SayWhatClub conventions are special. Those of us who attend, leave with uplifted spirits on a natural high. After four days together, we feel like family. Not only do we learn more about hearing loss through workshops and presentations but we learn we aren’t alone with our daily trials. It’s one of the few times of year we can be in a crowd of people and not feel left out. Here are some quotes from those attended this year.
*Rhonda: “Totally awesome convention! It was a super fellowship time and learning experience for me…and I’m grateful.”
*Erica: “It was SIMPLY AWESOME! Josh and I had a wonderful time, and it was such a pleasure to meet each and every one of you; old friends & new ones!”
*Pat K: “I thoroughly enjoyed my first convention and look forward to future ones where I can get the whole experience. I came back thoroughly inspired and energized…”
*Sudheer: “I feel wonderful after attending my first convention. Many informative talks and presentations and a great deal of suggestions on dealing with the hearing loss. I have learnt many new things here, which I intend to practice regularly.”
*Barb: “I had a blast at my first (full) SWC Con, and G-d willing I’ll be at next years…Not only did I have a great time & enjoy the speakers, and almost forgot, chatting with the vendors too, but can also say another highlight most definitely was meeting so many wonderful people. My expectations for this trip were far exceeded, and I’ll never forget it.”
*Michele T: “This was my very first Con experience and it was such a remarkable experience. I did learn a few things but mostly enjoyed connecting with others who UNDERSTAND what I’m dealing with. There’s no comparison to finding another that truly “gets it” and you all do! I am proud and thankful to be a part of our group.
The 2013 SayWhatClub convention was held May 15-19th in Williamsburg, VA this year. “New Options in a Timeless Setting.” We were right across the street from the College of William and Mary, one of the oldest in the USA at the Williamsburg Hospitality House (soon to go out of business to be a part of the dorms for the college above). Colonial Williamsburg a short stroll away with the streets shut off to normal traffic and 18th century homes and businesses lined the street. New options included nearby Busch Gardens, shopping centers and plenty of restaurants to eat at.
The convention kicked off with a welcome party in the hospitality room. SWC volunteers man a table just outside the room to hand out name tags and give us a bag filled with goodies.
Once inside the hospitality room, we find old friends and greet new ones. Deserts, coffee and tea were offered while we mingled as camera flashes went off. Some people were delighted seeing each other again from previous conventions and newbies tend to be a little shy at first staying on the edge. It doesn’t take long to get them up and talking with the rest of us. After all, this is hard of hearing culture and we like to make sure no one feels left out.
As the night goes along, I noticed people picking up each others name tags to check and recheck names. (Looking at the name tag gets the information across faster with less repeats.) No one takes offense when someone walks up and picks up their name tag, it became routine really fast. Plus we meet so many people that first night, it’s hard to remember who is who. Later we check name tags again to see what list that person was on. Later still, we are looking at the same name tag again to figure out where we came from. Everyone is smiling and laughing even if we had a long day of travel.
Afterward, many people chose to go to bed but a few of us went to a bar across the street called The College Delly to visit some more. They had a nice patio setting which is easier on our ears than the inside. We aren’t there to drink so much as carry on the conversation and get to know each other more. Here we catch up and include newbies with past stories. If someone didn’t hear a joke or story, we’re sure to fill them in. There’s plenty of laughter too. We may be short on hearing but our sense of humor more than makes up for it.
That night I feel asleep late but with a smile on face so grateful to be part of this amazing group of people. I feel like I’m home with my people.
The next morning workshops start and our first one featured Gael Hannan and Ear Rage! “I lost my hearing and I want it back.” She told us stories to make us laugh. She acted out scenarios showing us that maybe hearing loss isn’t so invisible after all. She encouraged us to be proactive with our hearing loss and recognized the fact we have bad days.
The next workshop featured all three cochlear implant (CI) companies, Advanced Bionics, Med-El and Cochlear America. Each representative talked about their product and each company seems to have it’s special features. All three representatives were friendly and good about answering any and all questions.
Workshops ended for the day around noon. At least 30 of us gather in the lobby to walk together to the The King’s Arm Tavern for lunch. It’s in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg keeping to the colonial ways. Waitresses and waiters are dressed in period attire for the 18th century. It’s typical southern fare, meaning good eating. We fill an entire room and with SWCers only and the staff was pleasant and accommodated our hearing loss. Ever been a room full of hard of hearing people? Have I mentioned we are loud? We still manage to communicate whether it’s talking, lip reading or some signing and the laughter never stops.
Many of us split up after lunch to tour the area by ourselves or with a group of people. That night we gathered once again at the College Delly for dinner and $1 Coronas. Some people came for a while, then left as others drifted in. Some of us stayed the whole night but at any given time we had at least 20 people in there. We bonded, we created memories and we laughed some more going to bed late.
I went to bed very tired but drifted of with happy thoughts and feeling blessed again. As our convention booklet says, “We might arrive strangers but we all go home friends.” By the second night, we know this is true.
To be continued….