“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” ~Helen Keller

Posted on March 27, 2012

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I took out my green earplugs.  I rolled one between my thumb and fingers until it was tight, then I finessed it into my ear canal and waited for it to expand.  Deaf in one ear, I repeated the process with the other plug and blocked my residual hearing.  Now fully deaf, I turned to my classmate and she handed me her scarf.  I put on my sunglasses and then tied the scarf around my head, over them.  I was now completely blind.  Deaf, blind and utterly alone.

I’m enjoying more and more daring adventures these days.  Almost two months ago, my class did an activity in which we led each other around the campus like this.  Taking turns being completely helpless, as we [the majority of us] have relied on these two senses all our lives.  And I was focused on every experience, feeling, sensation and emotion I had.

My first was, as mentioned, alone.  I went from a room full of people to no one else in the world, with only the actions of donning the scarf and inserting the plugs.  And then it was only me and my partner.  As she led me out of the room, I felt her nervousness, as she put my hand on her arm.  I felt her uncertainty as she led me outside.  And I felt her caution as we explored the campus.  But as for me, I was excited.  I fully trusted my partner.  I trusted that she wouldn’t lead me into any trees or walls or let me stumble into any holes.  So I was enjoying the ride.  I was exploring the world in a new way.  This experience was so different to me and I focused everything on immersing myself into it.  We went up some stairs, down a ramp, down some steps, up and down a grassy hill, around a tree, up some steps and through a doorway into a building.  I could tell immediately that the building we entered was the library… by the smell.  You know the smell.  Old books.  So at this point, I knew where I was (after some disorienting marching around in circles outside). Once in the building, she guided me in more circles – up escalators, a ride in an elevator, in and out of different rooms.  Then she stopped, turned to me, and tried to communicate with me.  It took a while, but I finally figured out that she wanted me to stay there.  So I stood, obediently, waiting for the next thing to happen.  I wondered what was going on in the world on the other side of my blindfold and earplugs.  I waited.  It felt like forever.

Finally, she took my hand again and placed it upon her shoulder.  She was taller.  Her shoulder was broader.  She walked with more confidence.  And she communicated better – I could understand her.  Wait… her hands feel different.  Bigger.  This was no longer my partner.  This was a man.  And he was good.  He was in control and I had no problem understanding what was going on when he communicated something to me.  At one point, we had stopped for a little while and he was standing next to me, so I got his attention and asked him if he was who I thought he was.  He confirmed it and then seemed amused, as he asked me how I knew.  There are only 2 men in my class and I felt it was him.  So I told him so.  Anyway, we continued on our way, going down more stairs, outside and then up and down hills.  Walked through campus and my amusement switched to curiosity to boredom to amusement constantly.

My aforementioned guy partner, while it’s his turn. He was too funny … he sat there, grinning like a fool, all by himself in his own little world.

I wondered how many people were watching me and how clueless and silly I looked.  But that was only a small thought, as I knew that anyone else, if put in the same situation, would look just as clueless and lost as I did.

My new partner sat me on a bench and again I was told to “stay”.  I was starting to feel like a dog, being given commands such as this.  But it was all part of the game, yeah?  So I sat patiently (albeit disinterested, left alone with no stimulus).  Soon, someone came over to me and introduced herself.  My new partner.  I appreciated the introduction, as last time, I was given none.  It was nice to know from the start, who was leading me around.  She, too, was good at communicating with me.  More exploring and wandering… every so often, I would be “shown” something like a soda machine or a water fountain… and I felt it unnecessary and curious as to the point of wasting my time with just “showing” me something.  I’d wonder at first if I was being shown something pertinent to my mobility.  But then… not.  Others may have appreciated the sidetracks, but I was all about the necessities of getting around, without caring about the pit stops.  I switched partners a time or two more, becoming more complacent with my new perspective on the world.  There was not much to take in when you lack sight and sound.  So I spent about half an hour bored in my dark, silent world.

All in all though, I was glad for the experience.  It was interesting.  And I got to learn how those who are deaf and blind get around and experience life and I feel so much compassion for them.

At the end of the day, I took down those blocks to my senses and am all the more grateful for my sight and hearing, being sure never to take them for granted.

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Posted in: deaf, journal, School