I thought for sure that there were Deaf events I went to last semester that I never posted about, and in looking through my old school papers, I found this one. It’s the very first time I ever went out into the Deaf community, twords the end of my first semester of ASL. I know I still have a long way to go before I become an amazing ASL speaker, but reading this makes me realize how far I’ve come.
went to the MATA convention by myself, as no one I knew could make it on Friday, the only day I could go. I went after work, knowing I’d only have a few hours to peruse the convention before it closed. Usually I drag my husband Brian to these things. He’s always up to new experiences and it’s nice to not feel wholly alone in a crowd of strangers, I knew Brian would be good moral support. As I pulled up to that giant white building full of windows, I thought of him in his safe little cubicle at work. I wished I was there myself. I am notoriously shy in social situations and I abhor feeling stupid, something I was sure I couldn’t avoid with my inferior ASL 1 vocabulary. I’m well aware that it takes time to be good at things, but I never want to wait that long. I’d like to be good right off the bat, especially if I’m displaying my inexperience to large groups of people. I was very nervous.
I was relieved as I stepped inside the giant room where the MATA conference was held. It looked just like any other convention I had been to, with the bright banners stretched behind folding tables spread with interesting items. There were thick crowds of people milling from one booth to another and, besides the people signing back and forth, this was a scene I was familiar with. I couldn’t follow anything people were saying to each other, my sign language skills were not quick enough to keep up, but you could certainly tell the emotions people were trying to get across. Most people seemed happy to be there.
I knew this was a good opportunity to practice my signing skills, and even though people were extremely nice to me and tried to start conversation, I felt odd about it. I realized that even in the English speaking world that I live in, I usually give a quickly polite answer to any question that’s asked of me, and don’t elaborate. By the time I had thought of more to say, the person I was speaking to at the booths had usually moved on to the next person. It didn’t help that I usually didn’t know the signs for anything I could ask about at the booth. In class I feel like I can communicate anything I want to, but out in the actual world, it’s a little different. I realized how much I’m hampered by my lack of vocabulary. I definitely felt as if people wanted to be inclusive and friendly. Those I did sign briefly with were incredibly kind in signing slowly so I could understand.
I’m glad I went to the MATA convention, instead of to a reading or other type of Deaf Event. I’ve heard of some of the services available to deaf people, such as fire alarms that shake the bed and doorbells that flash a light. It was really neat to see all the products and services out there, especially the video chats, which make life the same for a deaf person as for a hearing person, as far as technological conveniences are concerned. It was neat to get to understand that aspect of deaf life.
I learned a lot at the MATA convention. I loved seeing all the neat products they had displayed, and I liked seeing people sign back and forth to one another. It made me want to be better at ASL, so I could join in on the conversation as well, though I didn’t understand what people were saying. It also made me realize how little I communicate in English when I’m alone in a large group. Usually my conversation is confined to “Oh, I’m fine thank you,” and “no, I’m just looking.” It was harder to branch out from that habit into actual conversation especially because I was trying to use a new language. Visiting the MATA convention made me excited to be better at ASL, and excited to practice communication in the new language I’m learning. It was a great experience.