A list of life skills I have improved this week:
- playing Uno with strategy
- handling the situation when the water cuts out indefinitely as soon as I shampoo my hair
- feeding another person spaghetti with a spoon
- maintaining a certain amount of control of a resident’s wheelchair while three blind children try to make it go as fast as possible
- running with a string of children holding both of my hands
On Monday after getting to a spot in my work with the garden that I felt I could ask for help in locating vegetable plants to start the planting process, I did some very minor self-advocating and secured a position helping out in the kindergarten classrooms. Tuesday morning started with a chapel service. As I was standing out of the way, feeling slightly unsure of what I had gotten myself into and watching the kids walk towards the school, a boy came up to me and took my hand and led me into the school area.
I was placed in a kindergarten classroom for the deaf. The teacher tasked me with various projects that included gluing cutouts of farm animals to a poster board, writing out homework sheets, and helping the students with practicing their penmanship. Despite the fact that I am acting as a teaching assistant, I am essentially participating in the class as a student, learning the basics of American Sign Language along with the students (although, I will admit that I had a bit of leg up on knowing the colors from my many hours of Uno with the residents).
One of the kindergarten teachers gave me my sign name. It is the ASL motion for G held in front of my chin. The kindergarten kids in the classroom and many other students constantly reach out to pet my hair or tell me that I am pretty or just give me a huge grin and bear hug when they see me walking by. Today several of the students pointed to a poster on the wall that labeled the body parts and gestured that I was the little girl pictured on the poster despite the fact that she and I share no similarities beyond our skin color.
The most astounding thing I have witnessed in the classroom so far is the students practicing speaking. Despite their deafness, they are able to mimic the exaggerated facial movements of the teacher and legibly speak words. Granted sometimes they try their hardest and nothing but air comes out, but I was pleasantly taken aback when they began practicing their speech.
It has been a pretty easy week as I seem to have settled into routine life at St. Vincent’s. Each day is full of its own small highs and lows, but this week was pretty quiet, in the best way possible for a person beginning to feel at home in a new country.