It’s tough to separate the possible side-effects of Mefloquine anti-malarial prophylaxis- paranoia, irritability, vivid dreams- from the stresses of a language barrier, a new position, and culture shock.
This experience is a wonderful challenge. On the one hand, at the college, I am surrounded by the most intense set of multi-lingual, scholarly colleagues, who never cease to be incredibly hospitable. I find myself thinking that I don’t deserve any of it.
I’ve been working hard to develop an entry-level audio practical workshop for the MA First Year post-graduates here at St. Francis. For those of you considering teaching in India, do yourself a favor and load your language software on to the computer you will have immediately available. I have Hindi, Urdu and Telegu in the hard drives that are sitting, waiting for me to unpack and mount to a desktop computer. A little language would go a long way. Certainly, English is the language of instruction here, and that is fine as long as you are a student. On the other hand, managing 20-plus 20-plus-year-olds in a new subject, with new tools, is an amazing challenge, by itself. Had I still the barest of language skills, I would likely feel and function much better. Did I already mention the Mefloquine regime?
I’ve started a mental routine of denying all sources of irritation and replacing it with appreciation. It seems to be working. After all, many of my students have become very interested in a class which at first seemed to be a distraction from the visual media they were very hot to produce. It’s my request that they begin with some simple audio editing. As we progress through this record, edit, combine structure that’s emerging out of limited equipment, they are all taking to it.
As a class, students split into 4 groups, each debating and then proposing an issue on which to record monologues. Each group then proposed a topic to the class, which was put to a vote. The topics that arose were: Sports Not Usually Highlighted, a response to the dominance of Cricket in the media here; The Indian Railway System, which is agreeably amazing; Beliefs, which I think, for many westerners, is a far more diverse topic in India generally, and in Hyderabad in particular, than most people from the west realize; and Sexual Harassment and Rape, which is probably one of the more widely known topics currently. The vote swung towards the final topic, aided somewhat I think by the large siphon vote for Cricket, which was never proposed as a topic.
As of today, everyone who is regularly attending class has recorded a short, self-scripted monologue about their personal opinions regarding the issue. For guidance I have asked that they approach it from the first person as much as possible. This has proven a bit difficult. Most of these students are aspiring journalists and, as such, tend more towards a print style of argument construction. They like to speak to distant events, not personal events, and they hold the topic at a bit of a safe, third person distance. My request was that they break their reporting down into sets of personal anecdotes and/or to use an active first person voice.
The work-flow begins in the recording booth, and is transferred to editing stations. Currently the more advanced students are clubbing (combining) their edits together in sets of mash-ups, to further break down the monologues into more abstract combinations of voices around the topics. This allows for some real editing practice, as well as providing a base for the next layer of abstraction. It also allows for a lot of practical application of the editing tools while dealing with limits on computing platforms and recording equipment resources.
Overall, I feel like the process has been extremely generative, especially in terms of some intensive hands on skill building. Once we have sifted out some interesting edits, the next stage will be to build up some supporting soundscapes around these monologues and use them as a guide for adding visual imagery.
Early in the process, I had originally thought that we would embed these voices into a more informative website for presentation. This was mainly my response to the desire of the class to provide informational, journalistic content. As I tease out the personal voices present though, this seems to be giving way to a real interest in the creative process of combining individually produced material.
It helps to stay positive. Now that the relocation stresses are beginning to take their proper place in the background (our lease is signed, we have utilities, and the children start school on Monday), it will be very nice to settle in to creating some work. It’s actually nice, in a way, to be able to blame the anti-malarial for things that may be irritating, tiring, or otherwise frightening or difficult- it makes irritation, fear and difficulty easier to dismiss. I’m certainly not endorsing this prophylaxis regime. I’ve seen some pretty bizarre things in my dreams. Somethings, the day after the weekly dose seems just a little edgy.
Until next time.
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