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Journals from HHPA/HESC 398 Island Health Care: Type 2 Diabetes in the Bahamas January Term 2012

2012-01-17 An unplanned visit: The Center for the Deaf

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Today, I was able to experience one of the most wonderful things I could imagine. The majority of the day was spent taking a tour of Nassau, with a look at 3 different health clinics within the Bahamas. At the first clinic that we went to, there was an audiology department, and I could not help but ask questions about the Deaf community. For those who don’t know this about me, both of my parents are Deaf and I consider the Deaf culture very much a part of my identity. I learned yesterday that there is Deaf school in Nassau, so I asked if children that are diagnosed as Deaf are automatically sent to the Deaf school, and they said that it depended on the severity of the deafness, and if it could be corrected with a hearing aid or cochlear implant. Otherwise, they are sent to the Deaf school. I also asked what type of sign language they used, since most countries have their own type of sign language/s, but they told me that they use American Sign Language! This was very exciting to me because ASL is my first language, and I prefer to use it whenever possible.

Coincidentally, one of the women leading us on the tour, named Ms. Judith Scavella has a very close friend, named Ms. Tessa Nottage, who is the principal at the Centre for the Deaf (the school for the Deaf) and she was able to contact her and let her know that we would be stopping by! In order to make it to their school before they dismissed at 2 on Fridays, we put off our other two meetings and lunch to stop by the school. We pulled in and one of the younger girls with a few other kids ran out to us and asked if we were Deaf too. All I said to her was “mother father Deaf” which means my parents are Deaf, and she ran back to all the other kids immediately, so excited to meet someone else who could sign with them. They asked many questions and interacted with the rest of the group, and it was so nice to see  a few other members of our group had taken American Sign Language in the past and were able to communicate a bit with the kids!

I met the president of the school, and she was very nice and welcoming! She took us on a tour of the children’s school, which is very small. Altogether, with the younger and older kids too, there are 25 students. I met the pre schoolers and the elementary kids, and the middle school kids at the younger school. I also met some of the teachers at the school, and two out of five were Deaf! I had a nice conversation with the two Deaf ladies, and they made me feel very much at home– I felt like I was chatting with my mom or her friends. Talking to the younger kids, they told me about the high school, where they made it seem like it was a long ways down the street, so I thought we would have to drive. But I was guided across the street, and that is where the high school was. I spoke with the class for a short time and explained the exaggeration that the kids made about how far the school was, and they were entertained by that.

Being at this school and talking with these people is the most comfortable that I have felt so far in the Bahamas, even though it has only been a few days. I think this goes to show that not only does the Deaf community does have a culture, but it breaks the boundaries of national cultures. I am curious now about the Deaf community in Eleuthera, or if the kids get transferred to this school. Also, I would like to do more traveling in the future, and when I do, I want to make it a goal to get in touch with the Deaf community at each place and learn a little bit about each one. Some fun facts- I learned the signs for Eleuthera and Junkanoo! Also, when it comes to TV in the Bahamas, there is no closed captioning yet! They have four interpreters that interpret in a side box on the TV during the news. I did not find out about any other shows though, but my assumption is that the news is the only thing that is interpreted, since it is live. Ms. Nottage said that they are on their way to getting closed captioning, but they are not quite there yet!

Being at this school and talking with these people is the most comfortable that I have felt so far during this entire trip, even though it has only been a few days. I think this goes to show that not only does the Deaf community have a distinct culture, but this bond of people involved in the Deaf culture spans on an international level. I am curious now about the Deaf community in Eleuthera, or if the kids get transferred to this school. Also, I would like to do more traveling in the future, and when I do, I want to make it a goal to get in touch with the Deaf community at each place and learn a little bit about each one.

Erika

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