Day 29: El Club de los Extranjeros

Hallo!

Moving to a new country definitely has its stressors. First, I was stressed about small things like getting from the airport to my AirBnb. Then, slightly more important things like opening a bank account and finding a place to live. My most recent mini-stressors have been settling into a routine…

AND THEN…. there is my TIE appointment. The TIE (or, Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero) is Spain’s residency card for foreigners with an application almost as taxing as applying for a Visa. My appointment is in T-minus 2 days and I am feeling the pressure. So many forms; so little time!

Regardless, I am not typing this to discuss my TIE-related stress. I want to share a little bit about my experience at Madrid’s festival for the Día Internacional de las Personas Sordas (International Day of Deaf Persons)!

What. A. Fiesta!

The celebration was held a few days ago, on September 30th. I was very shy in the beginning and hesitant to start conversations. Due to my experiences in my LSE class, I knew that I’d likely be relying on a mixture of ASL, LSE, ISL, AND gestures. (You may recall, from my previous post, that ASL and LSE are quite different!)

Never fear; I had a plan.

My original plan (we’ll call it “Phase I”) was to somehow meet another American in Madrid (as if we Americans all have invisible strings connecting us together).

I did not find other Americans, but I did find a few individuals who knew American Sign Language! Two Deaf men from Ghana. At first, I assumed that they, too, were from the States. However, they educated me on the history of signed language in Ghana. They told me about Andrew Foster, an American teacher, who helped develop Deaf education in Ghana. Although Ghanaian Sign Language is a distinct signed language, it still resembles ASL enough that we could understand each other with relative ease.

Once I met my friends who understood ASL, I moved on to Phase II of my “step-out-of-my-comfort-zone-and-make-friends” master plan.

Phase II: Find someone who knew International Sign Language (ISL). Thankfully, Phase II was very successful!

I met friends from Spain and the Dominican Republic, through their amazing communication skills and ability to understand my rudimentary ISL. I began to feel more comfortable and, finally, started enjoying the festivities! There were performances, poetry, ZUMBA (woo!), and even line dancing (to the Spanish version of Achy-Breaky Heart… yikes).

I was mentally exhausted by the time I left the festival. But, I made friends, improved my LSE, and stepped out of my comfort zone. :)

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I do want to emphasize that as a non-native, hearing signer, I struggled to communicate across signed languages; HOWEVER, Deaf people are AMAZING travelers. Check out this clip from Nyle DiMarco’s Tedx talk. If you don’t have a Facebook account, you can watch the entire Tedx talk on Deaf Identity here.