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Posted Aug 26 2008 12:54pm
First of all, I would like to thank all members of the yahoo support groups Pediatric Cochlear Implant Circle , Listen-UP and Learn2Hear for their comments and love in response to our announcement about RALLY CAPS being published in Italian, they were GREATLY appreciated!

Now, everyone knows that I love Rachel Chaikof, because she is just the primary example of where I want my son to be at age 20: in college, independent, eloquent, confident and of course...a world traveler. When I was 20, I road-tripped to Key West for Spring Break with my best friend Julie. We drove 24 hours, slept nine in a room and shared the floor with some ugly cockroaches...but THAT is what being young and drunk at Spring Break is all about. I want my son to experience crazy stuff like this, but will it be possible for him to travel and handle problems that may potentially arise? Get a load of Rachel's trip to France...(as told by her mom Melissa (see her comment on the Supermoms post):

Here's a story that is a real testament to how necessary the ability to hear

and speak are to be truly independent in the hearing world. As I had

written before, Rachel was in France. She was volunteering with an

organization called Volunteers for Peace.
The organization is affiliated

with UNESCO and recommended by the Princeton Review, and so it looked pretty

good. According to their write-up, she was supposed to be working with

kids, with people with disabilities, helping out in the fields on the farm,

etc. Unfortunately, it turned out that the woman who ran the farm was very

nasty. She was constantly yelling at the volunteers but especially Rachel

as she apparently does not like Americans. In addition, rather than

activities to help promote peace, she had the girls doing nothing but

cooking and cleaning the house. Rachel tried to speak to her about the

situation as she was the only one who spoke French and could communicate

with the woman, but the woman only got nastier. *There were two other volunteers with her for the week, both from Korea. The Koreans spoke English but not French. The leader spoke French but not English. So, my deaf daughter, whom the experts told me 20 years ago would probably never speak English well, acted as the translator between the leader and the Korean girls since she's fluent in both languages.*

NOTE: Rachel didn't start studying French until the second semester of her 9th grade year. Her high school was on a semester system, which enabled her

after taking French every semester to study through French 5 followed by a

full year of AP French her senior year and a semester of French in college.

Plus, she went on two exchange programs to France and then spent 3 weeks

there with her French friends last summer as well and has maintained email

and written communication in French with a couple of French pen pals since

9th grade as well.

...Rachel had spent $250 of her own money plus her frequent flyer mileage and

my parents' to get there, and so she wanted to try to salvage some of the

trip. Therefore, she opted to leave the farm and make her way to Bayonne,

France, where she has some very close friends and which is at the opposite

end of the country from where she was in the middle of rural France outside

of Marseilles. She got a ride to the bus stop in the little town near where

she was. She knew that she needed to get to the train station in Marseilles

but didn't know anything more than that. In French, she asked two high

school students at the bus stop how to get there. They were very nice and

sat on the bus with her, showing her where to get off and telling her which

bus to transfer to. When she got off the second bus, she asked the bus

driver in French how to get to the train station.
He told her how to get

there. She walked a few blocks to the train station and asked in French at

the station how to get to Bayonne. This entailed taking two trains for a

total of 7 hours, transferring in Bordeaux. Throughout all of this, she was

in constant touch with me and with her friends in Bayonne via cell phone.

cannot imagine what she would have done had she not been able to communicate

as well as she can. She certainly would have been stuck at the farm for the

full 2 and a half weeks. Also, being able to speak to her throughout this

ordeal certainly kept me from being one basketcase of a totally anxious mom.

All's well that ends well as she's back home tonight safe and sound, having

enjoyed the last part of her trip much more than the first. Oh, one more

thing - If anyone knows of any great organizations that run volunteer

programs in Europe for college students, we'd love to hear about them

because she will be there again this summer and has about three weeks to

fill before starting her semester abroad in France in September, and she's

certainly not going through Volunteers for Peace again!


Remember Rachel??

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