Before Lilo and I began our backpacking journey in 2014, we were discussing about our different personal wishes. We came up with ideas:
we had to meet different Deaf people around the world.
“We’ll hunt for them if we had to,” we jokingly said.
If you didn’t know, my fellow readers, other countries do NOT sign the same as American Sign Language (ASL). They have their own sign language, and it is often vastly different. How do we communicate? It’s quite hard to explain for those who don’t know much about Deaf culture, but I’ll simply describe this way for now:
First, Just like English (a global language), ASL is also like a global sign language.
It’s one of the most common ways to communicate between different Deaf communities because English is most a global language. Therefore, every Deaf person I’ve met said they took ASL courses in school and/or developed further skills for their own personal interests. Some new Deaf friends I’ve met knew a little or some ASL.
Secondly, sign language is a visual language.
There are some similarities or some signs that just make sense to us when communicating, especially their expression. One example is when you commonly gesture “eat,” they would sign similarly or differently.
Lastly, now there is International Sign (IS)
that comprised of international gestures where they hope to the gap between different sign languages to communicate and understand each other – most particularly at events, such as World Federation for the Deaf (WFD); IS isn’t really used worldwide yet, but the people I’ve talked with so far is hoping that will change in the future.
Anyways! Here is our adventure in 2014:
Lilo and I were roaming around in Seoul. We coincidentally walked past other Deafs. In my peripheral vision, I saw hand gestures as we walked past in opposite way. I turned around and wondered if I was right. They also happened to turn around and spotted me staring at them like a shocked deer, haha. I asked in ASL, “are you guys Deaf?” They responded, “yes, we are deaf.” They signed “Deaf” very similar in Korean Sign Language (KSL). Lilo and I got so excited, and we all just greeted right away and successfully communicated. We were in awe how different their sign language were and learned some. They were also in awe with ASL as well and wanted to learn ASL.
I really love how we just get each other, and I’m telling you – deaf culture. deaf community. It was an extraordinary feeling.
We decided to exchange contact information to hang out:
We met up at the local cafe. Unfortunately, the girl (from the first photo) was unable to hang out, and Jaewoo kindly introduced us to his friend, Juyeon. We chatted for hours and taught each other our sign languages. If you are reading this, I’m happy that we met! (:
A week later, we traveled to southern city, Busan. One day, we were in line waiting for the subway. While waiting, one of these guys came up and asked if we are Deaf. We excitedly said, “yes, we’re Deaf.” Then he asked where we came from, “America,” we responded. I giggled when I understood when one told his friend, “See! I told you they are from America!” even it is in KSL. Although we only hung out shortly in the subway, we exchanged Facebook information to keep in touch.
Thanks to our friend, we were introduced to a Japanese friend, Go. He knows ASL and Japanese Sign Language (JSL), and we find it fascinating. I wish I know Mexican Sign Language (LSM) and other sign languages. We hung around twice in Tokyo, and he showed us around. We also came across two sweeeeet old Deaf ladies at Starbucks. I wish we took a photo with them, but we just forgot since we were too excited to chat with them. They told us that they have been friends for decades! Decades! Go kindly introduced us to his Hearing friend who know JSL and ASLyou for showing us around, Go!!
Unfortunately, we did not meet up any Deafs in Taiwan. We went to Taipei School for
The Hearing Impaired DEAF. The reason why I scratched that is because the word, “hearing impaired,” is offensive, if you didn’t know. We went there on our very last few hours in Taiwan before flying to Singapore (for about 18 hours layover). I wish we did hunted Taiwanese Deaf people earlier but visiting the school was good enough. Till next time!
Due to only spending couple hours outside in the city, we did not made new Deaf Singaporean friends nor visited the Deaf school. However, we spotted one Deaf guy who was sitting behind me while we wait for the subway to head back to the airport. If you know me well, I’m actually generally shy when meeting new people. Traveling helped me a lot to get out of my comfort zone though! I asked if he was Deaf, and he said yes. Before I get ask more about himself, he got up and left. I was a little disappointed but oh well, he probably was in a hurry, who knows?
In Bangkok, we coincidentally passed by a Deaf couple! They approached us excitedly, “are you Deaf?” We were in awe how lucky we were to coincidentally meet each other, and we got along fast. Their sign language is vastly different, and we learned so much from them. They took us to school for the Deaf, and the environment was much more different comparing to other deaf schools I went. I saw Deaf students playing around with soccer barefeet! I actually really like it, the children were happily playing. Thank you for showing us around!
My Deaf friends, don’t be shy to meet others when traveling! It’s worth the experience (: Overall, I’m happy to meet you all!
Question for the Deaf community:
Is it also one of your goals to meet other Deafs?
Question for Hearing community:
Would you be open-minded to meet Deaf people if you saw them?