As a result, we hadn’t had a concrete plan when we went into the schools or when we worked with the teachers, resulting in frustration, so I’m glad that we resumed this debriefing and analyzing process.

(As an aside, I really wish you could find chikoo in the US. Mmmm.)