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Travel Story by Jo Atkinson and Andrew Hearn

  Deaf La Paz
La Paz, Bolivia

La Paz Deafies

We stayed at a hotel run by two Deaf brothers, Oscar and Danilo, after inheriting it from their parents. We got to see bustling La Paz from a Deaf angle.

The Deafies at La Paz were more than just welcoming - some went out of their way to take us to the Deaf Education centre (not just a school since they do take in those older than 18 - those who have been 'rescued' from the jungle wilderness of Beni, Santa Cruz, etc).

We were almost disturbed to see the profilgation of the American Sign Language amongst the younger generation. The older ones explained that along with some Yank funding, 'missionaries from the land of Hope and Glory' came to 'further' the Bolivian Sign Language.....

There's a strange twist there - the ASL handshape for 'I love you' is used liberally by students to the teachers, and vice versa. During a quiet moment, we remarked on this to one of the tutors - and we agreed that it represented the respect and unity the staff and the student had, rather than them gushing their hearts out at every opportune moment.

We enthusiastically took up a back pew at an "AGM" - mainly dealing with the upcoming Sud Americano Sordos Convention in the de facto Bolivian Capital. And we are too pleased to reveal that us Deafies are almost identical in dealing with these sort of meetings all over the world (for those unlucky to have never experienced one; these drag on longer than necessary, discussions easily get sidetracked, and the chair often has to windmill about to regain everyone's attention, along with other cultural traits - to be fair on them, in this case they were baselining the confirmed Sign Language Recognition demonstration by all SL users in the La Paz streets, later this September).

Oscar and Danilo, the Deaf hoteliers, generously took us out for a customary dinner at one of their favourtie eateries - a chinese restaurant! For anyone wanting to look up this Deaf retreat in the heart of one of the city´s central markets, check out Hotel Morumbi at Calle de Figueroa, No.800, La Paz.

For all of this, we thank them very much for a fantastic insight into the La Paz Deaf scene.

Click on photo to enlarge

Classroom at Deaf Education Centre, La Paz  Next generation of Bolivian Deafies  'Deaf' Hotel

Date Submitted: 19 Nov 2006

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