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Stepping out into darkness and the Unknown Article

Stepping out into Darkness

After finishing highschool, I enrolled in the field of music at a well-known university here in South Africa, thanks to a wonderful grant I received from the Department of Education.

After a very long welcoming seremony, I was shown to my apartment in the heart of the campus.
My parents sorted out my room, and I unpacked my things in a room where I would live for almost five years.

I was sharing the apartment with two other blind guys who were also starting their studies.

My parents stayed until the next day, and then, they left.
Cool, i thaught, now i’m on my own, for the first time.

The very next day, the orientation and mobility instructor “also blind” showed us the way to the caffeteria, disability center, etc.

The other two guys caught on quickly.
Me too, kind of, but i was still unsure of just stepping out.
It was not longbe before they started going out every now and then, going to new places, bars, etc.
I just stayed at home.

I just made the excuse: “No sorry, i won’t come now. Later.”
I stayed in my room, and went out with the instructor only.
I didn’t want to try the route on my own.
You know, might get lost etc.
Until oneday.
Oneday, the two guys were out and about, classes or somewhere, and i needed to go to the caffeteria bad.
I was hungry and there was no food in our apartment.
I was thinking: “Should i go … shouldn’t i?”
Then i got a text from my mother.
It just came at the right time.
At that moment I was busy debating with myself:
Should I go, or not?

Although i can’t remember the text at all, it motivated me to go.
I took my cane, and locked the door behind me.
I found the path that will, eventually lead me to the caff.
As i was going, my confidence grew.
Sure, i panicked a bit along the way, when looking for specific landmarks, a curb, a tree, or a poal.
When i arrived at the caffeteria, i was glowing with pride at my ability to walk on the enormous campus, on my own.
And from there on, i didn’t have a problem to go out at all!

In the 5 years i studied there, i got lost a lot.
But there was always, or most times, someone to show me the right way.
If not, i just walked on without knowing where i was going.
Most times, when i walked back the way i came, i saw something familiar which put me back on my track.
So what is my point telling you this story?
Are you scared or hesitant to go out of the house? Or to explore?
If you have a compass, it will make it easier to keep track of where you are going.
Also, Loadstone is a free GPS and landmark creation software you can load on your phone to mark landmarks and points of interest.
There are also hundreds of apps for Android and iPhone to locate your position, and tell you what is around you; nearest intersections, points of interest; and even back-tracking to where you have started off.

Echo location is also a very reliable way of telling what is around you while you are walking: listen out for trees, cars and buildings etc.
The main thing is just to walk, and get rid of that fear of getting lost.
Just keep track of the direction you are walking.
Then you can always come back to more familiar paths.
But getting lost also has some advantages.
You might discover something you didn’t know existed. Like discovering a shop, or a shortcut, or something.
Follow a curb, or grass on your left or right. Follow the line of parked cars in a parking area, following the echo of a building to one side
Just do it! And go wild.

“Since I originally wrote this article, I have not only dispelled my fear of going out of my front door; but travelled to the US on my own, to study in the field of piano tuning and repair.
I obtained a scholarship, and flew ten thousand miles to the state of Washington, where I studied for two years, to be a piano technician.
At the moment, I am working full-time as the piano technician in the field for the organization where I studied, The School of Piano Technology for the Blind, in Vancouver Washington.
But my plans are to return to South Africa, and start my own business, servicing pianos.

I believe it will be a promising opportunity, and that I could represent the blind community well before the sighted eyes of people who know little about blindness,; and that I can show, that, to be blind, means more, than just to sit at home, doing nothing.
But that we can excell in any job we want; be free; travel the whole world, and explore new places.
And most important of all, to not be separated from sighted people; not being placed in a separate catogory. But that we can be viewed as normal, as being capable, and sometimes, more capable than some sighted people, in every aspect of life.

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