13 March 2010

This morning, after a restful sleep, we took a walk to a local diner and had breakfast. This was the first time we had to interact with the community of Santo Domingo and deal with monetary transactions. Needless to say, the students were funny in attempting to figure out local customs and monetary value. In the end, it all worked out. Next, we met a Deaf Barber (age 65) who was very friendly. We tried to get his name but only got his name sign. He invited us back to his place in the evening to meet his wife, “Mare”, who was out of town for the day.

We, next, proceeded to the local grocery store to stock up on some food items and water for the week. The exchange is very good and we are amazed at the value we are getting for the price quoted. We wandered back to the hotel, and some serious sun-soaking time was wanted by the students. Thus, an afternoon at the pool was in order. While this was happening, I made my way back to the barber shop to get a haircut and my first full shave from a barber. I like his handiwork and am very pleased with his work. I asked for his opinion and he said to have  soul patch .. so a soul patch I have .. but for how long is the question .. lol.

We found our way to local eatery for dinner and back to the Barber.

Ramon, the "Barber"!

The place in front of his shop was the place to be for we met 5 other members of the Deaf community just by sitting out front. Through all the dialogue, laughs, jokes, and questions, we forgot to get the real name of the Barber. This will give us another mission to set when we return for more visits. The students had  a great time interacting with the folks we met and feel a bit more comfortable entering the schools knowing they had this type of interaction with Deaf adults. Overall, it has been a good day as we prep for our busy week with students this coming week. Being comfortable in the language is part of the challenge and having face-to-face interaction tonight allowed the students to feel a bit at ease.

Some interesting tidbits were learned while conversing with our new found amigos … beware of individuals on motorbikes. This is one known way of robbery. You may be walking with a package or with your purse swinging. The perpetrator will ride up along side of the unsuspecting individual, grab the item, and zoom off on the motorbike leaving you helpless. This is a common means of mugging and we are to be careful at all times.

Some interesting thoughts shared were related to being Deaf in the country. One individual, “Wes”, was married for twenty years to a hearing woman. Once the grown children left the home, Wes left his wife. He was very frustrated with his living situation for she never bothered to learn his language. Wanting to be employed, he took a job with his brother that is three hours east of the city. He commuted daily for 30 years to work. He is now “retired” for he does not want to commute any more.

Another individual we met, “John”, has been gainfully employed for 15 years here in the city. He works for one of the large hotels on the main ocean strip. He says he is very fortunate to be working and if he did not have a job, he would probably kill himself for he wants to be productive. He knows it is hard for a deaf person to get a job in this country and is thankful. His boss bought him an hearing aid and he liked using it when he went clubbing. But, the aid is now broken and he can not afford to get it fixed so it sits at his home. He believes hearing aids are more expensive here than in America. We chuckled at this. Then, we mentioned how one of our students has a cochlear implant and this is very expensive. They were all shocked at this and so she demonstrated how the procedure is for an implant. She also demonstrated how she has to put it on. John says he wants one.

“Juan” is another fascinating individual we were conversing with during the night. Juan has a great sense of humor and and his ability to manipulate the language was fascinating to watch. He is in his early fifties. I recommended that he should be around young Deaf children for he has a wonderful way of explaining concepts. He says he tried but the school did not want him around the campus. In fact, all parties in the conversation last night agreed that they had a better education than the students completing today’s program.

The last interesting person we met was Mare’s oldest son. He is a CODA but did not sign very well. Most of the communication was oral. (I always find it fascinating to hear a Deaf person speak and it is in Spanish with an accent!) I mentioned that my parents were Deaf, as well, and he was surprised. He began conversing with me, in Spanish, but I am very language impaired in this area. Mare did the translating for us. Due to the stigma, there was no interest in learning how to sign.

Overall, we had a group of Deaf individuals ranging in age from 65 – 32. You could see how the language use was different for each generation. This corresponds to other studies conducted in sign language in developing countries. The use of the language in setting up concepts becomes more sophisticated as you move into the younger generation. This phenomena is more obvious in an intergenerational setting than if you were with a particular age group all the time. The basic principle is young language users benefit from the transformation of the language as the language evolves. I will be curious to see the language use of the young Deaf children we will be working with this week for these children basically come from home environments were no one signs and no one is interested in learning. Thus, these children arrive to school severely language deprived. This will be a challenge for us in interacting with the students and attempting to build linguistic and academic concepts.

A fascinating observation deals with the earthquake in Haiti. Each person we talked with during the course of the evening indicated that God is protecting the Dominican Republic and the fate of the country in in His hands. They do not believe the people of Haiti were faithful enough to have God intervene and protect them. This sense of entitlement and God-fearing is what is protecting the country as opposed to the Haitians. A natural disaster is just that, a natural disaster. This occurs as a cause and effect of the earth’s composition and not because God has willed it.  This concept of what occurred in Haiti is not the God I know. If you remove this type of thinking, or belief, from their way of thinking, will one cause a person’s faith to be less?

Not sure what tomorrow will bring for we will head to Deaf-lead church run by a Deaf Pastor, Rev. Hector. We will spend time with the folks who attend and then have Hector brief us on the history of the Deaf community in the Dominican Republic.

On another note, one of our students had a rough day, yesterday, not feeling well at all. However, we are happy to report that she is now on the mend and we are all relieved to see this. We do need to take it easy, though, so we do not overtax ourselves with activities.

Lastly, I did not take pictures today so I am waiting for some pictures to be uploaded from the students.

Buenas noches,

Mark

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2 Responses to “13 March 2010”

  1. dottie Says:

    This was a great read, I look forward to learning more about the Deaf community in the DR.

    Glad Becca is feeling better, hope you all get time to relax in the sun before you begin your work tomorrow!

  2. karen Says:

    Becca’s mom here. Thanks to all for being supportive of her while she got through the stomach flu:). Thanks so much for the blogging. I, too, am fascinated with the language learnings. Have a great week!

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