I believe that when God takes something away from you, he always replaces it with something else. Sometimes it might not even be God who took it away, but for sure he will be the one who replaces it. The problem with people is that we focus so much on what was taken away, what we don’t have, and completely miss the beauty of what he replaced it with and what we do have. What God replaces will always work better than what he took away. My journey without sound has been about me finding out all these beautiful qualities that God replaced it with.
Oh, my name is Shamsa Ahumuza Byaruhanga. I am second year student of Construction Management at Makerere University. I was born with the ability to hear however that was taken away from me at about 11 years of age. I can speak but I don’t hear. I remember my early life. I remember playing and dancing to music and doing whatever people do. Not once did I ever think about being deaf. Why would I? No one knows what the future holds…
In my world, there is Pitch quiet.
I don’t hear the birds sing, or doors open, cars screech, footsteps coming or even loud music at a party. My world is quiet, Very quiet.
It all started in P.6 by then I was at Pic hill primary school in Kawempe. First, I became sick, my parents took me to a nearby hospital. When they could not manage, they sent me to Nsambya which also referred me to Mulago hospital. There, I got better but I couldn’t hear. We all assumed it was the medicine and things will be fine after time but days turned into weeks and later months as the quiet, the loneliness engulfed me. The shock, the confusion, the panic, the helpless agony, the imagination of a life without sound was unbearable. I cried a lot. My parents were with me all the way. My father worked relentlessly to see that I was fine. We moved from hospital to hospital -they cleaned my ears, we prayed. I even went to Iran for treatment, I got hearing aids but the only thing I heard was unclear rumblings of sounds and nothing clear. I was devastated.
It is until later that my Uncle talked to me that I made peace with what I had become; he told me, my condition could be God’s plan for a better day. He said God doesn’t make mistakes. That’s when I made peace with my condition. It was the start of a new dawn.
It’s one thing to make peace with being deaf and another to go back to your former school deaf. I was very reluctant to go. It took my parents a lot of convincing and pushing but I was simply not ready to face my P.6 classmates. I was made rather than convinced to go back.
I went back to normal school. Deaf school would have taken me a lot of time to learn the signing. Who says I had gone to a special needs school anyway? I continued in normal curriculum. I think I was fighting, I wanted to prove that I can do what other people with sound can.
Going back to school was the beginning of the hard part. Pupils fear people who are different. They don’t want to associate with them because they don’t know how to. At first I could see they didn’t want to talk to me. It felt bad, still feels bad. People sometimes…a lot of times leave me out of conversations. I learnt to get used to it.
It didn’t take them a lot of time to get used to the new me. My world became happier. They even voted me to be a prefect! It was cool.
The teachers were very understanding though many times I had to put in twice the effort other pupils did. I had to consult almost every after a lesson but the teachers were understanding.
At this point I have questions of my own. I met Shamsa a few days back. I asked her a question but she signaled me that she cannot hear.(Touched her ears, shook her head while crisscrossing her hands to say no as she also fumbled with a few words I could not fathom.) I looked at her wide eyes, smiling at me with ease… and a shrug?
I started fumbling for a pen and paper but before I could get them, she said.
“I can give you a pen and paper.” I was appalled. It was a crystal clear statement-No fumble. Did I say she has big eyes? Well, it was time for mine to grow bigger. The sequence became that I write and she answers by talking. I had many questions.
I can see it took you time to get used to Primary kids. How was secondary?
Intimidating! You know from primary, secondary is thought of as a cool era. So of course It wasn’t easy. I went to Kawempe Muslim. My father was a teacher in the school which made it easier. Teachers knew about me and were helpful. We were in streams and soon those in my class got used to me. You know when I get used to people, I start to read their lips. They speak slowly and I pick.
Ohh, really? Can we try? I can speak slowly, I write.
(I see a smile forming slowly as a she reads my message) she laughs, clamps her hands together on the mouth “Try but I am going to give you a hard time. Just do it slowly! She asserts. ’I” , I say pointing at myself ”…will”, assure her, already trying to speak slowly. I can see she’s looking at my lips intently.
“How,” I say, she nods to signal I can continue, “Do. You. Learn. With. Norrr-mal. Pi-po. and under-stand? I repeat it a couple of times. She repeats after me so that I know what word she has picked. And finally we do it!
U-huh, she sighs. I started topping my class in form 3. In A’ level I did Physics, Chemistry, Maths and IT (PCM/IT) and I got 19 points out of the 20. Right now I do Construction Management on government sponsorship.
How do I achieve academically you ask? – Well, my course is sciences. I am good with figures. I concentrate and somehow I follow. I don’t know why people say sciences are hard! I copy from a friend’s book when the teacher dictates and later read through. If I really don’t understand I have a few friends that explain for me, slowly.
Are you in a relationship at the moment?
I’m I seeing anyone? (covers her eyes while shaking the head and laughs) Are you going to write that?! Anyway… I…well yes. He knows about me. He is fine with it and so is his family.
Did you have someone in school?
Not really. The boys around me were mostly friends.
OK, do you sometimes see a guy you like and think, being deaf is one big block they might not take in?
Haha! The things you ask! (Laughs loudly) Anyway, I think people have insecurities. I am deaf, another person feels not cool enough for a certain person, another thinks they are not pretty enough, others that they might be a notch bigger than the right size. So I guess my answer is yes.
Would you say being deaf has had its positives in your life?
Of course. I rarely get into reckless behavior. I am not out every night to club like many girls at University. (I won’t hear anyway.) You will also never find me in girl gossip scandals. There are so many things I can’t hear which are better not heard. And then most importantly, I don’t think my education would have been as good. Being deaf made me so focused to achieve.
Any bad in being deaf? – I write
“A lot!” She says almost immediately (pounding an open palm to a fist) There are so many things I can’t do. Being in people is hard. I want to be part of the crew sometimes; talk when they are talking but because I can’t hear, I’m usually left out standing in their midst, saying nothing. I am also dependent in a way. I have a person that moves with me. She does dialogue for me when I need it. She knows everything about me. She’s with me when I need her. Say; I’m going to an office and that official wont write for me. She does the talking.
Ohh, and music. I miss music. I miss dancing. I loved dancing.
What music do you love? Do you remember some songs?
Yes; Nabikoowa-Julian Kanyomozi, African Queen- 2 face, Forever and always Shania Twain. Sometimes I feel like singing and I just sing them. I know how they go.
When you dream, does your dream self appear deaf?
I’m deaf in my dreams? That’s such an odd question! (Laughs and takes some time for thought) You know, as far as I remember. In dreams there are no papers or people speaking slowly for me to read their lips. Somehow they speak and I understand. [Pause] Wow, that is indeed an interesting question.