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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Travel Opportunities with Discovering Deaf Worlds

Would you like to join Discovering Deaf Worlds on an international adventure that will connect you with deaf people and signers around the world? Well, here is your chance to take the trip of a lifetime to Costa Rica or Thailand and Cambodia.

DDW has partnered with socially conscious travel company GoPhilanthropic to offer innovative travel opportunities that combine culture, adventure, accessibility, and a way to contribute to international deaf communities.

As part of the DDW: Journeys program, you can zip-line through the treetop canopy of a Costa Rican jungle, visit a colorful floating boat market amidst the city canals of Bangkok Thailand, and explore the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. At the same time, you will meet with deaf leaders along the way, learn about the issues they face, and participate in local efforts working towards solutions.

All trips will be fully accessible to deaf and hearing travelers with guides fluent in English, American Sign Language, and the local sign language of each country (Thai, Khmer/Cambodian, and LESCO-Costa Rican Sign Language).

Additional information including the trip itineraries are available at the GoPhilanthropic website. This article came almost entirely from the DDW blog.

Personally, I would love to take the Costa Rica trip. Is anyone else interested?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is Sign Language an International Language?


Photo taken by DDW Team in New Zealand and shared on flickr.

When I was telling my friends and family about Discovering Deaf Worlds, someone asked me if sign language is an international language. She meant, "Is it the same all around the world?" The answer is no. Sign language is unique to cultures and varies from country to country. When I took an ASL sign language, I was shown that there are regional variations as well. Deaf families may even use home signs that have special meaning to the family members.


Photo taken by DDW Team in Japan and shared on flickr.

Christy Smith and Dave Justice of Discovering Deaf Worlds experienced this firsthand when they traveled through Asia in 2007-2008. In their newsletters to supporters back home, they published examples of the fingerspelled alphabets for each country they visited. Their May 2008 newsletter includes the following excerpt:
....the first question our new hearing friends almost always ask is, “So sign language is universal, right? That must be cool to know a universal language!” But of course, sign language is not universal. The roots of sign language, just like any verbal language, are influenced by culture and geography. For example, the sign for “Thank you” in Japan is adopted from the karate-chop-like gesture a sumo wrestler makes after winning his prize money, whereas in China, “Thank you” is signed as a fist with a bending thumb to represent the subtle head nod Chinese people use to acknowledge thanks in passing.

Discovering Deaf Worlds holds this value to be central to its mission: "Local sign languages reflect the cultures in which they are rooted and must be preserved. "(October 2009 newsletter). While traveling through developing countries in Asia, Christy and Dave learned that Cambodia had no sign language before 1997 and the language is still in development today. In addition, Thai Sign Language was not recognized by the government as the official language of the deaf in Thailand until 1999. DDW is committed to helping the educational efforts of those teaching local sign languages. You can learn more by visiting their website at

In my next post, I will write about an exciting new venture that DDW has launched.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Discovering Deaf Worlds

Davin Searles, Christy Smith, and Dave Justice

Have you heard about Discovering Deaf Worlds?

This organization is the brainchild of Dave Justice (an ASL interpreter) and Christy Smith (a deaf contestant on Survivor). To get DDW started in 2007, the pair raised funds to spend a year traveling New Zealand, Australia, Japan, China, Thailand, Nepal, India, and Cambodia in search of deaf support groups in these countries. You can read the story of their adventures and the wonderful people they met along the way in their archived newsletters.

Three years later, Discovering Deaf Worlds is an official 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to empowering deaf and hard of hearing people in developing countries. Davin Searles has joined Dave and Christy as Executive Director and 9 board members have been selected.

DDW's first successful project was creating a film titled Discovering: Shuktara. This documentary tells the story of 18 boys and girls in Kolkata, India who were given a new chance at life after being abandoned by their families or escaping abusive homes. While many non-governmental organizations in India often overlook homeless children who are deaf, Shuktara embraces them. You can view a trailer of the film here.

The STAR (Shuktara Teachers and Role Models) Initiative has now been launched to provide training and educational materials for deaf Indian tutors to work with the children of the Shuktara homes on language development and vocational skills. The long-term goal is for the children to attain the skills, knowledge, and confidence necessary to run the homes independently. You can read more about it in their December 2009 newsletter.

In my next post, I will share more with you about Discovering Deaf Worlds.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fall Treat: Concord Grape Pie

Concord Grape Pie

My son and I baked this on Saturday. It was our very first grape pie. We enjoyed making this pie together. The basic recipe directions we followed can be found at

Concord grapes

This project started when I bought some luscious looking grapes at a farmers market. I had never purchased Concord grapes before. When I bit into them, the juice tasted sweet but the skins had a bitter taste. I knew my family wouldn't snack on them like we do the less flavorful seedless green grapes. I decided to look online for recipe ideas.

I found a recipe that I had all the ingredients for except an unbaked pie shell. So we quickly rolled out some pastry dough ourself. Most of the work making this pie came from separating the grape skins from the pulp and then later pressing the cooked pulp through a sieve to remove the seeds.

This pie smells heavenly while baking. Your hands will also have a nice fruity scent from handling the pulp. While the pie was in the oven, I got out two grape motif heirloom plates from my grandmother to serve my son and me the first pieces of our dessert. Cooks privilege and no one else was around the house at the time.

I think this pie looks as delicious as it tastes. This just may be a new annual fall tradition at our house.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I Need My New Glasses!

How I Feel About Having to Wear My Old Glasses Again

In June, I posted about how I lost my glasses. To this day, they still haven't turned up. In August, I posted about how I got a new pair of glasses. Well, not long afterwards, I opened my case one morning to find the frame broken. Argh. All I could figure out was that the hard shell case must have been just a bit too small for this pair and over time the pressure on the frames snapped them. Sigh. I took them back to the optical shop for a replacement. The optician thought perhaps it was due to a weak frame rather than the case, but she promised to give me a bigger one next time.

On Friday September 3 I got the call that my glasses were in and ready for pickup. I was elated. It would be tight for me to get there before the optician left for the day but I managed to arrive 5 minutes before she left. I immediately put my new glasses on and put my old pair in the new, larger case I was given. Right away I noticed a difference in my vision but figured that was due to the bifocals. After I left, I stopped at the pharmacy and then drove home. By that time I realized I wasn't seeing quite as well as I should. I chalked it up to a smudge on the lenses.

When I got inside the house, I took my glasses off to clean them and saw 7 scratches on the left frame and 3 on the right. What!!! In disbelief I sprayed them with my lens cleaner and wiped them off carefully with the cloth provided by the optician. Sadly, the scratches remained.

I returned to the optical shop. The optician was gone for the day but another lady was still there at the doctor's office. I told her what had happened and asked her to take a look. She verified that indeed there were scratches. I left the glasses with her with a note for the optician. From the parking lot, I left a voice mail for the optician explaining the situation. I was very upset as you can imagine, but I chose to calmly explain the situation without any editorializing about what I thought of the service I had received. Over the weekend, I wondered what the optician was going to say.

The next Monday I got a call from her. She apologized profusely and explained that she hadn't examined the glasses before she gave them to me other than a quick look to see that the frame was replaced. She told me she would return them to the lab and let them know she didn't appreciate this type of service for her clients. Well, I was relieved to hear that.

Then I waited and waited and waited some more. My old glasses were really old as in I can't even remember when I got them. I was getting by but at first I experienced a slight headache from them and I missed being able to read and do crossword puzzles like I could with the bifocals.

Yesterday (thirteen days later) I called the optician. "Had she heard from the lab about my glasses?", I inquired. Yes, my glasses were in but she hadn't examined them yet. She didn't want to release them "too soon like last time", she said. Uh, huh. Then I sat by the phone all afternoon waiting to hear back from her. No call. No voice message. I wondered if she had looked at them and what the verdict was.

This morning with some trepidation, I phoned her. "Oh yes, Sarah, I needed to call you. Your glasses are fine and you can pick them up anytime." What a relief! If I could have, I would have left immediately. Later today, I will be picking them up and hoping this is the last time I post about eyeglasses for a long time.

This has been a life lesson for me in "speaking up" for myself - something I find rather hard to do.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hearing Loss Support Group Picnic

Jen and me

Last Saturday two wonderful hearing loss support groups in my area met together for a picnic. Members of the Chicago and Northwest Indiana chapters of ALDA (Association of Late Deafened Adults) and HLAA (Hearing Loss Association of America) enjoyed an outdoor lunch at a park in Dyer, a town located on the Indiana/Illinois border.

At last year's picnic I met Jen [pictured above] for the first time. We saw each other again at the HLAA convention in Milwaukee and have stayed in touch sporadically through email and facebook. It was amazing to see her again at this event, one she drove a significant distance to attend.

Bill and Ann

I was also happy to spend time with Bill and Ann who are new to the group(s). They are a couple I know from my church who I have encouraged to come to other events, but this was the first one they were able to attend. It was interesting to share our hearing loss experiences. Interestingly, they've recommended that I sit by them in church so I will hear better. They said I've been sitting in a very bad spot for sound. Further into our conversation, I found out that Bill is sponsoring a short story contest and that Ann is in the process of writing a cookbook with recipes for cooking from scratch. I'm looking forward to hearing more about those projects.

As this was my third time coming to the picnic, I saw a lot of familiar faces. Big smiles and hugs were the standard greeting here. Even though I had a few butterflies in my stomach before coming, reminiscent of my first time, I was able to morph into a social butterfly once I arrived because I felt welcomed by everyone. Especially Kim, Tahar, Kitty, Marsha, Ann, Gary, Jen, and Linda.

I recommend that everyone with hearing loss join a support group and make friends with people who understand what it's like and will take the time to communicate with you. Here are links to the two groups that sponsored the picnic. They are national organizations with local chapters throughout the country.

ALDA - Association of Late Deafened Adults

HLAA - Hearing Loss Association of America

If any of my international readers would like me to add the links to their organizations, please leave me a comment and I will add them to this post. Thanks.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Real Man

(romantic beach whatever) What Makes Men Tick (Woman Alive series, 1972)

A Real Man

A real man is a woman's best friend. He will
never stand her up and never let her down.
He will reassure her when she feels insecure
and comfort her after a bad day.

He will inspire her to do things she never
thought she could do; to live without fear
and forget regret. He will enable her to
express her deepest emotions and give in to
her most intimate desires. He will make sure
she always feels as though she's the most
beautiful woman in the room and will enable
her to be the most confident, sexy,
seductive, and invincible.

No wait... sorry... I'm thinking of wine.
It's wine that does all that.......
Never mind.

This gem came to me in my email today and I couldn't resist passing it on. If any readers want to share their idea of a real man, or if any men want to respond, please leave a comment.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Flowers for Friday: Pretty in Purple

Morning glory

Balloon flower

Shadows on the picnic table

There isn't much left blooming in our yard these days. Soon it will be time for the chrysanthemums, herald of the fall season. Autumn is my favorite time of year. I like the cooler temperatures and the sunny days seem even more precious when I know that winter will be next. What's your favorite season?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Black Sand ASL Movie

Have you seen the ASL movie Black Sand?

A deaf organization in my area sponsored a showing at a church recently. I was very excited about seeing it after my previous experience watching Gerald. This time I brought along my husband (who is hearing) so I'll share some of his perspective on the film too.

Black Sand is about a group of teenagers visiting Costa Rica and their stay at the home of an older woman who has recently been experiencing strange happenings around her property. For me the premise was reminiscent of Scooby Doo with its gang of young people and a mysterious creature lurking in the shadows. Not to give anything away but there's even an unmasking at the end!

That said, this movie is so much more. Nothing is as it seems. All your assumptions will be overturned before the final scene. If you like a movie with twists and turns, this is the film for you.

The title of the film has its own part to play in the plot twists. I found this interesting quote about black sand (the grainy stuff on the beach, NOT this movie) on a prospector's website:
The topic of black sand comes up in prospecting sometimes more than gold does! And it is very misunderstood. You often read or hear that the presence of black sand in an area means there is gold in the area also. This is not true.
You may want to keep that quote in mind when you see the film!

This movie has no audio. The story is told through ASL with English captions at the bottom for those like me who aren't fluent and those like my husband who don't know any ASL. There are no sound effects described. For my husband it was like seeing any foreign film but for me it was an opportunity to experience deaf culture.

To me the director did an excellent job of building suspense. In one scene there is a power outage and everyone is gathered around a table by candlelight when they notice one of them is missing. In another scene, one of the girls is hiding in a closet peeking through a crack wondering if she is about to be discovered. I thought how much more scarier it was for the deaf characters to have their vision limited in these situations. My husband didn't see it that way. He thought the lack of scary music made it less intense. In fact, he cracked that the soundman for the film should have been fired.

If you've seen the film, let me know your thoughts. If you haven't seen it, you can visit the ASL Films Black Sand website to read a synopsis, view the trailer, and book a showing.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Little Late to the Julie & Julia Party

This weekend, my husband and I watched the film Julie & Julia. If you haven't seen it yet, this movie is about a young wife named Julie who takes on the challenge of making every recipe, 524 of them in all, from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in the space of a year. At her husband's suggestion, she blogs about her experiences, both disasters and successes.

Almost everyone I know has seen this movie and recommended it. I don't know why I waited so long to see it. I guess it was hard for me to imagine Meryl Streep as Julia Child. I'm just old enough to remember Julia Child's first cooking series on TV and to have a fixed idea of what she looked like. But I needn't have worried, Meryl Streep drew me in right from the start of the movie. Of course, I've loved Amy Adams, who plays Julie, since I first saw her in Enchanted.

This movie was utterly relaxing. I found myself enjoying learning about Julia Child before she was "Julia Child" and I'm eager to read the biographical story, My Years in France on which half of the movie was based. I've been to France myself and have memories of their wonderful food. When I was there, I felt as though my stomach were smiling. To share that with my family, last night I made croque monsieur, the only French dish I know how to cook. Don't be too impressed. It's only grilled ham and cheese.

Did you know?
  1. Julia Child's first cooking series was the first television program to be captioned for the deaf.
  2. The movie Julie & Julia is the first major motion picture based on a blog.
Information obtained from Wikipedia.