Team Sign Language Blitz in Seattle

As I gazed out the airplane window across the beautiful Cascade Range mountains. I realized I’d never flown this far West. 

Gazing out the airplane window over the Cascade Mountains, I realized I had never flown this far west, or seen mountains from this angle before.

Going into the weekend I knew exactly what to expect, but at the same time I had no idea what to expect. 

As the plane landed and I walked through the airport to the airport pick-up destination, I kept re-reading my itinerary as if it would show me different information than the last 20 times I had glanced over it in the past hour. But it stayed the same. 

While we’ve been working together for almost a year, this Seattle trip was the first team our whole team has met in person. 

Chris Morrison, the Sign Language Blitz CEO, established Sign Language Blitz in Seattle in 2017. A couple years later Michael Cooper, a Deaf teacher from Seattle, joined Chris to further Sign Language Blitz’s mission of connecting communities through sign language. 

About a year ago, Amy Lazzaretti, a Deaf teacher from Oregon, and I (Makenna Cook), a hearing American Sign Language Interpreting student, joined the team to help spread Sign Language Blitz’s message across communities through social media. 

A few months ago Bryan Woodyard, our Chief Strategy Officer,  joined our team to help us connect with more people and set Sign Language Blitz into forward motion.

Day 1: El Salvador in an Italian Restaurant

I flew early Friday morning and spent the start of the day hopping from coffee shop to coffee shop with our team lawyer, Adam as we waited for our AirBnB check-in time. 

If there was ever a place to coffee shop hop, it would be Seattle. While Seattle is known as the birthplace of Starbucks, I personally think it should be better known as the home of some of the most incredible local coffee shops and cafes (with incredible gluten free options, might I add).

We visited a couple coffee shops and restaurants, all of which had incredible atmosphere’s and lovely people who we were able to share Sign Language Blitz’s mission with. Plus, I was able to get quite a bit of post creation and scheduling done (an added bonus).

Once our AirBnB check-in time came around, Chris and Bryan met up with us at the coffee shop Chocolati. We then tagged along with Chris to help pick-up his daughter from daycare, and then headed on over to the AirBnB.

Bryan had specifically chosen this AirBnB for its open concept design (Deaf-friendly, duh!) and it was exactly what we needed for our weekend team trip.

We spent a few hours recuperating at the AirBnb before picking up Amy from the airport and heading over to grab some Italian food. 

Waiting for us at the restaurant was Michael. Once we all sat down, we started chatting about our travels and updating each other on our lives. Eventually, Adam came to join us and Amy and Michael were able to teach him a few new signs as we discussed our plans for possible dessert and social media filming locations for the next day.

As we wrapped up our meal and started to walk out the door (very slowly, as is typical in Deaf Culture), Michael noticed a couple seated near the door signing to each other. 

He immediately handed off the to-go boxes in his hands and struck up a conversation with these strangers. While, in hearing culture, this might seem odd. In Deaf culture this is pretty typical. 

We found out his name was Giovanni and he was having dinner with his friend who wanted to learn more sign language. 

Giovanni grew up in El Salvador communicating in Salvadoran Sign Language, or LESSA. Once he immigrated to Seattle he picked up American Sign Language. 

Chris and Michael were able to share the mission of Sign Language Blitz with him and Michael even filmed a short video with him to discuss the differences in vocabulary from American Sign Language to LESSA.

We ran into Giovanni at dinner and talked to him about his experience with Salvadoran Sign Language.

After a day of travel and communicating in two languages, we were all off to bed as soon as we got to the AirBnB excited about the adventures the next day would bring.

Day 2: A Troll, A Rocket, and Some Stellar Greek Food

We woke up bright and early to head over to the Fremont Troll, which still shocked me (no matter how many times this troll was explained to me).

This real-life troll under the bridge sculpture was commissioned by four artists in 1990. It stands at 18 ft (5.5 m) high, weighs 13,000 lb (5,900 kg), and is made of steel rebar, wire, and concrete.

Once we finished filming, we headed over to Milstead & Co, recommended to us by Adam, to grab some caffeine.

While there Michael was able to teach a couple bystanders some sign language on the fly.

Michael taught some sign language on-the-fly.

Once we had our coffee, we walked down the street to find some more fun sculptures we could create some lessons out of. Let me tell you, if you’re ever in the mood to do some great sculpture sightseeing, Fremont is the place.

First we stumbled across this funky colorful street sign that showed us how far we were from different countries. Disclaimer: Yes, this video was basically filmed on a tiny strip of sidewalk in between an intersection (don’t worry, even though it sounds a little unconventional, I promise it was safe!).

This neat street sign became another starting point for a sign language lesson.

We then stumbled across some beautiful street art outside of a local restaurant and had to stop to film a quick color lesson.

What a neat sculpture! Some vocab about space? Sign me up!

And then we arrived at… outer space?? Well. Kind of. Near one of the intersections in Fremont there is a rocket sculpture and Saturn sculpture. Who doesn’t want to learn vocabulary about planets?!

Who would’ve thought there would be a Saturn sculpture right across the street?

Once we came back down to Earth, we wandered around until we came across a tourist-y looking Fremont sign. Since more than half of us were tourists, you know we had to stop. And take a team introduction video.

Our first full team photo!

By this point it was lunch, so we wandered on over to a local Greek restaurant where we were able to create a couple more American Sign Language lessons on the fly. When you’re walking around with two ASL teachers, you have to watch out, anything you see can become a lesson!

Amy and Michael sit at a restaurant. The wall behind them has paintings of famous landmarks.
Another random work of art at the center of another lesson!

After lunch we headed over to our AirBnb to get ready for the interpreters to show up and to start our business and strategy chat. 

Our interpreters, Jasmine and David, were incredible and worked alongside us as we discussed plans, ideas, and next steps for the next quarter of Sign Language Blitz. 

Once we finished chatting, Michael went live on Tik Tok, posted a quick video to his Tik Tok about what he’s up to with team Sign Language Blitz, and then we were off to dinner.


Want to learn ASL? Subscribe to @Sign Language Blitz #signlanuageblitz #fyp

♬ original sound – deafseattleguy2021

For dinner we visited Ghost Fish, an all gluten-free brewing company and were joined by Chris’s wife and his daughter. We chatted about the upcoming Super Bowl LVIII interpreters, our trip, and travel plans the next day all while multi-tasking and playing trivia (Chris’s wife won almost every round!)

After dinner, it was back to the Airbnb to rest up for another day of travel back to our home states.

Day 3: To the Airport!

We wrapped up our trip with hugs goodbye as Bryan and I got dropped off at the airport. Amy flew out later in the day. 

While I waited for my plane to start boarding I threw together a reel to highlight our first ever full team meet up. 

What a weekend!

Leave a Reply

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