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.
Look what I found!
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 :)