Jodi Picoult’s Lone Wolf and Cochlear Implants

Books are an escape but every once in a while I will read a sentence that brings me back to reality in a split-second.

Jodi Picoult’s new book (Kindle version), Lone Wolf, came out yesterday. Of course I snapped it up.

Synopsis (

Edward Warren, 23, has been living in Thailand for five years, a prodigal son who left his family after an irreparable fight with his father, Luke. But he gets a frantic phone call: His dad lies comatose in a NH hospital, gravely injured in the same accident that has also injured his younger sister Cara.

Cara, 17, still holds a grudge against her brother, since his departure led to her parents’ divorce. In the aftermath, she’s lived with her father – an animal conservationist who became famous after living with a wild wolf pack in the Canadian wild. It is impossible for her to reconcile the still, broken man in the hospital bed with her vibrant, dynamic father.

With Luke’s chances for recovery dwindling, Cara wants to wait for a miracle. But Edward wants to terminate life support and donate his father’s organs. Is he motivated by altruism, or revenge? And to what lengths will his sister go to stop him from making an irrevocable decision?

LONE WOLF looks at the intersection between medical science and moral choices. If we can keep people who have no hope for recovery alive artificially, should they also be allowed to die artificially? Does the potential to save someone else’s life with a donated organ balance the act of hastening another’s death? And finally, when a father’s life hangs in the balance, which sibling should get to decide his fate?

There is no mention of anything deaf related or cochlear implant related in this book until page 317.  Out of 367 pages in the book, only a page mentions cochlear implants/deafness.

I was completely lost in reading this book when this page caught me completely off guard and bought me back to reality.

‘There was a teenager sitting on the curb weeping………”too much,” he said, over and over, as he shook his head…….

“Is he alright?”  I asked.

“HIs cochlear implants were activated today,” she said proudly.  “He’s just getting used to them.”…………

“Too much,” the teenager howled.

To this day he is the only person in this world who I think understands what it felt like for me to return.’

I don’t know why it caught me so off guard.  Maybe it’s because I know exactly how that felt.  I was that teenager minus the weeping part and the fact that I was in my 20s.  I guess after almost 3 years since my first CI I have started to forget how that felt and it kind of bought back those memories.  “Forget” is not the correct term.  I won’t ever forget that feeling but with time it has gotten buried somewhere with those good CI-moments on top of it.

I do have to admit that on the other hand it was VERY refreshing to know that I’m not the only one who has felt this way with my CIs.  I have read too many “feel good stories about CIs” that ignores those first few rough days/weeks/months (everyone is different in terms of how long it takes for them to adjust to their CIs).  It’s something that no one seems to want to talk about.

Facebook Status Posts

Every time I do one of these lazy Facebook Status Updates posts I tell myself I will do better about blogging more often….then I don’t….then I find it impossible to blog about everything that has crossed my mind….then I end up doing one of these lame posts…it’s a cycle!  🙂

The Peace Corps teaches a person to learn from the past, live in the moment, and hope for the future….

Attempting to do Yoga while wearing a headlamp….

March Madness is coming up! I’m going to really miss going to BW3 with KU buddies. I have a feeling I will be pulling quite a few all-nighters during March just to follow KU box scores……last night was…..too close.

KU, must you stress me out like this at 2:20 am?! OT, here we come!

Class 0 girls like to practice their colors on me…something like this happens at least once a week: *Random Class 0 girl grabs my arm* “That’s brown (freckles), that’s white (my skin), that’s green (not sure why they all think my veins are green), and that’s red (my fingertips).” They’re always so proud of themselves…..

Lesson of the day: When cows are out of their pen….do not turn your back for even 10 seconds when getting water from the water tank. Seriously, all 10 cows were on the other end of the school campus…I turned my back for 10 seconds to turn the water faucet…..then when I turned back around all 10 cows with scary horns were standing behind me, staring at me, and hoping to get some water. A Class 2 girl came to my rescue! 🙂

So ready for the KU-MU game tomorrow! Allen Fieldhouse, you are known for being loud (118 db recorded)….this profoundly deaf gal all the way over in Kenya expects to hear all the cheering when we chew up and spit out those tigers…..

Class 5 boy: “What do you eat in America? Do you eat fish, snakes, elephants, roaches, hippos…….?”

Even though I complain that my village market needs to have more variety in terms of veggies and fruits…I find myself constantly looking for excuses to go there because the people there are awesome.

That had to be one of the most amazing sunsets I’ve ever seen…..

I oftentimes wonder what goes through the mind of these children who do not have access to a language. How do they view the world, how do they think, and how do they make sense of things? I did not have access to a language until I was 2 and I do not remember what it was like not having a language. However, I remember being frustrated at age 3 during pre-school classes. I could NOT understand why teachers insisted on me signing/speaking in order to communicate with them when we could just use body language/facial expressions…it made no sense to me.

There’s a new student at my school who is about 5 or 6 years old. It is obvious she has never had access to any language whatsoever. She has her own spoken language (think screaming) and sign language (random gesturing) that none of us can understand. She follows me around everywhere even to the point where she tries to escape her class to come to my class or waits for me outside of the choo (I’m 99.99% sure it’s only because I’m a mzungu). It breaks my heart because she has SO much she wants to say but cannot express herself in a language that we can understand…however…if you smile at her, she will always smile back.

This afternoon a co-teacher tried to convince me to marry her brother (I’ve never met him) so that I can become her sister-in-law (not gonna happen) on our way to my first Kenya wake/funeral.

In general, I’m not a huggy person but I’m pretty sure when I get back to the States everyone is going to get the life squeezed out of them. Miss you all! 🙂 Am so glad I can access Facebook, I love reading about what all of you have been doing.

I have always wanted a puppy to follow me home so I could keep him/her (I remember trying to get them to follow me home when I was a kid) but instead I find random goats following me home from the market……. Puppies are cuter…..

What do goats do when it rains? They try to get into the girls dorm common area which is right in front of my room.

Even though I’m not a fan of being asked to teach the last class of the day on Fridays with a last minute notice…being thanked by two Class 8 boys for teaching KSL makes it worth it and reminds me why I’m here.

I cringe every time I have to check the “do you have a disability” box on a form. I don’t believe being deaf is a disability but society defines it as a disability so it’s always a slap in the face when I have to check that box. It’s almost like I’m being told that I’m a “burden,” “there’s something wrong with me,” and “am not equal” as defined by society as a whole. Sometimes I think society as a whole is the one with the disability.

I got some postcards of Kansas City in the mail today.
Class 5 boy: “Why do you have those water things shooting up from the ground (referring to water fountains)?”
I suppose if you grew up in a country where you didn’t know if you would have enough water to survive on a daily basis….a city that’s known for water fountains would be hard to understand. That aside, the kids LOVED the postcards!

Nothing like getting lost in a world of music……

What does one do when they get locked out of their room (I live on the school campus in the girls dorms)? Why of course grab a small child and have her climb through the window to open the door from the inside!

My students are constantly going through my backpack to find books just to look through even if they’re simply different versions of the current textbook they’re using. They’re also always asking me about pictures they see in those books. I need to figure out an inexpensive way to collect books so that I can carry a bag with different books all the time….my students would LOVE it.

Water or Education in other words, Survive or Education….that’s a choice that my kids have to make a few times a week and is why I oftentimes don’t get to teach my last class of the day.

I usually don’t have electricity every other night. Cons: Can’t charge my CI batteries and all the bugs come out from hiding. Pro: The stars….seriously…they’re amazing and makes me want to cut a hole in the roof so I can lay in bed and stare up at them all night long

Yesterday, Maegan and I ate dinner with the students. A Class 7 girl was leading the prayer….something along the lines of this was included in her prayer: “Please, help these Americans eat ugali…they don’t have ugali in America…please help them.”

Even though it has only been 4 months and I miss the States….I’m already wondering how I will readjust to American culture after Kenya…everything that was familiar at one point is going to be so different (and yes, I know I’m getting ahead of myself)….

Sometimes I wish I could wear a hat with a hidden camera to capture people’s facial expressions when they see me, a mzungu…esp when I wave at the little kids.

Ever wonder where your old clothes end up at? Kenya is one of those places….I just saw a Kenyan wearing a KC Chiefs shirt.

Don’t go a day without smiling…

One of these days I will remember to look down as I’m running instead of staring at the full moon and all the stars while running at 6 am….almost did a face plant in a pile of rocks (had a nice recovery…thankfully) and then almost stepped in a pile of cow manure this morning.

Reading Comprehension

I have been wanting to post about my students and their reading comprehension for a while. I kept going back and forth as to if I should post something or not.

I do not want people to misinterpret my posts and come to the conclusion that deaf students are not capable or that Kenyan students are not capable. That is far from the truth. It’s amazing what they can do and it’s amazing how much patience they have (seriously, if I were in their shoes I would be so frustrated that I would have given up a loonnnggggg time ago) and how badly they want to learn.

I am also not here to discuss/argue/debate which education systems/approaches are better.  I am here to find ways that will help my students learn.

I’m also a bit protective when it comes to my students. 🙂 They may drive me bonkers but at the end of the day…I love them. Sometimes I find myself looking into their eyes and I wonder how in the world I’ll be able to leave them in 2 years.

That being said, I decided to go ahead and start posting about reading comprehension in hopes that someone can provide some suggestions…after all…I don’t have a degree in Education.

The Kenya education system is set up to where students attend primary schools from Classes 0-8 (think pre-school-8th grade). They then take this huge exam at the end of Class 8 that decides if they get to go to (and which) secondary school (think high school). There are no grades or anything else…all that matters is that one exam score.

Basically students are expected to copy information into their notebooks from Classes 0-8 then they study all those notebooks during their Class 8 year.

Many of my students have been copying information for so long that they do not pay attention to what they’re writing which creates problems when I have them answer written questions.  The questions I ask are simpler and shorter than those found in their textbooks.

Keep in mind that many of them did not have access to language for many years.

Some examples of what my students (they’re around 11-15 years old) struggle with even though the book is right in front of them with the answers. They still struggle when I sign the sentences and when I point out the sentence in the book that has the answer (I have them sign it to me).

“List two examples of non-flowering plants.” I have spent the past 3 weeks trying to get my students to understand the concept of “list.”

“Which one is not part of the breathing system?” No one could get this correctly even though I had them all point out the parts on the breathing system diagram and I asked which one was not on the diagram.
a) Trachea
b) Sepal
c) Lungs
d) Nose

“Open your science books to page 32 and write the name of two plants.”  There’s a big figure on that page with pictures of about 10 different plants.
They were utterly confused and thought I was crazy.

“There is a diagram of the ______________ system on the wall.”
There are only two diagrams currently on the wall (breathing system and flowers) and only one student got this correct.

“Which one is not a flowering plant.”
a) Hibiscus
b) Maize
c) Tree
d) Rose
I had each student sign to me the names of each flower that was listed under “flowering plants” on the flower diagram I made. The only items on that list were “Hibiscus, Maize, and Rose.”  I then asked which one was not on the list and they would answer “Tree” and I would tell them they were correct.  Then they would go off and circle something else than “Tree.”

“The function of flowers are to produce what?”  There was a sentence on the flower diagram that said “The function of flowers are to produce fruits and seeds.”  Even after I pointed out the sentence and had each student sign the sentence…..most of the students still got it wrong.

These kids are amazing. They so badly want to do well and they try SO HARD.

I have 3 goals in mind when I come up with questions.  1) Improve reading comprehension 2) Expand vocabulary 3) Encourage students to use resources to find answers if they don’t know the answer

I try to throw in a couple of questions that I know for a fact they know the answer to because I want to build their confidence as well.  I try to find a mix of questions that will make them feel good about themselves yet challenge them when they need to be challenged in order to learn.

Ideas?  Thoughts?

Maegan’s Visit

Four years ago I was given the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica as an ambassador with MIUSA.  Maegan was one of my fellow traveling buddies from the States to Costa Rica.

Imagine our surprise when we realized we would be living in Kenya at the same time 4 years later!  She’s currently finishing up a 6 month internship in Kenya.

Small world!

Of course we had to meet up!

It was GREAT chatting with another American who understood some of my frustrations, confusion, and joy of living in a different culture.  On top of that, she’s deaf as well.  It was kind of funny because we kept switching back and forth between ASL and KSL…we weren’t sure which language to use when talking with each other.  🙂

We made a homemade cake and homemade tomato sauce on my kerosene stove.  We also chatted all weekend long and watched a couple of movies (first movies I’ve seen in a few months).  The kids had a great time meeting her and were surprised to learn that there are Americans who are black (teachers were surprised too), they were so sure she was Kenyan.

Site Visit

The Peace Corps APCD (Associate Peace Corps Director) visited my site last week.  Basically, the APCD comes out during your first term to make sure things are going well.  They make sure you’re healthy, safe, and things are going well with the headmaster of your school.

It was nice seeing a familiar face (who also came armed with a package that was sent to Nairobi before I had my new address).  It was awesome finally receiving my Christmas package from my parents!

It was suggested I get a sofa for the sitting room and a table/shelf for the kitchen.  Things I haven’t gotten around to getting and have been making do without.  Getting a sofa hasn’t been worth the hassle of going to my banking town, finding one, getting someone to carry it back to the bus, tying it to the bus (hoping it stays on top of the bus on the dirt road), and having someone help me carry it to my place.  I did finally see someone making a sofa at my market last week so maybe I’ll be able to ask him to make me a table/shelf for the kitchen.

Yeah, my living area is a bit sparse but I have a desk, bed, and 3 chairs….it works….I have plenty of room to workout too!  😉

The headmaster said she thinks I’m doing a great job teaching science and likes that I interact with the kids through running (at 6 am in the dark) and after school sports.  She’s hoping I can help out with KSL and reading skills.

Getting Water-Pictures

February is the worst month during the dry season.  The kids had to go up into the hills to get some water from a water pump (someone’s house, I think they pay for it).  I tagged along with them on Sunday.  It’s a short walk (about 15 minutes) but takes a couple of hours to get all the water from point A to point B.  We have a few water sources and this is one of the closer ones.

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Am trying to get a couple of videos to post as well.  Am hoping they will be done uploading after I teach 3 classes this afternoon.

Another Lazy Post

Am just copying and pasting some of my status updates from Facebook for those who aren’t on Facebook instead of typing 50 different posts…because…well, I’m lazy.

Will try to post some pictures and a couple of videos soon.  Am hoping I can get the videos posted, it took 5-6 hours for two videos to get posted to Facebook the other day (one was 1 minute long and the other one was 20 seconds long).  Yeah, that’s how slow my Internet is but am not going to complain because I wasn’t even sure if I would have Internet access.

Facebook Status Updates:

I decided to sweep this morning and hadn’t put my glasses on yet. I was sweeping up what I thought was a dead roach and was pleased that the bug spray I had used was working. Imagine my surprise when I saw it move and scurry away….and that it had a tail…I think it was a live mouse. Yeah, I miss having contact lens.

I have a confession to make. My school has prefects which makes me feel like I’m at Hogwarts….just kind of wish we could play Quidditch…

I will never take blackboards for granted again….who knew it could be tricky teaching math and science without a blackboard!

Excited to start coaching volleyball this afternoon!

Netball…yeah I think it’s time I find out the rules of this game…apparently basketball rules don’t apply but at least I provided entertainment for the teachers (it was all in good fun even I was laughing at myself).

After going to the village market every day for 7 days in a row hoping I would find some bananas….I found some today. I also had to go to only 3 vendors to find some milk. Throw in a couple of cold Orange Fantas. Today was a success…woot!!

The only thing that could ever make 5:30 am fun is following the box score of KU beating MU. Keep it up Jayhawks!

Class 7 girl (hard-of-hearing, she lost her hearing a few years ago): *sings*
Other deaf kids: “Come on, sign please…”
Class 7 girl: “No, I may be deaf but I’m hearing at heart.”
What does it mean to be hearing and what does it mean to be deaf? I can tell you first-handed it’s more than if you can hear/can’t hear.

List of critters I have seen so far in my home: spiders (tons of them with longggg legs), roaches (who knew they could get so large), mice, lizards, and bats….as long as I don’t see a snake…I’ll be okay. Yes, that horror story the PCMO told us about how one PCV woke up with a snake in her/his bed hasn’t escaped my mind….

Teacher to me: “Deaf people don’t know anything…oh by the way will you help me with my Masters thesis?”

Yesterday, I posted about having to put together last minute lesson plans when being asked to teach a class I’ve never taught. Today, I was expected to teach Class 4 Math in a classroom we’re currently sharing with Classes 5 and 7 while our classroom is being repaired….and Class 7 teacher said the blackboard was off limits to Classes 4 and 5 teachers…throw into the mix that we don’t even have enough textbooks. Umm…yeah…had to do some improvising with a tiny piece of paper and a lot of one-on-one.

As a teacher in Kenya one never knows if they will get to teach all of their classes and one never knows which classes she/he will be asked to teach until right before…..yeah…am learning how to think on my toes and how to throw together a mental lesson plan in a few seconds. Needless to say I feel like I don’t have a clue what I’m doing at times…

During yesterday’s practice the coach told the boys to run 10 laps and the girls to run 5 laps because the girls were weaker. Yeah….needless to say that rubbed me the wrong way so today when I found out the boys were running only 5 laps….I made the girls run 6 laps even though I got whining and “but…we’re girls, we’re weaker” the whole time and I had to run the 6th lap with them. It was worth it because the girls then went on to beat the boys in 2 games of handball. The girls were having the time of their life….the boys…well to say they weren’t happy is an understatement…

As someone who was told she would never read past a 4th grade level….as someone who relies so much on reading/writing to communicate with the hearing world….as someone who LOVES escaping into a good book… someone who reads to learn because knowledge is power…. It breaks my heart more and more everyday to see that my students have no reading comprehension and 1/3 of my students can’t even write….all because no one believed in them….. *sighs* How did I end up with such a wonderful network of supportive relatives and friends? Everyone deserves to have what I had……

Nothing like thinking you’re walking down a road all by yourself and then turning around to find a group of children following you……

Today must have been “pet a mzungu” day…..I got petted more than usual….

Students are very curious about the “things” on my head (cochlear implants) and have invented different signs for those “things.” A class 4 boy’s sign cracks me up every time because I always think he’s calling me “Mickey Mouse” then I remember signs here are different. 🙂

Class 7 Girl: “We’re going to play netball with the girls from the primary school over there.”
Me: “Oh, you are? When?”
Class 7 Girl: “Monday, we will play with the hearing girls. There are challenges between deaf and hearing girls.”
Me: “Maybe you can teach the hearing girls some signs and you can talk with each other.”
Class 7 Girl: *shrugs* “Ehhhhh…..we’ll see if that works”
*sighs* Sometimes things are the same regardless of which country you live in or which culture you’re a part of….

I knew it was too good to be true when it only took me 10 minutes to catch a ride to town and an hour to get to town even though the driver ended up having to change a tire on the way….because it took 5 hours (and a lot of patience) to get back home (17 km, 10.5 miles). On the bright side, after asking 3 people where the post office was…I found it! Yayness!

Apparently my village’s so-called post office doesn’t actually mail letters and I have to head to the next town over. I have no clue where the post office there is….am hoping I can find it so I can get this growing pile of letters that have been sitting on my desk for the last 2 weeks mailed and on their way to America!

Running at 5:30 am. Pro = the stars. Con = It’s dark and I spent most of my run/walk hoping I wouldn’t run into a tree

Did I really just tell the kids I would run with them at 5:30 am?! I am so.not.a.morning.person……..

Class 4 Girl: “What color uniforms do children wear to school in America?”
Me: “Well, some children in America don’t have to wear uniforms while some children do have to wear uniforms. It depends on the school they go to.”
Class 4 Girl: “The girls wear dresses, right?”
Me: “They wear dresses, skirts, jeans, shorts, pants, t-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, sweaters….”
Class 4 Girl: “Did you say pants?! Do girls really wear pants in America?!”
Oh, only if I had my camera with me to capture the look of surprise on her face. It was priceless….

It’s funny how things come a full circle. I remember writing a letter to someone overseas as a part of an activity in the 3rd or 4th grade in Joplin…..and I just got some awesome letters from Jessica’s 4th grade class in Joplin! What a wonderful surprise! Can’t wait to continue our correspondence with each other and to get my students involved.

I have decided that when I return to the States that I need to throw a Kenya-style thank you party for all of my fabulous family and friends who have been so supportive….and…yes, ugali with kale will be the main dish.

School gets out at 4:30… 3:30pm I found myself to be the only teacher still teaching.

‎26 years of SEE2, 13 years of CASE/PSE, 6 years of ASL, less than 4 months of KSL….and I’m already finding myself forgetting SEE2/CASE/PSE/ASL signs…..not sure how I feel about that….

I’m a bit of a klutz. When I do actually catch balls/’s usually with my face and I’m always tripping over my own feet. Regardless of the fact I’m always making a complete fool out of myself when I play sports, I love sports. I think I’ve been more excited for the school sports season to start than the kiddos. Just found out we start on Monday! I will be helping out with running, daily exercises, and volleyball. Am hoping they will need an extra warm body for netball because I’m really curious about how it’s different from basketball.