Where are our interests?

This has been on my mind for a while, so I’ll try my best in sharing my musings. I was born deaf and was raised by parents who are deaf too. We all graduated from the same school, ISD. Much of my sign language development came from my parents (in the early stages) and the deaf peers (later stages) at the school. Now, to bring this to a topic, it should be noted that ISD only employs 10% of its staff who are deaf. Which means most of my peers sign better than most teachers at the school. I can remember many times when my friends and I would make a little funny joke, teachers would ask what were we joking about but we wouldn’t want to bother explaining because we knew they wouldn’t get it anyway. It’s a cultural thing, you know. From time to time, I often wonder why hearing teachers would want to work at a deaf school anyways? wouldn’t their service better be rendered elsewhere, perhaps at public schools? They can barely sign. Yet they remain at the school, as I later learned, our school pays better than public schools, with the union protection and this is equally important, deaf students aren’t as vocal as their hearing counterparts, they become quite comfortable at our school, controlling things to their favors. Statistics has shown that sex crimes were committed higher at deaf schools than any other school.

Teaching jobs is a popular avenue for deaf students because it’s one of those few jobs where knowledge of sign language is a prerequisite. So, if a hearing person were to take the teaching job, it means a lost job opportunity for deaf people, as most of them aren’t likely to leave the school and stay there till retirement. Also, one most common difficulty for deaf graduates to get a teaching job is they’ll have to pass the teachers certification exam, which tends to be different in each state. So, for example, if a deaf student studied at Gallaudet University and got a degree in deaf education, it doesn’t mean they are ready to teach yet. They’d have to take additional courses in that state, and then pass the teacher certificate test. Whereas it’s a different case for hearing students, their path to becoming a deaf educator is marginally easier, as their in-state colleges have a closer designed curriculum, of what would be on the exam and by the time they’re seniors, they’re well-prepared to take the teachers exam with a relatively high success rate and they arrive at their goal much sooner than deaf counterparts. Then they take in one of the scarcest jobs for deaf people.

See this link – http://www.mac.edu/academics/catalog/current/education.asp – all set up nicely in steps 1 to 7, upon the completion of the Assessment of Professional Teaching test.

So, it’s not hard to see why the % for deaf employees remain historically low at the school.

That’s one thought I have. Another thought I have comes from a recent deaf event. Two years ago, I excitedly traveled to five different countries in the east Asia over the span of 17 days with my good friend, Bak. One of these highlights was attending the 2009 Deaflympics. I’ve had always wanted to attend the Deaflympics, after having heard from deaf peers, and ofc, I am a fan of sports. But I learned a couple of things while attending the Deaflympics. In my mind, I had thought that more than 10,000 fans would go to this event but not very many people went – I think only 500 fans or fewer. For the opening ceremony, the tickets were literally sold out. How so? were there that many interested fans? No, most of the “fans” were Taiwanese citizens who wanted to see the fancy grand performance by dancers and singers. Also, the president of Taiwan would make an appearance at the event. A deaf friend mentioned to me that there was a bit of politics and competition going on between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China, as the PROC recently hosted the 2008 Olympics. So, the ROC wanted to follow that up with its own grand show performance that ended with fireworks firing from the Taipei 101 tower. So, again, it’s in their own interests, doesn’t matter if you’re deaf or not. Though one deaf guy did mention to me that it was the best, most expensive opening show he’s ever seen. He’s gone to five Deaflympics before, so he has credibility.

The next thought I have, and the last one is a story told by my friend from South Korea. My friend recently flew to South Africa to attend the World Federation of the Deaf conference last summer. While there, she told me there was a big surprise visit made by someone. Guess who? It was four persons from North Korea coming to visit the WDF. However, none of them were deaf. As you may know, tensions between North Korea and South Korea still remain high, with no peace treaties formally signed, so technically, both countries are still at a war. It was the first time and an awkward moment for them to be meeting one another—there’s even a law that disallows citizens from meeting each other due to the risks of espionage. It was an interesting experience, she said, although it felt like something can go off at any minute and they rush to defend their ideologies and what they stand for their country. Patriotism, you know. Yet I’m not sure what’s their business visiting the WDF and it’s not like they are going to improve life conditions for their deaf citizens in North Korea after they go back. So, my question is what are their interests toward deaf people? and hearing people whose sign language skill is barely fluent enough truly want to teach to deaf children? and do they want to truly host an international event for the deaf people or for their own interests? To be, or not to be, that is the question, my friends.

-nathan

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Dad

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad. I’m not sure why. I think when I was little, I looked up at him highly. My dad had a way of dealing with people like how he feels he can get anything he wanted and he was good at smooth-talking. He once told me a story of how he’d steal a HS basketball star’s girlfriend by talking to her often during halftime at basketball games, then she’d decide that he was more fun to hang around than watching her old boyfriend play basketball. He’d tell me different stories and how adventurous he used to be, riding his motorcycle all over America. It was cool to hear how he’d ridden his bike all the way to San Francisco in 1975, spent 4 nights here and that it would be his last such road trip before he met my mom and got married in 1977 and bought a tiny house together. They had no idea that one day, they would adopt a son. He also told me that when he was in SF, he stopped by a small grocery shop. The guy who owned the shop was an immigrant from Korea and apparently, he knew some sign language, communicated with my dad. He was impressed by that. He wondered what had become of the guy.

Last year, my parents flew to Seoul, Korea for the first time ever and I was excited for them that they were visiting Korea. However, I must admit something was wrong. My dad didn’t look adventurous at all. It was like he was annoyed to be coming here in Korea. Maybe the long 14 hours flight bothered him more than he’d expect. “What the heck are we supposed to do now? How the heck do we get ourselves to the hotel?” he’d ask with a grunt. I was a bit taken back by his sudden remarks and I said don’t worry about that, I’m happy you got here OK.” They got their luggage and we went outside to the front and waited for the bus. I explained to them that there were different buses coming here and we would wait at this spot till our bus came. I realized that at this time, they would be of a minority race visiting a foreign country while I, on the other hand, looked like more like the majority race and knew my way around. I was curious to see how they’d react to this and will my dad still get his way around, like he usually does back in his homeland, America?

We got on the bus and sat in the back. My dad was somewhat impressed by this bus as he sat in a comfortable big chair and the driver started rumbling down the highway. Dad looked a bit more at ease now. Maybe he just had a long flight, I thought. I asked them how do they feel to be in Korea? knowing for a fact that they weren’t exactly frequent world travelers. “It’s a new experience” answered my mom, who always had that little worried look on her face. My dad just nodded and looked like he can hardly wait to check himself into a hotel. Where’s the adventurous spirit? I thought to myself. I don’t think they really knew how much I’ve worked to get myself into this position, getting a chance to work in Korea and for them to have an opportunity to visit the country where I was born in. I paid their airfares.

We finally got into a hotel, got into an elevator, and whizzed up tens of the floors, then finally stopped at my floor. The hotel was actually one of the top premium hotels in Seoul normally where rich businessmen or high-ranking government officials would stay at, so I was fortunate to be a resident here at this hotel. My parents seemed impressed, “This is a nice hotel.”, starting to forget the long flight they’d had. I showed them around the suite room, trying my best to make them feel as comfortable as possible. “There is a nice little 7-11 store downstairs in the basement that has everything from water to wine. Do you want to go down and look?” My dad’s eyes widened, his stiff acting starting to ease up a bit, maybe he’s becoming thirsty now. “Sure, I’d like to go down.” my dad said. My mom wanted to rest a bit and she was already flipping channels on TV, trying her best to find a rerun of Days of Our Lives soap opera, her favorite TV program. There were no U.S. channels on TV. I didn’t tell her that.

My dad and I got into the elevator and when the doors closed, I decided to ask my dad a straight question. “I got the impression that you don’t seem too thrilled to be visiting here in Korea. Was the flight really that long?”

My dad seemed surprised by my direct question, hoping I wouldn’t see his honest expression.

“Yeah, the flight was quite long, I didn’t really have a good sleep and didn’t even get the right whiskey drink I asked the flight attendant to make.” Dad said.

I realized this jet lag was affecting my parents more than I had expected and they’re becoming more grumbled so I let it go and the elevator reached at the bottom. Maybe they weren’t really comfortable with the idea that they’re not in the U.S. and are in a foreign country for a good measure, I thought. It was misleading for them to think that their son was always thrilled to be in the U.S. during the whole time. I knew this would be their such last trip too.

“Do you suppose the Korean guy in the 7-11 would know some sign language?” he asked.

I finally smiled.

**Dad in the far background, eagerly pulling his luggage. 3 feet of snow was dumped on this day as they were heading back to the U.S.

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