Last Sunday was Departure Day for D! The two of us were headed for Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. so he could attend the English Language Institute there.
It was a very long day – up before 5am and travel through 3 airports, but it was interesting to go through Customs as a foreign visitor! We finally made it to Gallaudet at 7pm. There were two wonderfully nice Sign Language Interpreting students working in the International Students Office who were kind enough to show us around campus and get D set up with an ID. However, there still wasn’t time to rest yet. We had to get to a Wal-Mart so D would have sheets to sleep on! (No Twin Extra Longs available on Tortola!)
Shopping for college supplies again was a lot of fun, and I was able to pick up a few things for myself that we can’t get on Tortola. We finally made it out of the store by 10:45 pm and got into our waiting taxi. After taking D back to school, the driver took me to the apartment I’d rented for the week.
By that time it was about 11:30pm and I seriously considered just collapsing into bed, but I had to take advantage of THE reason we picked this apartment – the jacuzzi tub! After a relaxing bath and a call to Tony I did in fact collapse!
The next couple days I had mostly to myself because D had orientation activities all day, and while part of me really wanted to stay and see just how they were going to orient all these Deaf kids from other countries, I didn’t want to be a nuisance. Instead I spent the time figuring out the Metro and Bus systems and going on a walking tour of The Mall. (By the way, I LOVE walking tours. As my Harlaxton friends know, I found a walking tour on nearly every trip we took. They are such a great way to get to know a city! People make fun of me about it, but they sure like to know what I learned!)
I did learn a lot about Washington on this tour, like:
Washington Monument is called so because it was commissioned while George Washington was still alive, though it wasn’t completed until much later. It is two colours because it was to be built purely by donation and they set a cap for how much each person could donate at $1. They were able to start the project with the money they raised, but when they ran out of funds it sat there unfinished for 20 years. At the time of its completion, Washington Monument was the tallest structure in the world!
Did you know that Lincoln Memorial was the only place to be bombed during the Cold War? Apparently an anti-aircraft missile across from the White House was accidentally deployed and hit the top right corner of the monument (where Virginia is listed on the outside), but there were no injuries! I also learned there’s a “typo” in the engraving of Lincoln’s Second Innagural Address inside the Memorial. The engravers accidentally put Euture instead of Future. You can see where they filled in the bottom of the E to cover the mistake.
Our tour also visited all the War Memorials on The Mall, including the incredible World War II Memorial, which is situated between Lincoln’s and Washington’s Monuments. Apparently when the memorial was dedicated there were many WWII Vets in attendance and they loved it, except for one thing. They asked, “Where’s Kilroy?” and wouldn’t be satisfied until Kilroy was somehow integrated into the memorial. The origins of Kilroy are debated, as discussed in this Wikipedia article, but nonetheless he became and important symbol to young men in the fight. So, now this graffiti symbol has been permanently engraved in the WWII memorial.
In addition to seeing the city, I also spent a good amount of time on the Gallaudet campus. I’ve always wanted to see the school that means so much to the Deaf community, so I was happy to walk around for awhile. I meandered through the old trees and beautiful buildings. I donated some Caribbean books to the Library, and I scoured the Book Store for just the right souvenir. After much deliberation, I walked away with an “I Love You” hand cookie cutter and a book of ASL games for my Sign Language Club at Cedar.
By this time D had been at Gallaudet for just two days (it was Tuesday) and I could already see a remarkable difference! He was signing more freely and connectedly than ever before and seemed just really really happy! Plus, he had some mentors and friends in the program who were helping him get around. I was SO glad to learn that because the previous night I’d spent 3 hours sitting outside his dorm waiting for him and he’d never shown up! Needless to say, that had been a frustrating night!
However, he was settled and had some awesome activities planned with the other people in him program, which left me to enjoy the rest of my stay in DC.
There was even an article in the VI paper about us!
PS – I’ve gotten a lot of questions about D’s experience at school since his education here on Tortola was so limited. The English Language Program is designed with kids like D in mind. It’s an intensive 3-year program in American Sign Language and written English with the intention of preparing him to enter into a 4-year degree program after its completion. While he’ll be on campus with students who are seeking college degrees, his course work will be separate and focus on his need to acquire skills in reading, writing, and communication.