The year of 2018 was a huge year for me. I decided to do slow traveling for a year straight with my partner after finishing graduate school, packed everything into my 40L backpack and told mi anxious mama, “Porque solo tengo una vida, ma.” Although mi papa thought that I was running away, maybe I was. But I knew I really needed this.
I hope to write my experiences of meeting diverse Deaf communities every year, but now that I really think of it: I don’t think that’s probably realistic. But who knows? It doesn’t have to be internationally like one of my old post called “Meeting Deaf People in other countries.” It can be in my own country or even my own city. I also have been asked often by many Deaf or Hard of Hearing, how is it that I’ve been finding the Deaf community? In this series, you may see little detail about how I find them, but I advise you to read my post: how to find a Deaf travel buddy for further details.
Before continue reading my experiences, don’t forget to read the first part of this post. I mean, it was a year-long backpacking trip. How could I cram it all into one post?
August 2018, for a week.
Yau Ma Tei area
Instagram, networking, visiting a local Deaf organization
Northern Hong Kong areas, remote areas like Sai Kung
Deaf school, Deaf owned businesses, etc.
To be honest, visiting Hong Kong again wasn’t my intention. I didn’t expect I’d be back so soon again but it was one of the best countries to get a visa for China. Getting a visa for China in Taiwan wasn’t really possible (and it’s more expensive) due to politic issues between them. Although I didn’t really connect anyone at deeper levels when I visited in 2015, I wanted to see Jenny again (a well-known Deaf Hong Kongese advocate) and learn their current situations. I also set a new goal: meeting more Deaf travelers.
I contacted a Deaf Hong Kongese male traveler on Instagram but he was out of the county at the time and referred me to two other Deaf female travelers. In less than a week visit in Hong Kong, I visited a local Deaf organization, met Jenny, a famous Deaf Hong Kongese dancer (named Jason Wong), one of the referred Deaf female travelers, another Deaf female traveler (that I’ve also been following on Instagram for years) and interviewed her to share her experience as LGBTQ+ Deaf traveler.
One of the Deaf people (named “Ada”) I’ve met was bit difficult to communicate with. It wasn’t because of using gestures or International sign, but it was because that person didn’t really attempt to engage into conversation. I found myself initiating different topics, attempting to fill the silence moments and ease her serious poker face. Was it something I did? I thought. Then Ada insisted on seeing me again, so I attempted for the second time. The situation remained the same on the following day, making me realize that I did nothing wrong. But why should I kept on trying spending time with someone who don’t seem in the mood to have a conversation? I had a hard time connecting with Ada. So, Deafhood do exists, but it doesn’t mean that every single Deaf person who meet each other are able to connect beyond our Deaf identity. Sometimes some people aren’t really able to have a compatible friendship with each other.
I had some uncomfortable moments with some people here, such as one who was quick to make a judgment about me and wouldn’t show up to meet me. Not even once that person would think that her assumption was wrong. I’m not going to go into further details, only that it did initially bothered me a lot at first. I knew that I cannot chase nor please anyone, especially narrow-minded ones. Being a blogger or a content creator, it has its challenges too. But! I have at least learned a couple of things (such as accepting the cultural difference) and had some good times meeting some other Deaf people there.
Thank you, Deaf Hong Kongese community.
August-September 2018 & October – November 2018.
Guangzhou, Tianjin, Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, Zhangjiajie, Lijiang
networking, visiting Deaf-related businesses & college, bumped into them.
Yunnan province, Gangsu province, Liaoling province, etc.
Deaf schools, Deaf owned businesses, Deaf organizations, Deaf Chinese dancers, etc.
Guangzhou was my first stop in China, and I already got a Facebook message from a Deaf Chinese that he would like to meet up with me. I also visited Silent Bakery where there are Deaf and Hard of Hearing employees. They’ve been on the news in China (you can find it via Facebook or Youtube). We communicated through gestures, International sign and with the help of Deaf Chinese acquaintance to translate from International sign to Chinese Sign Language (CSL) sometimes. And I’m not biased or lying, but the pastries are insanely delicious.
I later met a huge group of Deaf Chinese students at Tianjin College for the Deaf, which is located on the same campus of Tianjin University of Technology. They don’t really know ASL or International Sign, so we mostly communicated in gestures. The students there were shy but so full of energy and very welcoming. Three young female Deaf Chinese join along with me for lunch on campus, along with my couchsurfer host who was fascinated about Deaf culture. I filmed my time while visiting Tianjin college, even the process of how I communicate with them despite the language difference. It personally didn’t freak me whatsoever that there were challenges to communicate.
In Beijing, I also met a Deaf Chinese who learned International Sign by watching videos online. He accompanied me around in Beijing, and he was surprised how was it that I was traveling in China without help from a Deaf Chinese due to the communication barrier and Chinese language. Apparently, it was common for many Deaf visitors to request a personal guide because of this. I told him that I didn’t feel that I need it, because I can use gestures, translation app and other communication methods that I have been getting by. I also took Chinese language classes a couple of years ago, although I did forgot a lot. I just personally don’t freak out every day about communicating with locals daily unless the situations are serious.
He also knew my brand and admitted that a lot of my videos are screen-recorded and uploaded to Youku and WeChat to make it accessible to Deaf Chinese community. China prohibited many popular websites like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, etc. He assured me that my brand is mentioned. Although I don’t like my contents to be taken without my permission, I understand the situations and really would like it to be accessible to anyone.
Another fond memory was when I was visiting Lijiang: I bumped into a Deaf ethnic family. I’m not sure what ethnic group but maybe Naxi, Bai, or other. It was difficult to ask since we both only could communicate through gestures. Sometimes they continued on signing in CSL, as if I should understand everything but I don’t. I only knew a little CSL, so I tried my best to clarify what they were saying via gestures. We have a superficial conversation, like where I’ve been traveling in China, where they are from, whether there is a big Deaf community in Lijiang, etc. A Deaf mother also proudly gestured that she just started learning CSL, and she learned the majority of it via WeChat. WeChat isn’t just a messaging app but it also has like Twitter/Facebook feature too! She showed all the CSL lessons and how she was teaching her Hearing daughter some CSL signs too. I wanted to spend more time with them but didn’t want to interfere with their family time, so we took photos and bid goodbye. China is definitely one of the countries that I’d return.
Thank you, Deaf Chinese community.
September – October 2018
Ulaanbaatar, Bulgan & Ulgii
Facebook, networking, visiting local Deaf school & organization
central & eastern Mongolia
a local well-known Deaf Mongolian traveler, Deaf organization, maybe Deaf bussiness?, etc.
Mongolia was one of the countries that I’ve been wanting to go for years but never imagined that I’d would be visiting sooner. Before heading into Mongolia, I researched a couple of times about the Deaf community in Mongolia, including Deaf organizations, Deaf school and Deaf leaders too. I saw one of the Deaf leaders’ name, and like a stalker, I copied and pasted his name into the Facebook search. Voila, that was easy. Unbeknownst to me, he is also the founder of Mongolian Deaf Tour that he is currently trying to register his business and get his license & permits.
I pretty much spent most of my time with Nemekhbayar and his business partner, Amarkhuu, than any other Deaf people. Both have left me a deep impression and shared stories that I could never imagine. They also asked me what are my goals in Mongolia and wanted to help me to reach those goals, such as meeting a Deaf family in a ger and meeting one of the Deaf female Mongolian leaders in Deaf education.
I couldn’t believe I had the opportunity to meet a Deaf family of 9 who lives in a ger where is not even close by the big city, Ulaanbaatar. Their hospitality and warmth were phenomenal and allowing me to stay over for a night. Within this whole family of 9, there are 3 sign languages: Mongolian Sign Language (MSL), ASL and a sign language that is personally developed by one of the oldest Deaf male due to living in remote areas and didn’t have access to MSL (I’d call it “home sign language”). The oldest child, only 18, who was born and raised in a nomadic family, learned MSL, ASL, home sign language, AND International sign. How did he learn ASL and International Sign?: FACEBOOK. The Deaf communities worldwide are thriving on Facebook, and he learned ASL and International sign by watching different Deaf vlogs, Deaf content creators and joining Deaf groups. This young boy is GOLD. He has so many potentials, and he hopes to make a difference.
Because of the Deaf Mongolian Tour, I had some of the greatest times of my life and a piece of my heart in Mongolia. Although I hated the cold, I felt sad leaving Mongolia.
Thank you, Deaf Mongolian community.
November – December 2018
Mandalay and states of Kachin, Shan, Chin & Tanintharyi
Deaf schools, Deaf organizations, Deaf salon in Yangon, meeting Deaf advocates, etc.
Before heading to Myanmar, I also researched the Deaf community there, including organizations, schools and if there are any Deaf-owned businesses. I’ve reached out to them directly on Facebook (mostly Deaf Burmese advocates and teachers) and they were welcoming but wanting to know the exact date I’d be visiting the organization or school. As someone who goes with the flow while traveling, the specific date that I’d arrive upon Yangon was just unpredictable for me.
With only two weeks in Myanmar, I had so many sightseeings to check off my list. Therefore, this resulted in only seeing the Deaf Burmese community on my very last night in Myanmar. I was unable to visit the Deaf school and some Deaf organizations, including two of the Deaf Burmese leaders that I’d like to meet. At least, I, fortunately, had one Deaf Burmese reaching out to me via Instagram story, saying that he’d like to meet me and can bring a group of Deaf Burmese. For the night, I chatted away with them, getting to know what it is like for them in their country, etc. I was also interested to learn what were the certain impacts upon the Deaf Burmese community while Myanmar was under the military rule and its transition to democracy.
But the majority of Deaf Burmese people I’ve met are quite young and were really able to answer my questions. Of course, it wasn’t just about them and their experiences. They asked a lot of questions about the Deaf community in the USA, and two of them previously attended Gallaudet University in Washington DC. They’ve shared their challenges of being international students in the USA and the positive outcomes that they’ll bring to the Burmese Deaf community. My time here with the Deaf community wasn’t enough, so I’ve missed out a lot of things here. I’m not stratified with my trip to Myanmar, so if I could, I’d love to do a solo trip here.
Thank you, Deaf Myanmarese community.
November – December 2018
Hanoi, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh, Hoi An
bumped into them, Instagram, networking, Deaf cafe, messaging them on Facebook, Deaf-owned salon business
Dalat, Da Nang, remote areas, etc.
Bread of Life, Deaf schools, Lac Thien restaurant, etc.
This will make it seems like I am really a stalker but yes, I also did my research about Vietnamese Deaf community, including their Deaf leaders. I also attempted to reach out to some Deaf Vietnamese advocates. Although I didn’t get any luck with it, I, fortunately, bumped into one of the Deaf Vietnamese leaders at a local famous Bun Cha restaurant in Hanoi quarter. He turned out to be president of two different local Deaf organizations, reaching out to Deaf communities in other countries for support, advocating for Deaf rights.
Having Deaf advocates in every Deaf community is crucial. After the restaurant, he told me that there was a big Deaf gathering at Giảng cafe. Without hesitation, I took the chance to meet several Deaf Vietnamese people at that cafe due to a rainy day. One of the Deaf Vietnamese women I met was astonishing, telling me how she defied her parents’ wish for her to marry a Hearing man and advocate Deaf women’s rights there. I couldn’t help but to high-five her, “every Deaf community needs THEIR own leader. You are such a role model for many Deaf Vietnamese females!” She smiled and told me, “oh stop it” modestly.
There are some Deaf businesses I have missed out but at least I visited Reaching Out Tea House in Hoi An, that have all Deaf or Hard of Hearing employees and used to be owned by a Deaf Vietnamese female. I could see some of the awkward smiles spreading across some Hearing customers’ face, looking around other customers when the Deaf staff communicated with them through gestures. The Deaf staff handled it very professionally, of course, just continued on smiling and provided them the menu that also includes how to communicate and order their food. Deaf restaurants and Deaf cafes are really important, because day by day, they spread awareness by exposing that we Deaf people are capable to work. Although it doesn’t necessarily gain deeper awareness about the issues they face, some may have at least shift their perceptions of Deaf people.
Thank you, Deaf Vietnamese community.
Honestly, there are so much more to say about all the Deaf communities I’ve met, including culture shocks and some of the personal challenges while meeting them but this post would even longer. Stayed tuned for future stories! Although I have previously emphasized how great Deafhood is in my old posts of this series, I still I don’t have a deeper relationship with some people I’ve met but still have the pleasure of meeting them and talk to every now and then via Facebook or messaging apps. To this day, I couldn’t help but smile when I video call them, have some news from them or even messages.
You all have truly taught me so much more we are so much more than the eyes of society. And you all have truly just solidified my Deaf identity.