I attended a small SayWhatClub gathering in 1998, about 30 of us camped out in Rocky Mountain National Park. No one felt left out of conversations, everyone was included even it took 5 repeats. We hiked, toured the country and hung out late around the campfire. I left feeling happy, super glad I went to spent time with others who are hard of hearing like me.
Two weeks ago, I went to the Hearing Loss Association of America’s convention in Rhode Island. I left Salt Lake with smile on my face knowing it would be ‘my world’ there.
I had two roommates, one I found on the message boards and the other found me through someone I know in the SWC. Laura came from Massachusetts and Robin from Colorado and we were all three in 40’s which we didn’t realize until we met. We hung out on the edge of our beds, talking like girls at slumber party until late. Laura is hard of hearing with only one hearing aid right now, waiting for money to buy another. She’s mellow and a calming influence, easy to hang out with. Robin is basically deaf, hearing only enough noise with her hearing aids to make her look up but is the most excellent lip reader I have ever come across. If she’s looking at someone, she comes across totally hearing. It’s amazing and she shrugs off admitting she’s one of the few. She grew up oral not allowed to sign.
Before I left Salt Lake, I set my phone with times and places of each workshop I wanted to attend and forgot about it. When I looked at my schedule Thursday morning, I thought things were off somewhat but couldn’t be sure without a program book and access to all my email. I poked my head into a research workshop I signed up for thinking maybe I was half an hour late and found out I missed the whole thing! I spent half an hour with them and went out to take a closer look at my phone/calendar. Oh man, there’s a button to push to change time zones for each event I enter into it. I showed the research event for Denver time. So I sat down with my phone and switched all the other events to New York time.
Mostly I attended workshops around building our local chapter. Thursday afternoon was all about harnessing group dynamics with a two-part workshop. Before the actual workshop started, a lady reminded us to turn on our T-coil because the rooms are looped. I did and WOW!!! I never experienced it before this and I was totally amazed at the clarity of sound coming through my hearing aids at the push of the button. I heard so well, I hardly needed CART (it’s also helpful the that the presenter was male). I’m all for loop technology now and wish it was in more places in the U.S. It’s all over Europe but we are slow getting it going here. Anyway, he presenter made the class a lot of fun and I left feeling high on life.
Next came the Presidents reception where I met two SWC people in person I never had before but they each had a group around them and I guess I didn’t want to intrude. I felt a little awkward there, sipping wine, wandering around, chatting to people I didn’t know. Before I left, I wanted to thank someone for all his help during our first Walk4Hearing here and he introduced me to a dynamic lady who is working with 6 Walks in the north-east. I got so many wonderful ideas from her to share with my group here. That was one of my best contacts made while there.
When the reception was over I wandered to Meet and Greet sponsored by Caption Call, from the Salt Lake area. Feeling good about being there, making connections. I walk by a guy making balloon hats and I gotta have a balloon hat, not just a regular hat, it had to be a great hat I explained to the artist. After getting the hat, I saw someone I knew from Caption Call and she took a picture.
Then I saw Laura and we wandered over to the tables with 3 caricature artists at work. He wanted the balloon hat off.
I put my hat back on started to mingle. I met so many neat people and I have such a hard time remembering names. I wound hanging around a guy who’s been coming to these things for 15 years. He kept introducing me to people so by this time, faces started to blend together. John’s another great person, born basically deaf, growing up in the oral world (but doesn’t lip read like Robin) and learning sign later. He has two cochlear implants and loves techno music for the beat.
The next night I joined his group for dinner and he introduced to me two more neat people, Nini and Elenore there with their families. They were hard of hearing and signed as they talked. It’s an additional tool to use they said. At first I felt a little intimated around them as they signed but as I relaxed I started picking up some of the sign and even using some of it myself. What I didn’t get verbally, I sometimes caught in sign. How wonderful to be around people like that. I soaked it up.
There were more workshops with loops and CART, more lunches and dinners with more people to meet. I couldn’t get enough of it, staying up late with everyone but being an early riser made for very little sleep.
The city of Providence puts on a weekend show on the river called Firewater. They have steel bowls anchored into the river, load the bowls with wood and boats go around lighting the fires with ceremony and music.
Complete with a fire spinner. Most of the people around me hadn’t seen this type of thing before but me being an experienced Burning Man person had. I bet the guy spinning in front of the boat (not the best of pictures, sorry) is a burner.
There were some oh’s and ah’s as the guy spun some steel wool.
And that was my last night there. I don’t think I went to sleep until after 3 a.m. I met more neat people that night. Of course I woke up early. I attended the morning awards breakfast to watch a local friend of mine receive a distinctive award for all the advocating she does. I also got a token award for working with the Walk4Hearing. The event came down fast after that. A handful of us stayed, talking in the convention center until we decided to go to one last lunch together.
I’m in the middle on the right with Robin the most excellent lip reader sitting in front of me. John with the two CI’s is sitting almost across from me. We sat there right up until the time I had to go to the airport, thank goodness I made for a later flight. My original plans were to see Rhode Island that afternoon, to explore the area since I’d never been there before. That never happened and I don’t regret it either. It was much better hanging out with people who understand my world, who are part of my world. John had his car with him so he drove me to the airport.
I got on the plane thinking my time had ended. I settled in while people continued to file in. I look up and there’s one of the SWC people I didn’t get to talk to much. I waved Debbie over and she sat in the seat next to me. We talked all the way to Chicago, convention bonus time. I enjoyed the time spent with her, getting to know each other and it was the perfect way to end it all. Once in Chicago, we had different flights to catch.
What and awesome world it was. The SWC convention will be here in Salt Lake next month. I helped arrange bits of it. There will be 50 of us instead of 600 + but it will be all the same sort of affair; workshops with loops and CART, people I’ve met including Debbie on the plane and more neat people to meet. There will be late nights, lots of noise (good noise) and more learning.
I came home sort of high, super tired and, I admit, a little cranky about having to come back the hearing world. Thank goodness for the Sanderson Center where I get small slices of the above.
I think I could be addicted to these conventions. I can’t attend the ALDA convention this year but next year it will be New Mexico. Next years HLAA convention is in Portland. I will do my best to get to both, getting as much of ‘my world’ in as I can.