Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Miami Dade College Lecture and Farewell Miami!

Today is our last day in Miami, at 12am, we will be leaving the state to travel to Orlando and continue our adventures there. We have been in America a week now which means that A. we are all looking like tomatoes (Update: Arron is now peeling like a lizard- its hilarious) and B. we haven't managed to kill each other yet.  I am very proud to say that we have all managed to get by with a lot of laughs and a good deal of team work. 

We have all agreed that probably the best part of the trip was Monday night when JP invited us to sit in on one of his lectures on Deaf culture in America, mainly because it was hilarious and good fun and we met some lovely people who were on the interpreting course over at Miami Dade College. I was hit with massive sense of deja vu when first walking into the sign language lab because it was our lab (the one at UCLan) but in America, Nicola (our lecturer) might as well have been wandering in and out it was so similar. The room was lined with computers and posters littered the walls showing information on the word order of ASL and how to sign certain words such as 'special' or 'cancel'. It was silent when we walked in and everyone was signing. The teacher, Nadine, introduced her self in ASL and talked to the students in sign too, although she was hearing. JP was nowhere to be seen but were asked to sit and wait for him. Meanwhile, we taught Nadine the BSL alphabet which was hilarious, more students trickled in and introduced themselves and it felt a little like home. 

JP arrived and met us all and we exchanged signs for different things, such as 'how are you?' and 'Whats your name?' and had a photo taken where we were signing both ASL and English versions of these phrases. We just happened to meet NFL american football player, Kenneth Phillips that day which was a little surreal. It's not everyday you bump into a celebrity whilst wandering around a classroom, especially not one who was conversing in sign.

JP explained to us that the american football player was learning ASL not for a specific reason but just because he wanted to and found the language interesting. What impressed me was more was that he had Nadine working with him as an interpreter but he looked straight at John Paul instead of doing what most people do in the presence of an interpreter and ignore the deaf person He signed back, he tried,  rather than rely on the interpreter. We definitely need more people in the world who want to learn sign language just because they think they should. We definitely need more famous people to set an example and influence others, so that deaf awareness becomes a more common thing. I was awe-struck by this six foot seven, burly pioneer for the deaf community.

Now, I am not sure how many of you know our infamous lecturer Nicola Nunn, who is well known within our little small community at UCLan for being fantastic at whipping your sign language skills into shape and also because she signs in a pure form of BSL at about 100mph per hand. America has a Nicola Nunn, in the form of John Paul. My sense of deja vu increased when John  Paul started signing because of the visceral, natural way he signed,  and also because he finger spelt at the speed of light. John Paul is a real pioneer for the deaf community over in America, instilling in his students the need to go out into the deaf community and learn by meeting deaf people. He handed out pamphlet after pamphlet selling ASL themed t-shirts and advertising an ASL interpreted trip to the Bahamas, he told us of how he collected toys for children for various deaf organisations and then went on decrying that the deaf community should work together as one big team, all of them as brothers and sisters. Luckily, we were provided with two interpreters because with my limited amount of ASL knowledge, I would not have grasped the full meaning of what he was signing. His love of the deaf community was palpable and you could see he was a fantastic role model to his students, asking them why they weren't at the ASL coffee chat on Friday and why none of them had ever organised to go to Gallaudet.

Meanwhile, we sat nodding and joking and joining in with the class jokes and the teasing back and forth between Nadine, who had joined the class,  and John Paul, completely unaware that we were the guest speakers for this lecture. Yep that's right, with three seconds notice, we were asking to stand up and talk about ourselves. Alison went first as the person who was more confident in this situation, whilst I tried to stop my knees from knocking together, then Arron, then me and then Mel. They asked a lot of questions, about Alison's deafness, Arron's status as a CODA, my hopes as a future interpreter and Mel's Greek heritage. We talked of the Deaf community in Britain and about access and services for deaf people and our little world at UCLan. The classroom was a voice- off environment and we didn't feel comfortable talking so when Mel and Arron got up to speak, they signed BSL, one of our group interpreted into speech and then it was translated into ASL by the paid interpreters. It was a bit around the houses. I decided I would try be clever and sign ASL for my part, I seemed to make sense because I didn't see any blank faces and John Paul was nodding along. My knees were REALLY knocking together at this point.

Possibly, the best thing we got out of the visit to Miami Dade College, was the people we met afterwards who were students in the class. They were interpreting students like us and we learned a lot about the interpreting course at Miami Dade and the Deaf community over in America from the conversations we had comparing Britain and America's Deaf community. They were as passionate as we were, and incredibly welcoming, accepting us into their group and taking us for food and to play pool. We made some good friends and I hope we will see them all again soon. We are grateful to them, John Paul and the Miami Deaf community for accepting us so wholeheartedly into their group, it has been an amazing experience. 

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