Signs of Life
Fall 2010 Issue | By Andrew Taylor
ISU Fulbright scholar Bethany Hundley is detailing her experience on her blog
Idaho State University Fulbright Scholar Bethany Hundley has had inspiring days in Nepal - and difficult ones as well.
Hundley, who is 80 percent deaf and often relies on lip-reading for communication, shared the details of getting lost within her first few days in the country on her blog, "Live, Love, Laugh & Sign."
Read Bethany's Blog: Live, Love, Laugh & Sign
"My saviors yesterday appeared as I was walking back towards the Fulbright office and were in the form of a group of young men from the local secondary (deaf) school who were signing. I walked over to ask them where to find the federation and they were so excited to find a signing American that they grabbed my hand and led me to the office (which in my defense was down an alley with a few twists and turns). It was a huge point of amusement to them that they had seen me wandering earlier and not known I was deaf or looking for the deaf federation."
Hundley, who received a Fulbright Full Research Scholarship, is completing a two-part study on the deaf and deaf literacy in Nepal during the 2010-11 academic school year.
She is currently working at a deaf school outside Kathmandu for a few months, after which she will continue traveling and visiting other deaf schools around the country. She hopes to conduct a community study of deafness in a rural community as well.
"The purpose of my two-part study is to discover the way in which literacy is taught to deaf students in academic settings in Nepal, as well as how this education translates back to the rural villages from which the student comes," Hundley said.
A few of her early blog entries - with titles such as "Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone and Into Festivities," "A Very Nepali Sort of Day," "Dance of the Signs," and "Nepali Sign Language, Free WI-FI, Great Food = New Favorite Place in Nepal!" - detail her early experiences in Nepal and she'll continue to post to the blog for the duration of her trip, Internet connections willing.
Hundley, 25, graduated from Idaho State University in August with an interdisciplinary master's degree in deaf education and literacy, from the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and Education of the Deaf in the Division of Health Sciences, and the Department of School Psychology Literacy and Special Education in the ISU College of Education.
In Nepal, she has learned to communicate in four languages. Hundley, who is fluent in American Sign Language, has also studied Nepali sign language in the United States as much as possible with limited resources and is studying Nepalese sign language by immersion while working at the deaf school there and through conversations with other deaf individuals. She will be working in affiliation with The Rose International Fund for Children.
"One of the challenges in Nepal and other countries as well, is that the Nepali Sign Language that the students learn in a government funded school may be different than the 'home' sign language they use in the village or region they come from. I'll be exploring that in my research." said Hundley.
The Idaho State University student will be doing more than mastering an oral and sign foreign language. She will also potentially be dealing with and trying to change some negative cultural viewpoints of deafness that can exist in some areas of Nepal.
"I think this will be a wonderful opportunity to work there to change the perception of this disability in Nepal," Hundley said. "I will be working to make a positive perception of 'differently-abled' people."
Hundley, who attended high school in Delaware, came to Idaho State University two years ago to attend school closer to her family, who had moved to Great Falls, Mont. Hundley earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in philosophy from Roanoke College in Virginia, and has worked as a case manager for a home for boys in Covington, Va., and as a pre-school teacher for the Head Start Program in Virginia.
She was assisted in her efforts at receiving a Fulbright by Sharon Sieber, ISU professor of Spanish and ISU Campus Fulbright Program Advisor, and a previous recipient of a faculty Fulbright combined lecturer and research award to Colombia in 1999. Hundley also received help in completing her Fulbright application from her two primary advisors at ISU, professors David Mercaldo and Beverly Klug.
Hundley is ISU's fifth student Fulbright scholar in recent years. "Bethany's grant is proof that the Fulbright is possible for anyone who has a dream and can pursue it with intensity and focus," Sieber said.
The Fulbright program, named for the late Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, is the U.S. government's flagship program in international educational exchange.
Excerpts from the blog www.livelovelaughsign.blogspot.com
- "Yesterday was a festival-filled day here in Nepal, the main day of the Teej Festival. The Teej Festival is predominantly Hindu and is specifically for women. It involves feasting, fasting, ritual bathing, dancing and special blessings at the temples. The women dress up in all of their finery (typically red and gold), and pray for marital success and the longevity of their husbands as well as happiness and success for their children."
- "Swetha, Marissa and I walked back home afterwards, and decided to stop by a small park near our apartments because there was loud music and lots of dancing. We were curious, and figured we could get good pictures. Our plans were foiled (mine in particular!) when a Nepali lady grabbed my hand and pulled me into the dance area! She began to teach me the hand motions of Nepali dance, and then other ladies and girls grabbed my hands to dance with me (or more likely, to show me how!)."