Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Ok, so this is me ranting because I am sure if I were to talk to anyone about this in person, they wouldnt really care or understand.

Here's the topic: American Sign Language (ASL) not being used in University classrooms to teach deaf education majors.

I am a senior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and am currently enrolled in some of my final Deaf education (DE) classes. Here's the problem I have: because UTK is all about saving money and squeezing us through majors that arent necessarily realistically fit to the real world, I am in (and have been in 2 other) 400 level classes where the professors DONT SIGN!

Maybe some of you dont understand the gravity of the situation, so please, allow me to explain.
UTK (or just UT) thinks that Audiology, Speech Pathology, and Deaf Education are all "in the same field"...they really couldnt be more wrong. I am all about philosophies behind each of these 3 very different majors. I am proficient in ASL (not fluent...never will be because I'm not Deaf nor a CODA [child of Deaf adult], but I'm pretty good).

I have taken one audiology class and one speech pathology class, so yes, I do know a LITTLE about these professions/majors. However, I am not claiming any type of "real life" knowledge outside of the classroom and my 25 hour internship at a speech and hearing center (basically "speech therapy").

In my opinion, UT (and ALL universities that offer Deaf Education) should require their students to take an ASL proficiency exam before they enter specific, deaf education major classes.

Back to the philosophic differences- audiologists and speech pathologists believe deaf/Deaf children should speak. Most deaf educators think that deaf (and certainly Deaf) kids should sign. My philosophy? Use the technology that is available (which, amazingly, is becoming more and more advanced) in order to help any type of hearing that a D/HH person may have. However, use hearing aids and cochlear implants as just what they are- aids. People who hold the philosophy that "all deaf/Deaf kids should speak/hear" are called auralists/oralists. Why is it that we give people who are 75% blind glasses, yet still teach them braille? Its because they cannot see, but are not completely blind, so they can use the 25% of what they can see to look at people/enviromental sights, and yet not have to loose the priviledge of not being able to read just because they have a visual impairment. Deafness is the same way! Give the kid a cochlear implant so that he CAN enjoy music and he CAN hear the voices of those who love him the most, but when it comes to having the ability to converse and communicate with the majority of people in his world, let him use sign language.

There have been so many studies about Deaf people in remote countries who do not have a signed language. These studies show (I know I am being super vague here, but cannot think of one in particular at the moment...) that these Deaf people/kids make up their own signs and gestures. Signing is a natural, complete language that Deaf people love to use!

(If you have never heard of this "mode of communication" disagreement, please read this for more information:

But back to UT: The administrative folks who create the course catalogues and majors do not understand this HUGE philosophical disagreement that literally controls the Deaf world. That being the case, they say "Oh, communication disorders. Yeah, A and SP and DE and Interpreters, you all work with D/HH people. We'll just require that you all take some of the same classes." My question? WHY?!! You could not be more wrong to place someone like me in an audiology class where the professors and guest lecturers rave on and on about how all they want for deaf kids is for them to be "normal" and for them to be put in "normal" classrooms. Oh please. Show me a kid without any complex language abilities and you tell me that is normal? No.

You see, its not anyone of the student's "fault" that we are placed in classes where we dont belong; that lies on the administration and people who create our majors. The issue happens when you get DE students (many of whom are actually deaf/Deaf themselves...and only sign...) in a DE class and then require the poor ASP (Audio and speech path.) students to jump into these classes. By the time you get to a 400 level class all the singers are like "Yeah! Give it to us! We communicate at school with each other using sign. We work jobs and have internships where we sign. We sign in our dorms and across the halls to each other. ASL! ASL! ASL!"
The professor walks in and starts signing. You see and hear all the ASP kids shift around in their seats like "you've gotta be kidding me! Is he deaf? Is he going to teach the class like this the entire semester?" and freaking out. All the DE and Interpreting kids are laughing and introducing themselves to the professor and thinking "yes! this is what I've been waiting for!" Then- dreadful- one brave soul raises his and and says "uhh are you deaf? I dont know sign language..."
Dude, you're in a DE class! What did you expect? I think I should say, dude, administration, what were you thinking to put these poor kids in our class!

For me? Its like someone interested in Japanese business relations. They sign up for the class, have been practicing their Japanese, are all set and ready to go, see the professor and know he speaks great Japanese, and find out you have 6 international business students in your class who dont know a thing about Japanese, let ALONE Japanese culture. How is that not frustrating? How is that not different from what I am talking about here with DE classes?

Today, sitting in class, I was next to a guy who was a special education major. Not DE, just SE. The professor is talking about the Bi-Bi (bilingual/bicultural) philosophy that is a dominating part of today's DE world. The kid leans over and says "what's Bi-Bi?" I wanted to slug him! I was so frustrated (and believe me, I KNOW he was too...) because we are coming to this class that should be SUPER specialized and this poor guy doesnt even know the first thing about Deaf people.

Ughh. I'm so sick of fighting this battle myself. You better believe that I am taking this issue to the deans of the DE department because honestly, its not fair. Its not fair for the ASP kids, its not fair for the DE kids, its not fair for the Interpreter kids, and its not fair to the Deaf community and to the peoples we will be later interacting with.

How would you like it if your kid was deaf/Deaf, you send them to a school for the Deaf, and their 5th grade teacher can hardly sign? Well, if you are Hearing, you honestly might not even know that your kid's teacher cant sign very well, but if you are Deaf and have a Deaf kid, you FOR SURE will be disappointed that your kid's teacher cannot use the primary language that is taught at the school.

From an employers standpoint: why would you want to hire a teacher to work at your school who has just mediocre language skills? I mean, the whole point of going into DE is to teach kids who are deaf/Deaf. Who use sign language. Yeah, sorry if that's a wake up call, but there ARE still people out there who want their kids to sign. They want their kid's teachers to actually be good at what they are doing (no duhh).

Totally sick of not having anyone understand where I am coming from. People- this IS a big deal! Whether you think so or not, you need to think of it as a big deal. Because of UT's program for deaf educators, and because (more specifically) they are not promoting and teaching and using ASL in the classrooms, they are basically crippling the future Deaf population who will be learning from us. Now THAT is a big deal!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


This week has been incredible! Quick recap-

- completed my European vacation that included stops in Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, and Munich.
- moved into my first-ever apartment. I'm living on campus at UT for my second year now and totally love it.
- have met so many freshmen I hardly know what to do with myself!

That's the "Reader's Digest version" (or as my techy sister likes to say, the "Twitter version" lol). Allow me to elaborate.

So- in order for me to RETURN to school, I had to travel for 35.5 hours, to be exact. Long story short, we ended up changing our travel plans and spent a few days in Prague instead of going to Geneva. I already had my plane ticket out of Geneva and it would have been $1,100 for me to change it (believe me...I looked into took a ton of research to figure this out!) I ended my trip in Munich with my sister and our other traveling companion (and Amanda's former roommate and best friend), Gail, and had to figure out how to get myself to Geneva for my flight out! Amanda and Gail were continuing their trip down to Italy via overnight train the next day so I was flying solo (quite literally...excuse the pun) on this one. I ended up finding a train ticket for about $100 from Munich to Geneva. The only problem? I had to transfer trains 3 times AND the train ride was over night. Woah. It went a little something something like this:

Leave Munich at 7pm. Arrive in who-knows-where Germany at 11pm. Leave to who-knows-where Germany-place #2 at 11:45pm. Arrive in border-of-Germany-and-Switzerland-who-knows-where 1:20am. Wait in the train station, by myself, from 1:20am-3:45 am (...the very worst part! I was too paranoid I would miss my train if I fell asleep, so I just stayed awake. uggh!). Leave border-land-middle-of-no-where at 3:45am. Arrive in just-barely-in-the-country-Switzerland at 4:40am. Wait in that train station (with plenty of drunk people, might I add...and...oddly enough- a goth couple who could not stop making out...ok they have some mighty weird people over there- especially at 4:30 in the morning!) Leave at 5:45am for Geneva (finally! last train!). Sleep on this train and arrive in Geneva at 8am.

Leave Geneva at 9:20am and fly for 9.5 hours to New Jersey. Arrive in New Jersey at 11:30 am( yes, i went backwards in special!) Once I got to the Newark Airport, it was pouring rain! I was planning on going out to Time Square (about 20 minutes away from the airport via metro) however, the metro ticket was like $25 (unbelievably high!! normally metro tickets are like $3-7 for round trip) AND it was pouring rain. Well, my layover was originally 7 hours long. After I came back from the metro station and figuring out I wasnt going into the city, I checked my flight and it had been delayed by another 2.5 hours! Oh dear. So, there I sat. In the airport. For 9.5 hours when all I wanted to do was go home and see Laura (who was to pick me up at the airport in Knoxville). Thankfully I have amazing friends and they were willing to pick me up once I arrived in Knoxville around 11pm. I was so exhausted and they were gracious to me. Thankfully I checked into my apartment no problem and literally slinked myself up into my room on the 5th floor (hell-ooooo elevator!)

Anyways, you may say "Aww poor Kate!" or "Wow what a journey!" or "ohmygoodness she's so independent". Well, believe what you will, but I think it was plain old exhausting. Traveling is super fun and you gain a totally new perspective on yourself and your culture (...I'm living in 2 cultures at once right now...I'm from California but go to school in TN...believe me, it's 2 cultures rolled into one human experience).

I think one of the best parts about this entire 35.5 hour journey back to school was the 2nd "train layover" from 1:20am-3:45 a. You see- I have this hammock. It is one of my favourite possessions. I got it for 50 bucks off some website in Austria (yes, I know, it would have been more reasonable for it to have come from Puerto Rico, but apparently the Austrians like hammocks too...go figure!) I especially love summer and spring in TN because it is hot and humid! I love being outside and sitting in my hammock, under the shade of a tree, reading a classic piece of literature, and sipping lemonaide...? come on, how can you beat that?
Anyways, my hammocking experience at Train Station #3 in border-of-Germany-and-Switzerland-who-knows-where was pretty much the opposite of the scene I have just described. Let me give you a breakdown that went a lil somethin'-somethin' like this:

I fell asleep on Train #2 and somehow my little travel alarm clock didnt work to wake me up! Thankfully, I had already thought of this and knew that I was riding this train all the way to the end of the line, so if worse came to worse, I would just wake up in the train station where I was supposed to get off once the train stopped moving. Well, you see, I look very European (apparently we quickly found out!...another story you'll have to ask me about) so whenever European strangers encounter me, they speak to me in French. This is super unfortunate because, while I am flattered I dont LOOK like a tacky American tourist, I do not speak a lick of French (well, NOW I do, maybe). All this to say, I was awakened from my slumber on Train#2 by a German conductor who was speaking French to me. I take out my earplugs and say in English "what?" without even thinking that he may not speak English (oh dear!) In a hod-podge of languages (with me understanding only about 2 out of the 4 he tried) I learn that we are at the end of the line and I must get off the train before it leaves! In a flurry I grab my items (which I have since become quite a pro at handling and carrying all by myself all over anywhere) and race off Train #2.
I find my correct platform (where Train #3 will leave from) and see the other sleepy teens and twenties catching some zzz's on the benches. Being the classy person I am, I do not want to take my chance and A) sit next to a drunk guy B) have some chatty 40 year old try to speak French to me at 1:20 in the morning C) make any type of contact with any other human being at this time in the morning. So! I find myself a mini-billboard sign that holds an advertisement for perfume (of course! so me...) and prop myself against my suitcase while looping my arm through my purse and backpack, least any thug tries to run off with them. As I am dozing in that all-too-familiar-land of in between reality and dreamworld, I am thinking about TN and sleeping in my hammock. All of a sudden I become super excited and realize that in my spur-of-the-m0ment-packing-spree in CA, I packed my hammock in my Europe bags instead of my "things to be shipped to TN" bags!! You see, the billboard I was resting against had 2 posts and they were *literally* the perfect distance apart for me to stretch out my hammock.

I pull out and set up my hammock all as other trains rumble past. I pop in my iPod (which only has a limited amount of battery power left...eeeps!) and listen to a sermon. Ok, I dont know why, but music puts me to sleep. Especially the type of music that I love to listen to and have on my iPod. But give me an acclaimed theologian, and I'll be up for hours. Yeah, go figure. It was a little past 2am at this point in time. So- that's exactly what I did. I chilled in my hammock and dozed on and off and set my travel alarm clock (yes...the one that had failed me just and hour and a half nervous!) for an hour before I needed to get up just in case it decided to not go off this time. Good thing I DID set the alarm because I HAD fallen asleep and woke up with plenty of time to pack up my hammock, hit the loo, and catch Train #3.

Each of the rest of the trains had their own personalities (drunks, goths, lovers, a kid playing the guitar [go figure...why not play guitar at 4:30am? you know...] and the likes. basically none of the respectable people who take trains in the daytime), yet I will not fatigue your eyes by listing each one of the quirks of the rest of these trains.

The point is, I made it back to TN! I did, I really did. It was very comical to me because I felt like Ponce de Leon or somebody just for making it back to the place where I should be living and apparently everyone thought it was quite an accomplishment too because they kept saying things like "You're alive!!!" and looking very surprised to see me (believe me- 4 people so far have literally said "you're alive!!!")

Reunion. Reunite. Reconnect.
You see, I have attended 2 different universities and 1 college and each year it was like a "freshman experience" all over again. I never realized it, because, for me, that's how college was. Awkward times of people talking about traditions and years gone by and "local stuff". Thankfully for me, I found a group of fellow students who were the "locals" and took me under their wing for a while and were kind enough to show me around town, teach me the lingo, and break me in on the traditions. Hence? Returning this year with the "no-longer-freshman-deer-in-the-headlights-look".

When I first got back (well, I should say the 1st real day I got back...the 1st night from 11-12:30am in the airport, driving home, and crashing on my new bed doesnt really count), everything was as I left it. I had the same thing happen when I got back from Kenya. I flew for hours and hours on end to reach my family in CA and once I arrived, it was like a dream was broken. I know a couple of friends who did missions this summer and lived in different states, went overseas, worked at camps, etc., where the environment was *very* different than it is here at a major state university with 25,000 students all milling around. Nonetheless! let me say how GOOD it is to be back in TN! Kindly, Heat and Humidity have welcomed me back and have graced me with highs of 92 degrees, lows of 70 degrees, and about 75% humidity around the clock.

This week will be a time of transition for many people ( students) including me. It is hard to think that just a few (ok more than a few) hours ago I was on the other side of the world. Where people spoke French to me. And I blindly looked at them and asked "Uhh English, please?" Here, people ONLY speak English to me, they ALL know that I only speak English (and ASL) and will come up to me and love on me.

Sometimes reunions dont go as you think. Sometimes there are people you left behind that need to stay reserved in the memory books of your mind and not carry over into a new year/life experience. But, then again, there are some who hardly require any reuniting with at all due to constant communication over the summer (thank you, Facebook!)

As you reunite with your old friends and as you unite with new ones, let your character and personality shine through. Last year I hung out with a group of people that I didnt really fit in with. They were always telling me (or at least hinting to me) that I was too loud, too energetic, too flamboyant, too outgoing. Towards the end of the year I found another group of people who are very much the same as I am (hell-oooo theater people; you guys are just ridiculous and wild! ha!) New students? Test out different groups of people. Just because you were friends with someone at the beginning of the year doesnt mean that you need to stick those friendships through til your graduating days. Date some different people that you wouldnt really expect to be your "type". You will be amazed at what you find and how *much* you learn about yourself. With all this in mind, DO take time to put down roots. DO find something that you are passionate about and do it because you love it and you love the people involved with it.

All in all, have a wonderful time jumping into a new school year and dont for get to have a small reunion :)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The European Extravaganza Continued

"Hallo" from Amsterdam! We arrived just this morning after a nearly 4 hour train ride. Amanda booked our tickets and it was only 5 Euros more to travel first class; that's probably the first time I've ever traveled first class on anything! It was nice. We had a little breakfast served to us and plenty of tea and coffee (or the and cafe as they say here in The Netherlands). Once we arrived at Amsterdam Centraal (yes, 2 A's...the Dutch are big fans of double A's in their words) train station, we were supposed to find Gail, Amanda's former roommate from Biola and one of her best friends. The instructions we were given by Gail were to meet her outside the huge, main exit of the train station building and to go to the steps. Well- have YOU ever been to Amsterdam Centraal station? Let me tell you (in case you have not)- there are about 300,000 sets of steps/stairs that all lead down to docks of the canals! Oh dear. Amanda and I tried paging Gail over the P.A. system and I sat and waited for her in the area we called her to meet us and Amanda walked ALL over the train station (that probably had 1,000,000 people- no joke) trying to find Gail!! It really was a one-in-a-million Where's Waldo search. Folks, after searching for her for 2 hours, we gave up. We found an internet cafe and checked Amanda's email (our only means of contact are through the internet- clearly- cell phones...its harder than you think). Anyways, there was a mix up and Gail thought our train came in at 11:45am when it actually came in at 10:45am. Gail, herself, arrived by train (from the same station) at 12noon and after searching for us for about 20 minutes went to our hostel and checked in. This was smart because she then used the computers to email Amanda and tell us how to get to the hostel. In the mean time, we had searched for her for about 2.5 hours and we finally found her after about a 15 minute walk at our hostel- safe and sound!

(You have no idea how many types of stories we have of this nature! ha, really! It is SO hard to find one person in one particular place when you have never been there before!)


Amsterdam! Its like the World's place for refugees and illegal practices. Surprisingly, the prostitution you hear about IS legal. Believe it or not, our hostel is in the middle of the red light district (dont freak out Mom and Dad...we're perfectly safe!) and is a Christian ministry center in the midst of a city full of sin. We found this particular hostel because one of Gail's friends volunteers/works for free here. He is an awesome guy and is a true world traveler! (He met Gail at a bar in Thailand...yeah, that's a whole different story!) The hostel is amazing and is truely a "light" in the midst of many other red lights vying for people's attention. Taylor (Gail's friend who works at the hostel) told us that YWAM has a ministry called The Lighthouse that outreaches to the prostitutes. Wow! You may think its discusting, but I think its heart breaking; evenm0reso when you walk past the windows and see the girls right there...super, super heart wrenching. When I was in Kenya it felt like God was right there, all the time, touching the Earth with his presence. The feeling I have about Amsterdam is the direct opposite of that I had in Kenya. You can feel the Lord's heart BREAKING for all that is happening in this city. Taylor told us that many people he has met at the hostel who have fled from the Middle East or Africa cannot get their visas cleared and are deported back home and most of the time the people do not live after returning to their home countries. It is like Amsterdam really is their last choice. That being the case, there are TONS of internationals here and even more tourists. Weed is also heavily promoted/accepted in Amsterdam so many people come for the drugs (and the prostitution). I feel like the ministry of the hostel (called The Shelter- could not be more appropriate if they tried) is THRIVING; they have 180 beds here and it is full every single night (...its very cheap and in a rough area, so it attracts all sorts of folks- many of whom are not Christians). I would love to have an opportunity to volunteer here with their program (you can come for an month to one year and work here with no pay but free room and board and food! Pretty sweet deal).

The Dutch-
Wow the Dutch are SO different from the French! Its like night and day. The French have brown hair and are very posh and fine looking. Their fashion tends to be made out of a lot of sheer and silk materials (and linen too). Here in Amsterdam, the people wear a lot of jeans and Hawaiian shirts (no joke! Its quite hilarious!) Even though it is a city, it is very small (only about 150,000 residents of Amsterdam- but hundreds of thousands of tourists). If you havent heard, chances are you will get run over by a bicycle if you spend any length of time here at all! It is true that this city has more bikes than residents (and hardly any cars...its super weird!...but so cool!) Their bikes are fancy too! They have seats on the front and the back so you can have a mom and her two kids riding one normal bike. Wow!

The Dutch have BLONDE, curly hair (for the most part it is curly, but almost all of them are blonde). They do not have the elligance of the French, but are still VERY beautiful!

Time to go explore more of the canals and pubs! Wish us well! Please pray for the Shelter and for The Lighthouse and for the prostitutes. It is a hard hitting reality when you see it for yourself; since you probably cannot right now, I will tell you, it is very sad.

We are in good health (very busy!) but are SO happy to be with Gail (and Taylor, too) and to be meeting TONS of people at the hostel. Just this afternoon we've talked with people from Idaho, Texas, Iraq, England, Uganda, Scotland, and The Netherlands.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Impressions of Paris + #2 from 101 in 1001

Bonjour everyone!
Amanda (my sister and traveling companion for this trip) made it to Paris 2 days ago after 13 hours of traveling. I dont have much time to write but wanted to check in with you all and give you an update of our time so far.

Accommodations: We are staying with a French woman named Maelle (May-L) in her apartment. She lives about 30 minutes by metro (subway) from "the main drag" (there really is no DT Paris...there are many districts and it really depends on what you consider the main event as to where you consider the city center to be, but I think the area around the Louvre is pretty close to the center.) The place we are staying is considered a "B&B", but there is really no breakfast served. Its clean and well run and inexpensive.

Food: Oh! French food! Where to start? Well... if you're us, you'd probably start at the local grocery market. Amanda cannot have bread/wheat/flour and this makes it rather hard to just grab something off the street corner. Paris is probably one of the worst places to be gluten free because of all their breads and pastries they consume on a daily basis. I, on the other hand, have had my fair share of breads. My top favourite three things I've eaten so far have been: "jambon et fermage crepes" (ham and cheese crepe), cheese, and caramel and mocha ice cream. We mostly eat fresh fruit from the grocery store right across the street from our "house" and most of the times I'll find something good to eat off a street corner. We also love green apples dipped into Nutella (Nutella is like chocolate-hazelnut peanut butter.)

Sights: We've seen so many including all the big ticket items such as the Louvre (museum), Notre Dame (gothic cathedral), Montmartre (village-like area with narrow streets and plenty of gelato), the Eiffel Tower, and many, many more. We've pretty much walked our little legs off. Tomorrow we're taking a treck out to Chateau de Versailles (the palace of Versailles) which should be wonderful.

Weather: We could not have asked for better weather! It has been sunny with a few puffy clouds with temperatures in the low 70's at night to low 80's during the day: perfect! Because of the nice weather we've spent at least an hour (normally closer to 2 hours) each day strolling through different public gardens and parks. The French love to be outside and have beautiful gardens! They are very proper, and though, not as extravagant as the English gardens, they are still quite nice. Almost all of them surround a famous castle of church (or some other famous building.)

Culture: The French are SO friendly! We have had a fantastic time chatting (in fluent English) with our host and many other "young people". Their accents when speaking English are so pleasing to the ear. Even if you approach a stranger and they say they dont speak English, they will still try to talk to you (in French...not helpful for us at all...but at least they try and speak slow French...) and will give great hand gestures; it really is a shame ASL isnt universal! Paris fashion is impecable and beautiful! Everyone (especially the guys/men) wear beautiful shoes. Amanda and I wonder how they dont topple over with some of the creations they strap to their feet and wander around in.

The scents: My favourite sense is scent; I LOVE to smell things like parfumes and flowers, and food, etc. Well, Paris is like my heaven! Amanda and I stumbled upon an official parfume museum and at the end got to take our fair share of whiffs of parfume and cologne; amazing. As odd as it sounds, the people all smell very nice! When strangers pass us on the streets you always have a little sense of an "umm!" going off in the back of your head because they smell so nice! They also use deoderant (...many, many places where I've traveled before they dont, so this is an improvement, to say the least) which aids the stuffiness of the rush hour metro commutes. In Paris, there are also tons of flowers that grow everywhere in little potted planters or public gardens. Mums permeiate the air with their spicy-earthiness smell; I love it. Everything smells good here! Not to mention, the crepes and other delectible baked goods!

This is really all the time I have right now; just a general update on my findings of the culture of Paris. You will have to look at my pictures on my facebook (hopefully will be posted shortly after I return home) to fill in the gaps of activities and adventures we have had!

Please pray for stamina, for my back to not hurt (tons of walking + standing= not so good for me), for Amanda to find good food for cheap prices to eat, and for us to make some friends with the locals.

We have one more day in Paris (tomorrow) and then head out Wednesday morning for Amsterdam (the Netherlands)!

Date completed: July 30th, 2011