fter going to the Mata Expo for a couple of years, I felt like I knew exactly what to expect from the Deaf Nation Expo.  And it was pretty much as I pictured it:  booths and vendors and people everywhere on a much bigger scale than Mata.  The event took place at the Pomona Fairplex in one of their giant concrete buildings.  As soon as I crossed the bridge from the parking lot, I knew right where the expo was happening.  A giant mob of people were standing and signing outside the building, and a huge line on one side indicated all the people who hadn’t signed up for free tickets beforehand.  There was one difference for me from the other expos I had been to.  I was bringing my husband, Brian, who doesn’t know any ASL and has only spent time with highly oral Deaf people.

I usually feel like having Brian along makes everything a better experience, but so far I’ve avoided taking him to Deaf things.  I always worry that the language barrier will be too much for him, and that he’ll have a terrible time.  Lately, I’ve been trying to convince him to learn ASL with me. So I’ve envited him to the last few Deaf things and he’s come willingly.  I know he feels awkward about it, but he seems to have a good time in a surreal, culture shock kind of way.  Bringing Brian to Deaf Nation turned out to be one of the best things ever.  I’m naturally shy and won’t ask people things, even if I’d like to know.  Brian always wants to know, and isn’t shy about marching up to people he’s never met.  Because I was his “voice” that day, I ended up asking people all sorts of things that I never would have thought of on my own.  I got a lot of really neat information, too.  Did you know that the first TTY machines actually communicated using Morse Code?  I didn’t either.  I guess the first model that Robert Weichtbreit and James Marsdon put together was a machine that would either take in the Morse Code and translate it to English or take the English and translate in into Morse Code, depending on which way the information was flowing.  Cool, huh?  And I never would have known if it hadn’t been for Brian.  Even though he didn’t know ASL, he ended up enriching my ASL experience.  He’s so great like that.  🙂

This is the first time I’ve been out in the Deaf community that I’ve acutally seen people I know in droves.  At past events, I might run into one of my classmates at a large event, but for the vast majority of the time I’m alone with no support.  This time, I saw a ton of people I know.  Other students from my classes, people I know from Deaf West, old teachers, everyone was milling about in that giant building.  For the first time, I felt like I could maybe be considered a part of the community.  It was great.

I think most importantly, though, it left me wanting more.  I haven’t been able to attend all the weekend Deaf Events in Southern California because I’ve been working at Deaf West, but once the show is over I definitely need to start doing those things again.  I miss being out in the community and chatting in ASL with people I just met.  I’m starting actual interpreting classes (not the pre-interpreting stuff I’ve been doing) in 6 months.  I need more practice fast!  That means I’ll be doing everything I can to get into the community and chat more.  See you around.

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