Wednesday, June 24, 2009


This entry was written on Thursday, 18 June 2009, but posted today.

The Peace Corps experience (and probably any experience living abroad) is definitely an emotional rollercoaster. Yesterday was an amazing day – so ordinary – yet amazing.  I taught several great classes, classes that I actually could see progress, see something click in the kids, I could see the gears working as they try to complete tasks or answer questions. After school, I talked with some students about an essay contest that the kids were participating in, mainly class 7 and 8 students (7th and 8th grade kids), and it was a great conversation, talking about the various oceans and using the world map that was painted by previous volunteers, and I could feel connections being made.  Last night, I replied to a mass email planning an awesome weekend that we have been planning for the previous month and wrote an email to my brother, at the same time chatting with one of my good friends on IM. Last night, I went to sleep at peace, on the top of the world, or rather the crest of one of the hills of a rollercoaster.

Today I went down the hill screaming with my hands half heartedly up in the air. I knew what was coming, I knew the feeling, the scary-but-fun bit, the heart-dropping-in-the-stomach bit, I knew it would be all right, that I just needed to sit back and enjoy the ride.  I knew how it would all feel being that I have been on a rollercoaster more times than I can count both literally and figuratively, but knowing and experiencing the actual ride are two completely different things.

So, yeah, it was not too bad of a day with the kids, they all more or less behaved pretty well, but it was a bad day for me as a foreigner.  Every cultural different made itself all the more stark to me today.  Every interaction I had with my fellow teachers and my headmaster left me grinding my teeth and my blood boiling.  Everything grates on me, even the adorable kids who stare at the mzungu walking through the town, the stares driving me batty as I stroll into town to pick up a couple of necessities. 

I know the rollercoaster will come back up and I will be on the top of the world again.  I guess this is why we live, why we experience new things, why Peace Corps Volunteers are Peace Corps Volunteers.  It is the something new, something crazy, something exciting that makes a person want to go onto a rollercoaster again and again.  It is the aliveness that you feel when you hop on for the crazy ass ride.  The blood rushing and your out-of-breathness confirm that you are indeed still alive.  Even today, at some of my bad moments, I realized that I would not trade this experience for anything. 

Like my brother said in one of his recent emails, “it’s good to hear that time is flying, it means that life is just hard enough, but not too hard.”

Couldn’t have said it better.  

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My Kids

Form One Kids - we're in the library for one of our classes when they're picking out some books to read.

The KG-1 kids - these photos were taken at the end of Term 1, and the classroom is the classroom that I teach in regularly for the nursery school kids. They look very mild mannered and well behaved in those photos, but seriously, that is not usually the case ...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Stress Relief

Thanks N and M for the gorgeous little girl that always puts a smile on my face!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Proud Americans*

I am a proud American.

It was quite a surprise to discover that fact after I moved to Kenya. This country here, living in Kenya, I had expected to learn numerous things about myself, about the country, and I have been learning a lot about myself and Kenya itself, what I did not expect to find was my American pride. One of the missions of Peace Corps was to share American culture with the country I’m serving in, and in the process of talking about the United States of America, I started to say, wait, it is indeed a great country.

Last year I had a great year living in the States, traveling all over, living in Colorado, three weeks on the Pacific Coast Highway, two fantastic months in Washington State with the brother and sister-in-law, I knew I lived in a beautiful country. I also knew that I lived in one of the best countries to be Deaf in – the American with Disabilities (ugh) Act of 1990 as well as IDEA and various other laws allowed me to be the person I am right now. Regardless of The Year Off, and the election of the first president of color, I still had an internal struggle in saying that I was an American.

I hated that our government was looked as imperialistic (that it acted imperialistic), I hated that the American currency and economy is considered a huge influence in the global community. I hated that the United States of America is considered as a superpower. I hated the stereotypical Hollywood movies displaying what the American should be. I remember traveling to Europe with my old college roommates who lived there and apologizing for being American.

Moving to Kenya, joining the Peace Corps, an organization that is not by any means perfect (hey, they kicked out one of my favorite volunteers – one of the best all around volunteers, in my opinion) but an organization that displays the innovativeness, the independence, and confidence that makes up an American. Peace Corps made me think about what it means to be American, and how we represent our country. Throughout the past months, talking about Kenya and America, going through the stereotypes that Kenyans had of Americans (seriously, people, World Wrestling Federation and Chuck Norris – I’ll explain in another entry. Seriously.), I realized that my country is not at all a bad of a place to live.

*Here’s holding out hope that someone caught the PREACHER reference …

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A, An, and The

Note: This blog entry was written last week on Monday, however, due to a variety of technical difficulties including a total of something like 30 hours without power spread over last week, the link for the internet via phone being down, and issues with the school modem … I was only finally able to post this today.

Over the past couple of weeks, I worked with the Form One students on this quirky thing called English grammar. Trying to explain why you use an a, an, or a the in the appropriate places is harder than it looks. Okay, maybe just as hard as it looks. I do not remember learning the specific rules and their exceptions as it has become almost automatic for me to say wait, that does not work in that specific spot, let’s shift that around, ah now that works.

It was an interesting process for me, trying to fit each rule to each automatic feel I had.

Especially to a group of eager students that grew up with KSL as their native language, a group of students who can weave a gorgeous and amazing story with their hands in minutes, but struggle to put the story into English. Additionally, how do you describe the rules of usage of articles, when there is no real equivalent in KSL? For example, in French, you have your le and la, in other written language there are usually corresponding words or concepts that matches up to the a, an, and the in English.

To make it all the more confusing to my students, there are so many exceptions to the rule that depends on the way they sound out and are just some more words that they need to memorize in terms of making sure they use it correctly. I tell them, hey, English is one of the weirdest and hardest language to learn, and sometimes in class I have to stop and pause for a couple of minutes and rack my brain on how to explain a specific rule for that one specific situation, why an a or an will not work for that, or why you don’t use a the for that word. And to make it all the more confusing, the English I am teaching is British English, rather than American English, so I had to think about using different vocabulary (petrol rather than gas, realise rather than realize, colour rather than color, for examples, in addition to a couple of different grammar rules), and it added an interesting facet to the whole teaching process.

Reading some books (and Write Source 2000 – a textbook helper of sorts I remember finding very useful in middle school), I relearned the rules of the usage of articles and sought for a parallel in KSL. I tried out several ways of explaining, and each time more and more students understand. Each time a student understand one new rule, it makes it all worthwhile. The process is painstakingly slow, but I realize that in the past, not that many people took the time to really explain the various situations and where, when and how to use specific words in sentences, especially using their native language.

One of my biggest thing is to really attempt to instill in my students the ability and skill to figure out words or sentences they do not understand. I compare it to walking into the middle of a conversation, and waiting it out until enough parts of the conversation comes up so they can join in – the students are having a hard time with the concept that they should take the time to read the sentence several times, trying to figure out the word in those sentences, maybe making a couple of guesses, and then going from there rather than just giving up and asking the teacher for the meaning of the word.

Over the last week and last weekend, I also had several very good conversations with a couple of other Deaf Eds, it looks that everyone is really doing much better this term, we are all more confident in our teaching abilities, and we are used to the students and now know what to expect. I also had a great conversation via IM last week with one of the fellow Deaf Eds, using each other as a sounding board on some ideas, and thinking about what we are doing here – I realized more or less that I am here to help out to the best of my abilities, even if that only impacts ten students, then that’s ten students who can make a difference in the future of Deaf education in Kenya.


This blog consists of my personal thoughts and opinions. It does not in any way reflect the position of the United States Government or the Peace Corps.