I just got back from a total immersion sign language camp. It was great! There were about 47 adults and young adults there, mostly from Oregon and Washington, but a few other states as well. The eight teachers are all Deaf and were wonderful.
I have tons to talk about, hehe, so I’ll tell all about my week in a few different posts.
Since it was total immersion, we weren’t allowed to use our voices at all. Before I left, everyone was teasing me because I don’t tend to stay quiet for very long. ;-) But I didn’t have a problem. It was more frustrating for the beginner signers, but my skills are enough that I could generally at least get my idea across and understand what was being said. I really appreciated having five days of full immersion.
On Saturday we went to Saturday Market--an outdoors market with vendors selling all sorts of different kinds of things. We had to pretend we were deaf and interact with the vendors without using voices. I found that everyone was very kind and did their best to figure out how to communicate with me. For most of the vendors, we could use gestures to communicate, and they figured out to hold up how many fingers the cost was. Because of my food allergies, I had to do more written communications with the food vendors. The first one I tried just looked blankly at my paper asking if the meat pockets had tomatoes in them. I realized he didn’t speak or read much English, so I tried someone else and found something I could eat.
A few of the other campers had some funny stories. It’s rather funny to be able to hear what people are saying about you, when they think you can’t. One person was trying to buy something and heard the following conversation between the vendors:
“Hey, doesn’t your uncle know signs?”
“Oh, yeah, I think so.”
(since the uncle wasn’t there, this was hardly helpful information)
“Hmm… Hey! Maybe he can read.”
They write a note. The camper (he must have some writing blood in him somewhere) then actually edited the English spelling and grammar of the note, answered it, and handed it back. We laughed so hard when he told us about that!
One of the Deaf teachers voices really well, and she was having a bit of trouble communicating with a food vendor at the Saturday Market. So she looked around to make sure no campers were watching and then voiced that she didn’t want onions. Ha! Just then four campers came around the corner and caught her in the act. Too funny.
On the last morning of camp we were allowed to speak. It was so funny to hear everyone’s voices. It was like, “Wow, I didn’t know you had an accent.” Or, “Oh, your voice is deeper than I expected.”
Now that I’m home, instead of being all excited to use my voice, I’m feeling sign withdrawal and keep trying to sign to my family who doesn’t know any ASL. As much as I enjoy seeing my family again, I wasn’t quite ready to come home.