And THEN There Were Crocodiles

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away… (Actually it was just a few years ago and right here in Salt lake City) …I had received a “cocktail” of yellow fever, measles, mumps, rubella, meningitis, and Hep A, as well as B! That sounds worse that it was, especially out of context. It also sounds like I should have been admitted to the Center for Disease Control, but I wasn’t. I was just leaving our country and going third world.

Yes, just a few years ago- Alex, Leah, Aaron, Derek and I (plus a few more) were in Ghana, Africa working and playing with deaf children there.

Did you know I have another blog? Yep, I kept a journal of both of my 2008 trips to Ghana. So, in your spare time 🙂 hop on over there and have a looksy and take a box of tissue with you.

Those trips to Africa still impact my life. There was a part of Ghana that inspired me to stop being such a consumer. I became painfully aware of the bags of garbage versus the bags of materials to be recycled that we took to the curb each week. We began recycling more and started buying less packaged food and more real food.

In Ghana, all of the students were so lean and strong. (hungry?) They do chores early in the morning. They walk to school. They study and play soccer. They carry buckets of water on their head’s without using their hands. If you are “soft” it is because you are wealthy. Your soft because you can afford to be fat, where most cannot. Let’s just say I was tired of looking wealthy and knew that if that wasn’t enough to motivate me, I have a daily reminder that someone else was depending on me being physically strong… Lucy. I changed my eating habits, my physical exercise habits and health habits. I began my personal “1 pound per week challenge” which is how I ultimately lost over 30 pounds that year. Sometimes when I am on my treadmill, I try to imagine what the Ghanaians would think of it. I imagine they would be baffled at the idea of people running on treadmills or lifting weights in a gym. For some reason, that makes me smile. On the days I don’t want to run, I just think of my cutie in her wheelchair and I tell myself not to take anything for granted… On those days I say to myself, “Rachel, run because you CAN!”

Before I went to Ghana I often found myself looking around and feeling that there wasn’t enough _______. (fill in the blank) Or we didn’t have enough __________. Coming home, I was no longer complaining about what we didn’t have, quite the opposite! I was suddenly embarrassed by how MUCH we had, even though nothing had changed except my perspective. We cleared out excess clothes, shoes, coats and toys from our closets and we donated them.

I still receive emails from our friend Marco and I’m proud to say that last year The Signing Time Foundation helped pay for part of his college tuition in Ghana.

Going to Ghana also pushed my adventure limits. Nothing like eating unrecognizable food,

having nowhere to wash your hands and “showering” with gray well-water.

There were giant spiders that came out at night.

A chorus of goats and chickens and taxis honking throughout the night. There were tearful braids and men with machetes.

And of course… of course there were crocodiles and a broken paddleboat.

My performance schedule for 2011 is too full to go to Ghana this year, I really do not have a ten day window available. I am working with Signs of Hope International to confirm a date for 2012. Signs of Hope is always putting together groups of volunteers to work in the schools in Ghana, you can also help from home, by donating to help pay for a deaf child’s schooling.

Overall they are a cool group doing a good thing.

This entry was posted in Crazy Little Thing Called Life, Going To Ghana, Strong Enough and tagged , , , , , , , by Rachel Coleman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Rachel Coleman

The opinions and late night musings published on this blog are Rachel de Azevedo Coleman's alone, and are not ever intended to represent the opinions and sentiments of any organization or product that Rachel is, was, or will be associated with. Rachel Coleman is the creator and Emmy-nominated host of Signing Time!, the children's American Sign Language vocabulary building series. She is also the creator and host of Baby Signing Time, Rachel & the TreeSchoolers, and Rachel & Me. Rachel now serves as the Executive Director of the American Society for Deaf Children, a 501c3 nonprofit established in 1967 by parents of deaf children. ASDC is the American Sign Language organization for families who are raising deaf children. Motivated by her child, Leah's deafness, Rachel has spent the last 18 years creating ASL products to help bridge the communication barrier between hearing and signing communities. In 2006 Rachel founded the Signing Time Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to putting communication in the hands of all children of all abilities. In 2014, the Signing Time Foundation launched a 50-Lesson online ASL curriculum called "Sign It: ASL Made Easy" that is available free-of-charge to families with deaf or hard of hearing children ages 36 months and under. Apply at For those who do not qualify to receive Sign It ASL for free, they can find it for purchase at very reasonable rates on Rachel and her husband, Aaron, live in Salt Lake City Utah. They are parents to Leah who was born profoundly deaf, and is now a senior in college at NTID/RIT in Rochester, NY. They are also parents to Lucy who has spina bifida and cerebral palsy, and recently graduated high school. In 2010 the Colemans were joyfully reunited with Rachel's daughter Laura. Rachel is proud to be Laura's birth mom. Laura was placed for adoption as an infant in 1992 when Rachel was 17 years-old.

19 thoughts on “And THEN There Were Crocodiles

  1. Ack, needs a warning for the spider pic! I’m terrified of them! :::shudder:::

    Anyway, sounds like an awesome trip! I would love to go do something like that some day.

  2. Three years already have gone by? How did that happen so ‘quickly’? It was about that time I started to read your blogs and craved more. Still hoping to hear about your book, and then hoping to figure out how to get a signed copy.
    Yes to the too much stuff realization here too – I try to donate whenever I can, and people always look at me funny when I fold my cardboard boxes flat. You make me smile 🙂

  3. I’m starting my savings now for 2012… I want to go 🙂
    Thanks for the reminder of how much we have. I will be going through my stuff and donating a lot!!!

  4. Thank you for sharing. It is nice to know that there are people who care in this world. Even in America during these hard times, our family has learned to appreciate what you do have and can do. We have five kids and four are special needs. I have lost my job and all of us have learned to do without a lot. You can be amazed at how wealthy you are and what you take for granted until it is taken away. But on the up side, we appreciate what we do have and each other more. We celebrate what we can do more and we give more to our community. Experiences like this and your Africa trip are invlauable and everyone should have that experience. It is a truly spiritual experience.

  5. Wow, great crocodile video!

    When I was in India, I saw a woman sweeping the street with her baby. She tied her baby in a long cloth and the baby hung sleeping peacefully, tied to a tree branch, rocked by the breeze while the woman did her work. That image has stayed with me.
    Thanks for the reminder to be grateful for all that we have.

  6. A warning needs to come with that spider picture. I was not expecting it and it near done killed my laptop when it went flying across the room. I am horrified of them. Ack *shutter*

    I enjoyed the video. High end freaky entertainment.

  7. Hello Rachel, I met you (watching your video, but will personally April 2nd when you come to Portland hopefully:) almost 2yrs ago. A few days after my son was diagnosed with autism, my now best friend and mother of a child with autism too spoke to me about your videos. From that day we watched your video “My First Signs” and those songs and signs were part of our everyday life, we sang to you daily and constantly. Even my hubby knows your song, except the pizza one, too fast for him, I know it but run out of breath, lol

    Long story short, You have changed our lifes forever, specially my son Alex! Thanks to you he now has a way of communicating. He is 4 yrs old now and non-verbal, for now, but I have high hopes that one day he will talk. If not I am ready for that also, using sign language will make him even more interesting. Alex has season 1 and 2 and knows I would say all the signs in every video, he is a visual learner and has a photographic memory if you ask me, he even learned to read thanks to you!

    The more I read about you and your life the more I admire you, you have been through so much, I feel we share that in common. Having children with special needs sure changes the way you view life, that’s for sure. Also by reading your blog I realized Lucy was your daughter also, sorry I didn’t know that until recently. My name is Lucy also by the way 🙂 I don’t know very many Lucy’s but now you Lucy is in my prayers too.

    I want you to know that if this world had more mothers like me and you this world would be a much better place. You are amazing, have a HUGE heart, I am not even sure how it fits in your chest! Again thanks so much for everything you do, you are changing lifes, I hope you know that. In my house you are here daily, my son and 18 month old daughter Julie love you,Leah and Alex. Alex loves the fact that the songs have his name in them, we use the sign for Alex ( for his name) just like you do in the videos!

    Thanks for all the kind work you do, please keep going, you are changing so many lifes. Cant wait to see you in Portland, Alex was jumping up when I told him he would meet you!~

  8. Love the journals, I read those a few weeks ago. I couldn’t get the link for the Ghana videos to work though 🙁 Is it up and running again? I really want to see them!

  9. Thanks for reminiscing about your Ghana trip! It was an amazing adventure for Alex and Leah, I am sure! Love the photo of you in the Ghana outfit, and Leah’s tight braids! I just wish that I could talk to the kids you visited and taught and played with, in order to find out what has changed for them since your visit!! I am sure you would be pleased and gratified!

  10. Rachel,
    We have never met but I am so grateful to you and your sister for starting Signing Times. It has changed our lives. Thre years ago ur 6th child (we have nine) was diagnosed with autism 3 years ago. Your series has helped us beyond measure. Our second child (now 17) fell in love with sign language thanks to you. This special lady was born with a diaphramatic hernea and rose above it all to become a wonderful daughter and sister. Her love for sign language was shared with her autistic sister and they became even closer because of it. I firmly beleive that out of disaster comes opportunity and our children are daily reminders of this miracle.

    I truly admire your work and applaud your teachable heart. What a blessing your trip to Ghana was. It is through instances such as these that we become more grounded and persue things in life that have true worth and value. May you and your sister continue to do your wonderful work for many years to come.You two ladies are touching lives and giving hope to all special needs families. Thank you again.

  11. Dang, girl! You are one hot mama in that dress! 🙂 Thanks for the great post and for the reminder that we truly have excess … more than what we need … and to be thankful for all that we have!

    Keep on keepin’ on!
    Love ya’!

  12. Love you, Ray. Thanks for sharing you with me-oh, and the world too;)
    I love that you run because you CAN and that you made it past that croc. HA! Lambchop!

  13. Hi Rachel,
    I am an “older” mom to twins who are 14 months old. We love your baby signing times. I just stumbled across this site and story about your life. I am in tears. Your journey has really touched me. Your girls are beautiful, all three of them! What a shining light you are!
    God Bless you,

  14. Oh, I would SO love to do this! I’m a former ASL interpreter, and have recently adopted 10 year old Axel from Serbia. Although he is hearing, he is 100% non-verbal. He’s been home 4 months now. When I got him he had NO method of communication, and now is somewhere around 500 signs. Every day there are new signs he’s using. I’m going to Serbia with a medical group in May. I would LOVE to work with kids who are d/hoh in Ghana!

  15. Rachel, wow! I thought I admired you before! Where to start?? My 20 month old LOVES Singing Time! It’s the only thing he watches (besides College Football: GO UTES!!). Whenever he sees the TV he starts signing and saying: “Singing Time-es” 🙂 We are starting potty training and it’s the “treat” he gets when he uses the potty. Then I saw your blog. I LOVE that you went to Ghana! I have a passion for Ghana! I have been there 3 times with a non-profit organization called Reach The Children and can’t wait to get back; it really gets in your blood. While I was there we worked in a school for the deaf and blind. It made me wish I’d known more signs…I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can since then so when I go back I’ll be able to communicate with them more. That’ll hopefully be in a couple of years because…my husband and I are adopting a sibling set from there…hopefully. We are in the process of fundraising and doing paperwork. It makes me UNBELIEVABLY excited thinking about going back!
    Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for what you have done and what you do! You are an AMAZING person!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.