Monday, December 12, 2011

Puerto Rico Update #2

Buenas tardes once more mi amigas/amigos!

Today was my first day to observe in the classrooms at the school for the deaf. I had a great time, but my brain is extremely tired! I now understand why all the rest of the missionary staff go to bed at like 8:30pm. This morning I observed the high school class which consisted of two boy students. One of them is HoH and the other is Deaf. It was really interesting to see their intelligence levels and their communicative levels. The Deaf boy, in terms of school work and just general "grade level appropriateness" was way behind. However, his language skills of "through the air" communication (AKA signing) were great! He used strong ASL and it was clear he has been signing for a while. The HoH (hard of hearing) boy was right there and with it academically, but his signing was a little lacking. Its so funny to be around these deaf kids because they are so noisy! Man! They don't realize they are being loud, so when they laugh, or if they drop something, they have no idea how much noise they are actually making. It's a kick. Its also a strange feeling when a siren will go by down the street, or a run shot will ring out and the kids don't even flinch. It is very, very sad to me to imagine living in their world. Puerto Rico is a place of amazing sounds! At night, there are the rain forest critters (tons of all kinds of crazy frogs, lizards, bats, crickets, etc.). During the day, when we go to the beach, the sound of the waves crashing on the sand is just beautiful! It is SO calming. I think it may be one of God's favourite sounds considering so much of the world is covered in water. Just a little biased thought. Its sad to turn to the kids and want to say to them "aww don't you love that sound?" but I can't. I don't pity them because these kids are wonderful people. They are individuals. But, they will always be a minority. They will have difficulties communicating with those in their main "hearing world" environment and trouble talking to their families. No matter how good cochlear implants and hearing aids become, they will never hear the world like I do.

As far as the events of the day:
Woke up early and went to observe the high school class until lunch. We learned about Paul Revere and the events leading up to the American Revolution. When I think about running my own classroom I think "there's no way I'm ready!" and then I jump into a class like the one I was in today and think "okay, sure. I could totally do this. I could read from a book, and make up fun activities, and have the kids act things out, and really get them enthuastic about learning!" It's a very exciting and encouraging feeling!

At lunch time, we all (meaning the 8 staff members plus me, and all 10 kids that attend the school) gathered into the cafeteria. We had this delicious pasta lunch made and brought over by an American lady. It tasted like "American pasta" if you ask me...

After lunch, we went into the chapel to watch part of the Nativity Story (the movie). Then, all the students practiced hand bells. They do a great job and have it down to a science. The kids really enjoyed the bells (especially this adorable little 8 year old named Mizael who will talk your head off...oh my!) I just listened and observed and smiled at the kids. Its so fun to watch the kids interact with each other, too! They range in age from about 16 or 17 to 4 years old. Such cuties! They look quite a lot like Mexican kids (IMO) but they have less Native American looking features and look more like South Americans to me. By the time we finished bell practice, someone had brought presents for all the classes: books! The kids were thrilled and it was fun to watch them open their presents! I really wish I had thought to bring something for them all too! Next time. One of the books the kindergarten/1st grade class got was called "The Snowy Day" by Ezra Jack Keats. I had to do a report on this book for my Children's literature class, so I was very familiar with it. I told the teacher that and she asked if I would like to read it to the kinders. Okay, let me tell you, best part of my day. Haha! It's hard to get deaf kids to pay attention and look at you because when they are looking at you, they are really trying to figure out what you are signing to them. Needless to say, I read them the story by signing it for them. Then one of the boys who was my little helper who turned the pages of the book decided it was his turn to read the book. He's six and can't really read, but can pick out a few words here and there (like any 6 year old I suppose). THAT was the best part of the day because half the time he would totally make up a story about what was going on in the picture, and the other half of the time, he would just ramble. (I had a hard time understanding him to be honest because you know how little kids like to say things that are totally unrelated to the topic? Yeah, well that was what this little guy was doing too. Very fun experience.) I stayed in the kindergarten/1st grade classroom for another hour and a half until school was over and just talked with the kids and with the teacher about each of the 3 kids in the class. There was this little boy, of course, and then two other girls who were sisters (both deaf). The little boy has a 4 year old hearing brother and an 8 year old deaf sister. He himself is deaf.

One of the missionaries told me that there are about 150,000 deaf adults and children on the island of PR. The total population is around 4 million people. When you figure it out, that means there are a LOT of deaf people here. There are about 8,000 deaf people in the state of Texas so...that kinda gives you an idea. Most of these deaf people live in the mountains in small, extremely rural communities. I would die to go up there because I bet their language is fascinating because they are so isolated and there is no one there to teach them. Wow. Maybe next time I will go visit them. I can only imagine that they would use a ton of gesturing, pigeon sign language and mixes of English and Spanish. There is a lot of inbreeding in general among the PR'ians (of course...its an island...) so there are a lot of issues with genetics. I have never known a deaf person to have deaf parents, nor a deaf person to have deaf brothers and siblings (or both!). There is one family at the school here in PR where both the mother and father are deaf and both of their daughters (the ones in the kindergarten class) are deaf as well. Can you imagine!? It is great, though, because these two deaf girls have grown up with sign language in their home from day one. They are fairly skilled communicators.

Sidetrack...anyways... directly after school was over, my missionary friend, JJ, and I had to take one of the HS boys home. He lived close to the beach, so Jen asked if I wanted to go for a walk with her on the beach we went to on Sunday. Of course I said yes! We were able to walk this empty shoreline for about an hour. Then we needed to go to the grocery store to pick up some bread, etc. for dinner tonight. Everyone at the school takes turns making dinner on different nights of the week. Tonight was not JJ's night, but since we were out, we got some of the ingredients. Dinner was this delicious pasta casserole (lucky me, right? pasta twice in one day! I love it!) and salad and bread. JJ told me earlier that we would go to a resort and go in their jacuzzi after dinner. Since everyone likes to go to bed nice and early around here, we went directly after dinner.

Now the resort: and the jacuzzi and pool:
Well, a while ago, JJ and some of the others on staff knew this guy who was head of security for a resort about 20 minutes down the road. (Oh btw, everything on the island is really far away because their roads are kinda crazy! Its an adventure!) =) Anyways, we get up to the guardgate and give them our name and tell them we will just be visiting for the evening. Since this is PR, they said "sure thing" and let us in. Ha! We walk in like we own the place and jump right in the jacuzzis that are right near the ocean! You can hear the waves crashing when you sit in the jacuzzi/pool. Guhhhg! Beautiful! We also saw quite a lot of stars (I miss them when I am in Knoxville) and watched the cruise ships sail on past and watched the airplanes overhead. The jacuzzi was really chilly (kinda unusual they said...) and of course tonight is the coldest its been in a long time (probably down into the low 70s! Burrr! Everyone, better break out the snowcoats! hehe) We were at the resort for about an hour and much to my dismay left to head back to the school. This resort was amazing! Think combo of the Hilton in Waikiki and the Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, San Diego, CA. Just beautiful!

I know this has been super long, but its fun for me to write it all out and I hope you enjoy getting a bit of an update about what all I am doing here. I just realized after reading over the whole posting that I promised yesterday I'd write about Sunday...I'm not sure if that's gonna happen tomorrow or not...but I'll try to insert snippets.

Buenas noches!

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