Thirty-Four

34…

That’s how many books I have read in almost 6 months.  Am currently reading two books.

What would I do without my Kindle?!

Has it really been almost 6 months (April 3rd) already?!?!?!?!?!

On one hand I do countdown the months  (I think all PCVs do) until I get to see friends and family again.  On the other hand, I feel like time is running out too quickly and I don’t want to have to say good-bye to my students, the locals, or fellow PCVs.

Why am I getting ahead of myself anyways?

Maybe I just want to be sure that I make the most out of this experience.  I do not want to have any regrets in terms of what I wish I did during my time in Kenya nor do I want to take my time here for granted.

Food

It’s funny….

I thought the foods that I would miss the most would be the restaurant type of food (e.g. Wendy’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut,  Applebee’s, Ingredients, etc).  because I’m not much of a cooker.  I do miss those places from time to time but for the most part I forget they even exist until I see something on the Internet or someone mentions it.

The food that I miss the most are actually home cooked meals.  Stuffed pasta, spaghetti pies, carmelized pork, pasta salad, homemade mac-and-cheese, and grilling.

Today, I was thinking about why I miss certain food because after all shouldn’t eating be about getting necessary nutrients and being full?  I realized it’s because they’re comfort food.  I associate these home cooked meals with spending quality time with family and friends.

I miss grilling.

Grilling is something I grew up with as a Midwestern girl.

The first nice day in the spring is when everyone starts rolling out their grills.  Everyone starts spending time outdoors and catching up with friends after a winter spent indoors.  People enjoy the beautiful weather, sunset, and green grass.  It’s like watching the world come to life again after the winter.  Rabbits, birds, and deers are out and about.

There’s still something about grilling outdoors even when it gets too hot to be outside during the summer.  Hitting up the swimming pool and then heading to someone’s house to grill as the sun goes down is the ideal summer day.  We walk around in flip-flops or no shoes and enjoy the cool evening breeze as we eat our meals.

The food that I miss the most are the food that are usually served during holidays or at gatherings.  This connection made me realize that maybe it’s not the food so much that I miss itself (although I do miss certain food and will certainly indulge myself whenever I get access to certain meals), it’s the warm feelings that one gets when they spend time with friends and families.  Feelings aren’t tangible, food is….so it’s easy to mistaken food for something it’s not.

Facebook Status Updates

After this experience I will never take water for granted………

ELITE EIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

KU, what’s the deal? I have a package of cookies….don’t make me start stress eating….

Harry Potter oil pastels imported from Hong Kong. A pretty random thing to find in rural Kenya….and yes I caved in and bought them to make my inner Harry Potter happy.

You know you live in Kenya when you sit on a bus crammed between people for 2 hours waiting for it to leave the bus platform in 90 degree weather…dripping with sweat….and then one of the few chickens on the bus thinks you’re food and keeps pecking your feet…. 🙂

Both the KU men and women basketball teams made it to the Sweet Sixteen! It’s a great week to be a Jayhawker!

Class 5 boy while drawing with crayons: “You’re the white crayon and I’m the brown crayon.”

My students ask if I’m happy, ask if I have a hat or enough shade to protect myself from the sun, ask if I have enough to eat, make sure I don’t get run over by vehicles, make sure I have enough water, and give me heads up as to what’s going on at the school among the school staff……yeah, my students take good care of me….I just hope that I can take as good care of them as they take of me.

Having a different perspective on things, standing out no matter how much you try to blend in, being left out, not understanding what’s going on, attracting more attention than usual, questioning your confidence, jokes about your accent/speech/signs, not quite fitting in 100%, being labeled, being pigeonholed, and constantly making cultural bloopers describes both being deaf in a hearing world and being an American in a different country. I still can’t get over how much the common frustrations expressed by other expats are exactly what I’ve put up with my whole life as a deaf person. Want to know what it’s like to be deaf? Go and live in a different country…seriously…. 🙂

Even though I’m not a fan of being called ” that mzungu gal,” I have to admit it’s been nice being called something besides “that deaf gal” for once.

Wow, what wonderful news to wake up to…MU and Duke are OUT!! C’mon, Jayhawks…let’s do this!

I never thought I would get this many marriage proposals in a lifetime…..

It never ceases to baffle my mind why it seems like 98% of videos about disabilities, equality, and accessibility aren’t captioned……

How can time go by so quickly and so slowly at the same time?

 

Writing Letters: Peace Corps Coverdell World Wise Schools Correspondence Match Program

Last weekend I got two envelopes with letters from Kelly’s class in Michigan and Jessica’s class in Missouri.  Today I had my Classes 4 (ages 9-13) and 5 (ages 11-13) students write letters back to them.

I have known Jessica since sometime around 6th or 7th grade.  We both were on the same gymnastics team, rode the bus together to junior high, gossiped about boys, wrote notes during classes, spent the summer hanging out at the pool, thought we were cool for hanging out at the mall, and had a great time together.

I met Kelly last year at the HLAA (Hearing Loss Association of America) convention and she’s currently wrapping up student teaching.  Kelly is deaf as well (how about that…2 teachers named Kelly, both happen to be deaf and both happen to be bilateral CI users…lol) and she is a great advocator.  She was told she would be unable to get her teacher’s license if she used an interpreter during her student teaching…but she took a stood, fought against it, and won.  Check out this article http://www.cm-life.com/2012/02/28/college-of-education-reverses-decision-on-deaf-students-use-of-an-interpreter-to-attain-teaching-degree/

I signed up for the Peace Corps Coverdell World Wise Schools Correspondence Match Program.   So far I’m signed up for 2 classes in America but am hoping to sign up for a 3rd classroom at a deaf school in America.

I wanted to make this activity FUN for my students without them becoming frustrated since they do struggle with reading and writing.  There are so many different things I can do with being a part of the classroom match program and today was my first try at trying to feel things out as how to make this work.  It went pretty well overall except there were a couple of times where students copied everything word for word even if it wasn’t accurate (e.g. everyone wrote that their name meant morning when that wasn’t always the case).

They were so excited when I pulled out the letters and pictures.  They loved the pictures and tried to read the letters out loud.  I made a few lists to help encourage them to read the letters (e.g. What students in America like to do.  What they like to eat.) which they used to look for words in letters.  I originally wanted to put together a couple of papers with pictures/names because my students are very visual but the Internet wasn’t cooperating at the time so I ended up drawing some of the items they weren’t familiar with.  My students are VERY curious, full of questions, and want to know everything.

Then I told them that they would be writing letters to America.  They all had the “deer caught in headlight” look on their faces and were about to freak out.   I reassured them that I would help them.  I basically had a template that followed something like “My name is……,” “I like to play…….,”  I like to eat……,” etc.  and took them through it one sentence at a time.  I wrote each sentence on the blackboard, had them sign the sentence, copy the sentence, and then had them complete the sentence with their own answers as independently as possible.

It is a challenge trying to make projects challenging while building confidence at the same time.  So many of my students have been told they’re dumb and that they cannot do things.  However, I do not want to take it easy on them because then that would be holding them back.  I want my students to be challenged without becoming frustrated because their self-confidence is already low….it is a fine line to walk….and one that I wasn’t sure I would be able to do with this project.  Overall, it went great.  At first, they were very unsure about if they were doing things right and if they were drawing pictures correctly (they kept asking me to tell them what to draw even though I kept telling they could draw whatever they wanted).  They relaxed once they realized they were in control of what they wanted to write and draw.

They worked hard for an hour and were proud of their work.  I wanted to take a picture of them to send to Kelly and Jessica’s classes and they asked if they could hold their letters in the pictures (a couple wanted to hold textbooks as well).

My students LOVED it.  They kept asking if they could do it again next week.  I can’t wait to do it again and to do different activities.

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Sports Event

My school decided to participate in a sports tournament at a nearby hearing school (about 1.5-2 miles away).

I joined the kids on the walk to/from the school which was kind of nice.  I got to see some parts of the village that I haven’t seen.  Nice view of the valley, saw some huts, and some scary looking plants with the sharpest thorns I have ever seen.

The kids also had to lug along pails of tea, plates, cups, and food for lunch. Once we got to the school, we sat around for a few hours.  No other school there wanted to play a deaf school.  Teachers were worried that their students would hurt our “weak deaf kids.”  We finally eventually got to play a couple of games but didn’t get to actively participate in the tournament.  We wanted to be sure that both the girls and boys got a chance to play because if they did not then the headmaster of our school may not let them participate next year.

Needless to say I was proud when our girls won their netball game and our boys won their volleyball game.  They definitely felt a need to prove themselves to their hearing peers (this happens all the time when it comes to sports in the States as well).

I had so many stares.  Being stared at, followed by, and gossiped about by hundreds of children sure wears a person out.

We headed back to the school and the students did a great job keeping an eye out for motorcycles behind us on narrow trails.  People have no right of way here so there’s a chance you may get run over or come pretty close to getting run over.  Every time one of the students saw a motorcycle coming up behind them they would run all the way to the front of the group warning us all to move out of the way.

You can tell it’s the end of the term and that kids are missing home to a certain degree (they have mixed feelings about going home because going home also means communication barriers).  Quite a few of them kept grabbing my hand to hold while we walked.

We also ended up having to walk in the rain on the way back which was nice because it was cool (it’s been in the 90s and dry).  However, it did not rain hard enough or long enough.  We still have water problems at the school.  This wet season is turning out to be fairly dry.

Sweet Sixteen

KU played at 3:40 am my time but I was able to catch the second half when I woke up at 5 am.

I was not happy when I saw that KU was behind.  I was able to check the score via my phone (props to espn.com) as I headed outside to run.  I have been doing the couch-to-5K plan and started week 8 of 9 today.  However,  instead of the 5 minute warm-up walk I stood outside and stared at the stars and moon.  Clear sky….beautiful!  I finally got moving for my 28 minute run before I had to monitor the students’ morning exercises at 6am.

I ran in the dark (some of the lights were on outside the classrooms which helped some) and obsessively checked the score of the KU game every few minutes as I ran.  I was able to finish my run and catch every second of the last minute of the game on my phone in the dark….in Kenya….under the stars…..before I had to supervise morning exercises.

*sighs* KU, I love you but do you really have to make me nervous like that?!    KU was behind the WHOLE game until the last 23 seconds.

SWEET SIXTEEN!!!!!

Three Years!

I almost forgot March was when I got my first CI in 2009. Has it really been 3 years already?! I had to check on the exact date and looks like it was March 5th when I had my surgery and March 23rd was activation day.

I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand I have been able to pick up so much more than I ever thought I would in terms of environment sounds and music. On the other hand I wonder if I’m holding myself back in terms of utilizing them to understand speech while lip-reading even though they have helped more than I expected….after all I am my own worst critic.

Obviously, I’m one of those CI users who is at the gains-the-least-benefit-from-CIs end of the spectrum due to my hearing loss background. However, there are times when I wonder if I could be gaining more than what I already am.  I still have those “whoaaaaa, did I just hear that?!” moments.

I admit between trying to adjust to a new country, a new language, new environment sounds, being bilateral, accents, and feeling guilty for being the only deaf person who has access to hearing aids/CIs that some of my students want so badly….that I haven’t been wearing them as much throughout the day as I should be. Then throw into the mix the fact I’m still waiting for my backup rechargeable batteries for when we lose power which is a few times a week and I have to somehow make my CI batteries last for a few days at a time rather than only one day that they last if I wear them all day long.

There are still moments that surprise me. Moments like when I discovered I could hear a student sweeping the concrete floor of a classroom that I was standing outside of.  Who knew sweeping made a noise?!

There are moments that still drive me crazy. Moments like on the weekends when all the girls are in the dorm (metal roof and no ceiling)…the noise drives me bonkers.

I’m just glad I’m past that “stop breathing, the noise is driving me crazy” stage.  That was not a fun stage to be in.  It was a stage that lasted a few months when I was first activated and was hearing EVERYTHING as annoying high pitch noises but tuning out NOTHING.

Once I get my back-up rechargeable batteries I want to get back to doing some aural rehab and see if I can somehow improve my lip-reading ability or if I truly have hit the ceiling of my maximum potential with my CIs.

It’s funny how it’s hard to believe it’s already been 3 years since I got my first CI yet I feel like I’ve been bilateral forever. Being bilateral has came more naturally than having only one CI.