I blinked and it went from July to October. I’ve gone from bikinis and maxi dresses to jumpers and jogging bottoms in what feels like only a few days, not months. The tan has faded and my hands have started to crack from playground duty coldness!
I was very lucky this summer to go on a couple of trips! Last year, I went to Singapore and Bali which wiped my bank account clean (sorry mum and dad, sorry future me still living at home at 30). I am so happy that I managed to get away during the holidays.
I went away with friends for two weeks, my family for one week, and then I had a horrible cold for the remaining week of the holiday. I spent the whole time unable to breathe with a weeping eye (attractive). I wanted to feel better so desperately, and I did eventually! I was a picture of health come September 3rd when term started again (typical).
My first holiday was to Tel Aviv with my besties from work. One deaf friend (the infamous Ellie) and one hearing (Nikki Nik). I was interested to see how we would handle communication while abroad as it was going to be my first time travelling with a deaf person, although I very quickly learnt there was nothing to worry about!
Israeli’s can be said to be blunt. They are not timid to speak their mind like us British and pretty much do what they want without even apologising for it later (from my experience). Deaf culture share a similarity in this – the stereotype is that deaf people are also blunt! Some say it how it is and don’t beat around the bush. Some will tell you if you look bad. Some will ask personal questions because they want to know!
I found this abrupt behaviour quite amusing on holiday because it felt like being at school with the kids who are not afraid to be so honest. It may be seen as rude to most people, but when you understand it is a culture difference (deaf culture), it is easier to accept and get on with.
Signs and Gestures
I found myself using BSL wherever we went to try and communicate with people. It was much easier to use BSL instead of repeatedly trying to speak English with people who have a limited English vocabulary. The sign language and gestures were a much better way of communicating. Being in a country where the local language is not English puts a hearing and deaf person in the same playing field. We both had to find ways to communicate the best way we could and I felt privileged to have my sign language knowledge to aid me in this way.
Centre of Attention
I am from a drama background and I therefore do not shy away from attention. However, when using sign language people do stare and the attention irritates me. In the UK, I feel that people stare for the wrong reasons. I can’t explain the frustration, but I am sure it is felt by deaf people daily.
On holiday, people were watching, but I feel that they were genuinely interested in what was happening. One couple approached us and asked what Sign Language were we talking in. They also asked my friend questions like: ‘do you dream in sign language or are people talking with voices’, ‘do you meet other deaf people when on holiday’ and ‘is there an international sign language’?
Some people we met were out there were on a gap year, with mega hippy vibes, gone away to get themselves a new tattoo and having not washed for weeks in hope of ‘finding themselves’ – this may have something to do with their keen interest and questioning but even so, it’s more interest than what I see in the UK!
‘I met a deaf person once…’
Everyone has something they want to share in relation to deafness when they see us signing. In Israel they have a deaf museum. The employees there are deaf and hearing visitors come, put on sound proof headphones and walk around different rooms as if they are deaf. There is also one for the blind too!! When I would ask the people recommending we visit this museum what it is like, none of them had been there. They then didn’t know if there were any schools for deaf children or any further information other than the museum that they knew existed.
When I first went to University many people told me they had never met a Jewish person before, as if I was some sort of North London alien. It is the same with deaf people. People usually comment on the fact they either have or have not met a deaf person before. This is so peculiar because you would never comment on aspects of mainstream life in this way. This just proves we need more deaf role models and more positive deaf related things widespread.
‘You must find it hard to communicate with other deaf people when you can only talk in BSL’.
When abroad people want to know why Sign Language is not universal. People genuinely think it is ‘stupid’ that all countries have their own native sign language. Could you imagine saying that about spoken languages? No one ever criticises spoken languages being different, with in most cases, the majority of other people trying to learn one.
Deaf people will be used to having to adjust their register and communication style for the hearing world they live in. Meeting another deaf person who is not fluent in BSL is no problem. The use of gesturing and some internationally known signs will help, but overall it is much less of a problem than hearing trying to communicate in a different language abroad.
Now… I only have to wait one more day until October half term… not that I am counting down the hours or anything!
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