South Africa Journal #4: Out with the Old, In with the New


July 16, 2011


I awoke this morning, walked over to the balcony and stood outside in the fresh, cool wind of the Antarctica winter blowing out way. My body felt so heavy, with the weight of the stress of the past and present, with a 18-hour nonstop flight in between. I’m just starting to feel the toll it takes on my mind, body – it’s called jetlag. I am still at the Blue Waters Hotel by the Indian Ocean in Durban. After coffee, I went to the Sun Elangeni hotel to meet intrepeters from all over the world attending World Association of Sign Language Interpreters (WASLI) conference.


After that memorable cocktail party with WASLI the night before (let me spill a bit – met tons of interpreters from all over the world, caught up on news with a Nepali terp Sanu, WFD Board Member Colin Allen and Nigel Howard (Canada) and many more, lots of laughs and hugs)


I decided to sit down during one workshop by Dr Mory of Japan on the topic of using International Sign in Asia.


I had Eloise and Clarissa, two Deaf interpreters from Brazil who did a fabulous job. I think one day I’d love to touch Brasil and see what the Deafblind are like there.


Each country interpreter was there to stand up and make a report of their association or community doings. I caught several, including *******, I have to say, it was interesting to see a few countries still use the old-school SIGNED ENGLISH EXTACT. It’s old school American Sign Language in case you don’t know.


I felt a little sad to see that these countries don’t have their own native sign language, but, the reason that many developing countries use SEE is because way back in the ‘70s, some people thought it was beneficial and economical to teach SEE. One idea here if you don’t mind? Gallaudet Lingistics Department needs to step up internationally to go over there and help them study the history of their own native languages before the ‘70s and illustrate it into a dictionary with funds, a local deaf illustrator and direction? Just look at Deaf Deveopment Project (DDP) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. They are doing just that. Nigeria, Uganda, Philippines, Malaysia are just a few countries I know of that still practice SEE.




It was wonderful meeting well-respected people – Maya DeWit, Rachel McKee, Debra Russell (new President for WASLI from Canada), Nigel Howard from Canada, more and more interpreters from countries with names I can’t even pronounce with my fingers. Accessibility is out there and growing.


Interpreters from countries with cultures that still remain in one century behind developed countries have made it all the way out here. Mostly surprising was the number of interpreters from Africa. This conference in Durban has given many African countries the extraordinary opportunity to be amongst others, a Zambian, Nigerian, Kenyan, Ugandan, South African, Namibian, Tanzanian, and so on….


The next day I wanted to attend WASLI Gala but I couldn‘t. I wasn‘t a delegate, I only went there three days to socialize.


So I decided to head out to the Hilton Hotel on Saturday night to check out the WFD Youth Section General Assembly. Boy, it was long. They had started at 2PM and ended at 11PM. New Board members for the Youth Section were voted. The only person I knew was Braam Jordaan from South Africa.


My shoulder felt as if it would dislocate for the 30th time. I had tactile nonstop on my left arm. My childhood pal Dean and a new friend, a Belgian (I need to find her name), thank you for volunteering on the spot. The end of the meeting was chaotic – the entire audience did not understand the process of electing Board Members and there was a long debate over the matter. It was so refreshing to see many Deaf youths with knowledge of Parliamentary Processes and their rights and due process. They are our future, after all.


So much has happened in the few days – I wonder what it‘ll be like when the WFD starts. Can‘t wait.


Dream bigger.





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3 Responses to South Africa Journal #4: Out with the Old, In with the New

  1. Dianrez says:

    Envy your energy! You should bottle it and sell the formula for zillons of dollars! Wishing you more energy and don’t forget the tonics and vitamins,

  2. Maya says:

    I don’t think SEE is old school ASL…? ASL is much older than SEE, right? Anyway, it is interesting that those countries all learned SEE, which is an American invention. Is that from missionaries or who spread it to different countries?

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