When I landed at the airport in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on January 22, 2019, Shakira’s father was waiting for me and welcomed me together with Shakira and her sister Jasmine, both with flowers in their hands. Her friendly, open smile did not disappoint that Shakira prudently appraised me first. When I thanked her for the flowers and asked her in English how she was doing, she politely replied “I am fine”. This initial shyness, however, came off very quickly when I was sitting in the back seat of the car with the two girls on the way to town and we started playing together.
If you did not know, you would not have noticed that Shakira was a CI recipient. Her vivacious nature, her uninterrupted talk with her sister on Bengali, her spontaneous response when addressed, in no way indicated this fact.
When I first met Shakira, she had been a 10-week-old baby and now, 10 years later, a self-confident girl with a beaming smile was sitting next to me, celebrating her 10th birthday the next day, which she was obviously looking forward to it.
Arriving home, I realized very quickly that Shakira, in her lively way, kept the whole family busy as long as she was not ‘floating’ around the apartment, singing and dancing. She was the living proof of a successful integration into the family after conquering the congenital deafness and I enjoyed this condition very much. In a later conversation with the parents, we recalled the time before receiving the CI at the age of three and the liberation for Shakira and her family when Shakira finally could hear and started catching up learning how to speak.
The birthday party was very joyful and when I, as a guest and as it is tradition, got a piece of the birthday cake shovelled into my mouth by the birthday girl, I also felt integrated. My conversation with Shakira went smoothly. Her English vocabulary was not yet enough to allow for a longer conversation, but her sister was always within reach to help out when Shakira spilled on me in her mother tongue, and I got the impression that there she did not have any lack of enough vocabulary.
This is all the more pleasing as Shakira goes to a ‘normal’ school, which ,however, places value on inclusion. Her class teacher, whom I met while visiting Shakira's school, was very fond of her student with a hearing implant being that eager to learn. Thanks to the fact that
classes with a maximum of 12 children are kept relatively small, the teacher makes it possible to successfully integrate such handicapped children into the class and to take their personal learning needs into account. I had the feeling that Shakira was in good hands with this teacher and the learning success confirmed that.
I do not know when the next reunion will take place. Fortunately, the digital connection will bridge the gap in time and give me the opportunity to continue sharing in Shakira’s marvellous development.