Saturday, February 25

This Past Week in Immersion

Greetings. First off, I think its kind of funny and a reflection of my current lifestyle, to look at the kinds of posts I was doing before I started working full time and the kinds I'm doing now. Before February 1, I was putting up many links to interesting articles, and a few journal like entries. Now, after February 1, my posts are mainly of the journal variety and not much, if any, linked stories. I'll still put up a link to a story, or an article in its entirety, but the main reason why I haven't done so is because--I don't have any time left to do that anymore. Funny how that thing called time disappears after you go from not working hardly at all, to working full time. Anyway, I've kind of come full circle, since when I started this blog about a year ago, I never thought I'd be journaling very much, and look at what's happening now.

Anyway, on with the summary. I must say that its hard for me to recount everything that happens to me in a week, since my days are full of different classes, experiences, and incidents that happen. And I simply wouldn't have space, or well, time, to recount everything. Perhaps I will if we ever talk on the phone or in person. Until then, here's the highlights from this past week, ending February 24.

Monday of the week stands out, mainly because it was one of those all staff holidays: President's Day. I haven't had this particular holiday off in several years, since my early days of college in fact, but I got it off now. I've since learned that as far as holidays go, my agency didn't used to take many of them, preferring to let them pile up and then give the staff an extra week at Christmas time. Now though, since the consolidation of many of the state agencies under the Health and Human Services Commission, more holidays are taken. Therefore, the trade off is taking the holidays as they occur instead of in a larger slice in December. As for me, I can definitely appreciate that extra week in December, but I also think its a good idea to have them in doses and take them as they come. Besides, this way, you get 3-day weekends, and everyone likes those. Another interesting note here: I've also since learned that we don't get Good Friday off. Now, why we get President's Day off and not Good Friday is beyond me, but that's the way things are. I've yet to verify this with my boss, but I've read that though we don't get Good Friday off, we do get the following Monday off. So it all balances out in the end I guess.

Tuesday was an interesting day, since in my shop class, I moved to learning how lamps work and working with wires. This is another one of those things that I never could have imagined that I'd be doing. But there I was, trying to split twist and wrap the electrical wires around some screws on a socket. At that time though, I did not know some tricks to get the wires around the screws, so consequently, it was very frustrating for me. I never completed the task in the hour I had, because each time I thought I had it done, I'd test it by pulling the wires on one end, and they would pop right off one or both screws on the socket.

One note from the previous weeks' shop activity: on Friday, February 17, I successfully put together a toilet's inner workings (without the water inside, thankfully), a fauscet, and the sides to a box fan. The instructor I was working with, made the observation that I was very mechanically inclined. Here's another personal revelation, since I've never thought of myself as mechanically inclined. Here's something I never knew about myself. I still don't consider myself a big time handy man, but I suppose I can do what needs to be done. Several times thus far in the home repair portion of shop class, when someone's made the comment to me of, "Looks like you're doing a good job," I've always replied with something like, "Yes, but I have no idea of what I'm doing." Though I was kidding, there's some truth to that. In other words, I think that I could have successfully taken apart the fauscet and put it back together if left alone, but I wouldn't know what any of the pieces were called. Anyway, something else to mark down in the personal revelation category of my immersion training.

On Wednesday, I got quite a scare, when my mobility teacher took me down to a complex intersection and asked me to evaluate, and then cross, it. We're talking about an intersection where one 4-lane street crosses a 6-lane street. Throw in some right and left turn lanes, and cordinated traffic patterns when the lights change, and you've got one confusing intersection. Looking back, I think the goal for my mobility instructor here was not necessarily to teach me how to cross this type of intersection. After all, there's only so much mobility work you can do in a 6 week immersion session. Rather, I think it was to evaluate my prolem solving and O&M skills, and to see how I might handle an intersection like this. Personally though, even though in the end, I successfully handled this intersection, I'm not going to walk back to one and attempt a crossing on my own. That's too complex for my tastes. In fact, I'll avoid one before I have to cross it. That said, a few hours after the lesson, I did have a since of pride for having conquered that type of intersection.

On Thursday, I conquered the lamp exercise in shop class. The instructor that was there, since there were many that weren't for various reasons, showed me some tricks in working with the wires and getting them around the screws in the socket. Thus, I almost completed putting a lamp back together, after taking it apart and learning what the pieces were called and where they went. When I had the lamp totally apart, and the instructor then told me, "Ok, now put it back together, and while you're doing that, I'm going in the other room to cut some wood," I felt very confident about doing so. When she came back in about 15 minutes later, I was wrapping the wire around the screws and tightening the screws in the socket. I was even able to thread the electrical wire through the lamp before class ended. This Monday, I'll complete the exercise. I'm not sure what's after this one. I've heard that the final thing is to fix a belt on a vacuum cleaner, but I'm not sure if that's right or not. Some people have said that the lamp is the last thing in the home repair course, so we'll see.

The other interesting thing that happened Thursday was in the morning when quite a few students met in the main lounge area, to split into groups and go to explore an Amtrack train station and a Greyhound bus station. I was in a group with 4 other students and 2 instructors. Both stations were very interesting, though I think that the Greyhound might be more useful to me than Amtrack. After all, I don't see myself taking Amtrack anywhere anytime soon, I could be wrong though. Anyway, the goal here was to problem solve and in a controlled manner, to discover the different stations and figure out how to get around them and accomplish several different tasks. Such as, buying a ticket, locating the proper bus/train to board, etc. At the Greyhound station, I found out that a round trip ticket to Dallas costs $59 for a weekend trip. This is good to know, though I much prefer flying to going by bus. Its the way I've always done it, and I don't see any reason to change now. Besides, as far as actual travel time, Southwest gets there quicker. But who knows; perhaps one weekend I'll take the bus just to see what its like.

One funny thing that happened was at the Amtrack station when we were trying to locate the train tracks and where to board. We (the students), found the tracks with little problem, but then someone heard a train coming. Imagine the sight we portrayed to anyone looking out the lobby window: about 5 or 6 blind people wandering, some reaching down to feel, the train tracks, when a train was in the distance. I can imagine their nervousness and anxiety, and that might explain the announcement that the ticket agent made a few minutes later, warning those close to the tracks to move back closer to the building. He didn't refer to us specifically, but I have a feeling he was probably worried about those weird blind people.

Yesterday, in mobility, my instructor had me walk in essentially what turned out to be a capital letter P, as far as the street configuration of the streets I walked on. She said I didn't have to cross any major or complex intersections, but she did want me to follow several streets and make a square, and then come back to the center. I thought, "Fine," and after talking about the route several times, I set off. She used street names and directions, such as north, west, etc., in her route description, so it took me several run throughs to fully understand what I was to do. I usually don't have a problem with this, but I'm not familiar with the streets in that area around the Center, much less in Austin at large, so that's why it took a few times. Anyway, starting out on the route, I had to walk down to 45th street, which was the same path I took when I went to Chipotle a couple of weeks ago with my coworkers. I had forgotten how far that was and how much my calves and feet hurt, before I even got to 45th. In fact, even though I didn't actually cross many streets in my square/P configuration, I actually ended up walking between 10 and 12 blocks in total. To say that I'm not used to walking that much would be an understatement. I had to stop twice in the route to sit down and rest because my feet and calves were hurting.

In part of the route, my instructor said that I'd come to a brick wall with a gate spanning the street. She told me how to go through the gate, in following the brick wall back a ways, but I didn't fully understand. So when I finally got to that point in the route, I was stumped. I looked at the gate, every inch of it, the brick walls on both sides of it, read some signs in print that had raised or bolded letters, which said, "Visitors Only," and something about unauthorized entry. Anyway, suffice it to say, I couldn't find the opening that my instructor was talking about. I finally went back to the gate and felt the number and placement of horrizontal bars on it, and thought seriously about climbing over it. It would have been uncomfortable, and I did wonder if climbing over it would have been considered as part of that "unauthorized entry." Finally, my instructor came over and gave me a clue, which when I followed one of the brick walls a little farther, I finally found the opening she was talking about, and successfully finished the route. While looking at the gate, the walls, and talking with my instructor, I made the comment to her, "I feel like I'm trying to sneak into the castle."

I took a hot bath last night, at the suggestion of my mobility instructor, to relax and sooth those muscles, but I'm not sure it helped. My feet started hurting while I was going over to the apartment complex's office today to pay the March rent. It might take me a little longer than I had thought to get used to this exercise and walking thing.

I have some other thoughts about my immersion so far, but I'll put those in another post. This one's long enough. Until then.

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