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Monday, March 7, 2011

For My Birthday

This year for my birthday I gave myself a fantastic present. I took a trip to Costa Rica with Discovering Deaf Worlds from February 24 - March 5.

This was an opportunity for me to push myself way out of my comfort zone. I traveled with a group of people I had never met before, most of whom were deaf and communicated solely by sign language. During the trip, I hiked in the rain forest, zip lined down a mountain, and climbed to a waterfall. I was tested mentally, physically, and socially.

A fellow traveler asked what drew me to taking this trip with Discovering Deaf Worlds. My answer was that since receiving my diagnosis of hearing loss, I have had the benefit of hearing aids, assistive listening devices, CART captioning, and other technologies. I have had the opportunity to learn ASL and watch interpreters at several events. Truly, I feel blessed to live in this country where help is available. I wanted to travel to a less fortunate place and see if I could be of any assistance or encouragement to the people there.

In the days to come I will write several posts describing the journey and what I learned in Costa Rica. But for now, I'd like to wrap up with this anecdote. At the farewell dinner the last night of our trip, I was asked what I would take away from this experience. I replied two things came to mind. The first was that I was grateful for all that I could hear. At home my focus has often been on what I miss or don't hear correctly. But in Costa Rica, I was amazed by all that I was able to hear. I could understand bits of Spanish. I could hear environmental sounds that my fellow travelers couldn't.

The second takeaway from the trip for me was that I need to open my heart to people more. At home I tend to isolate myself and avoid difficult communication situations. In Costa Rica, I learned the joy of interacting and that it's okay to say that I haven't understood what was expressed. One of my proudest moments on the trip was when I had breakfast with a deaf man from Costa Rica who signed LESCO sign language and a deaf woman from Australia who signed AUSLAN sign language. Despite our differences, we were able to have a real conversation. That morning I could have easily stuck to English speakers or ASL signers but I would have missed my chance to get to know two amazing people better.

In the year to come I hope I can continue to move out of my comfort zone and push forward. As they say in Costa Rica, Pura Vida.

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