Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More Olivia!

Hope everyone's ready to make the final push for the holidays!  With that in mind (as I have a zillion of things I need to do over the next few weeks) I thought it was perfect timing for more stress relief, aka, Olivia!

What? What turkey? I didn't eat no turkey! Heh!

On that note, Olivia and I wish all of you celebrating turkey day a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Machakos and The "G" Club

Entering Machakos, a town that I knew that had the presence of Miss PCP Machakos, I was hit by a twinge of sadness that she would not be in the area to show off the Machakos that she knew so well due to factors beyond anyone’s control, even if she is enjoying Dancing With The Stars. On that note, I was determined to enjoy Machakos to it’s fullest, and indeed, I did enjoy the town.  PCP, I hope we did you and Machakos proud!

We checked into a very nice hotel, waited around for a fun reunion with Paul, Matt, and Lapu, and got ready to start the KSL immersion week. The trainees were introduced to a normal school schedule (even if they were doing exams), language classes continued to be held (I was amazed how far they had gotten in a week and half of language classes – this PST was definitely going much better), guest speakers from various departments and organizations headquartered in Nairobi came by and shared information.

The four of us PCVs, realized that our lousy PST really colored our view of what information should be shared with the new trainees, and we may have gone overboard in the doom and gloom and cultural miscommunication stories – at one point, one of the trainees basically asked us, “Did anything good happen?!” Whoops. After owning up to our mistake, we talked about our good days, about the times that we could see light bulbs going off with our kids, making friends with the community, the day that we realized that time was going faster more than it was going slow, so I think we more or less balanced out our doom and gloom stories.

In midst of all this, I finally became a member of The “G” Club. Joining The “G” Club is a rite of passage for all Peace Corps Volunteers, and a few were surprised that it took me this long to join. The G stands for Giardia, which is an ailment that can wreck havoc on the digestive system. While details can be (and were) discussed with fellow PCVs, I think I will refrain from horrifying and losing the five readers of this blog, so I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. I was glad to get the dose of medication even if the side effect was an aftertaste of aluminum for a week.

I am eagerly looking forward to going back to my site, seeing and talking with the Machakos students made me miss my students, and that made me all the more ready to head off. While it was fantastic working with the current volunteers, meeting the awesome trainees, I was, and will be ready to head home in a couple of days (sorry, I’ve ran into a creative block on how to end the blog entries a different way, so you’ll just need to roll your eyes and say oh yay, she’s yet again excited about going home …).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mad about Mad Libs

Throughout my teaching the Form One students English, a new goal was formed without my realizing it – to encourage the students develop an appreciation of the English language, and to find ways of enjoying, playing around with the language.  I knew I was way over my head, as I know many of my Deaf friends back in the States hated and now continue to use English with distaste, and that is in a country that uses English as a major language.  What was I thinking when this goal popped into my mind?!  Was I actually that bored and wanted to think up of ways to make my job satisfaction all that harder?!

Over the past year, I introduced them to various word games, Hangman, plural relays, several other ways of trying to get them to associate the English language with fun rather than fear.  When I was trying to think up of a game that could include the subject that we were studying (this was a couple of weeks ago), the usage of adverbs and adjectives.  All of sudden, out of nowhere, a flashback to my childhood popped up and I remembered Mad Libs. 

My parents had introduced my brother and me to Mad Libs probably to try and maintain their sanity while traveling with two kids who would alternate between fighting by marking our space in the back seat, tapping each other and poking each other in the cheek, and playing happily with each other through all the different games we had made up.  Regardless of the attempts my parents made in explaining the concept of Mad Libs, I always had to take it in the literal sense writing the actual names, nouns, and adjectives in the story at the same time reading the story (I remember mom and dad patiently trying to explain that the fun part was to write down the descriptive words without reading the story and that made it all the more funnier when I fill out the blanks), and it took me a long time to realize that I should just make up the words before reading the story because that made it all the more fun. 

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to introduce the concept of Mad Libs, I made up various sentences, and had the students give me examples of adverbs and adjectives, and then we all filled the blanks in the sentences I had made up.  Some of the results were really funny.  It was a total hit with the students.  I then had one group make up a sentence, and another group come up with a noun, adjective, adverb, or verb, and then combine them together. 

On that same day, I explained that languages were made to be played with.  We discussed the various ways we could creatively use KSL in stories, using various classifiers and other body movements, facial expressions, and then talked about a few different ways we could play with the English language.  The choices of words, the usage of words, expressions, and the flow of the language can make the language a lively thing and something to truly enjoy.  I can only hope that a few students are starting to become more comfortable with creatively using English.  

Friday, November 13, 2009

Back to Loitokitok

On Wednesday, I got into the Peace Corps Land Cruiser, with a major flashback to doing that exact same thing returning from Mombasa.  As we drove down the road, I exclaimed on how nice part of the road has become, only to start going off-road on some of the nastiest roads, with me laughing, and telling the PC driver that this was more what I remembered.  We slipped and swerved through the rain soaked and mud covered road and then finally reached Loitokitok. 

Today is the one-year anniversary of my group’s arrival in Nairobi.  It is amazing to actually say that I have been in Kenya for one whole year already.  Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of our arrival, dazed and confused, in Mombasa.  The reason why I am talking about this is because meeting the new trainees has sent me numerous flashbacks to my PST, here in Loitokitok. 

The new trainees had the same questions I had, the same feelings, and the same complaints.  Regardless of all that, I am very excited about the future of PC-Kenya, as I met eleven intelligent, energetic, motivated, and excited individuals planning on working at Deaf schools across Kenya.  I am also especially excited about this year’s PST, and from the observation of two days thus far, it looks like it’s going pretty well, most definitely having a much more positive vibe than the one we had during our PST. 

So, to the PCTs set for 2010-2012, best of luck, and here’s to you and the future of PC-Kenya!

And, of course, I can’t and won’t end this entry without a shout out to my group, the 2009-2011 peeps, here’s to another fantastic year of teaching, gorgeous travels, and unforgettable friendships!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Nairobi, Meru, Maua, Limuru, Nairobi again, and then finally home.

In mid-October, I traveled to Nairobi for the Training Design and Evaluation sessions for the Educational volunteers.  I was excited about having some sort of input in the whole PST experience, but also curious about how much impact that the volunteers would actually have.  Throughout the week, I was pleasantly surprised how involved we were in the nitty gritty details of the PST.  This time around, it will be just the Math/Science and Deaf Education trainees, and the three Math/Science and two Deaf Ed volunteers who were there for the TDE spent nearly the entire day discussing learning objectives, how to set up sessions, how to schedule the sessions, what should happen first, and what went wrong with our PST.  After the end of the four-day session, we tentatively came up with a PST that hopefully would be so much better than the PST in 2008 was.   Even if only half of the things we have scheduled actually went through it would still be five times better than my PST.

An added bonus of going to Nairobi (a city that I continue to not like very much), I got to stay at the Kenya Continental Hotel (the hotel that Peace Corps uses for PC-K related business and the hotel where they keep all the sick people [Nairobi is one of the hubs for Peace Corps Volunteers across Africa to fly to for medical related reasons]), and I got to see several volunteers that I have not seen in a while, and because the hotel is in Westlands, a neighborhood of Nairobi that has a lot of restaurants and options, I blew quite a bit of my moolah (Nairobi is really, really, really expensive on a Peace Corps budget) for some fantastic sushi, pizza, Indian, and of course, a good ole bacon cheeseburger (although, Nate and Mel, the bacon in no shape or form as good as yours, so you better save up some for me!).

At the conclusion of the TDE, I was ready to head out of Nairobi, and because I was due back in Limuru, a short distance from Nairobi the following week, I decided to add onto my trip by visiting Alyssa and Matt in Meru and Maua.  I got in the matatu from Westlands and weaved the traffic, hoping that I would make it to city center in time to catch the matatu so it would arrive in Meru before dark.  Lady Luck was on my side, as the matatu left just before the deadline I set for myself.  I found myself speeding off up north.  I have heard crazy stories of matatu drivers driving very fast, swerving all over the place, on a variety of drugs, most likely mirra, a plant that releases a some sort of stimulant if you chew it – Meru and Maua has mirra trees galore, so it’s a big thing up north.  Anyway, the matatu I got on wasn’t as bad as I expected, and without incident, I got into Meru. 

Meru is a nice sized town, and after eating out with Alyssa, we went to her school and the next day, she showed me around a bit.  The layout of Alyssa’s house is a carbon copy of my house, so it was really weird to see how she has it all set up compared to the way I set up mine.  Her school is gorgeous, has a gorgeous library, and I enjoyed myself spending time with her and some of her students.  Alyssa and I decided to look through the Karibu Jikoni cookbook (the book that saved lives of numerous PCVs and RPCVs – I have talked with several RPCVs that continues to use this book, and I know for a fact that I would probably use that cookbook for the rest of my life), and look up for some recipes we wanted to try, and we ended up making amazing chili and chocolate chip cheesecake along with some wine.  Needless to say, I enjoyed Meru. 

After two relaxing days with Alyssa, I went up to Maua, and met Matt on the side of the road and then went into his school.  Matt’s school is on a crest of a hill, on a nice day, giving you gorgeous views of the hillsides of Kenya.  Matt and I walked around the school, meeting some of his students, and talked about his library project (which by the way if you want to donate to, go here to check out the Harambee Project, and donate!).  I met his adorable students, talked with every class about life beyond class 8, and then Matt and I walked around the school through the village, and it was a gorgeous walk, with a couple of rainbows, and beautiful vistas.  We also went to Maua for dinner and a couple of other errands.  Regardless of the rain and cold, I loved every minute I was at Maua as well. 

On Kenyatta Day, another PCV from the Maua area and I went back to Nairobi to catch a matatu to Limuru for the VAC meeting with the new Country Director.  While Meru was pretty cold, Maua even colder, Limuru was insanely cold.  Okay it’s probably not as cold as the northern part of the States during winter, but it was insanely cold to my body, used to the hot and humid Coast.  Limuru, where they provide hot water bottles for bedtime, where I sat in my room, taking complete advantage of the wifi provided at the hotel wrapped in several blankets, reminding myself of my first winter break during college back at home, parking my butt in the front of the computer and chatting away with friends on IM wrapped in blankets until the wee hours of the night. The new Country Director was different from the old one, and I look forward to working with him – he (along with the old CD) clearly loved Peace Corps, what it represents and seems to be a good person to help rebuild PC-Kenya as it continues to need some rebuilding after the evacuation. 

After Limuru, I headed back to Nairobi for one night because of the night travel restrictions of Peace Corps, and by that point, I was exhausted and completely ready to be home.  I traveled on the night train, which was really charming, sweet, and 21 hours instead of 12.  Words of advice, if you all want to travel to Mombasa from Nairobi on a vacation, fly.

It’s grand to travel, but it’s also good to be home.  


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.