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Travel Story by Norma Hunter

  A visit from Aberdeen's twin cities
Aberdeen, Scotland

Deaf Links group

Two of Aberdeen's twin cities are Gomel in Belarus and Clermont-Ferrand in France. Five Deaf people and their interpreter from Gomel in Belarus were invited to stay in Aberdeen recently as part of the 'Deaf Links' project. They welcomed the opportunity to stay with local Deaf people, which meant communication was easier and they were able to get an insight into the locals' way of life. The same number of people were invited from Clermont-Ferrand but 19 people turned up without an interpreter. There were many communication problems before they came and many logistical ones when they arrived!

All our visitors were impressed with Aberdeen especially the tour of the Town House, the Maritime Museum and envied us our parks. They also enjoyed a visit to Fettercairn whisky distillery and Drum castle nearby.

The speaker who was due to present a workshop on new technology aids for communication cancelled the day before their arrival. Fortunately, one of our local Deaf people, with just 24-hours notice, came to the rescue. A 'hands-on' approach workshop was organised, which actually worked out for the best.

He had arranged for them to call other Deaf people in London and around Aberdeen using webcams. Our visitors were fascinated and eager to learn and try for themselves. It was apparent that this would have helped to eliminate the communication problems we had with the French when organising their visit.

The director of Deaf Action in Edinburgh gave a talk on the role of social workers for the Deaf in Scotland, and how it differs from that of interpreters and compared it to the set up in France and Belarus. She communicated directly to all the Deaf audience using international sign language instead of using relay interpreters. This was much appreciated by the Deaf members of the audience. There were interpreters for the hearing people in the audience.
International sign language was also used for a presentation given by Helga McGilp, the director of SASLI (Scottish Association of Sign language Interpreters). She spoke about the use of this particular sign language and her experience meeting Deaf people all over the world but particularly in the Far East.

The visitors were shown all the facilities on offer at the Deaf Centre and this along with the three workshops that were held resulted in much discussion, both formal and informal. To allow more time for this, both lunch and dinner was provided at the Centre for all those who attended.

A service led by the Rev. Michael Sabell of St. Ternan's, Muchalls, who is profoundly deaf, was held in St. John's Church in the Centre on the Sunday.

There was a games night where our guests learned to play snooker, short-mat bowls, darts and dominoes. We also celebrated the birthday of one of our French visitors.

But the highlight was a show of comic mimes, magic, sign/songs and dancing on the Saturday night with a buffet. Those from Aberdeen and Gomel had prepared food and various dishes but also involved the people from Clermont-Ferrand. Everyone mixed together and had a wonderful time, often pushing back the seats for a spontaneous dance. About 100 people were there and it was one big happy family. Nobody wanted the evening to end and the hearing visitors were amazed.

Because 19 instead of 6 people came from Clermont-Ferrand, they had to stay in a hotel/B&B at their own expense. However, we covered the cost of all their transport to and from the airport and the Centre of the Deaf. We met all the expenses of the group from Gomel.

It was an enjoyable and successful event.

Click on photo to enlarge

Visitors from Gomel, Belarus  Visitors from Clermont-Ferrand, France  Belarussian dancing (Gomel)

Date Submitted: 10 Jul 2007

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