Sunday, December 13, 2009

Permanent Mailing Address!

My sincerest apologies for not having written a real entry in forever! For those of you on Facebook I actually try to update my status every other day or so to keep friends and family at home in the loop. I have internet access on my mobile so it's easier to pull up FB and update a quick status and not quite as easy opening Blogspot... so unfortunately for now this blog has taken a bit of a hiatus. But no worries, I promise to come back to Blogspot at the next available convenience and accessibility and compose a true account of my experiences!

For now though, here is my permanent mailing address for those of you interested:

Jonathan J. Suen
Lamu Unit for the Deaf
P.O. Box 79
Mokowe, Kenya

If you would like to send simple letters or cards BEFORE Christmas, the Nairobi address (11/5 entry) is still preferable. However, packages have the tendency to take longer to arrive so please mail all larger items to my permanent address and hopefully they will be here after I have already moved to Mokowe! Otherwise generally speaking anything mailed AFTER Christmas should be mailed to Mokowe since training will officially be over around January 5th or so.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mailing Address!

All mail/packages should be sent to:

Jonathan J. Suen
U.S. Peace Corps
PO Box 698-00621
Village Market Nairobi

Regular mail works well, or DHL if you feel the need to spend more...

*DON'T declare "Food" (even if you're sending some...), only "Personal Effects".
***NO pornographic/obscene materials of any kind!! Seriously, it's illegal and I'd get into trouble!

This address is valid while I'm in training, my permanent address will be made available at a later date.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Next stop... Kenya!

Staging is complete, and I am officially a Peace Corps trainee. Tomorrow we leave for Kenya where we will enter pre-service training (PST) for 9 weeks.

My fellow trainees are awesome and as of the first day, I'm really excited to be working with such cool people. I'm among the youngest of the group of 27 volunteers - and I'm happy to find that the amount of Deaf Education volunteers exceeds what I had originally expected! I'm not alone...

Thank you for everyone's well wishes and prayers - keep them coming! =)

Next post, coming to you from Kenya!

Wish me luck!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Philadelphia will be where it's at!

Quick update: I've received my Staging (Orientation) email from my Staging Unit. I'll be heading to Philadelphia for my pre-departure sessions.

I'll head over on Monday, November 2nd and then on Tuesday, November 3rd I'll be heading back to Long Island with my group and flying out from JFK - which will be good because then my parents can stop by and we can hopefully have one more goodbye before I leave!

As of now it looks like first I'll be flying to Zurich (approx. 7h 45m) and then from there it'll be onwards to Nairobi (approx. 7h 35m)!!!

Wow, this is happening so fast... how exciting!

Monday, September 21, 2009

simply serendipitous.

Despite still having an upcoming trip to the west coast and at least two more visits up to Boston before I leave, the departure date encircled in red still seems close and will continue to draw closer and closer!

Surprisingly I have come to really appreciate Long Island, can you believe it? After high school I couldn't wait to get away and throughout BU I tried my best to maximize my time in Boston. I had anticipated feeling antsy, bored and above all, frustrated that I'd be living at home for 2.5 months. I love my parents, but Long Island? I wasn't expecting to find the place exciting by any means. Turns out, I was wrong.

My typical day over the past few weeks have consisted of bike rides, trail runs, beach days, city days all interspersed with various Asian (including mom's), Indian, Italian, Greek and NY-Jewish foods. Being car-less, I now primarily get around with my bike. Interestingly enough, you end up noticing more about your space while riding one. All the while finding new spots you also discover the ones that you'd been missing all these years because of driving. Meandering around town lately has been exhilarating and comforting. The experience is familiar but the perspective is vastly different.

Leaving here will be difficult - and despite the normally expected nerves, it's also matched with excitement and brilliance.
"We need to travel. If we don’t offer ourselves to the unknown,
our senses dull. Our world becomes small and we lose our sense of wonder. Our
eyes don’t lift to the horizon. Our ears don’t hear the sounds around us. The
edge is off our experience and we pass our days in a routine that is both
comfortable and limiting. We wake up one day and find that we have lost our
dreams in order to protect our days. Don’t let yourself become one of these
people. The fear of the unknown and the lure of comfortable will conspire to
keep you from taking the chances the traveler has to take. But if you take them
you will never regret your choice. To be sure, there will be moments of doubt
when you stand alone on an empty road in an icy rain, or when you are ill with
fever in a rented bed. But as the pains of the moment will come, so too will
they fall away. In the end, you will be so much stronger, so much clearer, so
much happier, and so much a better person that all the risk and the hardship
will seem like nothing compared to the knowledge you have gained."

~Kent Nerburn, Letters to My Son

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Turning Hope Into Action"

There's a little segment on Behavior Change Communication in Kenya. Check out the video link!

HIV/AIDS | What Do Volunteers Do?

Shared via AddThis

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

a personal reflection.

You hear time and time again that the Peace Corps experience can be somewhat of an emotional roller coaster. A volunteer can go through times of extreme ecstasy, but not without of course also working through times of intense hardships. I can only ask so many returned volunteers (RPCVs) of their own experience to provide myself with a good cross-section. Call it a part of my prep work - trying to get a realistic perspective on the whole deal.

Its hard to find reliable figures and I must admit, I haven't put that much credible effort into digging up the numbers- but I've read that roughly 30% of volunteers don't finish their full term. What's even more interesting is that the number of volunteers whom opt to end their service early are actually higher in countries that presents a higher incidence of HIV/AIDS among its population (notably, sub-Sahara African countries). I can only assume, and its been hinted at me, that the experience of living among neighbors and friends who are dying of the awful disease takes its toll on the American volunteer whom up until that moment had lived a sheltered life.

Its been stressed to me that I shouldn't just blindly accept my position without having given extensive thought on the offer. Having read through the detailed literature that came with my invitation kit I realized that what I'll be immersing myself in will be real. To be honest, I've exhausted countless moments over the past 10 months or so mentally preparing myself for this assignment. I've always known that it'd probably be the most challenging period I have yet to face and go through in my life. Not just due to the expected hardship associated with the job itself, but also to my overall lifestyle. Getting used to reading by candle light, fetching for water and living life with no electricity will take getting used to - but with time it'll happen. But the so called "extra challenges" that I will face associated with my individual identity: ethnicity, hearing-status, education level, sexual orientation and so forth. Those may be what will make or break me.

From the perspective of someone who is so inexperienced, I humbly acknowledge that I have so much more left to learn. I expected to read about all of the "extra" hardships I would encounter, just being myself. Reading it on a tangible piece of paper, like I said, made it all the more real. Even so, I phoned the Placement Office and accepted. The only way for me to learn all the things I still have left to learn is to proceed and take things head on. To be cliche for a moment, I'm reminded of a Peace Corps motto: Never start a sentence with, "I should've..."

The Deaf community in Kenya, although having established schools, are still very much underserved. Furthermore the majority of Kenyans get their information through radios - a technology inaccessible to the Deaf and therefore leaving them highly prone to contracting the HIV virus. Who am I to be a so-called qualified Deaf educator, not only in the primary schools but also as an outreacher trying to bring awareness of the dangers of HIV to the deaf in an accessible mode of communication? I've wondered that same thought time and time again. I'm a first-generation Asian-American, raised in a middle-class suburb and allegedly intelligent enough to have graduated from a private university. I'm in no way better or worse than the people I will be around.

I welcome the challenge. As for the outcome, I may come out stronger or broken but either way I have no expectations. I can only take care of myself and hope for the best.