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Posted on Sep 8, 2012

Three Deaf Backpackers- My Heroes

Three Deaf Backpackers- My Heroes

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So, slowly, slowly; we’re unraveling a life together, you and I. I talk a lot, and you’ve become one hell of a great listener. I appreciate that.

Anna (the younger one) in Peru spoke of her father’s favorite poem. Something about how every man has his first kiss and his first snowfall, and it stuck to me, really snugly. And like you, I have mine. I have my stories that make me who I am, that create the fibers that define where I’ve been, that push me passed the pain to create who I want to be.

But, according to Buddhism, that ‘me’ is but only an allusion. (I’ll get to the deaf backpackers, I promise.)

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Sakkaya-ditthi, personality belief, and it’s what we hold onto, to help us define ourselves, label us, categorize and witness our own journey. But, Buddhism teaches that this false sense of self creates boundaries to spirituality and barriers to the true oneness with the world. It’s ‘me’ ‘my story’ ‘my pain’ ‘my life’ and ‘you’; likewise, I can stay flapping around lost in the winds of my own self, the way I was, who I was, who I am, who I will be- all false identities I use to mask my true, true non-self, anatta.

Of course, remember there’s Gabi the traveler who is spiritual, and Gabi and spiritual who is traveling. I get confused. And, here too, ever so slowly, I’m learning how to differentiate them and know which articles to put here on thenomadicfamily and which ones at gabiklaf.com.Β  So, if you’d like to learn more about spirituality, finding that peace and inner light, anatta (non-self) and ways to find her- go there to gabiklaf. πŸ™‚

And our nomadic backpackers tale continues….

Sort of.

So, I have a story. And this blog allows me to share that with you, unraveling meticulously, one glorious string at a time, all the fibers that make me me. So, this is part of my story, my life-long fascination has always been deaf people. I fall in love with them, like I fall in love with people who work in book stores (Sheryl), librarians, Momma and Poppa old-fashion stores (especially with art and writing supplies), and firemen (but that’s a whole different like of love, we don’t have to get into right now). Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m sure there are book sellers who are assholes (even though I doubt it), and I’m sure there are deaf people who are total bitches (but I’ve never met one); and who cares, this is so not about reality; it’s about the allusions I create and happily live in.(Remember my Sakkaya-ditthi, personality belief?)

My entire life, I see someone signing and I’m stuck standing there, a bit too closely, with my jaw dropped and fairy dust parading before my eyes. A deaf person signing is the mute piped piper swaying his hands to the beat of the tune only he hears. He and me.

So, it all starts like this. Kobi’s sitting in the lobby of our hostel here in Siem Reap, Cambodia. He hands me a note (that I still carry in my notebook and look at every few days). It reads:

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“I saw your site, loved it. My friends and I admire you guys for what you all are doing. Keep up with the blog and continue to travel the world! “

The note comes from Tandy Lewis, Shayna Unger, and Danielle Berrigan. Hand to heart, I look up. Kobi says, “They’re right over there,” and I was lost in their music from that moment forth. Forget their kind ways, their shining faces and good looks, their interest in their fellow man, their ability to come right out and say kind things to encourage others; THEY ARE DEAF! That’s it, deaf, deaf, deaf, and backpacking.

If you think you can handle 18 seconds of the three most adorably, glowing, alive ladies on the globe, watch this video! If you think you handle that light that shines from them as they say “My name is _______ and We Love The Nomadic Family,” then watch.

I dare you to only watch it once.

I dare you not to fall in love.

I dare you not to smile hugely when you see them.

You have been forewarned.

OMG, kids did you see mommy go into this strange metamorphosis?

Years before we had kids and during a summer when I can’t recall exactly why but I was working on the ice cream trucks; I enrolled in American Sign Language 101. It was an intensive 4-hour a day summer course. Walk in, day one, teacher is deaf. Here we go.

So, sitting in the lobby in the middle of Cambodia, signing. I touched things that were precious and lost to me. A language I once knew, rather well. A language we had taught our three babies so that they could effectively communicate their needs before their mouth muscles knew how to voice words. A language which brought me to Nicole Smith, single mom and caretaker of our fist two children, who introduced us to the silent world. A language that brought back my first (and only) Israeli Baby Sign Language I co-taught (totally different than ASL) which led me to meet my best friend Ditza. A language that shakes in my soul a tune that no one can hear, and I cannot explain. We did baby sign in our home for years.

And, remarkably fast, it came back. I was standing there talking to these amazing ladies, but not really, really there. I was somewhere else that I’d known long ago, but still, like I said, I can’t define. I was in that silent world that somehow lights a voice in my soul that reveals a joy I do not know otherwise. It’s a weird magic, and one I am grateful for the girls for bringing it out again.

They are just cool in so many ways. They come from deaf families, went to deaf schools and university, and have deaf boyfriends. They have backpacked in South East Asia, have shaven their heads (“just because”), and one even has a tattoo on her inner bottom lip. They have amazing adventures of tell, have a close network of friends, and remarkable family relations. And, and, and, ready for this… They are my friends in Facebook! I know!

Now, Murphy would have it that during the absolutely most endearing (this one or debate ably the ‘Angel Outside of Consumerist Hell‘) interview for me personally, the camera would shut off. They were amazing- answered so honestly, and patiently. And me, (get this!) I signed my way through it. So, you only see two minutes of six… I really got markedly better right after the camera turned off! I did!

Maybe that’s meant to show me that my Sakkaya-ditthi, personality belief, is an allusion; just like my actually recording of this entire kick-ass, unreal interview was too.

Ever had a deaf friend? Ever seen sign and felt the magic that I did? Ever knew that deaf people shaved their heads, got crazy tattoos, and traveled the world? (How ignorant was I?) Ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?

Have any ridiculously strong likings to book store employees, librarians, or the like? Firemen? (Come clean here, child.) Even seen 18 seconds of more adorable faces than those three beaming ones blessing us? Want the last two bits of the tuna melt?

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Comments

comments

4 Comments

  1. Wonderful story, Gabi, and I am mesmerized by signing, too. A first cousin of mine was literally dancing signing at my nephews Christmas concert one year, and I missed almost the whole concert because I was glued to watching the absolute beauty of what my cousin was doing over to the side!

    One of our dd’s recently got married to an American (we are Cdn) on short notice so the families didn’t get together (we are west coast, they are east coast). But now that our dd just gave birth last week her mil & a sil are coming to visit in Oct. Her sil (we’ve never met )was born deaf so that will make our visit quite different. She does more lip reading I think than signing, but I know it will be a delightful and eye-opening experience for the entire family. We had attempted to do some baby signing with our dc but didn’t do it very much so our signing is very very limited. But open to learning some more.

    • karen, hi hi hi hi! so glad you are commenting on the site, so that i can know you’ve been around and continue this awesome discussion with you. how ever did you find us dear? so glad you are here! i didn’t know other people in the world were mesmerized by sign too. i thought it was just me. in my Master’s degree, i had a deaf friend named Cindy who had a translator at the front of the room. missed that entire semester cuz i just stared at the translator the entire time. of course, cindy and i became friends.she was the most adorable person i have ever know. soooo cute. i would also just have stared at the dancing cousin and not the performance itself.

      so cool that you have the chance to do some signing in your family. baby sign was one our the best parenting things we did with our babies. reduced soooo much tension, as it let them really communicate. for the baby, if you do just ten words each time you say it, sign it. it will fit in. at one point our kids knew 200 words in sign, which blew our mind. today, it’s somewhere deep in there. if you still have any babies around, i would suggest milk, water, food, more, stop, all done…. those were the biggest ones. oh, and if there is some dominate food like bread, chicken, carrots…. those too. ok, i’ll stop, i could write about this for hours. thanks for writing karen. i’ll be looking now at the rest of your comments. gabi:-)

  2. Amazing story. My sign language is limited to the signs for different coffee and ice cream options β€” I dated a guy who worked at a store with a daily deaf customer β€” and a few signs taught to my niece.

    And I love the opening photo too.

    • lauren, thanks so much for taking the time to write. i don’t know ice cream and coffee options, at all. aren’t these girls soooo cool? i feel so deeply in love! you really like the opening pic too. i thought it was a cool take on being deaf- that huge ear. wasn’t sure anyone would get it! cool. πŸ™‚ gabi

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