Tag Archive for 'ksl'

The Challenges Ahead

What am I worried about these days?  Well, let’s see:

  • Language: I am likely to test as "Intermediate" in KSL on the 31st.  I am regularly dreaming in sign language, but because training is in Loitokitok, where there is one deaf man in the whole town, our entire group is lagging compared to previous years.  I hope that when I go to my final site sometime around Jan 6, there will be a supportive deaf community to help me out.  I also know zero Swahili… basically only what’s on the inside cover of the Lonely Planet quick reference book.
  • Secondary project: The Peace Corps recommends that in my down time, rather than sitting around doing nothing, I should pursue a "Secondary Project."  Before coming here I anticipated that this might involve further development of the Adobe Flash sign language tutorials that I saw online, but…
    I do not yet have access to original source files.
    I am not sure what else might have been done already on this front.
    …so when I go to Nairobi for the swearing-in, I am going to scour the Peace Corps office to see what I can find.  There is an overall sense here that things got lost when everything shut down during the election violence, but there is another, most systemic, problem with "memory loss," that is, the lack of a structured year-by-year progress tracking for the overall deaf education project.  I worry that any progress I make might be forgotten in a few years— how can I help this organization to make sure my own work builds effectively on progress already made?  "Sustainability" is a key part of the Peace Corps’ mission!  Ken, the Country Director, seems keenly aware of the problem and has already taken some steps in organizing some of what’s out there, and he also mentioned some initiatives that I hope I can be a part of.
  • Connectivity: I’m getting pretty good at surfing the Internet on my phone, but I’m still seeking a better solution.  The fact that I got Skype Video to work with ErinRose makes me want a better laptop solution, because the pay-by-the-megabyte model would be painful for video chatting (and it’s also the reason you never see high-res photos on my blog).  There are now four mobile operators in Kenya and their data plans are shrouded in mystery and hearsay.  Ultimately I will wait until I move to my site to determine which carrier(s) are even viable, but it’s nonetheless frustrating to try to do research in advance.

Here is your reward for reading this post, a picture I took when walking home today from town, thinking about all this stuff.  You can see it raining on my home in the distance.


And here is a picture I took in Ohio not long before I left for Kenya, at the 102nd Annual Circleville Pumpkin Show.  The goal is to grow the biggest pumpkin, but clearly this farmer had a secondary project of his own.  Perhaps there is a lesson for me here somewhere?

pumpkin heads

5 Responses to “The Challenges Ahead”

  • Hello PAUL!!! Merry Xmas a little late – sorry! But I am thinking of you and so honored to know you. This is Joelle BTW – Erinrose’s girrrrrl and I am giving you a shot out here from Hollywood CA! I love that necklace you got her- so pretty. I can also see you in her eyes when we talk about you and she smiles. It’s like I get to see you when I see her. – I don’t know you very well but I think you are doing something really special.

  • Some choices for connectivity:

    1. BGAN is by far the most powerful SAT solution with highest reliability, and likely highest cost, but you get up to 240/384kbps (send/receive) and telephone. Connections are USB, Bluetooth, Ethernet so it’s supper cool, esp for those real outback moments.

    2. Wikipedia in English only shows:
    Kenya having 12.75 million subscribers in total, or a 34% penetration rate as of December 2007
    A. Safaricom [74] GSM
    B. Zain – Part of One Network GSM
    C. Telkom Wireless CdmaOne
    Could not find a fourth.

    Also very interesting from wikipedia.com is:

    Flashback service

    As a result of the limited income of most of Safaricom’s customers, network congestion emerges from a practice called ‘flashing’. Flashing is the practice of calling another mobile user, but disconnecting before the connected call is answered. It provides a method for mobile users to alert someone that they wish to be called, but either can’t, or won’t, pay for the call. The method is cost-free for the users; but costly in network bandwidth.

    That is why Safaricom sometime ago introduced a flashback service that gave every subscriber 5 free SMS messages with a single pre-defined message stating “Please call me. Thank you”. Although the messages can be annoying when sent just for fun they are very useful when one is in trouble and has no airtime. It also gives parents more of a reason to get mobile phone for their children without the real need for getting them airtime. Unfortanately, at this time, the flashbacks can only be sent to Safaricom subscribers due to some feuds with Zain, Safaricom’s main competitor.

    Electronic cash service

    Safaricom has developed and launched nationwide an mobile banking service called M-PESA, that allows Kenyans to transfer money via SMS.[1] The service does not require users to have bank accounts, an important aspect in a country like Kenya, where many people do not have bank accounts. With M-PESA, the user can buy digital funds at any M-PESA agent and send that electric cash to any other mobile phone user in Kenya, who can then redeem it for conventional cash at any agent. This system is remotely comparable to hawala banking or services like Western Union. An M-PESA enabled mobile phone can also function as an electronic wallet and can hold up to 50,000 Kenyan shilling.[2] Safaricom stakeholder Vodafone, which partnered in the development of M-PESA, has announced that it intends to roll out M-PESA internationally as well.

    One of the more interesting problems is non-necessary traffic, and “noise” from just connecting your laptop to the internet. You need finer control over this issue, your going to need some kind of outbound IP traffic filter.

    How is the shortwave radio working out?

  • Thanks joelle. Very kind words. I like your descriptions.

  • Josh the sat upload speeds are enticing but the fact that i need to contact sales for pricing is not a good omen for my wallet. Safaricom and Zain are currently the two nationwide carriers. Orange and Yu are the newcomers but theyll probably have no coverage where ill be going, at least for another year. Safaricom has 3G in Nairobi and Mombasa and EDGE elsewhere. Supposedly Zain is all EDGE but here in Loitokitok with Zain i get a terrible sub-EDGE connection, which is too bad because Zain is the only one that offers an unlimited data plan. Hopefully Zain will be EDGE at my site. Anyhow i didnt know about the special flash sms so thanks for the tip. Ill pass it on. I havent used MPESA yet but it seems cool. The govt here has recently started debating how to regulate it because its got the same bank-but-not-really problem that Paypal has. In nairobi I plan on downloading zonealarm and Mozillas mobile browser for windows to help control the laptop bandwidth usage. I havent turned on the shortwave yet because my family always has the tv on. Tv here is terribly novel, which is weird to me because its finally starting to die in america. . . . .Wow i think ill eventually need to dedicate a post to all this internet stuff for the non technical people.

  • woo. pretty picture =D


My Kenyan Sign Language is coming along.  A typical day in training
consists of morning KSL class, followed by some sort of health or
safety-related lecture, lunch, then a trip to a deaf school to interact
and watch classes in action.  Pre-lunch everything is pretty well
containd in the hotel.  To get to lunch we usually walk as a giant
group, moving through Mombasa like some fat albino snake, getting lots
of stares and the occasional shout.  People yell “Jambo” here at whites,
which means “hello,” but it’s reserved for our pleasure exclusively.
Sometimes other words are peppered in, like “Jambo Obama Hakuna Matada,”
which playfully mocks us as we pass.  I say playfully because I sense no
ill will.  It seems mostly like a way to be a funny guy in your group of
friends.  We rarely (as in single digit) see other white people.  I
generalize about he whiteness of our group, however, because the entire
group is not white, but the fact that the fat albino snake has a few
spots doesn’t draw any less attention.

Lunch is usually taken in a relatively small storefront (think
hole-in-the-wall Mexican food in San Diego).  The signs in town and the
menus are in English— I see very little Swahili in general, and as you
may have gathered, we are not in touristville.  I still have little
sense of what the menu items are, so I order at random, and with the
exception of the stinky pungent intestines with corn meal (eaten with my
hands, as customary), I haven’t had anything with a surprising taste.  I
usually get a cold Coke in a bottle with lunch.  There’s rarely AC
anywhere, and although I’m getting used to the oppressive humidity, a
cold Coke does wonders for my morale.  If only it were a Dr. Pepper…

From lunch we typically follow the existing volunteers, who are our
unofficial guides around town, as they flag a giant van that has enough
empty seats.  In Mombasa, at least 50% of traffic is made up of these
vans.  We pile in, and others come and go while we wait for our stop.
“Stops” happen whenever someone bangs the side of the van from the
inside to indicate they want off.  If there are too many empty seats,
the van’s tax collector jumps out and tries to get people to pile in to
fill it up again.  We each pay our 15 shillings (about 25 cents) and we
get out.

At school today I actually carried on a semi-effective conversation with
some new deaf adults.  I am still signing at baby-level, but it people
sign slowly and repeat a lot, I eventually seem to get it.  I am really
starting to enjoy “deaf sounds”  Deaf individuals obviously do not
depend on sound to communicate, but they still make them.  Laughing and
the like are more accentuated in some deaf individuals, often I think
because is is possible to do it while you continue to communicate.  In
the speaking world, it’s one or the other.  Similarly, sounds that I can
only describe as “squeals of delight” occur much more often.  They are
often quiet and sustained while the signing continues, which adds
another level of understanding for the hearing like myself, because it
conveys another level on top of linguistic and facial expression.  I
really enjoy the classroom for this reason.

We’re about to head to dinner as I write this offline (will post
later).   I visited Fort Jesus (no joke) earlier this evening and hope
to go back when there is more light to check it out and to get a better
view of the Indian Ocean!

1 Response to “KSL”

  • Hi Paul, hope you are having a blast! It must be extemely interesting in what you are seeing and experiencing. It is Thanksgiving weekend in Naples I did the usual and purchased a turkey dinner that was already cooked and all I had to do was warm it up. Safest dinner I ever made. I really enjoyed all your updates and look forward to reading more of the super keen adventure. Stay safe and well
    Love you


I’m at an internet cafe in Mombasa.  First Internet for a while.  It’s slow and I’m not prepared (no USB stick in my pocket), so the longer what-I’ve-been doing post will have to wait.  Some highlights from my notes:

  • My goodbye present was amazing.  Thanks so much to everyone who called in.
  • They didn’t weigh or measure my bags AT ALL.  I’m sad now that we pulled so many things out at the last minute.
  • I drank a white port in Amsterdam during the layover– a final treat!
  • I sat next to the CEO of microcare.co.org during the 2nd flight– cool guy who gave good advice for a long life in Africa: “go to bed early” and “don’t eat salad.”
  • During the bus ride to Mombasa, we had to stop because GIRAFFES WERE RUNNING ACROSS THE ROAD.  Video to follow.
  • I already knew this, but Obama is HUGE here.
  • Mosquito nets over my bed in the hotel during training.  Emergency malaria meds in a kit courtesy of Novartis.

Today we visited 2 deaf schools around Mombasa.  My hair poofed up during the bus rides due to all the wind (needed because it’s HUMID), and the kids at the second school named me (meaning that this is my “sign name” for life, KSL, ASL, or otherwise).  My name goes like this: wiggle your fingers on your right hand while you trace your hand from the top of your scalp down toward your right ear.  Basically, indicate long curly hair.  They also named a girl in our group by tracing the shape of her scarf on her head.   Other volunteers will be named as time passes.  I like my name.

I really like the other volunteers.  There are a few of us who came from a multimedia background and we’re all hoping to apply it somehow here.

I’ll be in town for roughly a week before catching back up with the other trainees, at which point internet access will drop off even more.  I’ll try to over-post before that happens.  Wish me luck in learning Kenya Sign Language!

2 Responses to “Mombasa”

  • Paul – I hope you get this. Let me know so I can write more. FOr my comment on the giraffe, does he have a tail that looks like “long curly hair”??? I can’t believe it. How many were there? that is so cool. So, are you really in MOmbasa or somewhere outside? I’m going to look up the town now. Don;t let them send you near Somalia, PLEASE. I miss you so much already. In a way I’m glad that you cut back on your stuff because of having to lug it around.
    We are trying to send you a package after Thanksgiving, so let us know what you would like and need. Edith at work has a friend who works at Fed Ex. She said a package 18X18″ 30lbs normally is about $500, but that her friend will give me a BIG BIG discount, so please let us know before you go too far away and let us know the mailing address. If you want us to wait til you get a closer mailing address, that’s fine too. We will send a package no matter what, so let me know the address for arrival in December. I gave Bailey a bath yesterday. He was a dirty dog. Love, Mom Isn’t Ammsterdam a great airport? I would like to stay in Amsterdaam a couple of days sometime. I will send you some Lomotil, which is better for diarrhea, which I hope you don’t get just the same.

  • Do you know why the CEO said “don’t eat salad”? Because there’s termites in it. Do we eat them here in the U.S. (voluntarily, that is)? No. He gave some damn good advice.