Saturday, April 13, 2013

Early Termination!

Greetings my dear followers of my journey with the Peace Corps in Kenya!

It is with great regret that I have decided to early-terminate my service with the Peace Corps. I will be leaving Kenya this Wednesday April 17th, arriving Indiana the following day on Thursday April 18th. I will be back in the states. I guess you could say I went on a seven-month all-expenses-paid trip to Kenya. But don’t get me wrong – that wasn’t the purpose of my joining the Peace Corps. There are a few reasons why I decided to, what the Peace Corps calls, Early Terminate. I would have had 20 more months remaining if I stayed on.

In despite to my short period of in-country, the experiences I gained are priceless. I appreciate our humanity and the goodness in each and every one of us that can be found world-wide. I believe everything is relative, such that, you can pay forward your goodness and caring for others, whether it is for someone down the block, or 8,000 miles away. I know I can continue my goodwill toward others wherever I am, here or back home.

It was not a spontaneous decision but rather a thought that have been brewing within myself for several weeks and in despite of hating to leave anything that I started unfinished, it may be the best move for me.

What really matters is happiness. I was happy and excited before I left for Kenya; happy in the six months leading up to service, The weeks leading toward the day I made final decision to come back, I experienced the lowest low I’ve probably ever had in my life. I’d wake up sad and go to bed sad. I felt like there was no exit. I find myself talking with my family and friends back home (via emails, iMessages, and FaceTime) far more than I spoke with my in-country friends. I long to be part of the activities occurring back home with them.

I love my Kenyan Deaf students, and feel terrible about leaving them. However I hate their environment, its constant negativity, that they have to live in and endure on a daily basis. I get very frustrated with the Kenyan school administration and teachers on their attitudes; even though I acknowledge that my school is among the best Deaf schools in this country. From my time with my (wonderful, patient) host family to living in my village, I was never really at ease here. I made some good connections with my fellow volunteers but no real close friendships. To make matters worse, I am the only Deaf volunteer in my group, and there is only one other Deaf volunteer in-country; but her site is quite far from me. I was lonely in a "strange" country.

To me, it didn’t make sense to spend the next two years acclimating to a lower-than-my-normal happiness level. Life is short, rather than trying to stick it out for two years, I chose to maximize my life, each and every single day starting now. There are volunteers out there who stick out just to accomplish their two year terms for the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer status (like a trophy) even when they were so miserable and unhappy. So I made the decision to return to the US.. With that said, the Peace Corps Kenya staff couldn’t have been more supportive and positive throughout the process.

I gave away almost everything in my possession: clothes, books, dictionary, atlas, umbrellas, rain gear, paper supplies, jackets, shoes, household items and many other items to the students, and some of the support staff that helped me greatly. I came in with two rolling bags, backpack, some carrying bags, and am leaving with just one rolling bag and a backpack.

It felt so weird inserting my Indiana drivers license along with some American cash in my wallet. I became so used to Kenyan's shillings. I am sure there are going to be some adjustments for me back home.  I find myself stumbling with KSL and ASL when talking with my American family and friends.

I plan to post one or two more posts on my blog to wrap things up. But I would like to thank you, my dear followers, for your support, feedback, and comments. You have been with me every step on my journey. Without them, I would probably have gone mad.

Hey, for some of you who may speculate, you can be assured that I am perfectly fine and healthy, both physically and mentally. I am happy and at peace with my decision. I believe I only have myself to prove, not to anyone else. A chapter in my life may have been closed; however, a new one has just started, in a new volume! I am excited for what comes for me.

Hey, look on a brighter side, I get to miss Indiana's winter! And I get to appreciate mothers going through 9-month pregnancies while I endured only 7 months, grins.

To my family and friends, seecha shortly!



P.S. Enjoy the last few parting photos...

James Francis Brown, Form 4 student from Tanzania
Edward, with Kenyan tour book that I gave.
Abudal, a Wajir, the one that beat Davin in a foot race wearing flip flops, that led Davin into breaking his arm.
Susan (Suzy) Wabu, a Form 4 student -- a bright Deaf lady with great opportunities in her future.
Deaf staff from Uganda
Bright Deaf student with visibility problem.  I gave him hand-held magnifying glass to help with his reading.
Samuel Kagia, my counterpart, and Simon Kaiga, my wonderful friend
Continue to be amazed to what they were able to haul on their puny 125-250cc Pik Piks
An exotic bird, but poorly shot using my portable camera
Regional Deaf schools sports competition
Deaf girls playing handball competition
Deaf boys playing volleyball competition
With a fellow Deaf Education volunteer Elizabeth
Simon Kaiga with his brother, also a teacher at another Deaf school
Never get tired of cute Deaf Kenya children
Deaf students from four regional schools waiting for their awards

Deaf Pride!
Can't be talking about us Deafies eh? This is a hearing school property that we used for the competition.
Fire pit that I built few days after I moved in last December
Fire pit burning whats left of my existence.  Vegetation overgrown due to the rain season.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Interhouse Competition

Since I really do not have much to say since the last post.  I have posted some small statuses and pictures on Facebook, so I thought I would just dump pictures on this post for your enjoyment, and to archive them.

We had interhouse competition, splitting the school into four "houses" with their own team names and colors.  Mine was green, and my team won.  We will have dinner in term 2, with meat! Having meat in dinner seem to be a big thing.  Its amazing to watch kids get their awards for each events they won -- using chopped bars of soap and toilet paper!

There some other pictures not related to the interhouse competition, but I wanted to post them anyway.

The two pictures of kids cramped in the dining hall... I hooked up the small wall-mounted TV with my Macbook and showed The Incredibles movie.  They loved it even when its so tiny when sitting from afar back.

Notice the computer lab, how kids line up to enter, and how cramped up they are in the lab, even sharing seats.

Last picture is a rare group picture of all 120 volunteers currently in Kenya along with the Kenyan Peace Corps staff.  It was taken in Lukenya during our consolidation d

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Science Unfair

Yeah I said Unfair not Fair, pun fully intended.

We have a local science unfair contest, that can take a winner all the way into the nationals. I also learned that the contest information and dates were known and announced some time ago.

But of course, our dean, who coordinated this contest for our school, scrambled and had kids do their science projects the day prior, to have everything ready as they will be leaving for the unfair tomorrow.

The dean asked me to open the computer lab in the evening for "small" time (meaning long time).  So I opened the computer lab at 7p-8p, but actually it was 7p-10p. And I ended up typing project reports for like 6 teams because they were taking forever typing with one-finger, and it was already 9:45 but most of them went as far as their cover pages. So I rapid-typed the rest of their reports (most are only 3 or 4 pages long each fortunately).

Looking at the 20+ students working on the computers to research on their topics and writing (no printing) down what they needed.  It was great seeing the computer lab true purpose being put into use.

I asked the Dean how come I do not see any deaf students participating in the Science Unfair? The Dean seem a little perplexed not really able to see any deaf students.

These students told me "God blessed me, for my help". Aw what a way to wrap it up that evening!

On the following day, the day of the Unfair, I decided to grab my dSLR and was about to leave the school to walk down the road to the nearby boys High School where the Unfair is held.  But I noticed 4 students still working in a classroom.  I popped in and realized three of four students were deaf.  They said the Dean grabbed them at 5:30am this morning and made them think up of a science project and work on it.  Of course the Dean took all other students and walked toward the Unfair, leaving them behind, totally unprepared and unmotivated.

But fortunately they decided on a mathematic solution explaining why a Cylinder water tank holds more volume than a Square water tank, thus it is more efficient, and so forth.  I helped type their reports and they managed to pull together some posters and wrote their project o it.

We three walked to the Unfair together, and fortunately (for me) we did not have to wait long for our turn, they managed to get called to present.  Of course there is no interpreters, so a student from our school volunteered to interpret.

Watching their presentation was bittersweet experience, knowing the unfair circumstances they were placed in, they explained their project the best they could, but I noticed that out of like every 200 signed words they used, the student interpreter voiced like 5 words.  I have no clue how their presentation sounded on the judge ears.  At the end, the judges asked questions, but the interpreter could not facilitate it well enough to make an impression.

Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in.  Counting one, two, three.

I am proud of these boys, they are winners in my eyes.

Addendum:  I just learned later in the evening that these boys won 4th place out of 13 schools competing in the mathematics category, and that our school won 4th place out of 13 schools in total scores in all categories as well.  I am stratching my head on how that is possible.  Maybe I have such a high expectations and standards from America, and everything I saw that I thought were "wrong" are actually "normal".  Umm.