It's been almost two weeks since I last posted to the blog, but I have a very good reason (really, I promise): I just spent 10 days in Antigua, where Internet connections are strictly dial-up (and I mean s-l-o-o-o-o-ow) AND it costs 50 cents a minute to send an email message.
Bottom line? I've been as unplugged for the past two weeks as I've been in the past five years. It was interesting....until I got home to an email inbox that is 99 percent full (and I already asked ITS to increase my quota, so I'm pretty sure *that's* not happening again....)
Anyway, it was worth it.
I was one of about 20 IC faculty, administrators and students who traveled to Antigua from May 16 to May 28. We were there to teach, to meet with local business and government leaders, and to explore and expand upon the developing relationship between the college and the island nation.
I taught Travel Writing to six IC students and three Antiguans every morning (way fun!), and presented professional training workshops to ten Antiguan journalists every afternoon (way interesting).
In addition to our class sessions, the Travel Writing students spent their time updating the LonelyPlanet.com's Antigua directory; writing short feature stories on the resort where we stayed; writing longer feature stories on one of the events we attended (including a catamaran sailing trip!); and reporting and writing a long-form profile on a local celebrity -- from Sly J, a local DJ, to Number One, a well-known cab driver. All in 10 days! The stories are amazing; we're going to publish them in a magazine that will be distributed to libraries and schools on the island. So here's a public "thank you" to the students who made my time in Antigua such a great experience: Emily McNeil, Kendall Gilchrest, Ian Poole, David Burnes, Lissa Twichell and Christina Folkard.
Every afternoon, while my students were reporting and writing, I worked with ten Antiguan journalists, most of whom are employed by the government-owned television station (at this point, the only local television outlet in the country). They were a lively group, to say the least, and we devoted most of our time to journalism basics: news judgment, ethics, and story construction. Some of them have college degrees, in subjects ranging from biology to English; others are high school graduates hired by the station without any professional experience or training. I am certain I learned as much from them as they learned from me; I came away from our conversations far more aware of the restrictions and challenges they face, and far more committed to helping them understand and adopt the principles of a free press in an open democracy.
In addition to the journalism contingent, the IC group included administrators, including Provost Peter Bardaglio, Associate Provost Garry Brodhead, Music School Dean Art Ostrander, and Assistant Dean Janet Wigglesworth; Music faculty Paige Morgan and Conrad Alexander; HSHP faculty Jan Monroe; and Education faculty Pat Tempesta...to name a few. They worked in the schools, interacted with local public health organizations, and met with government officials; Pat even spent a day as a substitute teacher at one of the elementary schools!
And we were a media hit: Garry Brodhead and I were on television the night of our arrival (you should have seen how quickly we all made it through Customs so we could make it to the VIP lounge!), and Conrad and Ernest (a music student) were on the front page of the newspaper on the day of our departure.
All in all, it was an extraordinary couple of weeks; we came home excited about the possibilities of the college's developing relationship with the country of Antigua and its people.