Saturday, February 26, 2011

Day 26: Learning basic American Sign Language with Haben

Haben reading my sign for "S". 
Cost: Lunch
Difficulty: 3
Time: 90 minutes

This was a really cool day in a couple ways. I met Haben, at Raquel's dinner party, who I met at Constantine's fancy dress party. It was an improbable chain of chance that wouldn't have happened if a lot of different things hadn't come together just so. We grabbed lunch at an Eritrean restaurant (also different) in Central Square with her boyfriend Gordon and her seeing-eye dog, Maxine.

Haben is partially blind and deaf-- she can hear if there's low background noise and she can see rough shapes with high contrast. At Raquel's party she couldn't hear me (she can hear voices in the higher register better than lower voices) but luckily at the restaurant she could hear me okay, which made the ASL lesson smoother.

She taught me "letter-signing" which is not full ASL, but the spelling out of English words using the ASL alphabet, reading my signs by touch. It's a real cool way to communicate and I'd like to learn more "full" ASL. I have a fantasy where my friends and I can all sign and we can talk across noisy bars and clubs. That would be SO COOL!

Besides signing and Haben's studies at Harvard Law, we talked about her seeing-eye dog, Maxine. I've always wondered if they knew that they were "special" with respect to other dogs. Yes, I learned from Haben, Maxine does know she's more important than other dogs and may have a bit of an ego. She's quite friendly and doesn't mind being pet, but as a general rule you should always ask the owner before petting a service dog. Some owners prefer their dogs not be pet when their "working."

Maxine, the gorgeous seeing-eye dog.

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