Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Snorkel Day

This last week I went with 25 of my students on a snorkeling trip.  The children who went are part of the wildlife club at school. Occasionally, they are given the opportunity to visit Turtle Watch, which is a local not for profit that protects sea turtles and teaches sustainable fishing practices to local fishermen.  They are very well respected in the community for their work with wildlife conservation.  Last month Sir David Attenborough was here filming a new BBC documentary with them on African wildlife.  So, last Thursday, we took trip out to the reef so the children could see the fish and learn about importance of safe fishing and coral reef protection.  The children were beyond excited and I spent most of my time in the water helping stay afloat since none of them can swim.  It was a very beautiful and rewarding day for all of us.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Today was one of those magical days that restores one's faith in humanity. All of my most challenging days in Kenya have been erased by this one beautifully simple, yet perfect interaction with a Deaf man named Sharrif. I was walking along the beach with a friend when we came across a small “hoteli” (restaurant). There were a few locals that my friend knew so we walked up to say hello. Sitting in the sand was a man playing with some string. He looked as if he was maybe in his late thirties early forties. As we greeted everyone he did not look up. Laura (my friend) informed me that this man was Deaf. Being so excited to use my KSL (Kenyan Sign Language) I quickly switched gears from “laid back beach Sara” to “KSL Deaf teacher Sara.” The man looked up as I started signing to greet him and his face lit up as he understood that he had someone to communicate with. I soon came to realize that this man knew very little KSL and that he had not gone to school. He was so starved for language and communication that he was waving his hands around, scribbling in the sand and making the typical vocalizations that Deaf people make, especially when they get excited. Of course those around us were stunned to see someone let alone a “mzungu” woman no less, signing!

I led him inside the little beach hut hoteli where we sat down at a table and he began to “sign” his life story to me. I use “sign” in quotations because he was not using a formal sign language, but more informal, exaggerated, self taught signs, which resembled more of gestures than an overall signed language. I learned that he was born hearing and when he was two years old he got sick and became Deaf, which is the case for most Deaf Kenyans.

My heart melted for Sharrif. I wanted to so badly to teach him everything I knew in one afternoon. I wanted to take him to Gede and have him meet my students and the Deaf teachers. I wanted to show him that he did not need to spend the rest of his life struggling to communicate. Recognizing my own personal anxieties arising I knew it was not realistic to teach him everything in one afternoon. So we started with the basics; we learned the alphabet. He ran to get a pencil and paper and when he came back he had several friends with him. We all sat the table and learned how to sign the alphabet in Kenyan Sign Language. I drew him little pictures and helped him with his hand formation. We practiced signing his name and everyone else's at the table. Everyone was laughing and clapping. I watched Sharrif go through a gamete of emotions. At first he was excited, then shy, then frustrated, then proud, then embarrassed finally he ended up clapping his hands and running around showing off his new skills to everyone in a five meter radius. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever been part of.

We finished our lesson and I promised to bring him some books from the school. I also promised to print out an alphabet poster for him so he didn't have to look at my horrendous drawings! As we said our goodbyes some of the locals thanked me and patted me on the back. I gave Sharrif a firm hand shake and assured him that we would meet again. As Laura and I were walking out the door he ran up behind me and gave me high five. I know how cliche it sounds, but he had tears in his eyes, I swear he did. I walked away with my heart swollen with utter joy and I smiled to myself remembering why I came to Kenya in the first place.

Also total side note not related at all I am posting some pics.  Two birds with one stone eh!

Me trying to get the coconuts down with the pool cleaning thingy! It didn't work out... I broke the thingy.

My dive boys.

Sian- dive partner extraordinaire!


Ocean Sports- the hotel I spend my time at when I'm not at Gede.

Brian Lees- big boss man of OS... he takes good care of me.  He calls me Sara Boomerang!

The dive shop.


Friday, July 27, 2012


So its been a while and I must admit I am not much of a blogger... obviously. But I did want to give everyone a quick update and let you know that I am doing fine.  I have been exceptionally busy these past few months.  I have started working on a small IGA (Income Generating Activity) at my school to help support some of the children with school fees.  We are making bracelets and jewelry which will be sold at local hotels and in front of the school.  I have also been creating a pamphlet to educate "voluntourists" who come to the school wanting to "help" the "poor African child".  Even though most of the tourists' intentions are good they have no idea how their presence is viewed by the children and the withstanding effects of their visits.  Many times they portray the image of the "rich white man". They throw toys and candy at the children without understanding the repercussions of their actions. Their actions reinforce a lifestyle of depending on others for survival; this behavior makes the Kenyan believe that it is ok to never have to work for something because the "white man" will always be there to help them.  I am desperately trying to stop that mindset or at least show other options. 

Things at my school have been challenging.  The teachers still don't understand that I am there as an educator and not a donor.  Everyday I struggle with them asking me to give, steal, or "promote" them.  Whether I am dealing with the caning of children or arguing that I am capable of independent thought- even though I'm a woman, I have little to no time alone.  Most of my friends have been moved from the coast do the recent bombings from Al Shabaab and I am pretty lonely.  Its ok though, I have a break in a few weeks and I will be spending most of my time completing a mural of a world map on one of the school walls and diving.  I think that dive season will be my savior for the next term!  I miss home more and more everyday, but when I am teaching all of my worries go away and I know that I am truly happy to be in Kenya doing what I'm doing.  Its crazy to believe that I only have 16 more months left.... ok attached are pictures of me, my kids, the Gede Ruins, and my beading project.  Ill try to send out a video of my signing soon.

Love you all and miss you more than words can describe!!!!