Friday, February 24, 2012

I am the chalk monster.

Hello world! I hope everyone is doing well and ready to read two weeks worth of blog stories!

Cindy vs. Rat
You will all be happy to hear that I am FINALLY getting some sleep at night. That's right the rat is gone. Dead and gone to be more specific. I laid out poison several nights in a row before it started to actually take it's toll on the little rodent. In the early evening I was sitting on my bed when I heard something rustling around near a plastic bag. I decided not to investigate, until I heard it a second time. I walked over there to realize that it was our little rat friend slowly making his way around my house. I captured it under a cooking pot while I tried to find something to slide underneath of it to carry it outside. Thinking ahead, I also tied up Viper so she couldn't sink her teeth into our poisonous little friend and opened the garden gate door for easy access. I found a hunk of cardboard and decided to try and slide that under the pot, however I lifted the pot a little too far off the floor and the rat sprung back to life and ran around my house hiding in a tight corner between a chair and a water tank. After much consideration and ideas of plans I knew would not work, I decided to call in back up. At the promise of one million doughnuts I begged and pleaded at the Germans door for them to come help. This was not as much help as I had hoped. He ended up chasing that rat around my house for close to 30 minutes before he eventually captured it under a bucket and hit the same creative wall I had hit about an hour before. He went with quickly sliding the bucket from inside my house to out on my step where we again stopped to discuss our options for several minutes. At this point Viper is getting curious. We decided to slide the rat out of the bucket into another bucket but in the process the rat escaped!
Viper pounced.
I screamed (no doubt waking anyone who dare be asleep at 8:30) and hit Viper with a bucket until she released the rat from her death grip. I held her back as the German bravely scooped up the now dead rat and carried it out to the woods.
What a night!
I slept like a baby.

Oh the Art Exchange
The majority of last week was spent on this project. I heard about it through Peace Corps and decided, “Why not torture myself!?”
To explain, this is a program where schools from around the world have 25 students create 25 pieces of artwork representing the culture and life of that country, send them to America and in exchange you receive 25 pieces of artwork from around the world. Great idea right?! Right! I thought so too. I figured this was my chance to bond with the hearing kids to a degree.
Monday- 28 kids show up. Good, cushion
Tuesday- 13 kids show up, 4 of which were there on Monday to hear the instructions
Wednesday- 17 kids show up, some were there Monday, some were there Tuesday, some are brand new. I've handed out 60 pieces of paper (that I paid for) and have approximately 4 completed pictures, at which point I lecture the kids present that if they don't return the next day to finish their pictures I will hunt them down and make them finish.
Thursday- Most of them returned and some were hunted down. I ended up with 27 completed pictures by the grace of God.
Needless to say this project was painfully time consuming, but I learned we have several very talented artists within our school.

Stir Crazy
I've finally gotten to the point where being in my house makes me crazy. I haven't decided yet if this is caused by just being there or if it's caused by my house being the size of a large cardboard refrigerator box. Either way, I decided it would be a good idea to move some furniture around. Due to the interesting size and set-up of my house I have few options when I do something like this, so basically the only thing I accomplished was to move half the stuff on the front wall of my house to the back wall and half the stuff from the back wall to the front.... oh and making a HUGE mess. It took me a total of 8 days to get everything in it's place again.

Suds and Students
As most of you know, I will do almost anything to find someone to wash my clothes for me. I hate doing it. Also, my clothes never actually get clean because I'm happy if they even come in contact with soap at all.
One of our students disappeared a few weeks ago. Rumors were that she was married and/or pregnant, which tends to always be the rumor if you're absent more than a week. The true story turned out to be that she was chased out of the home she was living in and was forced to move in with her step mother who found it a waste of time to send her to school when she could just have her working at home. When the guardian found out about this she pulled rank and moved the student back into her house and came to the Unit for our advice. The issue is that the guardian lives too far away for the student to walk and she can't afford to send her here and home on a matatu everyday.
The solution?
Someone doing my laundry!
Basically the breakdown is that I'm paying for her to come to school everyday on a matatu and she does my laundry.
We just started our deal yesterday and she was pretty mortified at how dirty my clothes were. Probably not because they were dirty from wear, but because they've essentially been collecting crud for a year and a half with a couple rinsings here and there.
Moral of the story? No matter how good you are at washing clothes, Kenyans are much much better. My clothes are twice as clean and she used half as much water.

Breakfast Burritos
I am one of the luckier volunteers (depending on how you see it) because I don't really live in the village. Sega is a town, surrounded by villages, and even better, other towns. This means better food.
There is a town nearby, it's about 5 minutes by matatu where I can meet up with other volunteers out in that area (who actually live in villages) and have a pretty decent meal. The place we go is actually an extremely overpriced hotel in a town smaller than mine with a pretty delicious restaurant. In my constant search for food that maybe tastes a little bit American, we have discovered we can make breakfast burritos! Last weekend I perfected the order. It must be ordered this way....
“You can make scrambled eggs and just put cheese on top yes?”
“okay, I will have that and also a side of bacon.”
some writing happens... short hand doesn't exist here
“I will also have a chapati, but not cut, just the chapati whole”
BAM 2 hours of waiting later we have our some assembly required breakfast burrito! I will be meeting a volunteer there again this weekend and we will be trying for hash browns and salsa to get added to the burrito situation. We would also like it to be on the menu, named after us. I'll let you know how it goes.
Moral of the story: It's important to set goals for yourself.

Peace Corps Goggles
Quite the opposite of BCG's for you military kids out there! Peace Corps Goggles is a reference to how our standards for who/what we would date deteriorate over time. Yes, it's an exact science.
For the most part, the rule is you assign a number as to how many months (or weeks, depending on how far into service you are) it would take before you would find a particular person attractive.
I have self restraint, but I have realized I have my own distinct form of Peace Corps Goggles and this time instead of referring to people they refer to fashion.
Yesterday I walked by a skirt that by anyone else's standards would be considered truly heinous and out loud remarked “oh, now that's cute.” I did a double take. It was a navy blue skirt that looks like something my kindergarten teacher probably wore in 1992. Heck! Maybe it is the navy blue button down free flowing skirt my kindergarten teacher wore in 1992.
I'm still trying to decide if it's one of those “everything comes back into fashion eventually” things or if I have just been here so long that I truly have lost touch with what normal people wear in society.
December 2012: Possible fashion disaster coming your way, America! Look out!

Cindy vs. Goose
I get along with animals much better than this blog lets on. The animals here are just pure evil, except the lovely Viper, of course.
I haven't updated about the goose lately. We still don't get along and now they've had a baby which is now grown to full size and has the same full size hatred for me as his dad. Now instead of one goose chasing me extending it's neck and hissing like a pissed off cat, I have two. The female goose has no interest in me, it's kind of nice.
Maybe someday I will write a truly terrifying children's story about this goose.

Dream Weaver
For weeks on end I can go without remembering a single dream and then BAM! I have a few days where I dream very vividly and remember almost every detail when I wake up, and then of course immediately report it to whoever I think would enjoy it's bizarre nature the most.

-Animal mania
The other night I dreamt my Mom was helping me clean my house (which at the time desperately needed it, obviously my subconscious knew that) and she was re-affixing my fabrics to the ceiling when she ran across one that had come unattached on one whole side and said “ew, there's scorpions in there”
I was not phased by this one bit, which is odd because I've never seen a scorpion in real life and if someone reported there being several in my house, I’m pretty certain I would react.
After a bit more cleaning I decided to check the situation. It ended up being 2 cats and 2 dogs. Yes, I know dreams are weird. I rescued them from the fabric hanging down from the ceiling and then sat in on the couples' therapy session of the two dogs. They discussed their fear of being sent to two different owners because they didn't think their relationship would withstand the long distance aspect.
I later found myself on a couch asking,” Does anyone want any cats or dogs? I have two of each but if you take one dog, you have to take them both, because they're dating.”

-Baby mania
The night before last I had a dream I had a baby. Not just showed up walking around town with a baby, I had a dream about the actual birthing process. It was awful. The baby was a boy and his name started with a J, I can't remember the name but I remember not particularly liking it so I'm not sure how the kid got named that. I also refused to use any kind of carrier or stroller, I just threw that thing on my back with a hunk of fabric Kenyan mama style and I was on my way.
It was a confusing time for me, and I'm pretty sure I brought him to a bar.

To teach is to change a life forever
This is true, though I think it means your own. Just like when you send a soldier off to war he/she will never be the same when they come back. Once you teach, you will never be the same. I will always think differently. I will always wonder what crazy project I can make out of bottle caps or empty water bottles.
I don't think I understood the importance of teachers until I started teaching. I never realized how much effort and creativity was put into teaching me when it was happening. It takes a special and slightly insane person to be a teacher, and a mostly insane person to be a good teacher. I don't know where I fall on the teacher scale, but I do know that if someone can correctly answer a multiplication problem I would probably give them a sack full of golden bricks.
I also always thought (always being, a year) that teaching students that are Deaf was far more difficult than teaching hearing students, WITHIN PEACE CORPS WORLD. At least with hearing students if they aren't looking at you, some of the information is bound to ooze into their little brains. Also, there are no language barriers and their vocabulary isn't so limited. I pretty much thought teaching hearing kids was a total breeze. NOPE. They listen worse than my students, they understand me less than my students and the information does not just ooze in. I learned this during my art exchange.
So, although teaching my students takes a special kind of nuts and requires a lot of drawing and running around looking stupid, it turns out, I'm much better at teaching this way. Hearing kids don't think it's funny when I dance for no reason.
To all the teachers out there, regardless of what hearing status, mental status, behavioural status, age, size, gender, or colour of your students, a big thank you for being crazy enough to educate our world!

I do believe this concludes today's blog, as always thanks for reading!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thanks for the scissors, Peace Corps

Hello all! Hope everyone had a wonderful, productive, rat free week! Here's what I've got for the week, enjoy:

The miracle of water
I realize most people probably don't know my water situation. Neither do I. As most know I was pumping and carrying water. Just before the last set of Germans left, we got running water.... sort of. It's been an on and off thing ever since it was set-up. Note, I am not complaining, just stating the facts. Now if all the stars align, I get water, in my house! Now, if you saw my house video you know I have a bathroom style sink in my house. My current method is to leave a pot in the sink and always leave the water on when I'm home just in case it decides to come on. When it does come on, I cancel everything I had planned for that day until I collect all the water I can get. Recently I've been getting it about 2 times a week and it's usually 2 days in a row. Its strange and I don't understand the system, but I am thrilled to say that it's the dry season and I haven't had to pump and carry water yet!

Thanks for the scissors, Peace Corps
So, upon arrival in Kenya we were provided with a small briefcase full of all the medications and various medical sundries we would need for the next two years. Included in this pack was a pair of medical scissors. Those scissors are a daily staple in my life. They've saved me, helped in arts and crafts projects, cut open packages and performed a few basic open heart surgeries. Okay, I was kidding about the last one, in 16 months, I've actually never used these scissors for their intended use.
Monday they were given new purpose.
For the last few weeks I have been really struggling with my hair situation. It's been growing now without a hair cut for over 2 years and no matter how many gallons of conditioner I put in it it is ALWAYS ALWAYS tangled now. For fear of going bald by brushing out all of my hair I decided something needed to be done. I MUST TAKE ACTION!
For anyone that's ever been in a car with me and said “Do you know where you're going?”
and my response was “ Well I've been there like 6 times, but I've never DRIVEN there, someone else was driving and I didn't pay attention.”
You will appreciate this story.
I have now learned that not only do I not pay attention when people are driving me places I also don't pay attention when people are cutting my hair.
With my freshly brushed wet hair I reached for the red handled dull medical scissors and boldly went where I've never gone before. Snip.
It's cut. … well, trimmed. I am not sure if I cut it straight but I know I'm eternally grateful for having curly hair. For those of you who are worried, I only cut about an inch and a half off the bottom
Dear future hairdresser,

Things rats like to eat.
Yes, my little roommate has become a permanent fixture.
-cotton swabs
-rat poison which turned out to be rat candy, as the little turd ate the whole bag and is still instigating late night all out till the death human vs. rodent wars. (I need a vacation)
-wooden drawers
-hunks of cardboard
-bags, paper and plastic
-ommena (small fish that I feed the dog)
-bean sprouts

Absence really does make the heart grow fonder
Since I've moved to teaching the Class 2 and Class 3 group I've also moved my desk into the other classroom. The students in class 1 who I struggled with to pay attention to me during any lesson now swarm to me any time I walk into the room. Every time one of them hugs me or wraps their arm around their shoulders I ask myself, “when did these kids start liking me so much.”
Though, I have to admit, it's kind of nice to get hugs just for walking into a room.

Juma's school of driving
The other day on my way into town I walked across a fairly entertaining scene, that included one of the nursery school teachers learning how to drive a piki and Juma standing to the side grinning from ear to ear as he saw me approach. We exchanged pleasantries and he began explaining the this was a piki lesson.
“This is driving school, I'm the headmaster”
“Yes, I have 5 clients so far.”
“You should advertise, put up a big sign that says 'Juma's school of driving'”
“I'll just paint it on my forehead!”

Yep, so that happened. About 35 seconds later I was walking the dirt road to the market where I saw a piki nearly take out a cyclist which stopped all the people on the street, naturally. I ran to the man and yelled “Juma's school of driving, down the road take a left!!”
OK, I made up that last part but I would have yelled that if he had even slowed down after his almost collision.

Tid Bits- the little ones that don't belong
I've decided to let Viper in the house. Before, I had a very strict “you stay outside” rule, mostly because she drags in so much mud... she apparently also drags in fleas, I'm rethinking the decision.

After being in Sega for over a year, people are finally getting used to the thought of me being here. I don't get strange looks when I take the dog running on a leash, and people in the market are nicer to me.

I suppose I should include something about this stupid rat. Here it is: I'm sleep deprived, most of my crap in internally displaced in my house which I think confuses the rat, but really just confuses me. It's become a very stressful situation. Hopefully this weekend I can buy better rat poison. There is a recipe for it in my cookbook but it calls for cement, which as you can guess I don't just carry around in my back pocket.

OK folks, after racking my brain, I think that's all I've got for ya this week!

Come again! AND Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Some Days Are Just Legendary

Happy February to all! Another month of my service has passed and already the weeks are flying by! I thought I might be a little short on content this week but actually I got a phone call about twenty minutes ago that will change the lives of several people.... and therefore will change the content of this blog (just killed a mosquito with my bare hands). However, since it happened at the end of the week, you have to wait until the end of the blog to get there! (I know some of you will scroll down, nothing I can do about that but fair warning, curiosity killed the cat)

Mouse vs Cindy and Viper round 2 round 3 round 4 and round 5
As you all know, I love mice... oops sorry I guess I just channeled an insane person that doesn't mind the sound of rodents gnawing through things in the middle of the night and shit laced floors. After Megan left last weekend I did a fairly thorough sweep of my house to make sure there was nothing desirable to a rodent. This did not work.
Monday night I heard it. I slipped out of bed and found it hiding in its usual spot under the stove. I flipped on the light and decided I'd have a much better shot of capture or murder if I got Viper Sweet Face Chicken Killer on the case.
I opened the door and stood at the ready as I poked at it to come out from under the stove. Viper saw it, I saw it. We both went in different directions.... not as smart as I thought she was, that dog. Anyway I followed it over behind my “kitchen” shelves as Viper investigated under the stove. I found it, hiding out in a caddy that I stock pile extra food in, but just for a second my attention is diverted! Viper has knocked over my water container and I have to leap to pick it up and rescue whatever water I can from the spill. The mouse uses this as its escape! Rats!
Viper sees it and starts chasing it around the walls of my house, shoving her nose and paws into the smallest corners of my home as her butt stands high in the air with me waiting patiently behind her not sure what I'm rooting for because if she kills this thing and gets mouse blood all over my house I'm not sure I can handle it.
The mouse got away never to be seen again that night.
Every night this week I was awake in the middle of then night chasing this mouse around or at least trying to get it to stop making noise.
Last night somewhere around 3 am I heard it and it sounded amplified, why? You ask. Because it was in, on, or around my dresser. I decided to let Viper just sleep in my house which I normally don't do because my house is so small that its not fair to either of us, but these were dire circumstances. My logic was either she would kill it, or she would scare it enough to shut it up.
The problem with having a dog in your house is it sounds like having a GIANT dog size rat in your house. All night anytime she scratched herself or walked around clicking her little nails on my concrete floor or snored, it woke me up. I woke up again at 5:30 to the sound of her most definitely eating something. My first thought was, maybe she got into the dog biscuits. Second thought: What if she's eating the mouse. Third thought- If I turn this light on and there is mouse blood all over the place I will be beside myself and will either need to move or light myself on fire. Fourth thought- it sounds like she's crunching something. Fifth thought- Just suck it up and turn on the light, assess the situation and take it from there.
The light comes on. She's found a mango that I dropped on the floor earlier that night.
Today I ran on about 2 hours of sleep, I'm pretty sure to onlookers it was as if someone let a lunatic out of the insane asylum and told them to go teach some kids, hey have fun!

Mail call
I got very lucky this week with a huge shipment! Monday I received lots of goodies from my mom and a few friends from home. Needless to say, I had a stomach ache the first half of the week because giving me American food is like giving a 2 year old 60 cupcakes and just leaving the room. I'm an embarrassment.
I also got another one today! People are awesome.

Creative Art
This is a legit subject in our timetable now and the responsibility has pretty much fallen on me to come up with activities. I'm a fairly creative person, but not in the right ways for an art class so I spend a lot of time looking up arts and crafts on the internet trying to use the few materials we have. A lot of days I have them just draw things, but this week we've branched out!
Friday last week we colored some sand that we stole from the school (shhh!) and then on Monday we did sand art pictures! It was an overwhelming success and I've already hung them up in the classroom which makes the kids really proud of themselves.
I also stumbled on another do-able project this week which has made me kind of a maniac but I think the outcome will be exciting. I had all the kids trace their hands and cut them out and color them. Then we shaped them into lilies and attached them to straws. We just finished the project today and we have about 40 lily hands which I'm hoping to form into 3 bouquets for each of us teachers to keep on our desks. What will be in the vase with the flowers you ask? Good question! Leftover colored sand!
I'm pretty sure I enjoy this class more than all of the kids put together.

Tid bits- stories that are too short to have their on title but worth mentioning.
-I went to buy spaghetti noodles at the store this week. I bought two packs and as I was interacting with the cashier I looked over and realized the bag boy was frantically shoving loose spaghetti back into the open package. I asked if I could just have a new one. They gave me a new one, but I was slightly alarmed that I had to ask. Whatever, it was funny.
-One of my students stopped my class this week to let me know my hair was messed up and they would like me to stop and fix it. Cool. Fashion consultants.
-Dust and dust storms suck. Rain is awesome and I miss it.
-Things that apparently only last a year- mop, broom, waterguard (crap that tastes like pool water used for filtering water), and propane
-This week for the first time ever I used the same piece of chalk without breaking it! What a triumph!

The story of all stories
Several months ago I met a man who is originally from Kenya but is now living in the U.S. He was visiting our unit with his mother who lives in Nairobi. They mentioned how impressed they were that people had donated enough money to buy land for the school and said he wanted to help.
I haven't communicated with him a terrible amount recently mostly because we just came off of break blah blah blah.
ANYWAY! Tonight he called me and told me we will start building next week, to which I said, “we can't build anything until we pay for the physical planner and we don't have enough money for that.” He responded with
“We're paying for that, we're paying for all of it. We want you to have 3 classrooms and an office built by the end of March and we'd like to have the school built before you leave in December.”
After checking to make sure I heard him correctly about 6 times he confirmed that he, with the help of his friends and co-workers would really like to see this school built.
I was also able to talk to his boss who said he and his wife were willing to contribute whatever they could and they were happy to see some good happening in the world.
It's been about 2 hours since I hung up the phone with him now and I am still completely overwhelmed and in general awe.
There is a very good chance that we will be participating in sports at the end of the term under the title Sega School for the Deaf instead of Unit.
To everyone who has been involved in this project in anyway I am truly grateful and just thrilled that progress has been and is being made. Change is happening.
I hope we can have a class pet now. I hope it can be a giraffe.

Thanks for reading!