Saturday, September 19, 2009

Those Damn Yankees

I just finished Gone With the Wind a couple of weeks ago so please don’t blame me too much if the whole southern accent and thinking may have inserted itself in me slightly as I think about the New York Yankees. The New York Yankees are having a hell of a year, doing a hell of a job in the Bronx – this has to be one of their best seasons, and I am pissed I am unable to watch them.

Those Damn Yankees.

I could not watch Derek Jeter being the classy man he is and breaking the Iron Horse’s record for most hits as a Yankee. I will not be able to watch Mariano Rivera be his usual top notch self, holding opponents scoreless with his incredible cutter in his save opportunities. I will not watch the Yankees enjoy a comfortable lead over the Boston Red Sox in the American East pennant race for the first time in a few years.

Those Damn Yankees.

I read about Teixeira making amazing catches on first, the soaring homers at the new stadium, A-Rod being his usual blustery self and doing what he have always done (albeit surrounded by scandal), Posada growing better as he ages, this year’s stellar crop of pitchers, Pettitte, A. J., C. C. (sorry, Matt!), Joba, and we can’t forget Hughes who has been incredible in his role as a set-up reliever, but reading dispatches from beat writers is nothing in comparison to watching the games themselves.

Those Damn Yankees.

I won’t watch them play in the postseason (unless I find a place that has satellite TV and opens at 4 in the morning – what are the chances, do you think?!), I won’t be able to just pick up a copy of the Daily News or the NY Post and look at the back page to see what headlines the writer have come up with for the image on the back page (yeah, yeah, I know I can look it up on the internet, but it’s just not the same).

Those Damn Yankees! Okay, okay – I’m excited about what the Yankees are accomplishing this year, but still I can’t watch them, dammit! All together now – just one more time … Those Damn Yankees!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Legacy of the Peace Corps

My last trip of the August Holiday was to Lamu, which was amazing, gorgeous, so much like Zanzibar. It was different in one way that may not be noticeable to the casual traveler – it felt so Kenyan. Indeed, it is Kenya, and it felt at home for me. It was a great few days away, in a familiar way. It was a fantastic way to end the August Holiday, especially when we stopped by Watamu for a dance party with a large group of PCVs (and many new Public Health PCVs – we’re not the babies out here anymore! It was quite a shock to realize that).

Throughout the holiday, I have been having conversations with several people, both Kenyan and American, and many of these conversations have returned to the same topic – what the hell am I doing here as a Peace Corps Volunteer? Is the Peace Corps good for Kenya? We talked about the development of the Deaf Education system in Kenya, the changes in ASL and KSL, and a variety of other things. So, naturally, that prompted me to write something about it, and to talk out my thought process, and about some of the conversations I have been having.

Numerous Kenyans, both hearing and Deaf, told me about their connections with the Peace Corps. Many have been taught by one or two, others worked with volunteers in various capacities, and some had memories of friendship. Many of the teachers at Kibarani, including the Headmaster was taught by a Peace Corps Volunteer at one point in their lives. Deaf people in prominent positions across Kenya told stories about Deaf Education Volunteers who taught them (the Peace Corps-Kenya Deaf Education program opened in 1992), and about the volunteers that they later befriended – many who incidentally went to Gallaudet when I also went there. Kenya’s relationship with the Peace Corps have lasted for forty-odd years as Peace Corps showed up in Kenya one year after Kenya’s independence, and for the most part it is reflected in a positive light.

Numerous books have been written about the dependency on foreign aid by African countries, and I read a few before my service, and a few more during my service so far, a good example of this kind of book is Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux who wrote about seeing the sparkling white land rovers or land cruisers with the logo of the aid organization and the kind of help that they provided throughout his trip from South Africa to Egypt. The white land cruiser and land rovers are indeed iconic in Kenya, and I’m sure they are also iconic in many other African countries. In addition to the enormous dependency of aid money, Kenya has a huge corruption problem – it is second in the world in corruption second only to Nigeria. Many times I have become unsure of my position as a foreigner, a mzungu, whether it is in Kenya (or should I say, Kibarani)’s best interest to have me as a Peace Corps Volunteer involved in the development of their education system.

Throughout the conversations I have had with American and Kenyan friends about these ideas and feelings, and for the most part I have got the feedback that Peace Corps being here seem to have benefited the Deaf Education system in Kenya. Progress in Deaf Education of Kenya is glacial, most definitely, but talking with the RPCVs and other people involved in the education system who shared their experiences from the mid 90’s, late 90’s, and throughout the 2000’s, I could see progress. The founding of the Kenya Federation of Deaf Teachers in 2003, more and more Deaf students graduating from secondary school being qualified for colleges and universities, and shifting the focus to actually paying for things (such as participating in GRO), rather than having things handed out to you on a silver platter. So, yes, while progress is glacial, it is being made.

I am starting to see my imprint being made in various situations in Kibarani, my relationships with the Headmaster and other teachers becoming stronger, friendlier, and my opinions are being respected more. I have many goals for Kibarani, already a pretty good school in comparison to many others. I used to feel a little guilty about being assigned to “a good school” when I could be assigned to a school that needs more of an overhaul of their dynamics. I now realize that it is my assignment to make Kibarani the standard, the example for other schools to look up to. To push the teachers, push the students, and the administration to do better in a few different small ways, bringing the school closer to what the school can become.

I have sixteen months left in my service – it has been hard to believe that I have already been here for ten months, and that this term is my third term. I am feeling even more confidence in my ability as a teacher this term, I have started working on a couple outside projects with a few of the teachers, which I will talk about at a later point when everything falls in place. At this point, I am feeling good about what I am doing for this school, and I hope that this feeling will continue over the next sixteen months.


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.