Monday, September 24, 2007

In Limbo

Today was the first day of the Fall term. I guess I never got around to blogging last year about the fact that I decided to add a year to my schooling. It was kind of a stressful time and I didn’t blog much then. I think most of you know anyway, but when I reached the third term of my first year in the interpreting program, I realized that I wasn’t ready. The first two terms are more how to interpret, and the third term you really get into the interpreting itself. I was still struggling too much with the language and wasn’t ready to focus on interpreting.

My grades were all fine at that point, so technically I could have kept pushing through. But after spending much of the first couple weeks of the term in tears because I was so frustrated and stressed, I spoke to my teachers to see if it would be possible to retake a few of the first year classes before continuing on with the harder interpreting classes.

They agreed to let me. As far as I know, I’m the first person to voluntarily drop back and retake classes in this program. A lot of people fail out and retake, and it’s common to have three years before you graduate the program. Most of those retake second year classes, though. I felt it would be better to get a stronger foundation of the language down first, so that I could better learn and focus on the interpreting part of it.

While it was a hard decision at first, especially to think of leaving my classmates, who are a second family, I’m really glad I am doing it this way. I continued with half the classes that third semester and then have worked hard all summer. My skills have improved a lot, and I’m looking forward to seeing them improve even more this next year.

It was kinda odd going back to the ASL class I’ve already taken. I’m surrounded by 23 other students who are scared, nervous, and feeling overwhelmed with the immersions into signing. They talk about being nervous at Deaf events, and scared of presenting things in front of the class…

I listen, and I remember so well those feelings, but no longer struggle so much with them. But I’m but weak in ASL grammar and the use of the language just the same as them. I feel a little stuck between two worlds--one foot in the first year and one foot in the second year. One annoying thing (lol) is that I don’t have a good answer for a simple question I get asked constantly--“What year are you?” Everyone in the Deaf Community is familiar with the program I’m in, and knows it’s a two year program. It’s a simple question that, from me, requires either a long answer or a incomplete answer. Oh well.

My decision to voluntarily retake some classes will perhaps result in more students following my example as needed. It’s rather exciting to think that my decision may result in more interpreters with better skills. One of my classmates was also struggling, though her grades were okay. After seeing my decision, she decided to follow suite. She told me that it helped her to see how well it was working for me, and to see that I still was included fully in the second year group.

Besides the slight feeling of being in limbo, today went well. The students were nice, and I have some close friends from during the summer or past classes in the class. The second year students, last year’s family, have classes right after ours. We share a lunch break, so I was able to hang out with them for about 45 minutes.
I’ve been home for a week now, and a busy week it’s been, for sure! I tried to concentrate on getting rested up and ready for school. On Monday after my flight, I slept and rested all day and hung out with family. My family keeps mentioning how quiet it was while I was gone. ;-) They missed me a lot, and of course, I missed them, too.

On Tuesday I called up a friend I met a few months ago who will be a classmate this year to see if she wanted to work on fingerspelling with me. Breezy is really an answer to prayer. She lives about ten minutes from me (surprising, considering that our school is an hour drive away), she’s around my age, a Christian, and has free enough of a schedule that she’s been able to meet me at the last minute to practice signing quite often through the summer.

On Wednesday the language tutor managed to work me into his schedule. During much of the summer I would leave my tutoring sessions very discouraged because I was struggling so much. The last couple ones before I left for Australia were going much better, so I was hoping that I hadn’t lost too much during the month of little to no practice. My tutor actually said that it wasn’t obvious I hadn’t been practicing and commented on how much I’d improved since he started working with me.

On Thursdays whoever can from my class last year meets together for dinner and signing time. I’m impressed that we’ve been able to keep that up over the whole summer. It’s been really great for practice, and nice to keep in touch with friends, too.

Saturday I went to a Deaf Expo. That was awesome. Over two thousand people showed up throughout the day. There were 80 different booths offering various products or serviced of interest to the Deaf--everything from video relay services, to T-shirts with signing graphics, to free videos of the Gospels translated into ASL, to adoption agencies.

There was also a stage with productions going on all day. One of my teachers, Patrick Fischer, did some dramatic storytelling--he’s a professional actor as well as an ASL teacher. The performances were anything from the adoption agency explaining the details of adopting Deaf children, to fun things like Patrick and a magic show.

There were a ton of people there I knew from class, church, and other Deaf events. It was great just hanging out all day, browsing the booths, watching the performances, and chatting.

On Sunday my family went out to lunch together, and had a lovely time. Then in the evening we had a FaithWriters cyber party. We had 15 people chatting on instant messaging! How fun! Confusing for those not used to it, though. ;-)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Air Clinic

It started the day before my flight. I had abdominal pain that just seemed to get worse throughout the day. It occurred to me that a 13 hour flight over the mostly empty Pacific Ocean wasn’t exactly the most opportune place to have appendicitis. Visions ran through my head of those Readers Digest stories about a poor doctor doing emergency surgery on a suddenly dying patient. You know the ones--when the surgical equipment consists of a pocket knife and a drinking straw, and vodka doubles as antiseptic and anesthesia. Only nowadays I suppose it would have to be a plastic knife that did the honors.

Of course, my gut pain was only indigestion that was mostly gone the next day, but the whole thought process turned out to be sort of eerie foreshadowing.

About a third of the way into the flight, the call came over the sound system, as though right out of my dreams: “Would any medical personnel that happen to be on the flight please come to row 22?” I sent up a prayer for those involved, and then attached my rubber neck. For the next few minutes, any passenger who rose to stretch their legs or go to the loo was subject to Sticky-beak Amy’s scrutinizing gaze.

An older lady rose and headed toward the front of the plane. Ah ha, perhaps this was a nurse or doctor. A few minutes later she came back again, murmuring something about stretching her legs. Then a young distinguished-looking man, perhaps of Indian decent, rose from the seat directly in front of me. I assessed him. Yes, I could easily picture him a doctor. Then he turned to his friend. “Row 22, was it?”


It was quite some time before he came back again. I dozed with one eye open so as not to miss it. When he finally appeared, he started to slip into his seat without a word. Then, lucky me (good thing I’m not a cat), he stopped and faced his friend--and by default me. “She’s pretty sick. We’re going to land early,” he explained. “We’re gonna try to put down in Hawaii.”

We all stared at him.

He laughed. “No, really, she has a fever. I gave her an Advil.”

Nothing major. Good. So that was that.

At least for the moment. Several hours later I opened my eyes to find him once again returning to his seat. “This is becoming a regular free clinic,” he said wryly. “That guy passed out.”

For the entire rest of the flight, the poor doctor was in an out of his seat, attending his patients, often summoned by a pointed glance from a flight attendant. I’m not sure whether it was just the two sick people, or whether there were more. Or perhaps I was mistaken and there was only one, I’m not sure. At one point I saw the flight attendants giving oxygen to the lady.

About an hour away from our landing in California, an announcement came once again over the loud speaker. “Hello, this is the crew captain. We have a medical situation that is rapidly becoming an emergency. We’re going to land a little early and try to get into a closer gate. Please ensure that the aisles are clear and remain in your seats until the EMTs can come take out the patient.”

I exchanged glances with the man next to me. The crew captain’s voice sounded downright shaken.

The doctor in front of us was explaining to his friend that he’d once had a patient with the same symptoms as this person. He thought the person would be fine and was going to send them home when they keeled over and died, right on his medical table.

When we arrived, I was able to see that the lady, though surrounded by EMTs, was able to exit the plane on foot. I pray she recovers quickly. I hope the generous doctor has an uneventful rest of his journey.

Back Home

For my last night in Australia, Norm and Chrissy took me to their favorite restaurant, a military club. It was a lovely dinner with chatting and teasing, and the gentle music of a live pianist in the background. When we arrived back home, there was a small wrapped present on the front entry, addressed to me. I guessed who it was from, and couldn’t hide my pleased grin as I ripped open the envelope. The card was signed by each of the ladies from the nearby church’s women’s Bible study. These ladies have adopted Chrissy, and now me.

The gift was a mug adorned with Numbers “May the Lord bless you and keep you…” It will be a wonderful reminder of the love and care these women extended Chrissy and I.

The morning of the flight, I did the last bit of packing, then Chrissy, Norm, and I prayed together. At the airport we checked my bag and then lingered over a hot drink. Chrissy cried when I left for the gate. (Aunty Chrissy and Uncle Norm, I’ll miss you!) At least I will see them in two years, Lord willing, when they come to the US FW conference and do some sightseeing. Then a few years after that I plan to return to Australia for a Down Under FW conference.

Unlike my spacious flight to Australia, the return flight was completely full. My back problems and to the discomfort of the cramped seating area, so I only dozed now and then. As I’m writing this during my five hour California layover, I haven’t had more than a few cats naps for about 24 hours. I caught another cat nap on the waiting chairs here in the airport, too. But I probably will have been awake for about 33 hours before I’m able to get substantial sleep.

One benefit to a crowded plane, at least to an outgoing person like me, is that I have seat-mates to chat with. Across the aisle on my left was a family with an adorable year old baby. All the babies on the flight were remarkably good for how long of a flight it was. My seat-mate directly next to me was an Australian who was moving to London, with a sightseeing stop-over in New York. This is his first time in the US. Five years ago he returned to Australia after living in London for five years, so he was excited to be going back and connecting with his friends again. In the window seat, another young Australian man was headed back to his home of two years in Seattle, Washington.

I’ve dedicated a separate post to the adventures on the plane itself. ;-) Only a few more hours now, and I’ll be home!

P.S. I’m home! I was tired enough that I slept during most of the two and a half hour flight from California, but I’m still about to fall into the laptop, so g’bye for now.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Down Ender

One day left in Australia. This month went by in a blur. All week Chrissy and I have lamented--this is the last week. There’s so much I didn’t do…not only a couple of places here in the Sydney area we’d hoped to visit, but there are a few housework things I didn’t get to--back cupboards to scrub out, and last mop of the floor… Now I'm trying to get myself packed, Norm is packing for his two-week trip, and we're making sure things are ready for Chrissy to be on her own for two weeks. Visit, don’t be over yet!!

This week I’ve lingered over things, soaking it in, enjoying it. I listen extra closely to the Aussie accents, trying to absorb a little more of the drawl, the Down Under expressions. My eyes spot the brightly-coloured birds, and listen for their sounds that soon will fade from memory. Most of all, I enjoy Aunt Chrissy and Uncle Norm; their light banter and chuckles, the way Chrissy and I can talk FaithWriters and know that the other really understands, Chrissy's hearty laughter as she reads something funny on the message boards...

On Monday Deb Porter (from FW--the one who came home with me from the conference) and her daughter Kylie came to visit. It was a great time, and lovely to meet Kylie, who I’ve heard so much about. The time went too quickly, and I look forward to the second FW conference next summer, when we can once again catch up.

Several times this week Linda dropped by for a visit. She’s the leader of the Bible study that met here a couple of weeks ago--from the church that found out from a friend of a friend (times 4+-) that Chrissy was housebound. This group of ladies have swept us up with love and concern and blessed us so deeply. They will be checking daily on Chrissy while Norm is away, and Deb will come one day, too.

In the middle of the week, Linda brought another Bible study member to meet Chrissy. Lee-Ann wasn’t able to come to the meeting here last week, but will be one of the ones checking on Chrissy next week. She, too, was wonderfully sweet. Both Linda and Lee-Ann do a little writing, so of course we talked about FaithWriters. Linda joined last week, and it didn’t take much to get Lee-Ann totally excited about joining. She practically bounced out the door, eager to get home and sign up and start a challenge story right away.

This morning I woke to an email from Lee-Ann, offering to take me to see The Blue Mountains--one of the places we’d planned to go but weren’t able to make. It didn’t work for me to go today, but it was so sweet of her to offer.

I so wish I could take this group of ladies home with me. Chrissy is wishing she’d met them sooner. In a few months she and Norm will be moving quite a bit north in Australia. But several of these ladies reminded us that God puts people in our lives for special reasons, and for special--sometimes short--seasons. They’ll be here to step in when they are desperately needed--while Norm is on his business trip.

Tomorrow Chrissy and Norm will be going in the morning to help her parents as they prepare to move into assisted living. Meanwhile, I’ll pack (and sleep in a little ;-) ). In the evening, we’re going to their favorite restaurant for my last evening here. Then I fly out early Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Chocolate + Babies = Happy Amy

Today was a long, but good day. We left the house at 7:00 AM and returned about 8:30 PM. Chrissy and Norm’s youngest grandson is a month old and they haven’t yet been able to see him, so today we made the three-hour drive and got to visit their daughter, son-in-law, and the grandkids--three under the age of two-and-a-half!
I got to hold baby Dylan most of the time we were there, and played peek-a-boo with the older two. :-D And their dad taught me how to do a Tim Tam Slam--haha. A Tim Tam is two chocolate biscuits with chocolate filling, dipped in a chocolate coating (with that much chocolate, obviously they are yummy!). To do a slam, one bites off a small bit of opposite diagonal corners, then dips one bitten end in hot chocolate while sucking on the other end. As soon as you get a bit of moisture through the cookie, you have to quickly stick the whole--now soggy and melted--thing in your mouth before it disintegrates into your drink. LOL! On the way back home, we went to Hunter Valley. I guess there are a bunch of world-famous wine companies there, but we just walked through the shops--everything from a shop filled with different kinds of olive oils, to gift shops, to lolly shops.

We took the back road home to try to avoid the highway jammed with everyone returning from a weekend away. However, the road was solid curves the whole two-and-a-half-hours, so especially after the long day, Chrissy was in pretty severe pain by the time we got home. My back wasn’t real happy, either. ;-)

But we’re back home now, writing and recovering nicely. ;-) I can’t believe that in one week I’ll be flying over the Pacific Ocean right now. Time has gone fast! I haven’t done hardly any sign language or math studying while I was here, so I guess I better get busy, lol.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Last night a local church held their women’s small group at Chrissy’s house. A couple of women at that church found out that Chrissy was pretty much housebound from a friend of a friend of a friend who contacted a woman in that church who contacted the leader of this small group. She’s been to visit a couple of times and brought the small group over so Chrissy and I could attend.

What a blessing! It’s been a few years since I’ve been involved in a Bible study group and I’d forgotten how wonderful it is. The eclectic group of ladies were very open and very real. We worshiped a little and then the leader brought us into a discussion of how we have no condemnation in Christ, and how important it is to not waste our time beating ourselves up for this or that which we didn’t do or shouldn’t have done. Instead, we need to simply ask for forgiveness and move on in God’s grace. The discussion moved on to our focus in life--how we should be living for eternity rather than this lifetime on this world. Everything we do here should be preparing for eternity.

These ladies are going to jump in and help Chrissy after I leave. The day after I fly home, Norm is going to have to leave for TWO weeks, yikes. He got a promotion to Commanding Officer in the military, which is a great honor, but is required to have this two week training time in another city. We were quite worried about Chrissy being alone, but God is working things out. Another friend of Chrissy’s is going to make up a bunch of meals she’ll just be able to grab from the freezer and heat up, so with the Bible study ladies popping in to check on her, she should be okay.

Today Chrissy and I got to meet another FaithWriter friend for lunch. Chrissy had met Karen E. before, but it was my first time. It was a lovely lunch, and so nice to spend time in real life with our friend.Yesterday I came down with a cold. Thankfully it’s not a terribly bad one, but still enough to make me want to be sleeping a bit more than usual. Between that, getting ready for the Bible study, and everything else, I got a little behind on dishes. Norm was out of town, so I was juggling dinner and hand-washing the rest of the dishes. Chrissy and Norm’s son, Ken, comes on Wednesday nights and he got off work early today. He jumped right in and helped with dinner and the dishes. It was so nice and now we’re all caught up.

Well, I’m actually letting myself write a story for the FW challenge this week, so I better go back to it and then get to bed. G’night, mates!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Experiencing Australia

Well, I didn’t get to hold the koala after all, but I did get to pet one! The three of us went to Koala Park and saw all sorts of things. Koalas are nocturnal, so all of them were sleeping when we arrived. I guess there are about thirty of them allowed to roam freely through the park. A few of them are gathered to sleep in a certain area so one can easily be found and woken for petting times throughout the day. The marsupial was more interested in the eucalyptus leaves the ranger was bribing him awake with than us, and pretty much ignored the pats and flashing cameras.
We each got a turn petting him and posing for pictures. He was quite wooly, similar to very short sheep’s wool, and a tad greasy feeling like that, also. It was quite soft. Pat, to answer your question about smell, I didn’t notice it, but someone else commented on the smell and the ranger said it was from the eucalyptus diet. So you were right that they smell a bit. ;-)

The Koala Park had a ton of other animals, such as dingos, peacocks, an echidna, kangaroos and wallabies, emus, kookaburras, and such. There was also a very disturbed wombat. Poor thing was pacing in an unvarying pattern in just a small section of his enclosure. He was still plodding blindly when we came back by on our way out, and I finally thought to throw him some of the Cheerio-like food we’d bought for the animals. The snack successfully broke the spell, and he paused to eat.
In one area we were allowed to go in and play with the grey kangaroos. They ate the cereal out of our hands and let us pet them. They are a bit wooly, too, and very soft. One kanga reached up and held onto my hand as he ate. His long nails were rather prickly, but it was worth it!
There were various birds such as roosters, chickens, and wild birds wandering around, too. One pea hen became enamored with Chrissy’s wheelchair, and followed us everywhere we went until we finally snuck out of the kangaroo enclosure without her. She managed to find us later, though. LOL!

After the park, we drove to a spot overlooking Sydney harbor’s North Head, and had a lovely picnic there. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have, because I was feeling pretty nasty for a few hours. After lunch I started feeling better after we got on a ferry across the harbor. It was quite lovely and I got to see the opera house quite close up. I got some great pictures of it, too, as you can see if you follow the link at the end of this post. When we passed through a smaller straight of the water, the waves picked up and the ferry rocked about in a delightful way--at least, I enjoyed it. ;-)

On the other end of the boat ride, we roamed through another open market in an area called The Rocks. I picked up some gifts for family, and we just wondered and looked. There were musicians and performers in that area, also. We stopped and watched a contortionist squeeze herself into a tiny glass box. She said she was the only street performer world-wide who could do that trick.

As we ferried back to Manly Harbor, I watched the sun setting above the bridge and opera house--a picture that has become rather a trademark of Australia. Somehow it really sunk in--I’m in Australia!!