US Travel adventures 1 – preparations

Hi everyone,

I haven’t been writing much. It has to do with the fact that I am preparing for my biggest adventure in ages, which is: traveling through the US + Canada! There’s a lot more to arrange than I thought, and time seems to fly by so fast that I am in a hurry to get everything finished on time! Aaaaah, stress! But it’s going to be worth it!

Booking flights + making a plan!
This was the first thing I did a couple of months ago, I went to a student travel agency and told them where I wanted / needed to go to. I sat there for about 2 hours to arrange everything, from connecting flights to small tours in cities, but the final result is:
June 13th – 16th:
– Flying to Toronto, Canada with my lovely girlfriend
– Taking the bus to Niagara Falls
– Get to the hotel and see Niagara Falls and surroundings for 3 days

June 16th – 20th:
– Take the bus to Toronto
– Meet our couchsurfing host there
– Hang out in Toronto for 4 days

June 20th – 26th:
– Flying to NYC and sending my girlfriend on a plane home 😦
– See and do a lot
– Meet my dad’s friend
– Meet a friend from camp

June 26th – 30th:
– Take the bus to Washington DC
– Stay at a friend from camp
– Go to Gallaudet to visit a friend
– Do stuff you do in DC

June 30th – July 9th:
– Drive to Athens, Georgia
– Camp Twitch and Shout
– Lots of fun!!

July 9th – 15th:
– Fly to San Francisco
– Do a 3 day tour to Yosemite
– Get tattooed
– See the city

July 15th – 24th:
– Take the nightbus to Los Angeles
– Do a 4 day tour to the Grand Canyon
– See the city

July 24th – 28th:
– Fly to Chicago
– Hang out in Chicago

July 28th:
– Fly to Amsterdam and then go home and be sad for a few days

Getting in to Canada/the US
Luckily, as a Dutch person, I only have to fill in an ESTA-form online and pay $14,- to be granted access to the US. For Canada the same, but then it’s called ETA. I thought it was scary to fill in the forms, because what if they decline my application?! So I postponed everything until last week and then got over myself and did my applications. Within the same hour I got the message that it was all arranged 🙂

Finding places to stay
I tried finding locals on couchsurfing who were willing to host me, I found 3 people, of whom 2 cancelled on me last week 😦 But I’m very grateful that 1 person didn’t and I’m looking forward to meeting him!

Other than that I booked beds in shared rooms in hostels, which will be a great way to meet people. When I was in Sydney, Australia, I saw 20-person rooms, and that isn’t necessarily what I want. So I booked a bed in a 4-person room – enough to meet people, but not too crowded. My hostels are mostly in the city centres, since I like to walk around cities and not take metro’s or trams because you can’t see the city that way (and, I hate public transportation and find it scary!)

What to do when you’re in a strange city, ALONE?
Yes, this was a bit daunting to me at first, the idea of spending time ‘alone’ and doing things ‘on my own’… not doing activites with friends or family, but deciding for yourself and by yourself. I found a website that sell the CITYPASS, where you get to do all kind of activities for a discounted price. I will buy one for NYC and perhaps Chicago.

I won’t go to fancy restaurants by myself – or ever, to be honest. Since I stay at hostels, and hostels tend to have kitchens, I’ll cook my own meals, bring a tupperware box from home and will eat in parks, or in the common area of the hostel. That way I can see a bit of the city, or talk to other people in the hostel. And if I don’t want to be around people I just sit by myself – take my hearing aids out and I won’t be bothered by anyone!

Blogs for the coming months
This blog will be transformed into a temporary travel blog, combined with what I experience as a Deaf person/Touretter abroad! I hope there’ll be lots of pictures and nice experiences written down.

Love, Sam

Question: Have you ever been to the cities that I’m going to? If so, let me know what in your opinion are things I need to do/see!

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Preparing for Camp Twitch&Shout

Hello everyone,

I’m counting down the days until Camp Twitch&Shout starts. I almost cannot wait until it’s finally there! 74 more days to go and then it’s there!!

Travel to the US
As I am an ocean away from the US, I have to take a plane or two to get to Athens, Georgia for the preparations of the camp. Or I’ll just take a rowing boat, but I think I might have to get started a bit earlier on that if I plan on doing that. Just kidding, the only thing I fear more than flying is boats!

I had a meeting at the student travel agency, and we set up the following plan for the first weeks:
– Fly from Amsterdam to Toronto on the 13th of June, where I will hopefully stay with a host until the 20th;
– The 20th I’ll fly from Toronto to NYC, where I hopefully will stay at my father’s friend’s house until the 24th;
– The 24th a fellow camp counselor will join me in NYC and we’ll go to see gay pride and festival on the 25th and 26th of June.
– Then on the 26th of June I’ll leave in the evening with my fellow camp counselor to Washington DC, where we’ll stay until the 30th.

THEN WE HAVE CAMP! *jumps up and down hyperactively*

After camp I fly from Atlanta to San Francisco, where I will do a tour to Yosemite National Park. Then I’ll have a few days left in SF before I take the bus to LA. In LA I will do a 4 day tour to Las Vegas, Route 66/Hooverdam and Grand Canyon.

On the 24th of July I will leave LA and will head for Chicago for 4 days. Only then I can leave again to Amsterdam.

suitcase

Preparing for my trip
Since I’m not an US citizen, I normally would have to have a visa of some sort. Since I live in a country where the Visa Waiver Program applies I can stay in the US traveling for a maximum of 3 months. I will stay for 6/7 weeks so that’ll be no problem.

Meeting new people
I love meeting new people, and at Camp Twitch&Shout that’s certainly going to happen! Funny fact about me: In my own (spoken) language I am quite awkward socially, am not always able to make contact with people. In signlanguage I’m not awkward, but a bit shy, and in spoken English I am very outgoing and happy. Strange how different languages kind of make you a different person (more about that in a later blog!)

Because I literally couldn’t wait until I could meet my fellow camp counselors I asked some people to skype with me to get to know each other a little bit beforehand. And they actually wanted to! Only downside to this is: time difference! When I wake up and am most hyperactive and want to socialize the US-people are asleep. And when it’s afternoon and most people are still at work there, in my place it’s the end of the evening.

Surprises
All my hosts and even my girlfriend will be surprised by things I’ve got set out for them, but I’m not going to share those things ghehe!

More on my travel plans and how they’ll be working out, you’ll see later on when I’m traveling 🙂

Love, Sam

Experiences as a kid with Tourettes

Hello everyone,

Today I wanted to write about my experiences with Tourettes as a kid. Because of the camp I’m going to be a counselor at I wanted to look back on my own childhood and reflect on some things. At the same time it might be recognizable for campers who are coming to camp to read where I’ve come from and can see how their lifes can become just as great as anyone’s. Or for parents to relate to my story, and to know that things will work out fine in the end.

I want everyone to know that it’s TOTALLY OK to have Tourettes, there’s nothing wrong with having it, and it’s definitely nobody’s fault. Sorry if some parts are a bit depressing, it wasn’t all bad!

Different from the beginning
I was always a little different.

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The first 2,5 years of my life (according to my mum) I barely slept at all, cried all the time and was very restless. After the birth of my younger sister that changed a bit, but then the Tics started to emerge. Lately I’ve been watching a lot of old video recordings of me as a toddler and saw that I already twitched with my eyes, neck and mouth. I can’t remember being bothered about it, it just happened. I was careless and happy. Until I got to the age of 5 or 6.

Getting diagnosed
At age 5 or 6 my mum started to get worried about my Tics, anxiety and ‘attacks of rage’ as she called them. I was becoming unmanageable to my parents and they sought help from a psychiatrist. They diagnosed me with Tourettes and ADHD and advised my parents to send me ‘away’. Can’t remember where they wanted to send me, but they wanted to pull me away from my family. My mum was outraged to even think of letting go of her child, and she took me home. I’ll forever be grateful for that.

Medication
As cognitive behavioural therapy wasn’t quite common in the ’90s, I was prescribed many different anti-psychotics at age 6-8. Many medications caused me to become someone different from who I was: from quirky, hyperactive and funny, I went to down, letargic and irritable. Some medications worked for my ADHD (Ritalin for example), but they worsened my Tics. Finally, there was something that worked for me!! – but had the side effect that I gained 40 pounds in just a couple of months. And while that’s not good for anyone, especially for a child that’s really dangerous for your health! My mum asked me what I wanted, and that was to stop with medication and just accept that I Tic. She agreed.

Being told to stop Ticcing
I never minded that I Ticced, was only sometimes bothered with the physical pain some Tics caused. But people around me made me hyper-conscious of the fact that I was Ticcing, telling me to stop and ‘behave’ better. Like there was something I could do about the neurotransmitters firing falsely in my brain?
I think that is the worst part of having Tourettes, not even having the Tourettes, but the people who let you know (verbally or non-verbally) that you’re not ‘normal’ or that you ‘need to be fixed’ somehow.

In my teens
I still Ticced (they got worse in my teenage years), was hyperactive and impulsive. At home I was still told I wasn’t allowed to Tic, I ‘had to stop it’ and ‘try harder’. With Tourettes sometimes comes depression, and I think that especially happens when the people around you don’t accept you for who you are. Not that I blame anyone, people around me just didn’t know how to react to me. And I couldn’t tell them. My attacks of rage to others turned to rage towards myself. I became depressed.

It took me over a year to recover from that. It’s hard to tell this, because it’s nobody’s fault that I became depressed. It’s just something that happens more often to Touretters, and with love and support and lots of hard work everyone can get through those depressive moments.

Right now
As you can read in my first introduction blog (Click here ) I’m doing a lot better right now. I’ve accepted my Tourettes as it is, and can explain to others what it is I need.
This summer I’m attending Camp Twitch&Shout, a Tourettes camp, and I really really really want the campers to know: you can be yourself, you are allowed to be different, you are perfect as you are!

stand out

What to do as a parent?
Nothing different from raising a child without Tourettes. Just love them for who they are, with all their quirky things. It makes them who they are. Acceptance of who your child is, is one of the most important things that I’ve missed when I was little. My parents did what they thought would be best for me – and what the psychiatrists told them. Which was: tell Sam to stop Ticcing, then she might learn to control them. Which turned out to be true, I can control my Tics quite well – that’s why many people don’t know I have Tourettes (well, now they do…), but it makes me feel like with Tics I’m not ‘good enough’. And I am good enough as I am – with my quirkiness (if that’s even a word) and my Tics. And your kid is more than good enough too!

Love, Sam

You’re not deaf! You speak so well!

Hello everyone,

If I just put this title as my entire blog it would speak for itself to everyone who turned deaf later in life, and probably to a lot of other deafies. But since I love to write I’m going to say more about it. These two quotes are two of the many things that deaf people have to deal with every day. So I thought I’d share them with you and tell you what you can say instead of the following.
(NOTE! This doesn’t neccesarily applies to all deaf/Deaf people, it’s just my experience as a Deaf person and what I get told from Deaf/Hard of Hearing friends. If it’s different for you then let me know in the comments!)

You’re not deaf!
Hm… first of all, that’s quite an odd statement to make. I am, I know I am – because I cannot hear. Who are you to tell me what I am and am not? It’s like telling you: you cannot speak. While you have just spoken.

Most of the time this quote is accompanied by 1:’because you answer to what I’m saying‘, or 2: ‘because you are too pretty to be deaf‘, or 3:’because you can speak (…so well)‘ or even 4: ‘because you don’t look deaf‘. Let me explain quickly:

– 1: I can, like many deaf people, read lips and am more aware of changes in facial expression/posture/signs, and I have hearing aids that help me a bit with hearing sounds around me. I can’t understand everything you say, but my brain is filling in the gaps and I always hope to have understood enough to give a proper answer and not get silly looks because I gave an answer that wasn’t coherent with the question asked.
– 2: too pretty to be deaf? Are some people seriously that stupid? I’m not even going to get into that.
– 3: Yes, I can speak! What a miracle! There’s something with my ears, not with my vocal cords. The reason some deaf people prefer not to speak is because it’s more difficult when you can’t hear yourself speak: you can’t control your (loudness of) speaking as well as a hearing person because you can’t hear yourself like a hearing person. And secondly: If you are deaf/Deaf and prefer to use Signlanguage, because that is YOUR language, why should you speak all the time?
– 4: I don’t look deaf? What does a deaf person look like? Do we have to have it written on our foreheads?

What to do when you meet a deaf person?
Just like meeting a hearing person, be normal about it. Deaf people aren’t scary (not all the time at least), we sometimes just communicate a bit differently. It’s good to keep in mind that we adjust to YOU, by speaking, by reading your lips, by trying to understand a spoken language that isn’t fully accessible to us anymore. And if we sign to you, or don’t speak much, it doesn’t mean we’re trying to be rude or something. Trying to communicate like a hearing person takes more energy out of me because I can’t hear well. If communicating by talking doesn’t work 100%, write it down, use hand gestures – we are used to adjusting to hearing people, it’s nice for hearing people to adjust a bit to us as well. We’re all equal and should all do our best to make communication work.

Sudden or late deafness
There are a LOT of people out there who go deaf suddenly or gradually. Not just old people, also young people (think about people in their 20’s and 30’s going to concerts without ear plugs…eventually they’ll have hearing loss as well).
As a late/sudden Deaf person I get frustrated sometimes. People often tell me “Never mind” or “I’ll tell you later” if there was something said that I didn’t hear. It makes me feel like they are deciding whether or not something is important enough for me to comprehend. While it should be my decision: I decide what’s important enough for me to hear, so tell me!

But, it isn’t all bad!
For example, this morning I walked out of my appartment and there was someone on the campus looking around very confused. She walked up to me and I SAW her say: Can I ask you something? Since I’d like to be a nice person I said: Yes of course, with what can I help?
Then she quickly mumbled about somewhere she needed to be, and she panicked a bit about something. I told her to calm down and type on her phone what she wanted to ask, because I couldn’t hear. She typed in everything on her phone, she needed to be in class really soon and it was in a building she’d never been to. I showed her directions. She was very pleased and asked me how to say thanks in Signlanguage. She became aware, and that was great to see!

signs

Going to a Tourettes camp as a Deaf person!
As you might have read, I am going to be a counselor at Camp Twitch&Shout this summer. I will be the only Deaf person amongst 200 hearing people. At first I thought “how am I going to do this?!”, but I told everyone that I can use American Signlanguage (ASL) ánd spoken English at the same time. The reactions were amazing: people messaging me privately if they should learn some Signlanguage for me so we can communicate easier, and there are even a handful of people who are fluent in ASL! There’s even been an idea to have a signing evening with the counselors at camp.

Even though I’m Deaf, I am de(a)finitely not letting it stop me from doing anything. Being honest about it can sometimes bring up some silly reactions as ‘you don’t look deaf’, but it can also become a great topic of conversation and you can raise awareness. And that last thing, raising awareness, is my goal for this year!

Awareness

Love, Sam

My upcoming adventures as a Deaf Touretter!

Hello everyone,

Since the introductions of my Deafness and Tourettes are done, I thought I’d write something about the upcoming adventures I’ll be undertaking in the next 6 months. It’ll be so much fun, and I’d like to share my thoughts with you.

ESOSLI 2016 – Helsinki
This year in May I am going to Helsinki for a 4 day conference on Signlanguage and Interpreting. You might think: well Sam, you’re not an interpreting student, so why on earth would you want to be going to a place that will only be a confrontation of the fact that you cannot hear?
I’ll tell you why! Two years ago I co-organised ESOSLI 2014 in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Back then I wasn’t an interpreting student anymore either, but I wanted to do something Internationally, for all student interpreters in Europe. It was a big success, I met loads of people (Deaf and Hearing interpreter students!) and most of all had a lot of fun learning new things about organizing things.
This year I’ll just be attending the ESOSLI conference with some of my friends (for more info, see ESOSLI 2016 ), and learning from Finnish Deaf and Hearing professionals. Can’t wait to meet the (Hearing and Deaf) interpreting students! Before and after the conference, my girlfriend Lilian and I will be sightseeing around Helsinki – so if anyone knows good places to go, let me know!

Camp Twitch & Shout
My next adventure will be in the USA. I’ve never been there before, but I’m going to be a counselor at a camp called Twitch & Shout. It’s for children and teens with Tourettes Syndrome. It’ll be a week full of activities and recognition for the kids there. As I said in my first blog: they’ll be accepted for who they are, no matter how ‘odd’ their Tics are or how much their anxiety/ADHD/OCD/depression/autism get in their way. They’ll just be part of a group, a family, for an entire week. I wish I had something like that in my childhood. Now I accept that I have Tourettes, and am losing my hearing all together, but that has only recently happened. I wish for those kids to have the best week of their year, and I hope I’ll be part of this community for a very long time!
For more information about the camp, go to Camp Twitch & Shout.

I will write more about my preparations for camp Twitch&Shout very very soon, and probably very very often!

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Online meeting page of other counselors for Twitch&Shout
WOW. I love the other counselors! I posted an introduction and got a lot of nice responses. Since was 3 am when I found the meeting page and after 4am when I’m typing this you can guess that my hyperactivity levels are going through the roof right now.
So many nice people, so many stories, and one common goal: to make this camp the best camp that has yet been done!

USA travel
As I will be in the USA for the camp, I’d be bonkers if I didn’t take that opportunity to go and travel a bit! I have a friend living in Washington DC, who’s attending Gallaudet University (for who doesn’t know what that is: it’s a university where mostly Deaf students go to, in other words, ‘The Deaf University’). So I will definitely go and see her (Hi Chelsea! *waves*). My other plans are of course Atlanta, since it’s nearby where camp Twitch&Shout is, and I’d love to see the following cities:
– Chicago;
– San Fransisco;
– Los Angeles;
– Portland;
– New York City;
– Orlando;
– Washington DC;
– aaaaaaaaaand I don’t know what else, but those cities are definitely on my list. If you think I missed an amazing city, please let me know in the comments! Or if you think: Sam’s nice, lets invite her over for a citytour, always welcome! 😀

Starting a new study + internships
In september 2016 I’ll be starting (again) with the Signlanguage program at my University, but this time I’ll be attending the Teaching program. So I will become a Signlanguage teacher in a few years!

Next to that I have to re-do my 3rd year Nursing internship, which I will hopefully do at a mental health facility for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing. That way I can support people who suffer from mental illnesses, and show them that there’s light after darkness. As someone who has Tourettes (and the added anxiety/OCD/ADHD/depression that commonly comes along with Tourettes) I can relate to them, and that will be my strength!  And all of that in Signlanguage – so my ‘lack of hearing’ won’t be any issue there!

Right now
My life is pretty chaotic at the moment, but when I think about all the things I’ve written today, life’s not so bad at all! I have many things to look forward to, and many great people around me. Life’s good.

Love, Sam