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Meeting Khiem for the Second Time | Deaf Dream's Origin Story

Originally published 14 June 2013


SAIGON / HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM


My friend, Cassie, took me to a school where I would meet Khiem and his organization tonight. Cassie dropped me off once I met a Deaf man from the organization and I hung out with him until others showed up. I was reminded again how different Vietnamese Sign Language is compared to American Sign Language (or rather, reminded how much Khiem really does know a lot of American Sign Language 😉 ). It was perfect because I had time to chat and re-learn some Vietnamese Sign Language before others showed up.



I didn’t know until I arrived in Vietnam, that for the first time in Vietnamese Deaf history, a group of Singapore Deaf would be visiting their organization! And as “luck” would have it, I was in Vietnam for this historical night. (Though I don’t believe in luck 🙂 ). It was awe-inspiring to see all of the Vietnamese and Singapore Deaf learn from each other, play games together, and laugh ’til our sides hurt. The energy in that stuffed school classroom was incredible—the Singapore group is traveling around Asia meeting Deaf and performing their cultural dances. The Vietnamese group also prepared and performed dances as well. I got a ton of film and cannot wait to make a video for The Deaf Dream!


The best part of the night for me was to watch Khiem direct and encourage those in his group. He is SO proud of his organization and it’s obvious that he has dedicated his life to this group. It inspired me to be better and do more.

Khiem watching one of the groups playing games.



It was fun to interact with the Singapore group because our sign languages were more similar. I met some amazing people in both groups: so many Deaf Dreamers that are making a difference in their communities despite the stigma around deafness.


Vietnam and Singapore Deaf group (with me on the far right in pink skirt).
Vietnam and Singapore Deaf group (with me on the far right in pink skirt).

After group pictures and the Singapore Deaf group left, we took lots of pictures with each other. 🙂 One of the most memorable experiences of the night was when the Khiem started passing out the school supply kits that they had received from the Singapore group. One young boy ran up and gave one to me. I was shocked and at first tried to hand it back, but quickly realized this was a gift from the entire group. I had a rush of emotion and promised to bring it home with me.


Khiem and I at the end of the night. He is so grateful for those who donated via The Deaf Dream! Thank you!!!
Khiem and I at the end of the night. He is so grateful for those who donated via The Deaf Dream! Thank you!!!

Afterwards, Khiem helped me arrange the bus. They told me my bus (#56) wasn’t working at 20:00 o’clock so he had me go with one of the students. He was so kind and safely walked me to the bus where he rode with me. It was dark and we were walking in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. This was the first of several “trusting moments” tonight. I had to trust in the innate goodness of people after doing my best to be in safe situations. I was praying, asking my Heavenly Father if I should get out of this situation but even with the nerves of walking downtown with someone who was a stranger a few hours ago, I felt at peace. There is a family bond in the Deaf world and as long as I’m cautious, there are times when traveling when I just have to trust people. 🙂So we went on bus 150 but the bus ticket man said it wasn’t going my direction. [The ticket man was talking with a Vietnamese boy who wrote it in Vietnamese for my Deaf friend who then signed it to me in Vietnamese sign language—it was another fun/crazy multi-lingual experience! 🙂 ] I didn’t know how to get home so my Deaf friend (who told me to call him Nick since I didn’t understand his real name in Vietnamese fingerspelling :)] told me to come to his house first to get a motorcycle.


There are times when it’s hard to write in a blog my feelings because they are thoughts that need to be carefully written. I write the following not to judge or incite pity, but instead to open minds to new perspectives on life and express my gratitude.


So for the second time tonight, I had to pray and trust again that I would be ok. I knew he had 3 other brothers in his family, but I was not prepared for their one room, tiny home down a skinny alley [I could not even stretch one arm out while walking in the alley.] The “kitchen” was a corner of the room with a bucket that served as the shower too. There was room for a small table that had a big computer on it that the brothers were using for school work. The room had a floor built between the floor and ceiling to create a second floor and one of the brothers was laying up there.After their initial shock of having me show up, one of the brothers drove me home on a motorcycle. We stopped at a gas station because the tank was completely empty. He only could buy $1 of gas (20,000 dong) to get the spindle off the “E” mark on the tank. I felt so badly to use their gas but my offer to pay for my own gas seemed to be embarrassing for him and slightly offensive. He was a good driver (though I am glad he was NOT my first motorcycle experience as he drove much faster than Cassie and we were driving at night amid the semi-trucks) and we made it to the school near Cassie’s home drenched from the rain. Again, I was praying to remember how to get home as it was night. But the Lord helped me find the house and I must say, I had a feeling of accomplishment when I walked in the front door of Cassie’s home! 🙂 I was grateful for the feeling of peace I felt the entire trip home (about 3 hours time) and am still in awe that I was able to participate in the Singapore/Vietnam Deaf conference today! The Lord is in the details, it’s obvious to me everyday!


Khiem and his amazing mother watching the groups interact
Khiem and his amazing mother watching the groups interact

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