Thursday, February 23, 2012

ETA: 3 WEEKS

Well my life as a Peace Corps volunteer is drawing to a close and I felt you guys deserved one more blog post before the end. I have spent the last week visiting friends and saying goodbye to my students. Its been hard with lots of crying. These people, this country has become my family, my home these past 2 yrs. Even with the backstabbing teachers, the corruption, the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, I have enjoyed my time here. I have 2 weeks till I fly out and 3 weeks till Im back on American soil. It feels weird to be going but also exciting. I never thought I would reach this day. Its bittersweet to say the least. But I am proud to say I survived 2 years in the Peace Corps. Looking back on my service I have come to realize something. Although I didn’t build a library or have a school named after me. I didn’t contribute any money or bring anyone to America. I failed miserably most of the time and at times felt lost and totally over my head. My proudest accomplishment during my time in Kenya is how much I grew up. I came here thinking I would change the world and instead Kenya changed me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

What I have accomplished at site....sometimes I need reminding

Taught the kids about love and kindness. They now come to me pointing to their check wanting a kiss and a hug in the morning.

Taught them to stand in line for food and taking turns( still not perfect but working on it)

Showed the teachers, teaching KSL does not have to be scary.

Brought Life skills and HIV education to my school.

Got my Headmaster to agree, teaching condoms in school is a good thing.

Unlike previous years, we were able to send 7 out of 15 kids to secondary school. (If not for the high score in KSL, most would not have made it.)

Opened the community’s eyes to our students. Now people come up to my kids and greet them.

Got some community members interested in KSL.

Worked with the VCT in interpreting and Teaching KSL.

Taught my girls about self defense and saying no to boys

Brought 3 students and 1 deaf teacher to Camp Glow to learn and experience life outside school.

Changed some teacher’s view on beating and gave alternatives to beating

Taught my best friend florence about standards when dating

Taught the grounds keeper how to properly take care of a dog( again still working on it)

Rough Day, Better Night

I love my students. I mean I really love my students. If I could bring them all with me to America I would. Although not sure if my mom would like 250 grandkids. They make even the worst day better. I know that whatever crap I go through with my teachers, they are always there to support me and comfort me and today I needed the comfort. It all started with taking 53 of my student on a field trip to the local tea factory…alone! I guess no other teacher could be bothered to show up on time. But they are my kids and so they tried really hard to make it stress free for me. We had fun and it was a great learning experience for them. Upon returning, I purchased oranges and sweets for them. I handed it out and felt ready to pass out I was so tired. Although they were on their best behavior, Im like a mother hen when it comes to them and so just watching after them is tiring. Haha. As I was headed home, I stopped by my class to make sure all was well. I noticed 3 of the teachers all in class 7. I call them the 3 musketeers for Satan. They don’t really like me much. From the 1st yr, I’ve had problems with Satan’s musketeers. They are rude to me, disrespectful and undermine me in front of students and teachers. They treat me like a student and if they could get away with it, they wouldn’t think twice to taking a cane to me. One teacher was handing one of my oranges to a student who didn’t go on the field trip. I took it from her and asked what was up? Another teacher had an orange in her hand and was refusing to give it to the student. She said it was exam time, not eating time. I said ok, give the orange back to the student and tell them to put it in their desks. Problem solved…..nope. The teacher refused to talk with me and to give the student back the orange. Ok maybe Im more like a mama lion then a mama hen when it comes to my kids. I have to be since Satan’s musketeers beat the kids any chance they get and treat them like they are sub human. So I followed her trying to talk with her. No luck. She decided it would be better to act like a child then an adult. I knew I wasn’t getting anywhere with her and I was getting upset, I probably used some unlady like language. Good thing my students are deaf. So I left to cool off. Did the problem get resolved? Nope not even close.

I know my stay here may not change anything right now. But how can I leave knowing my babies have to stay with Satan’s musketeers? It breaks my heart knowing Im leaving and they are staying here. These teachers don’t ever show these students any kindness. Their relationship I could probably liken to slave and master. With 4 months left and leaning towards not extending, Im thinking back on my experience and wondering if I did enough for my students. Did I make enough of an impact that they will remember me and not the bad teachers who oppress them? Will they try to go for secondary school or even university? Or will they give up and listen to the musketeers and just think primary school is enough?
Later that night I went up to the school and take some of the young ones back to the dorms. The minute I got to the dinning hall, I was surrounded by my students, giving me hugs and kisses. My kids always know what makes me feel better. I played with them a bit and then took the babies to bed. I was in the girls dorm and the older girls took me to a corner and asked what are Satan’s musketeers fighting with me about? I didn’t want to cause problems so I said I don’t know and just because I have problems with them, doesn’t mean they should. The girls then went one by one telling me how they want the 3 musketeers out and me to stay, how they quarrel with them and beat them and the students don’t know why. I know I was getting into dangerous waters and didn’t want to bad mouth the teachers in front of the children. So I told them, I understood their issues and I’ll try to be there for them but that I was leaving in Dec. I also told them they can all be stronger and prove to the musketeers they are smart and can go to college. That this too shall pass. If they were patient and continued their studies and not let the musketeers get to them, they had a chance of going to secondary school. I encouraged them to prove to themselves and the other teachers that children who are deaf CAN go to secondary school and university. I told them I loved them and then wished them sweet dreams.
I love my students and I think they know that. Im just going to have to think positive that it’s enough.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

What I love about Kenya

Working in a 3rd world country where corruption, abuse and tribalism is common, can wear a person down. In order to survive, one has to keep looking for the positive. Well here’s my list of my positives.

What I love about Kenya

• Mama Rono and her hour long stories
• Florence, my Kenyan sister and best friend
• The beautiful landscape. Sometimes I still can’t believe Im in Kenya
• My neighbors and the fact that they really will give me a cup of sugar or an egg when I ask.
• The market mamas and how they have taken me in as a daughter
• My students and the bond I have formed with them
• The struggles and frustrations I have faced here and how they have changed me, for the better and some for the worse
• My Paka…even when he’s a jackass eating all of my butter and destroying my milk cartons
• The time spent with my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers and the family we have made
• My garden
• The amazing places I have been able to explore
• The Kenyan women and the power and strength they have
• The price of everything, except for customs and Kenya power everything is super cheap, Passion fruit, pineapples, cloth.
• Picking out material and making my own clothes
• Wearing sandals year round
• Baking on the Jeko oven and making spaghetti from scratch
• Simplicity of life here

 

  

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Silver Lining

So since last post was about my struggles, I thought I would share some good things that have been happening.....

Well, to start off, I am pleased as punch to FINALLY announce that after many months of coordinating, designing and beating our heads against the walls, the deaf friendly VCT kit is officially finished!!!!! This project was first thought of by Volunteers from the group before mine. So from start to finish….2 years. So long time coming. The kit was designed as a tool for people working with a deaf populations in an HIV capacity. The kit includes a movie(15min long) going through the step by step process of an HIV test all while using Sign Language. Our hope was that organizations would play this in their facility while clients wait. If they are hearing, they can watch and if they know someone who is deaf in their village, they can let them know there is a deaf friendly facility. So a mix of VCT education and deaf awareness happening at the same time. Also, the video will go into schools, allowing students to know what happens during a test as well. A lot of adults and students don’t get tested due to the fact they don’t know what happens.

There are also 2 posters that will accompany the video. The 1st poster is an illustrated condom demonstration that goes through how to put on a condom step by step. They are all hand drawn by another volunteer. You would not believe what we had to Google to get the drawings perfect. A lot of people do not know how to use a condom correctly. So this poster will be a huge asset to the VCT when they go out and give out condoms. The 2nd poster is intended to be used to show what the client needs to do after testing positive( take meds, eat healthy, use protection etc.) or testing negative( use protection, go back after 3 months etc.) A lot of the times, people get tested and then go home. They don’t know if you test negative, you have to go back after 3 months, or if you test positive, you have to stay healthy and continue using protection. With the kit, we hope more and more people who are/are not deaf will get tested, use a condom and continue using protection.

Another volunteer and I came up with an idea to make a music video with out two schools. We are sort of on a time crunch but will try it anyway. The idea is the kids will make a song about deaf empowerment, what being deaf means to them etc. We put it to music and the film the two schools dancing and signing it. It’s surprising to see these kids have no self esteem when it comes to being deaf. The outside world treats them like they don’t exist. Our hope is by making the song, they will realize what amazing people they are and what a beautiful language KSL is.

Gave my Class 6 their KSL midterm. Highest score was an 83%!!!!!

Going to Nairobi to help plan the Camp Glow this weekend (This time my students get to go) and I have already made a list of all the amazing food Im going to eat before coming home to the village.

Although Michael died, the other puppy I was taking care of now has a tummy and getting fatter.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

6 months left and struggling

It’s late and I can’t fall asleep. So I thought I would get a blog in since it’s been awhile. I had a rough day today that made me question why I am here. I guess it’s that time, the yr and ½ mark where we start to feel anxious about going home, feeling burnt out, and we start to question have we really done enough. Today started out ok. I was in a good mood, I had gone for a walk with my classes, and my KSL class went great. Then I talked to someone about one of my missing students. Now, its typical for students to come to school late…. but not a whole month late. This girl is one of my favorites but also one I struggle with. She has so much potential and yet she risks throwing it away by having sex with everyone. At first I thought she couldn’t come to school due to shortage of school fees. Little did I know she is actually working as a barmaid/prostitute in a nearby town, following the piki piki drivers around. I immediately became worried, although everyone I talked to didn’t seem as worried. At first I felt excluded that no one told me. Then I thought it better to let it go. Even if I had no clue, at least my headmaster was working on contacting the parents and bringing her back. So I tried to keep my day going, focusing on other issues....like our health club. During the past few days I have been talking with a fellow teacher about getting a health club started. I had gotten permission, we had talked to the students and our first meeting was going to be on Friday. Just this evening, I had been informed that the visitors who I had seen come by the other day were going to teach a life skills class once every week, for 3 months. According to the visitors our school does not provide life skills classes or a health club…..I have been teaching life skills since day one and I was in the process of starting a health club. I can tell you I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me yet again. I am the only teacher here who teaches life skills. Why hadn’t they invited me to meet the visitors? Attended the meeting with them? Informed me BEFORE I got everything organized for our health club? I am starting to feel like my job here is useless. Have I done anything here that they are proud of? Part of me knows that’s what I want, to have my school take the lead, utilize the people in the community. But part of me feels like it’s too soon, if they do that, then what will I be working on for the next 6 months? Im not ready to give up my kids yet. It’s a struggle I know I will be facing more and more as my service comes to a close. I just wasn’t ready for it to happen this soon.

Is it a Holiday if you have to work?

I know it’s been awhile. It has been one wild ride and I needed sometime to come down from it. Let me just show you how crazy my “holiday” was.




1st week: Nairobi: The minute school closed I headed to Nairobi for a week to work on my VCT Deaf friendly project. Happy to announce it’s officially finished!!! Anyway, while in Nairobi I got really sick but luckily I was where the doctors were and was patched up before I headed to my next destination: Kilifi.



2nd week: Kilifi: I headed to Kilifi, which is on the coast, for Camp GLOW( Girl.s Leading Our World). In spite of some heartbreaking setbacks, the girls who were deaf were not able to go, Camp GLOW was a success. Surprisingly, I struggled with teaching the hearing girls. I felt like I had fallen into a time warp. It felt like my first day at my school, not knowing the local sign language and having to teach. I felt uncomfortable with the girls and bombed my lessons. Instead of teaching kids who are pretty closed off from the community and whats going on, I was teaching students who already knew what I was teaching. It was a learning experience for me for sure. But in the end I think we touched and inspired a lot of girls. Straight from Kilifi I headed to my next destination: ZANZIBAR!!!!!!



3rd week: ZANZIBAR!!!!!: Literally the camp closed on sat morning and I was on a plane by noon heading to Zanzibar. What an amazing holiday. I have fallen in love with the country and the people. I had a bit of culture shock with the airport. It felt so weird to be on an airplane when living in the village for 1yr and ½. It was a 30min flight from mombasa to Zanzibar and yet we got a drink AND a sandwich. By the time I got mine unwrapped, we were descending. Oh and what a decent! Crystal blue waters, lush landscapes. I was so excited. We stayed in stone town for 2 nights and enjoyed the fish market where we ate grilled barracuda, marlin, snapper and shark while watching the local children jumping off the docks while the sun sets behind them. We were surprised how friendly the locals were. We walked from the main square to our hotel in the dark, we would have never even thought of doing that in Kenya, and no one even batted an eye towards us or harassed us. The whole time I never got hit on while in Zanzibar. After stone town, we headed to Jambiani Beach on the east side of the island. Unlike other beaches in Zanzibar, Jambiani is a village and is not very touristed or developed. We got a bungalow right on the beach and were the only tourists there. We spent the next 4 nights sleeping, collecting shells and eating the incredible seafood. When the tide was out, we would walk and visit with the mamas and their seaweed farms. The boys at the hotel put on a bonfire for my birthday on our last night. Thoughts of deserting Peace Corps and staying in Zanzibar actually went through our minds. In the end we packed up and made a promise that we would return. Next was South Coast and Nairobi.



4th week: South Coast/Nairobi: Part 2 of our holiday started off a little rough. Remember how I said I never got hit on while in Zanzibar? Well about 30 min after we touched down, a tout told me to “ talk more Swahili to him because he wanted me.” I spent the rest of the day traveling to our hotel, arguing with touts about hiking up the prices and giving us the mzungu price. I was close to slapping someone and kept thinking about turning around and going back to Zanzibar. However, once we got to our hotel, things started to turn around. Our hotel had a pool! The first and only pool I had been in since…..ok I can’t even remember the last time I was in a pool. Although we were just a short walk to the beach, we spent the next few days swimming in the pool, having swim races and handstand competitions. I thought we were in 5th grade again. For my birthday dinner, my friend took me to a restaurant that was actually IN a cave. It was beautiful. The cave ceiling was open so you could see the stares while you ate. And the food!!!!!! Amazing! They also came out and sang to me and gave us 2 pieces of passion fruit cheesecake. I was so stuffed by the end, I almost could not change into my pj’s. Despite the rough start, it was a good ending to a great vacation. But now it was back to Nairobi and work.



We spent the rest of our month finishing up our project and training the new volunteers. It was great to see everyone again and of course feast on the amazing food before heading back to the village. And back to the village we went to finish my 2nd to last term…..