Diary from China -- Friday, August 12, 2005
Excerpted from the Diary from China: Well FINALLY, a quiet day with not much to report! I can tell you about some of the things that I didn't have time for earlier. First, the folks I met at the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit, as I promised.
. . . I noticed there was a group of excited Chinese teenagers gesturing to each other and pointing to the exhibits but not speaking. I watched for a while and sure enough, I saw them signing to each other! I went over and signed "deaf?" and they looked startled, then nodded yes, and asked me, "deaf?" I shook my head no, and tried to think of how I could say that I have Deaf friends and know sign language.
They made a sign that I remember meant "sign language" in Israel, so I nodded yes (Gene, it's like the sign for "speaking/signing" in "this is Dona speaking"). Then I pointed to myself and made like the "Statue of Liberty" that Gene had suggested, but they drew a blank. I pointed to them and made the sign for "Chinese" and then pointed to me again and modeled the Statue of Liberty. Still nothing. Finally one of them did a version of my sign for "Chinese" -- I don't remember it exactly, but instead of just drawing a horizontal line across the front of the chest and then down (like the edges of the mandarin shirt front), they held their hand in a horizontal "O" and flicked a finger of their other hand across it then went to draw a line similar to mine on their chest [Gene later explained that the "O" was the sign for "button" and then they pointed to where the buttons are on the mandarin shirt]. I said, "OH!" and tried to copy it, not successfully I think, and pointed to myself again and made our sign for "American." They seemed to get it.
Well, along comes the teacher amidst our animated attempts at communication, and I grinned and signed to her "American!" while pointing to myself. She almost rolled her eyes with impatience, gave the American sign for "I know, I know!", and urged her charges to move along. So they all got herded along, waving goodbye, I gave the "I-Love-You!" sign and they grinned and signed "I-Love-You!" back.
Much later, Stephan and I went to one of the 3 pits of soldiers and leaned on the railing to look down, and a young Chinese girl standing nearby motioned that she'd like to take a picture with me. Now, be aware that 1) this was about the 5th time Chinese strangers have asked to take their picture with me and 2) I have a big problem remembering faces, even American ones, so I didn't realize she was one of the Deaf children until I saw the rest the gang signing to each other with excitement about taking our picture. So I grinned and nodded "YES!" and they got a few of their classmates to stand with me while another snapped the picture. I held my hands up in "I-Love-You!" shape (as Deaf people often do for photos in America) and some of them saw it and did the same.
Meanwhile I yelled for Stephan to come over and take our picture. When they realized what was going on, they all got excited and gathered together to pose against the railing, with me kneeling in front - I'm eager to see the photo and see how many did the "I-Love-You!" sign.
When finished, Stephan signed "Thank you" to them, and I signed "Thank you" to Stephan for taking our picture One of them lit up and signed to the others something about the sign for "Thank you." I got the impression that the kid recognized the sign and was pleased to see us foreigners using a sign that they recognized as American - perhaps they had had a class learning about Deaf Americans and their signs.
Then another teacher came swooping over to them, in signs that I didn't need to understand to know she was telling them, "For crying out loud, stop getting distracted and MOVE ALONG, we're LATE!"
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