Today was an absolutely wonderful day and I want to get it all down before crashing in bed tonight and before things get really busy tomorrow. We had an INCREDIBLE day!!! First of all, I was not prepared for how alike South Africa is to the states. It was a beautiful summer day with a nippy wind. There are full-blown roads, pedestrian crossings, and the people actually follow the road rules here! We each commented to each other how odd it feels now not to just zip through traffic. It was amazing too because we would constantly assume it was a SAS student if someone was white, simply because every port we’ve been to so far: Bahamas, Dominica, Brazil, and Ghana, we have stood out from the crowd. There were also skyscrapers, nice restaraunts, beautiful flora along the roads, and the sides of the road had relatively little trash! My goodness, we were in shock and honestly I’m glad we get this little breather from VERY new experiences haha. However, about the time I do Habitat for Humanity on the last day we will see the other side of South Africa as well: it covers lingering problems well.
Ok, so Tory, Heather, Gabby, Alyssa, Kara and I went to a Deaf School this morning! Again, it was an INCREDIBLE experience and we had a ball. For the first time so far in the journey we arrived at the school without getting lost once and the directors knew we were coming and even had tea and sandwiches prepared! (We arrived in time for tea time 😉 ) I grabbed water and a sandwich instead, but it was cool to have tea time with all of the teachers and be able to laugh and enjoy mingling with them before meeting the children.
I learned that there are 14 sign languages in South Africa and that each province tends to teach different signs in their schools. The school we went to today, for example, had been founded by Irish nuns and so the signs were a distant relation to Irish sign. Johannesburg has incorporated some ASL into their sign language, creating either a Pidgin sign or a dialect. It was just so neat, again, to compare signs! We had to do a lot of gesturing to get ideas across but the nice part was that a good portion of the children and Deaf teachers aids knew some English, so we could fingerspell if absolutely needed. They taught spoken and written English and Afrikaans* at this school. There were no Deaf teachers as there are not enough interpreters or money to pay for interpreters at the universities so that Deaf people can get degrees. I don’t know Irish sign language but their sign language used only one hand for letters (almost exactly similar to ASL) and then two hands for numbers (very similar to British sign). It was fascinating to see the merging of the languages. [Note-* Mom maybe add the following: The Afrikaaners are an ethnic group in South Africa who speak Afrikaans
which is a language that derived from mixing Dutch and African languages in the late 1800s and early 1900s.]
Anyways, the children were so nice and it was good to see sign language being used by the teachers in the classroom. However the children were confused as to why hearing people would sign like a Deaf person (meaning sign without speaking at the same time) and why we would sign among each other if we could speak. We just stressed that we want to sign, that we prefer sign. It was interesting because I asked one of the Deaf teachers aids while in the class if she thought hearing people treated Deaf as equal. (She was very active in the Deaf community and at the Cape Town Deaf clubs. Also married a Deaf man and her children know sign.) However, after class was out and the hearing teachers were gone, we got into a discussion for over an hour about the lack of equality. She also asked me a MILLION questions on HOW Deaf people have the rights they do, HOW the DPN movement started, HOW…HOW…HOW. I did my best to answer and exchanged information so I can get back to her on more information. It was an incredible discussion. I was surrounded by so many Deaf and they were asking a hundred questions a minute and I would gesture back all the answers I had. It was incredible how smoothly the communication went and by the time we left, all of us had a hard time switching out of the South African Sign we had learned–we had been using it for almost 4 hours solid and used every South African sign upon learning it. It was definitely the most enlightening and inspiring conversation I have had this entire voyage. Their desire for rights, their desire to change South Africa gave me the goosebumps as I conversed with them in their sign. I can’t say enough, it was an incredible experience. While the school was not perfect (and it really stressed speaking), at least the students were well cared for, had more than enough school supplies, had Deaf adult role models and were learning trades such as hair styling, crafts, wood shop, etc.) It was a wonderful experience and we felt so loved and welcomed!
Quick funny language mishap. One of the teachers pointed out a student who was Muslim and signed Muslim in South African Sign. I reciprocated by signing Muslim in ASL to which she laughed at the children’s faces because that sign in South African Sign Language meant “terrorist” Yep! Thankfully, the girl was REALLY sweet, forgave us, and became one of our buds the rest of the day 🙂 Haha, oh we love language mishaps! 😉
We made it back to the boat swiftly (a first, yay!) and then Kara and I grabbed lunch, took a nap and then went on a hike to Lion’s Head Mountain. It took us about 2 hours to get to the top with the SAS group, but we were their for an INCREDIBLE sunset! We got so many pictures as the view was just spectacular and we were literally at the very top. I’m just so glad I got a nap because the hike was slightly rigorous and I’m going to feel it tomorrow lol. But it was SO worth it! So you know, to my knowledge I have only missed ONE nap this entire trip. I set my goal to take a nap everyday and I have not only done this, but sometimes have squeezed in two! (Lol, seasickness does make us more sleepy haha). Anyways, we got to see the sunset and then hiked back down in the dark and…TUH DUH! I got to see a sky FULL of stars–the southern hemisphere night sky! The stars (besides Orion) were completely different from our sky back home and it was an incredible feeling to know I was looking at the stars used by explorers long ago to reach the tip of South Africa.
Life is SO good! I can’t believe we’re here–man, so many blessings!!! I love you all–may not be able to right you until Wednesday…we’ll see what my plans are and where I end up over the next week.