Me, I would go with my family, all hearing, as a group to the pub. One day one person, a Deaf person saw me. He came and asked me ‘are you Deaf?’, I replied ‘yes I’m Deaf, are you Deaf too? Oohhh good. He said, ‘come to the Hawkes Bay Deaf Club’. ‘Ok’, and so I went with him.
There I met Polly Foreman and Ray Foreman, I didn’t know them, I found out they were the President and Vice President. Oh, I said hello and shook hands with them.
Anyway, as time moved on I got into mischief, into trouble. I would be here and there. I told Deaf people to come with me, not to bother going to Deaf Club. SSSHHHHHH, and off we went to a pub.
It was good, no one was around, no one watching so we could just drink. Then someone grabbed my shoulder!!! Ugh??!! It was Polly Foreman! She saw me and caught me! HOW?? I asked the others there if any of them had a big mouth and told her? They all said no, no, they didn’t say anything. So yes, I was caught.
Polly: you come with me to Deaf Club
Me: nah, I’m drunk, and I don’t want to waste my beer
Polly: too bad.
Polly tipped my drink out and pulled me by the ear.
Me: what about the other Deaf people here?
Polly: leave them, only you, you are Māori
Why me? I thought as I followed her out.
Another time I was in a meeting at Deaf Aotearoa. Whooo, there was a lovely woman there, I was a bit drunk, so I went right up close to her. No one told me she was the CEO!! Oh heck, once I realised I stepped back. I didn’t know. The signing then, I didn’t really understand much.
Later, when I was swearing a lot, yes, I was swearing all the time. I didn’t know about talking more formally, like saying ‘hello, how are you’. I never knew that, I just swore all the time.
I needed to learn how to do it right, how do I learn? I had to ask Deaf how to approach a woman. How to communicate with them? They showed me how to say ‘hi’, ‘how are you’? I had to practice and practice and practice then I improved.
Then later, when I went to university, I went there for the first time when I was 35 years old. Before that I was in the gang for a long time. I wore rough clothes, I had no idea. I was the big tough guy and others seemed to be nervous of me. I thought I would just leave them to it. They didn’t understand me or who I was. Then it all improved.
After two weeks I went back home. And I cried. I realised Deaf Culture is important, it was a wakeup call, I had plenty of wake-up moments then. Yes, that’s life.