With 2018 approaching its end, I revisit my tradition of reflecting on the year that was by writing a post about it. I skipped this last year due to the insane amount of stress I was under.
XVIII Australian Deaf Games
After 18 months of blood, sweat and tears, the most anticipated event of the Australian Deaf community was about to happen. This time last year, I was experiencing the worst stress and it took a toll on my body in so many ways – mentally and physically.
In hot and dry Albury/Wodonga on the NSW & Victoria border, the Games kicked off with an approximately 800-strong crowd. Throughout the week, I operated on little sleep, unlimited amounts of coffee and food whilst coordinating media and communications. Despite the stress and heat, being the Media & Communications Coordinator was the most challenging role I’ve worked in and I learnt so much. With the media covering the majority of the Games – newspaper, radio, TV, and social media – there was no time to be lackasture. We needed to capture the spirit of the Games and showcase it through multiple platforms – and we did just that.
Because of the support from the Games Organising Committee, the Deaf community, the Games volunteers, and the community in Albury/Wodonga, we created a new legacy: the 2018 Australian Deaf Games had the most media coverage ever in the 50+ years history of the Games.
I wouldn’t have survived the Games if it wasn’t for the support of the amazing Games Organising Committee, especially under Alex’s stellar leadership and eagle eyes. It was also during the Games I had to continue reminding myself to take a breather every now and then to keep my sanity at bay. I also received support from family and friends through Facebook and text messages, and I am so very grateful for that.
The Games also provided me with a lifetime supply of take-home lessons, which I am very grateful for. It was also beneficial for me on both personal and professional levels. It also reminded me of the importance of volunteering, no matter the size of the event.
Unwinding in Canada
In September 2017, I decided to book a trip to Canada for April/May 2018 as I knew this trip would be much-needed, as well as a reward for surviving the Games.
As mentioned earlier, I was experiencing the worst stress. I had a rash on my thighs. My menstrual cycle was out of whack. Tinnitus was awful. It also took a toll on my mental well-being, although I continued practicing hygge to ensure my mental health remained manageable.
I had 3 weeks in Canada and I chose not to seek out the Deaf community there. In hindsight, this was a decision well-made, as it allowed me to be objective and to develop new perspectives. It also allowed me to take a break from the deaf world. Albeit for a few FaceTime sessions and sending Auslan videos, I did not sign much — unless I was on my own.
Boy, did Canada give me what I needed to unwind. Canada is a gorgeous country. I loved every second of my time there. Whilst I only had three weeks, I explored Vancouver, Victoria, Banff, and Lake Louise.
Vancouver is quite similar to Melbourne, and I felt right at home. People there are so friendly. I also felt very safe, especially when I stayed at an AirBnB in Surrey (30 mins west of Vancouver CBD). Not once did I feel awkward; I found myself becoming immersed into the hustle of Vancouver just like here in Melbourne.
There’s so much to do in Vancouver, hence my decision not to visit Whistler thus expanding my time in Vancouver. I spent an entire Sunday walking and exploring Stanley Park — easily one of my favourite days. As a bookworm, visiting the Vancouver Public Library was a must. I wasn’t prepared for it to be so beautiful. It’s home to more than 1 million books! I could easily spend a whole week there, reading numerous books.
As a Beaver, I needed to see and get everything beaver related. The beaver is Canada’s national animal, so I knew I wouldn’t be in shortage of beavers. I wanted to see a real live beaver dam, and Google told me the Olympic Village in Vancouver was home to a beaver dam. I made the trek there, and found the beaver dam. I was so elated to see it, although a bit disappointed not to see any beavers. However, as the only Beaver I had to make do by taking a selfie of myself with the beaver dam.
I originally planned to take an overnight Greyhound from Vancouver to Banff — however, after talking to a friend, I decided to take the trip during the day so I would be able to see the beauty of travelling through the mountains and the Rockies. Best $90 I’ve ever lost. The scenery during the 10-hour trip was nothing short of amazing. I had my face plastered to the window for the majority of the trip. I arrived in Banff at approximately 10pm, and just like Vancouver, it is a very safe town.
I woke up to a balmy -3 morning in Banff, and it was the day I would finally tick Lake Louise off my bucket list. I booked a seat on the Brewster Express and had it drop off me at Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise. I was NOT prepared for the magnificent beauty waiting for me at Lake Louise. I was immediately gobsmacked. Glorious snow was everywhere. Having received a cochlear implant the year before, I heard myself walking on snow for the first time. It was one of the most beautiful sounds – it’s definitely on the top of the list next to walking on autumn leaves.
Lake Louise is a winter wonderland. The staff at Fairmount Chateau are so welcoming and warm – if you are not a guest there, they allow you to use their facilities. I asked one of the staff there how to get to the Lake Louise Ski Resort, and they said I could use their bus so I booked myself on the 12pm bus. Upon arriving at the ski resort, the bus driver took it upon himself to show me around. I really appreciated that, and his warm vibe also showed me how friendly Canadians are. I can definitely attest for Canadians being one of the most friendliest people in the world.
Canada does hot chocolate the best. I haven’t been able to find hot chocolate in Melbourne as good as the one I had at Lake Louise.
I’m definitely going back to Lake Louise when it’s summer there. It’s one of those places that needs to be experienced in all seasons.
Banff is a cute little town, and is very charming. It’s easily explored in an entire day. I was so excited to find Beaver Street!
I could definitely see myself spending a week in Banff – it’s one of those towns where people escape from city hustles. One of my favourite parts of Banff is its charming Christmas store. I spent 2 hours marveling at everything in the store. The spirit and magic of Christmas is definitely felt inside the store — a must visit for people who are obsessed with Christmas. I bought a few cute Canadian Christmas ornaments – cost me a pretty penny but well worth it.
I spent an entire day travelling from Banff to Victoria via Vancouver – 2x buses, 1x ferry, and two feet. It was a long day, but I loved it. It allowed me to see more of Canada’s west coast. Victoria is situated on Vancouver Island, and it is a gorgeous town. There’s a lot of history in Victoria, and its charm is similar to Edinburgh’s albeit being on the lower scale.
It’s very easy to get around Victoria by bus or foot. I did a lot of walking around Victoria since I wanted to take advantage of the weather there. There’s a lot of witty quotes to be found around Victoria. I spent a lot of time (and money) at the Chapters bookstore — it’s MASSIVE. Victoria is also a must-visit, although I would have liked to explore more of Vancouver Island. Next time!
I’ve fallen in love with Canada, and I am keen as mustard to go back as soon as possible to explore more of of this gorgeous country. As I write this, I am waiting for an invite to apply for a work permit in Canada. I got an invitation the other day but I had to decline as I wanted to be able to activate the visa by end of 2020. There’ll be a number of invitation rounds throughout 2019, so here’s hoping I have a Canadian work permit ready to be used in 2020. Fingers crossed! #Canada2020
Okay, enough about Canada.
Like every previous year, I’ve continued growing as a person. My theme word for 2018 was do.
Did I do? Yes. Absolutely. I did a lot of things this year. These things may seem small, but to me, they are significant contributions to my personal growth. I continued to grow personally and professionally by doing relevant activities.
Oh wait…one more thing about Canada. #sorrynotsorry
As I mentioned earlier, I allowed myself to become objective through immersion in the mainstream community without having contact with deaf people in Canada. This allowed me to identify gaps in the deaf community. The biggest gap I identified was the inability to organise accessible tours for deaf and hard of hearing tourists around the world. I observed many tour groups during my time in Canada — and they were all aural. These tour opportunities were inaccessible for those who could not hear and/or preferred to use sign language.
The word of mouth (or rather, hands/eyes) is rather strong in the Deaf community around the world, but there is no central place for where deaf/hard of hearing people are able to book accessible tours. Thus, the idea of DeafGuides.com was born in a hostel room in Victoria, BC.
DeafGuides.com is still a work in progress. I haven’t had much time the last few months to do further work on this, although I would like to work more on it in 2019 and onwards.
Having obtained the skill of being objective also allowed me to identify gaps in Australia – what deaf/hard of hearing people in Australia were missing out on. Through viewing numerous videos created by deaf/HoH people in Europe and America, I was met with a desire to help cover this gap in Australia. The idea of Deaf Stories was born in September after a lengthy FaceTime call with Janelle. We were successful with receiving a Life Enrichment grant from Deaf Services to help kickstart Deaf Stories by focusing on profiling deaf-owned businesses around Australia. We have a vision of expanding Deaf Stories to cover many stories within the Deaf community around Australia across many genres – employment, passion, education, etc. Video version of Humans of New York, if you will 😉
So, that’s a lot of doing…and more doing to be done in 2019!
This is the main focus of 2019 – to let go.
Just before Christmas, I had yet another dream about my father whom I have not seen since December 2006 nor had any contact since April 2010. I talked about this with my mother who said she believes that despite having no contact, he still has this hold on me and is a major blockage in my life. Hence, the need to start letting him go.
I began the process of letting him go by writing a letter. Writing the letter broke my heart, but it was what I needed to do. A couple of days after Christmas, I started grieving for my father. It was when I knew I was starting to let him go. Grieving doesn’t feel nice; I tried to suppress this although I reminded myself that it was okay to grieve so I grieved all day.
To help the grieving process, I decided to start a journal called “Letters to Stephen”. It’s an outlet for me to process my thoughts and frustrations whenever I think of my father.
I need to let go more often, as it will allow me to rebuild my confidence and self-esteem. Letting go will also allow me to prosper and continue growing into the person I am destined to be.
All in all…
2018 was yet another year filled with adventures, lessons, memories, and love. I look forward to another year where I can continue to reflect and work on myself.
2018 was the year I got back into sport – my much-loved sport, cricket! I look forward to another year of cricket, especially with the formation of deaf women’s cricket — all thanks to Melissa’s hard work and passion.
I also look forward to another year where I continue contributing back to the deaf community through voluntary and paid roles. I love being able to contribute back to the deaf community and inspiring the next generation of deaf and hard of hearing people. I look forward to continuing working with a rich variety of people – both deaf and hearing – to make the world a better place for everyone.
May 2019 be a year filled of dreams, love, adventures, and lessons for you. Thank you for being there for me throughout 2018, and I look forward to creating many more memories with you in the new year!