Category Archives: Foreigners

And another neat example

City Times – ‘Dubai will be an example to the world on living together’
6 August 2008 Standup comedian Conrad Koch from South Africa speaks to David Light about his brand of comedy and what he likes best about Dubai SOUTH AFRICAN stand up comedian Conrad Koch, with his unique brand of ventriloquism, stormed the stage in Dubai last week with his hilarious show.

A veteran of comedy since the age of ten Conrad has been performing professionally since 1995.

A psychology and anthropology graduate Koch uses his show to deconstruct burning issues including racism and class bias in order to show that everyone is essentially the same and create a better living environment.

In a rare interview at the Qamardeen Hotel Downtown Burj Dubai City Times caught up with Conrad to chat about his show and his brand of comedy.

“I’ve come to Dubai because there is a large South African community and at the moment they are the audience I attract. I do play other audiences but as I switch between languages some people find it difficult to keep
up with. I speak English, Afrikaans and I taught myself Zulu from a very young age. If you want to do comedy in South Africa you have to switch between languages otherwise only thirty per cent of the audience
will enjoy the show.” Koch believes that Dubai and South Africa have a lot in common.

“As I am a student of anthropology I have a keen interest in the evolution of people and having done a lot of research I’ve come to a conclusion that former European colonies have lots in common. It’s all about the imports from the West and the reaction to it within local culture. Here it is even more prominent than in South Africa but I think both places are trying to balance out their own identity with those coming in from abroad which gives great scope for comedy.

“For example, I study anthropology at the Vitz University in Johannesburg.
Vitz is the Afrikaans word for white yet the majority of the student body is black.

It’s contradictions with tradition like these that can provide some of the best laughs.

“In South Africa there is a lot less political correctness than in the UK for example.

People say things that for European ears are a bit antiquated. That again though is a by-product of the society in which you live and give great scope for laughs.” Conrad is a self-confessed gag man as opposed to the more alternative styles of comedy around. “Being alternative is a luxury only really given to those comics in the UK.

“As a comedian you’re a product of the society you know best. In Africa if I was to do an Eddie Izzard routine I would struggle to say the least because of the audience I would get there.

There are alternative comedians in South Africa but they have very niche shows.

I do a lot of corporate gigs so have to keep coming up with the jokes.”
Koch has worked with international talent including Russell Peters and Ross Noble.

Although initially put off by the idea of corporate backed comedy shows, Conrad tells us they are the future. “That is how everything works these days.  If you don’t want to live on the street you have to take shows that pay. Without them it is really not possible. “The good thing about corporate shows is you do not have to compromise. The people that hire you know your stuff and that is why they bring you out.

“If you go on TV you have to tone yourself down. I have been on TV and would do again but I am not chasing it. I don’t want to work on television as a game show host because that would be boring.

“With these shows I can travel and get my message across that we are all the same at the core and any differences we do have we should let them be a source of fun not anger.” Conrad appeared to be very impressed with Dubai.

“The whole place is incredible. This hotel I’m staying in is amazing and the service industry here is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

“From an academic point of view it blows my mind though. There is a mix between blindness and reality that is fascinating.

“This whole town is built with migrant labour like most other major cities in history. Yet here is the first city where everything is for everyone. Alright, it’s not perfect yet, there are areas where people don’t go, but you have to start somewhere and eventually I think with such a mix of cultures Dubai will be an example to the world on living together.”
Koch gave only one show last week but hopes to be back soon.

“My comedy is the type that hopefully deconstructs complex issues and enlightens people. I think that if more people just laughed about things the world would definitely be a better place.”


Neat application of anthropology

Professor brings life experience into classroom –

CLEARLAKE — Students were elevated higher than they expected after
taking an anthropology class taught by Forrest Davis, Ph.D. Students
connected with the real-life experiences and issues Davis brought into
the classroom during a summer session offered at Yuba College Clear
Lake Campus.

“I don’t think any of us knew what the class Cultural Anthropology was
when we signed up. It was just another graduation requirement for the
junior college,” said student Bonnie Vaughn. “But, when we arrived, Dr.
Davis made it clear he was here for us; he was our employee; his job
was to help us understand cultural anthropology and if we fail, he

Davis says that it’s all about bringing the material to the students in
a way that they can truly understand. The 65-year-old professor uses
personal experiences to relate lessons in anthropology and cultural
diversity to his students, which Vaughn and others said helped them
make a connection with the material offered through the class.

“He shared his life story with us. He taught us by drawing on his own
life experiences rather than just repeating words out of a book,” said
Vaughn. “We could all relate to it and it made us feel like we could be
something too.”

Dr. Davis said he struggled as a student. In high school, he was a D
student with low self-esteem. “I was just another struggling student
with no possibility of ever doing anything,” the Alabama-born professor
said. “After (high school) I decided I couldn’t do anything but go up.”

Davis began teaching at the community college he had attended, Los
Angeles Valley College. He went on to further his education at UCLA,
where he obtained his bachelor’s, master’s and finally, his Ph.D in
anthropology in 1986. Currently, he teaches at CSU Sacramento in the
Bilingual/Multicultural Education Department, where he’s been
instrumental in developing an education program specifically designed
for failing students. Davis said he was able to incorporate concepts
used at CSU Sacramento into the teaching tactics he used on the Clear
Lake Campus.

Davis said it is vital to identify proximal development among students,
which is the difference between what a student can learn without help
and what he or she can achieve with help. “When you identify the zone
of proximal development you know exactly which way to motivate for
success,” he explained. “It’s about actualizing potential. Most people
don’t know what they can do. They have the potential they just don’t
know it.”

According to his students, Dr. Davis has a way to actualize the
potential in his students. Vaughn said that Davis’s teaching style
helped open communication, which initiated the participation of all of
the students in the class. “We learned by being involved,” Vaughn said,
adding that students who normally slide by got involved in the
classroom discussions as well. “Dr. Davis has the ability to help
students achieve and improve themselves. He told us we could make a
difference in this world with our knowledge. He showed us a world void
of prejudice by never excluding any class member no matter how
different he or she was from us. It was neat because he gave us his
full attention and he cared. He made us believe in ourselves and
everyone participated in class discussions like we were home sitting
around a dinner table talking as one family. There was no tension in
the classroom and we talked about a lot of hot topics”

Kristen Deutsch said Davis’s class helped her achieve in other classes.
“What we were learning in anthropology was tying into other classes,”
she said. “It made subjects clearer in other classrooms.”

Davis said that he learned of monogenesis early on in life. Monogenesis
is the theory that all human life is derived from one, single origin.
“To bring that point forward is the first step,” he said. “We are all
of one species. Culture is a better description of race. Racism and
prejudice are just bi-products of what we’ve experienced.”

Davis teaches by creating a culture within the classroom. From day one,
boundaries were set as to the behavior he expected from his students.
“You have to develop that collective energy. If we pull that collective
energy together, there’s nothing we can’t do,” he explained. “You have
to make the classroom safe; make it a culture. Once you do that,
everyone in there is going to benefit.”

Davis has been a Lake County resident for the past four years and
currently commutes to Sacramento to teach. He is nearing retirement and
said he would like to help foster educational change in the local
community. He said he doesn’t really care about the paycheck as he
doesn’t have to be burdened with personal success. He said a bigger
reward would be realizing a positive change in the community.

Davis, who has a grandchild who will be entering Lower Lake High School
next semester, would like to contribute to the educational
opportunities available to local students. “On the other side of a
problem there is a solution,” he said. “I believe that through the
development of a community-based collaborative model we can make these
schools more affective. That’s what this community needs and it can be
done. We need to work together to bring these schools and these kids to
a certain level. If we put this model into place, we can do some of
these things without money.”

Several of Davis’s students have expressed a desire to see the
professor return to the Clear Lake Campus. Davis said that is an option
he would definitely consider if the opportunity presents itself.

Contact Denise Rockenstein at

Dutch election reflects Europe’s anxiety

“… This confusion at the ballot box underscores the difficulties Europe faces in adapting to an ever more globalized world. Voters across Europe feel deep anxiety over how to preserve their cultures without closing their doors to immigrants, how to protect their cherished welfare states without becoming an economic dinosaur, and how to channel the energies of the free market without turning into a cold, uncaring continent.”

How it all began …

“My parents were missionaries in India. Once in a while the family would go to a nearby market town where people from different tribes would sell their stuff. When I was approximately 8 years old, I discovered the fascination of the divers cultures represented in the market. That was the moment when I started to be an anthropologist. And until today I am one with all my heart.” – When one of my professors told this story in class, my heart warmed and I could fully relate to it. I am always fascinated by other cultures. That’s why I am training to become an anthropologist, too.

So many people feel threatened by other cultures, especially when it hits close to home. In my home town, I live in the neighborhood with the highest percentage of foreigners. How often have I heard that people feel threatened by their presence or get annoyed because they do things differently. Or people complain when they find that too many people on the train speak another than the national language. How sad! People from other cultures could be an enrichment if we don’t see them as a danger.

The multitude of cultures is an expression of God’s creativity. When hearing others speak a foreign language, I try to guess which one it could be. When I see groups of foreigners, I love to watch what they are doing and try to discern patterns and make sense out of it. When I have the opportunity, I love to interview people to find out how they are thinking about different things.

No question – I am fascinated by cultures, and a researcher at heart.