This is very emotional for me talking about my learning ASL, and my relationship with my deaf friend.
She’s not subscribed to my blog, she’s very low tech and asked me early on what one even was. But I know she could find this if she wanted to. I know very little about being deaf and the ways deaf people compensate for not being able to hear. Or the complex culture of the deaf community. And I don’t want to say the wrong thing.
I’ve been trying to learn to sign since meeting Kat because so many people including Jonathan doubted I could. Doubted that a blind person and a deaf person could make any connection at all. Of course he’s taken that back! We text now and talk on fb. But imagine being next to someone you really want to talk to in that moment and not being able to without technology, just wanting to talk person to person and you can’t. That’s Kat and I.
I’ve been practicing some things with Robbie and other staff. Learned from Robbie that sadly the non-signing well meaning staff didn’t know about stuff I was learning wrong. Which is why I’m so glad I have him. I know the alphabet some letters give me trouble. And a few words. Like good, bad, yes, no, sorry, please and thank you and ILY.
Normally when we’re together Jess or someone else interprets. Kat is really I I intuitive and great at reading people. Edith said she can read the mood of the whole room. So with sighted people she can work with a lot even if they don’t know sign. She’s so expressive that just that alone with other signs or regular social gestures, and lip reading allow her to get some kind of conversation going. Takes awhile but certainly not as long as anything we would try to do.
Long story short. Yesterday we gave her a snack. We thought we did, someone took it but anyway. Usually when she comes over Jess is there and they can start talking writing and everything. I was sleeping. But I’m fully alert when Kat is around trying to use my whole system to read her. She sat down on my bed next to me. Gently grabbed my hand. Put at the side of her head. Wet hair? Hair? I do the same on my head.
For most of the time we were together trying to do this we were just still sitting side by side. I like these moments. I wish wish we had some kinda ESP or something. I said something I know would get on a lot of deaf people’s nerves. I asked her to try and talk. Yeah I know bad Sammy. But she can be verbal sometimes. I know it’s like expecting me to walk across a street with no cane (a blind interpreter’s anology) but I needed something. I said it gently if that counts. I realized later it wouldn’t mattered.
Maybe she did try but there was no sound then. Then I spelled in her hand w-h-a-t? Probably not done the best, H can be screwy for me and I had just woken up.
She gently took my hand. “t, u?, a” Now I know I read the h as a u, they’re upside down verssions of one another. At least I got two letters out of three and this was our first true tactile exchange.
Then I said, maybe my face was in better view, can you try to talk? “tahhh” Sigh. There’s a limit to the kinds of sounds she can make and ahh is one of the main ones.
I hadn’t thought because like I said I had been totally napping to get out the laptop. We never had success with this because my screen reader totally made her crazy. That was with the HP computer though. Jess said once that this one might work better.
But anyway at that point she got up. Not angry. Just got up and went to the door. “sorry” I signed feeling horrible.
Jess got an earful of OMG where were you!! When she got back.
Kat reappeared awhile later. Out came the paper. Get a boogie board save a tree! They use so much paper. But those boards are so expensive some of them and they keep getting lost or stolen.
Turns out she was trying to spell thank you. And sadly that snack was probably snatched up by someone who likely didn’t really need the food. Food cigarettes coffie, there’s a whole underground trading thing here.
But I did give her candy. So that was cool.
We were texting later. She needs to have major major dental work. She’s been in pain forever and it’s really got to me. She’s supposed to go next week. I’m scared for her. I asked if she’d have an interpreter or something. She said “we will write.”
And that’s always the case. There’s all this hype about learning languages being like the in thing at schools or for jobs being bilingual and all that. Half the staff here speak languages other than English. But it’s like ASL means nothing to them.I don’t think they’d like it if they were living in a place where they couldn’t speak the language and someone just wrote to them.
It’s been getting better recently. Like recently since people have heard I’m trying to sign. Kat is extremely patient with anyone wanting to learn. She has taught several staff members. People that want to try make her happy.
I just wish more of the world was understanding about people in this situation.
When we’re together I feel so deeply connected to her. Her hands are soft, gentle. Her fingers are long with long shaped nails. I wish I could see her face I wish I could see to learn this faster. There aren’t many times I say that. Because I don’t care much about not seeing other things. But with Kat sight is like the best way to connect, some people would say the only way and I don’t have that. And I need that she needs it she needs friends who care and will do whatever it takes to break through that barrier. I want to cry when I think about it.
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