As is my custom I planned to spend some time with a friend from the Czech Republic prior to the next WFDYS meeting in Hungary. We arranged to meet in Frankfurt, Germany for a few days. We chose Frankfurt because it was a cheap travel option for her and that I had never been there before. So it was a perfect opportunity to take in some sights and catch up since we last saw each other in Turkey two years ago. As well as Frankfurt we also went to Nuremberg. I was curious to notice the old and modern German and European styles coming together in the one place. Doing this travel with a friend is a result of the youth camps I have attended over the years. They are important places to develop friendships and I really value all the connections I have made. To me this is one of the most significant outcomes of a camp and my hope is that other young people can also carry this forward.
So for the few days I spent in Frankfurt, the weather was cool but kind. Escaping the Australian summer was a good thing. Only a coat was required as it rained a little but overall the weather was nice. Being November I could see evidence of the impending Christmas.
I then flew to Hungary and met with the rest of the WFDYS board. This meeting turned out differently to previous meetings because two board members had since stepped down, leaving only three of us. A short time after the meeting we began our search for replacements. A result of these resignations we set ourselves the task of re-assigning tasks and duties. We then had to re-prioritse our goals to maintain those that were most important while holding back others less so until such time as we had the resources to pick them up again. We were faced with drowning in our work unless we re-focused our energy and capacity. We also made sure we had an equal balance of tasks.
The next step was a re-introduction to the YOM’s and maintaining relationships with regional youth leaders, in particular the new Asian region leadership group. This required attention to ensure a successful beginning, assessment of priorities and exchange of ideas. This would prove to be a good working model for other countries too.
Three days of board meetings were followed by the 3rd International Conference of the World Federation of the Deaf. The theme of the Conference is “Full Inclusion with sign language!”. The conference streams were: Bilingual Education, Sign Language in the Family, Deaf Employees in the labour market and Communication Accessibility. One of the conference streams focused on sign language for families I was given the role of chair of this stream with co chair Margit Safrany, the vice president of the Hungarian OM – SINOZ, the Hungarian National Association of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The presentations in this stream were really interesting where they outlined the strengths and weaknesses of their programs and highlighted a range of different approaches to those systems and how improvements could be made. A lot of information was gathered by the presenters from these countries in order to emphasize and inform best practice. Chairing this stream was quite a privilege because I am passionate about supporting families to learn sign language to help their deaf child.
From there my task was to collect and summarise the key findings and points made throughout all of the presentations to then present to the board and the delegation at the closing ceremony. A WFDYS board member teamed with a local SINOZ member for each of the four main conference streams. Unfortunately my member was not available to co-present with me due to her role in the closing ceremony as a master of ceremonies so I presented alone and although I was nervous I was keen to ensure I presented the summary accurately and consistently with each of the presenters. Looking back on this presentation I can honestly say I was quite proud of my summary presentation. I employed many relevant metaphors to explain many concepts. For example, the life cycle of a butterfly. A butterfly begins life as a caterpillar, where it spends its short life learning about its environment then encloses itself into a cocoon. When the time is right, the chrysalis gathers support from other insects to enable it to break out of the cocoon and begin life as a butterfly when it becomes free and independent. Much like learning sign language, the learner develops a sense of independence in order for them to learn about and feel safe in their environment.
The most significant part of my presentation was knowing the Prime Minister of Hungarian, Viktor Orban attended the event to witness my and the other presentations at the closing. A moment I am most proud. After the closing we wrapped up the conference with a reception dinner which was very enjoyable.
The following day I had a short amount of time to do some sight-seeing in Budapest. It is a really beautiful city. Christmas markets were beginning to appear and a variety of foods were available, particularly a well-known food called Langos (fried dough). It was delicious. I really enjoyed that time and hope to get back there one day. I spent the time with two friends and we had a ball, including a few funny stories which I can’t disclose.
I then travelled to Slovakia for a few days. A small unassuming city, Bratislava which was good to visit. From there I travelled to Vienna in Austria and met up with a few other friends. I think Vienna would have to be one of my all-time favourite cities. Naturally there is a huge German influence including the food – so delicious especially the dessert, sachertorte. From there I travelled to Saltzburg which is famous for The Sound of Music movie. Due to the snow we couldn’t do a proper tour but a Deaf friend took us around the more scenic parts including the castle of Hohensalzburg Fortress. It is absolutely beautiful. After one night and two days I took a bus to Innsbruck. Another Deaf friend showed me around and we enjoyed the Christmas features including the warm mulled wine. We managed to score a couple of free tickets, normally €90, to take gondola ride to the top of a nearby mountain. The mountains in Australia are never fully covered in snow but here the snow was everywhere. The view was majestic. I loved it. I finally said farewell to my generous friends and guides and took a train to Italy for a final stopover before flying home. Again I had the fortune of catching up with a couple of friends in Italy which was great. Italy is awesome – I love the food and gelato is a must! The people are warm and hospitable. It is certainly one of my favourite countries. I felt re-energised and was ready for home. In all I think this trip took me away for almost four weeks and was certainly worthwhile as it included both work and pleasure.