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January 22, 2004

Students prepare for global trek

From: The Argus, CA - Jan 22, 2004

By Jennifer Kho

Thursday, January 22, 2004 - FREMONT -- Sixteen California School for the Deaf students will voluntarily spend more time with their teachers and classmates during spring break.

The international-studies students will travel with their class to Russia from April 8-18, visiting museums and historical attractions in Moscow, St. Petersburg and -- on their way back -- Stockholm, Sweden. They also will visit the deaf school in Moscow.

"We'll be seeing the country, with its churches, historical artifacts and differences, and we'll be learning about a different culture," said senior Andrew Greenman, 17, speaking through interpreter Kati Krause. "We'll be able to look back and save that memory for a lifetime."

The Russian Rhapsody Tour is part of the school's 4-year-old international-studies program. Previous trips included Europe, Co-sta Rica and China.

One of the school's four inter- national-studies teachers, David Call, suggested Russia this year.

"I grew up in the Cold War period," he said. "I remembered how the Russians managed to have a successful space program in spite of their poverty. I was fascinated because I realized how advanced Russians really were."

The school, which has raised all but $4,000 of the $60,000 needed to make the trip, is sponsoring the satirical John "Leno" Maucere Show tonight and Friday at the Little Theater to raise more funds. In addition, a bowl-a-thon fund-raiser is scheduled Feb. 8 at Cloverleaf Family Bowl.

To prepare for the trip, international-studies students have learned about Russian history, culture, literature, architecture, science and religion.

They made model rockets based on the principles of deaf rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, learned about the way deaf rights and equality have changed in Russia since communist times, watched the movie "Doctor Zhivago" and even traveled to San Francisco to eat Russian food and watch a performance of Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker."

They also have been studying basic written Cyrillic and Russian Sign Language.

While Russia does not have as much deaf access as the United States, at least one part of traveling might be easier for the deaf than for the hearing -- communicating.

American and Russian sign languages are very similar because both are based on French Sign Language, senior Wesley Singleton, 18, said.

"It's almost the same," he said. "Russian Sign Language and ASL are called cousin languages."

Misunderstandings still do occur, however. Some signs are the same, but have different meanings in the Russian and American sign languages. The ASL sign for "happy" means "hello" in Russia, and the sign for "sorry" means "angry."

Greenman said the out-of-textbook experiences the class has included so far -- such as watching Russian movies and "The Nutcracker," and tasting Russian food -- have inspired him and given him a little taste of what spring break might be like.

"Here in class, it's like black and white -- it's print, and you're reading -- but going there, it becomes alive," he said. "It has more impact when what you're learning becomes alive."

Staff writer Jennifer Kho can be reached at (510) 353-7013 or .

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