I’m now half way through my most recent challenge, and wow is it difficult.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m attempting to do a week’s sponsored silence: no talking to anyone (including myself!) for a whole seven days. I’m raising money for HVP UK (http://www.hvpuk.org.uk/), who run the school that I will be going to teach in this summer, in Nepal. Today is day 4 of silence. I’m struggling.

In all honesty, the first day was the hardest. No matter how much I tried to promote the fact that I was going to be doing this thing on social networking sites, people still tried to engage me in conversation, either just being unaware or having just forgotten. I then felt very rude if I didn’t get the chance to explain myself (through mouthing and/or sign language), and only responded to a question like ‘How was your Easter?’ with a smile and a nod. It’s also very difficult to communicate with your hands full when you can’t use words – making it particularly difficult in the dinner hall, for example.

Now, I could have approached this challenge in a ‘just get through it’ kind of way, hiding myself away in my room, buying all my food from Tesco (on the self-service checkouts, of course), skipping lectures, and generally making sure I had as little opportunity as possible to interact with people, thus avoiding potential awkwardness. But actually, that’s not what this is about. Quite apart from anything, people aren’t going to see how much of a challenge this is without being confronted by me in my silent state, and then they wouldn’t feel any need to donate. And that is the main purpose of this. Difficult, awkward, embarrassing though it may be, I’m doing this to raise money – so I’ve felt that it’s very important just to go about my normal daily life, only without speaking.

To this end I’ve been to all the regular mealtimes (pointing to what I want at the buffet) and sat in on conversations without participating; I’ve been to collect a parcel from the porters lodge with a lot of gesticulating (and a very bemused porter). I’ve been to watch a play (with someone else getting my ticket for me), sat in on all my seminars and tutorials without speaking (to be honest some people do that without being sponsored for it…) and on Wednesday went out to a club – all with no words.

It has been interesting, I have to say – frustrating a lot of the time, but definitely interesting. You don’t realise how often we speak in an average day, or how important it is to be able to. A simple ‘thank you’ makes pretty much all social encounters a lot more pleasant; it’s horrible having to buy something from a shop or get dinner without being able to say that. It’s also been very difficult to refrain from singing – either just along to my music in my bedroom (I’m sure my neighbours will attest to the fact that I do that a lot), or when I was out in Loveshack: lip syncing is a lot less fun.

I’m really glad that all my friends have been able to help me out in doing this; explaining it to other people so I don’t have to, and humouring me for being there all the time without contributing anything to the conversation. I’m also really grateful to everyone who’s donated already: that’s what is making me want to carry on to the end. I appreciate that a few of them are going to wait until the end to donate as well: there’s more motivation if ever I needed it.

It’s times like these when you also really appreciate the invention of things like texting, and Twitter, and Facebook messaging. I don’t know what I’d do without any kind of outlet for my thoughts – probably go mental. Also for communication, though: without being able to physically ask people what they’re planning on doing of an evening, I’d have a very sad and lonely week if I couldn’t arrange things via text. So there’s another thing I’m grateful for.

Essentially this is a post full of love, for friends, family, anyone who’s donated: thank you thank you thank you! Three days more, and I can’t wait to tell people just how grateful I am for the support I’ve been given. You guys are the best.

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