While our group was struggling to get down the bunny slope without falling, there was a skier who was kicking up rooster tails of powder on every turn. Upon further inspection, we noticed he was seated in a chair mounted on a single ski. In last month’s column I was in Canada, more specifically Banff and the nearby ski resort, where I was enjoying some tele-marking with friends.
During our time at the resort we ran into a lot of chair skiers and noticed how the lift operators ever so slightly slowed down the lifts and allowed them to ride the mountain without assistance. It felt to me as if these handicapped people, although not considering themselves as such, were living their lives and were able to express themselves like everyone else.
Does the same hold true for deaf people whose appearance doesn’t easily reveal the fact they can’t hear? Canada is a nation of immigrants, and large cities are filled with Japanese. Most Canadians seem accustomed interacting with foreigners and, while in Japan it is common to associate body language with someone who is deaf, in Canada where people express themselves more animatedly, it’s not as easy to get your point across with just your hands.
Upon entering a store, it’s usually necessary to write out plainly, “I’m deaf” on a piece of paper. This smoothly transitions into a written conversation, and everyone acts very friendly upon hearing the word “deaf.”
There are some who can communicate through a bit of ASL (American Sign Language) and still others who seem to have their own “personal” style of expressing themselves. After having one written conversation, everyone remembers you. When you next meet, things go much smoother and gestures are delivered with a smile.
If you forget to write out, “I am deaf,” be prepared to get some dubious looks. Trouble also occurs when Canada’s mercury drops to 20 degrees below zero and the ink in your ballpoint pen freezes. Canadian ballpoint pens hold up well in the cold but, when it really gets chilly, your best option is a pencil.
I was also surprised to find that paper is ridiculously expensive in Canada. A slightly thick notebook can run as high as $10 (approximately ¥1,000). Therefore, it’s not uncommon to have kind Canadians giving you paper as a present to use for your “memos.”