UPDATE: Where’d She Go To, Now?

Update: Where’d She Go To, Now?

July 25, 2009

You say my life is so darned interesting. I think it’s pretty cool I get to visit foreign, faraway lands, learn a few languages and meet amazing, unforgettable people. What fortune it has been, but also a heap of obstacles, messes, speed bumps and dark days.

You are all wondering what the heck happened in Africa? What am I doing in the United States? What’s next?

I will confess that my current life as a nomad (hopping from one house of kindness to another) has somewhat given birth to writer’s block. My life is pretty much on the fast lane, making one swift decision to the next, to keep my survival continuous, climbing gigantic hurdles to small molehills. I can only imagine a very few of you totally understand what I mean. So here’s a few tidbits what’s going on with me, what happened? Answers and what the crystal ball says about my future. I thought I’d risk having dark circles under my eyes just so that I could send this out to the folks out there. Ba wahala.

In May, it was a mutual agreement between me and VSO to end my service with the organization. For so many reasons, but it was a tearful, amicable and sweet parting. No bad feelings, only admiration for each other. We were all amazed that I had lasted three placements, 16 months as a volunteer Idespite being in and out of Nigeria) and the successes I made in the country. So we parted ways June 9, 2009 with me enroute to Toronto.

In Toronto, I met up with several crazy Canuck buddies for weeklong summer days. Two of them dear to me, whom have Usher Syndrome as well, made my first three days as fun but relaxing at the same time. I got sick from a nasty stomach bug all throughout my stay in Toronto. Yuck. Then I was off to Belleville, an Ontario town that was home to my childhood alma mater, Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf. You bet I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to say hey to ancient teachers, counselors (just kiddin, ya know me…) and the awesome changes it has made in the past ten years since my high school graduation (yes, I’m THAT old). It was surreal to see the aged faces of people I was raised throughout the school days and nights. Needlessly, they were triple-shell-shocked. I was sporting (blonde!) Nigerian Didi braided hair, slimmer, (mature!) volunteer that returned from Africa sporting a tall, white cane for the blind. They realized I grew up, from an ugly duckling to a swan, and that my Usher’s had rapidly worsened but transformed me into a strong person. I saw my old History teacher, Mrs. Pheiffer (who I admired but disrespected her tough stance with some pranks and foul mouth), my former intervenor, Rose, and the slew of counselors of the residences I’d lived in before (Calico, Rainbow, Keukenhof, Greene Hall residences). One counselor, Ms. Carr, outright asked me how my shoulder was. I laughed and told her it’d been dislocated for the 22nd time a week prior. (I defied Ms. Carr and rode the bike alone on campus as a 14 year old, and while speeding, fell right on my shoulder and popped it out). Good memories continued with McFarlane asking me how my pinky was. (I rode a mini gas powered motorbike across her home lawn during a residence summer BBQ, and despite her protests my sight made it impossible to ride I defied her and rode into a empty tank covered by rust and cut metal, almost chopped my left pinky off). It was truly nostalgic and wonderful to meet them again, especially the new principal, Linda. I like her. I left Belleville in horror realizing I forgot to take snapshots of the old farts at SJW and myself, and my best friend Sarah and I. What a bummer.

My father was thrilled to receive me home, gave me a warm homecoming and it was going to be a good two weeks kicking back and relaxing. Well, let’s say even with Dad’s satellite broken and no television channels available, my home life was still eventful. Doctor appointments, a hush-hush minor surgery (you’ll laugh and spread wicked rumours if I ever told you) having another best bud, Keri, come up from Yankee Doodle Land and spend a cool, rockin’ Canada Day with me. The patriotism took place July 1.

I left my Daddy, who was still holding me for a long while before we parted, and promised him I would *try* to be good and behaved and alive. I spent a week in the awesome northern Vermont mountains near Burlington with Keri and her groovy family. Went for a hour’s hike throughout the rugged woods with Keri, who’s an awesome support hike provider! That kind of thing makes me feel good – being able to don hard hiking shoes, lean on my trusty cane for support, and the other arm firmly grasped around Keri’s. We brought her 2 young tykes, her Ma and Pa. Nature’s such a beautiful gift we have.

Right now I’m in a suburb of Alexandria, Virginia sitting at the dining room in the home of a college friend and knowing there’s so many emails, sites, friends to remember checking in on. Half of me just wants to kick back, fully drink in the excitement of being amongst friends and not worry about the piling thing I try hiding in the basement. But reality is, travelling in the States doesn’t mean I have access to wireless all the time, nor the time for it. I’ve got a lot of commitments and trying to deal with them one by one with every opportunity I get. I’m writing this now on a Word document, then tramsferring it onto blogs, sites when I have a live connection with Internet. Rather quasi-primitive, don’tcha think? One day in the next few years, I’ll have great internet speed lying back in a canopy between palm trees on a white, sandy beach of New Zealand, or perched on top of a thick Amazonian branch pounding away emails, sending out orders for pizza (for my American friends as a surprise) with wifi in an igloo in N. Russia, reading Perezhilton.com from the dunes of Naimbia, or doing a fast read up on Google on the Khmer monks while sitting in a faraway, solitary temple in Kampot?  Mindboggling eh?

I’m jetting off to the West Coast by the first week of August. Portland and Seattle are my next two favourite pit stops. Surrounded by lavish and luscious natural resources, and amazing tactile love from my Deafblind community.

I know a lot of you are asking this question: how the heck does she afford it? Where’s her money tree? Well, I know, it’s amazing! I’ve traveled cross country in the summer of 08, returned home the December of that same year, then whisked off to Europe for an amazing eight weeks, and plop back in Nigeria. Now this city-hopping before my next destination: Asia. Asia?! What on earth?

Last summer’s trip was funded by VSO through their monthly salary which was the very same as Nigeria: $330 a month, and I had the kind welcome of friends and family into their homes. My fundraising money from that summer was spent well (see a previous note I wrote) and with some people’s wishes, I used some of it to support my travel expenses and meals. Then Christmas time became a scary time for me and my family, when I discovered I had glaucoma. VSO sent me home on medical leave til January. Then when January came, they said that my new placement with the Christian Blind Mission was not ready until March, as well as my interpreter’s visa procedures were taking forever. So they agreed to continue my meager salary while I travelled Europe giving lectures on behalf of VSO. I was invited to speak in London, Amsterdam and Zurich four times. Some of the hosts paid me pretty good, some of them covered my flight and rail inside of Europe, and welcomed me in their very generous homes in return for a presentation of my life as a Deafblind volunteer in a developing country. I was lucky to be invited, guided, dined, comforted and loved by many in Ireland, Scotland, England, North and South Germany, Switzerland, Holland. I only spent one night out of two months in a hostel. I stayed with host families, friends, Deafblind folk and strangers. They provided me with shelter, love and food. I spent very little of my own money traveling Europe. What an amazing blessing.

What about now? VSO has a policy on paying its volunteers an end of service grant, and I was granted a good amount of money. I used that to book my flights for several cities, including Taipei, Taiwan for the Deaf Olympics in September. So along with some financial support from the Canadian government, my family, and the sale of my African Kebbi bags ($10, made by a Deaf Nigerian woman), and bracelets made out of jade, various stones and beads by Patty Keen of Toronto – a great Deafblind woman who’s blossoming as a leader. The sale profits would help generate cash flow during my travels in Asia for the whole fall season.

My goal is to leave September 4th for Taiwan where I will experience my first weeklong Deaf mass meeting (I only attended one day of Deafway II ’02, and one day of WFD Montreal ’03). After Taipei, I intend to leave for Cambodia on September 15th, arriving in Phnom Penh where I will stay with an American friend for several days. There is a Deaf Development Center there run by a Deaf Briton. Then it’s off to spend nearly three weeks in Kampot, a village where my American friend works for a Deaf arts center. I want to immerse myself completely in the grassroots culture of the Khmer people, to understand the scars that Pol Pot left on the country, and to appreciate what serenity these people seem to harbor towards others. For the end of October, I’m hoping there’ll be a way for me to visit Laos, Vietnam and Thailand – all of which border Cambodia to the north and south. November might bring me opportunities to visit China and Japan, but it has not even passed the first stage of planning (networking) and it will depend heavily on the funds I have. I hope that the sale of my Kebbi bags and bracelets will support more weeks in Asia, and sources of favours to trade in for lectures that will help prolong my trip in the Orient. December, there’s the hard decision of visiting the nature paradise island of New Zealand for Christmas and New Year’s (and my 30th birthday) or meditating it with yogis in Goa, India and mingling at a Indian Deaf Leadership Conference in Punjabi, northern India near the Himalayans and Nepal alongside the Silk Road and the famed Darjeeling Express. I got both invitations this week to join friends there and there. I guess when the time gets closer, signs (like in The Alchemist) will tell me where I’m destined to be next.

Every night when I sleep – be it on an aero bed, on a sturdy Nigerian foam mattress, under Canadian goose down blankets or on a lumpy but comfy couch – I think of people that are loved ones, mere acquaintances, amazing folk and complete strangers who have hugged me or passed by me. I wish I could clone myself so I could pay attention to everything, everyone and everyplace. However, there is only one Christine Amanda Roschaert, and that is how I live, folks. You know once I see you in person, it’s back to where we left off, easy. In the distance between us, we know we think of one another and send telekinetic messages of “I love you”, “I’m thinking of you” and “Here’s tactilin’ ya, babe”. If someone truly needs my attention, come see me, resend that email or find a way to reach me.

Keep your eye out for the next edition. Perhaps it’ll be more interesting once I start writing in Taiwanese.

Spin the world and tactile love it,

Coco

If you want to support my backpacking endeavours in Asia by offering connections or funding, email me at tactiletheworld@gmail.com , or make a donation on Paypal to this account tactiletheworld@gmail.com . Many thanks in advance!

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