Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sweet Sweet Salone.



In the immortal words of Julie Andrews: "Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start!"

This photo was the first one I took here! Beautiful sunset just after landing in Lungi, waiting for the boats to take us into town.




I've been here for about two weeks now, and so much has happened already! I've moved into my new place and done my best to settle myself in. I live in a part of Freetown called Aberdeen, in a lovely spacious lofted room with a decent amount of breeze from the ocean, which is visible from the porch. Here's the view:


Not bad, eh? The breeze is necessary here because the trend seems to be that electricity is not usually on - we turn the generator on in the evenings to have lights and charge things for a few hours, but otherwise I'm mostly just sweaty all the time. I'm renting a room from a guy called Abs, who runs an organization called The Dorothy Springer Trust, which is dedicated to helping disabled people in Sierra Leone - pretty cool stuff! I share the house with Abs and his brother, who are both VERY accommodating and have been nothing but lovely since the start.

So the first week here was full of running around with Emily - the programme manager for Sound Seekers (the lovely people who have sent me out here!), getting to know the area, and meeting people. We spent one quick day at the school where I'm now working, met up with a lot of deaf adults living in Freetown, met the only ENT doctor in all of Sierra Leone, and also spent time in Makeni. Upon arrival in Makeni I unfortunately picked up a horrible stomach bug, and ended up in a Sierra Leonean hospital. They passed me around to a lot of people (while I was writhing in pain, mind you) before I finally convinced them to give me an IV drip since I hadn't been able to keep anything down. A few hours and a LOT of needles jammed into my hand later, we headed back to the school (where they have a guest house we stayed in) and I basically did nothing for the next day and a half :) Needless to say let's hope it doesn't happen again. Bleh.

This past week I've been at the school - spending time with the kids, talking with the teachers, and making lots of plans. The kids are fabulous, as I expected them to be, and their situation is not. One thing I've learned in the last two weeks is that Kenya is WAY more developed than Sierra Leone. Kenya's constitution states that Kenyan Sign Language is a national language, new deaf schools pop up around the country all the time, and they're actually doing a relatively decent job at spreading Deaf awareness and such. It's not perfect, but it's definitely better than here. From what I've gathered there are only three deaf schools in the country, of which I've seen two. Sierra Leone uses a form of American Sign Language, but (also as I suspected) it varies depending on who you're talking to, or what school you're at, because of the lack of communication from a deaf group in one town to a deaf group in another, and the general lack of awareness everywhere. So the kids seem to have made up a lot of their own signs for things, or modified ASL signs that were taught to someone somewhere long ago. Either way, they're all still wonderful.

The school is a primary school - no secondary schools for the deaf exist in Salone :( So the kids range in age from super teeny tiny to probably 19 or 20. My kids in Kenya were older, since my school was secondary, and their language was MUCH more developed. I'm therefore still trying to get used to a different level of signing with the kids here. They might not understand as much, but MAN are they cute. Imagine teeny tiny African kiddos that point at you at a lot and always just need to be held. They're fantastic. Here's evidence:

This is at morning assembly where they sign a 
song about Jesus and do some adorable exercises.

Assembly again, on a different day

This little gem is Kadija - she's a total drooler and needs like 30 hugs per day.

And I was VERY excited to see that my favorite guy in the whole world made it all the way to Salone! Check it out :)

ALSO:
Look what I found!

AND lastly,
This is Kochi. Filthiest kitten ever.


In other news I've made some big decisions about my future. Being here with these kiddos has solidified my desire to keep doing what I'm doing. SO I confirmed my enrollment here:  -------------------------------------->  Ahhhhhh! I'll be starting at BU in the fall for a Masters in Deaf Education. It still hasn't really sunk in yet, but I get super duper anxious and excited every time I start thinking about it. SO if anyone knows anybody in Boston that needs a roommate come August, CALL ME. 


So all in all things are going well - not much to complain about on this end :) Internet here (like other things I took for granted in Kenya!) is terrible, so don't be surprised if you don't hear from me for a while. Hope everyone reading this is great! I miss you all very much!

Love and hugs from Sweet Sweet Salone!

~ Shub :)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

"I think I'm quite ready for another adventure!"

Lots of apologies to all my adoring fans (all two of you - you know who you are!) for the second LONG intermission between activity here on the Shublog. As previously mentioned, my life sort of stopped being interesting for a while, and therefore stopped being blog-worthy. During that interlude I spent nine months on a non-profit organic farm in Massachusetts, three months back in Kenya working at a spectacular eco-friendly hostel and backpackers in Kilifi, and then finally came back to Maryland for another few months and worked at the front desk at a doctor's office. And with those things in mind, I'd like to give a few shout-outs before I move on to my current situasche:

Shout-out #1: That farm in Massachusetts belonged to Heifer International and the time I spent there was unforgettable. The incredible people I met and the things I learned will remain with me for a long long time. Heifer is a great cause and next birthday/Christmas/holiday think about getting someone a goat instead of an iPad :)

Shout-out #2: That hostel in Kilifi was called Distant Relatives Eco-Lodge & Backpackers and, like those in Shout-out #1, the people I met and things I learned were unparalleled in every way. If you ever find yourself on the East African Coast and need a place to stay, this is the place. Go here: http://kilifibackpackers.com/ for more info.

Shout-out #3: That doctor's office in Maryland where I spent many-a-day laughing my butt off with the girls up front is the office my mom use to practice in, owned by Dr. Mays. This shout-out is dedicated to him and his extraordinary family. Thank you Mays Fam, for housing and feeding me, and for giving me a job, company, love, and support - all right when I needed it the most. Love and miss you all so much!

So here's what is the haps now: I leave tomorrow for this country:


"What country do these beautiful colors represent?" you ask? Why, that is the splendid West African paradise of Sierra Leone. I will be going there with an organization called Sound Seekers, who's goal is to improve the lives of deaf and heard-of-hearing people, namely children, in the developing world. Visit their website here if you want more info about what they do and all their projects.

I will be based in the capitol of Freetown, where I will be teaching/working/doing deaf kid things at the National School for the Deaf there. Apparently the school needs a little bit of help and I'm hoping that I can deliver. I will also be doing a little work in another town called Makeni, which is inland a certain number of hours. Makeni is home to St. Joseph's School for the Hearing Impaired, where I will also be helping out where I can. 

As with Peace Corps I believe a lot of this job will entail figuring things out when I get there. I will be meeting the Sound Seekers Program Manager, Emily in country, and she will have the exciting task of showing me around and introducing me to everyone! As Bilbo so aptly remarks before he leaves Middle Earth, I think I AM ready for another adventure!

The next big thing on the horizon, after West Africa, that is, is GRAD SCHOOL. I've been accepted to a few places with some pretty remarkable programs and am doing my best to pro/con/future-plan my way forward. As per usual, I need lots of help and TONS of people to talk through everything with, but it's definitely looking more and more like I'll have a concrete future relatively soon. Thanks to all the people who helped me with the application process: coached me through essays, wrote me a reference, put me up and fed me in Nairobi the night before the GREs, picked me up from the bus in Kilifi the morning after the GREs, everything. Thanks thanks thanks. Asante sana :) You guys rock. 

Not much else to report! Hope all is well with everyone - wherever you are in whatever corner of the world. I will try to keep the blog as updated as possible during my time in Sierra Leone, so be sure to be on standby. 

Loads of love,

~ Shub :)

PS - Puns are super easy with Kenya: KenyaBelieveIt, KenyaDigIt, KenyaHearMeNow; but what do I do with Sierra Leone? All I can think of is Sarah Leone. Thoughts?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Back...

Hello World!

I'm back on the interwebs, after a long and not-so-easy hiatus, and I'm sorry that I've been gone so long.  Leaving Kenya was definitely one of, if not the, hardest thing I've ever done, because it wasn't just leaving Kenya; it was leaving my town, my friends there, my house, my school, my cats, and most importantly, my kids. They are still the most wonderful people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting and knowing that I wasn't going to be able to see their beautiful smiling faces every morning from here on out was the toughest part.

But I'm stateside now, and trying my best to keep going. SO, what's happening now, you say? Well it took me a few moths to get back into the swing of blog-posting because it took me a while to be happy with life again. That's not to say I was majorly depressed for two months, but it wasn't easy coming back home with no job and no income, no home in Maryland anymore, and no deaf kids to hang out with everyday. I was in what I called my "Mid-Twenties-Post-Peace-Corps Angst-y" period and on a day-to-day basis the lack of job was the hardest. I'm a person who likes to be busy. I thrive off of having a schedule and things to do. I like to relax, but relaxing with nothing to do for months at a time is not ideal for me. So after flying into Michigan and a few days later driving to Maryland for the holidays, I spent the next month 'sleeping around' as they say. Even though my folks are no longer in MD, there are still lots of people who were willing to put me up for a few nights. I spent the majority of the time in Maryland at my cousins' house in Frederick. So I'd like to give a very gracious shout-out to the Nylec family for putting up with me for a whole month. Thanks for letting me take over the basement and for consuming all your food and coffee. I love you guys :)

So a month into moving in with the Nylecs I decided to not overstay my welcome and, trying to find something fun but also something to keep me busy and remind me of Peace Corps, I applied to volunteer on a farm. One online application and unexpected phone interview later I was accepted as an Education Volunteer at Heifer International's Overlook Farm in Rutland, Massachusetts. Heifer International, if you've never heard of it, is an awesome organization that focuses on working with communities to end hunger and poverty and does so with donations of livestock and the appropriate education connected with the animals to make families and communities sustainable. Heifer's headquarters are in Little Rock, Arkansas and Heifer has a few self-sustainable farms in the U.S. called Learning Centers. The biggest Learning Center is just outside Little Rock in a town called Perryville, a place where I took my church youth group kiddos a few years back, and the next Learning Center in line is where I reside now in Rutland, Massachusetts.

The farm here is called Overlook Farm because of our view of Boston from the hill, and we sit on about 270 total acres. We have everything from guinea pigs and bunnies, to goats, sheep, cows, llamas and yaks. Pretty much every farm animal, save for horses, resides on this farm. As a new volunteer on the farm (I got here four days ago) I'm learning the ropes to the twice daily animal feedings, the temperaments of all the livestock, what food I am allowed and not allowed to eat and/or give to the animals, and the ins and outs of Heifer International as an organization. We'll be laying low for a few weeks at least, while it's still cold and while there are no guests to accomodate. However starting in March the groups will begin showing up and apparently things are busy until the next winter. As an Education Volunteer I will be doing what seems like half Peace Corps and half Maryland Images Tour Guides, both of which I LOVE. As groups and guests start to show up we'll be giving them farm tours, Global Village tours, and sending them through all kinds of programs that we have. I'll be spending the next few weeks memorizing all the things I need to for the tours and programs and trying to stay warm.

I live in a house on the farm with five other volunteers and we have a big kitchen and living room, fireplace, huge basement, and state-of-the-art VCR player. The house itself may be a little dated but the stories behind it and people inside it are pretty awesome. The farm has about 20 volunteers in total and nine full-time employees. Volunteers come and go every six months or so and the legacies passed on from group to group seem much like Peace Corps. And speaking of which there is a good number of other RPCV's here as well, some volunteers and some employees. Hooray!

So I'm still alive and finally doing something with my life again, even if it isn't benefitting me financially in any way (again!). I guess at some point I'll have to get a real job so I can sustain myself for the rest of my life. Meh. I'll worry about that later.

I still miss Kenya like nobody's business and wish more than anything that I find a way to get back there. And I thank goodness everyday that I decided to join Peace Corps and that I ended up in Kilifi. Rutland is a decent substitute for now, however, even though the difference in weather is unfathomable. Another plus of living here is that I am only an hour away from my wonderful brother and soon-to-be sister-in-law in Providence. After two years of not seeing each other often, this is a real treat.

ALSO, as a tiny gift to myself after getting back in December I went out and bought something I didn't think I deserved at this time in life. Now, though, I've totally and completely fallen in love with her.  :)


Just my size right?

Ok everyone. To those of you who still read this silly thing: Thanks and you rock.

And as they say on the farm,
"Love and Llamas,"

~ Shub :)

PS. The name of the blog is going to remain the same, because even though I'm not in either of those places currently, they both have a big place in my heart.

Ok bye!