Sunday, March 5

Missed Highlights from Week 3 in Immersion

Greetings. Here's another realization from me: since I'm working during the week, the weekends are becoming more and more valuable and enjoyable to me, since I can do what I want and not worry about working. I'm sure this is a simple truth that most Americans have realized long before now, but remember, I'm new to this full time work thing. So, with that, here are a few highlights I missed from week 3 in immersion.

On Friday, February 17, I had a funny experience on my mobility lesson. I went to a nearby mini-grocery store with my instructor and one other student in immersion. This other student was one of the many sighted people that was going through immersion, so cane travel and keeping track of where you are, your direction, and such things, were all new to her. After we crossed the last street, where the store was located, the student and mobility instructor had an intense conversation of direction and how to locate the building. I had already been told to go inside when I found the store, so I decided to go on ahead and let the instructor handle things. I must say here that when the instructor wasn't around, I would often ask the student, when she was confused or even when she wasn't, "Where are you," or, "What street is this?" I've since learned that this was very helpful for her and she gained a lot from it. Anyway, I quickly found the building and entered the store. I then reached up to my blindfold to adjust it, since it often gets hot while wearing it. Suddenly, I heard a loud voice off to my right which said, "Don't take it off yet!" This caught me off guard and I turned towards it and starting moving in that direction. I replied with, "I'm not taking it off, but adjusting it. Do they have you guys planted in here to make sure that we don't take the blindfolds off?" The man chuckled. I then asked him, "How long have you been watching us?" I meant the people wearing blindfolds during training, immersion and regular students alike. He answered with, "Oh, I've been watching you all for the past 5 and a half years." I then asked him, with a confused look on my face I'm sure, "Who are you?" He answered, "Oh, I work here." The full impact of what had just happened then hit me, and I grinned from ear to ear. By this time, I had made it over to the counter. After further conversation with him, I learned that this gentleman, named Steve, was a cashier at this store. I also took the opportunity to say, "Well, its good to meet you. Before you totally chastize me for adjusting my blindfold though, let me show you this," and I pulled out my state ID badge that was under my coat. I also told him that I was totally blind, so even if I had taken the blindfold off, it wouldn't have done me any good. Steve laughed. I've told this story to several people since it first happened, and I think its one of those "experiences" that everyone has in immersion, or even if they're a regular student, that you remember for years to come and look back upon with fond memories.

The other thing that happened in week 3 was the next day when I went to the Feburary meeting of the Austin chapter for the National Federation of the Blind. Let me briefly say that over the past 2 years plus in Dallas, I've been a little lax in my independent travel and thus have lost some of the confidence that comes from that. One of my goals early on in my mobility classes has been to attempt to get some of this confidence back, since here in Austin, I don't know hardly anyone and I can only depend on myself to get things done, at least at first. Leading up to this meeting, I had asked several people how to get from the bus stop to the meeting location, which was in downtown Austin, at a place I had never been to before. I first asked some of the members of the organization if someone would be willing to meet me at the bus stop and walk with me to the meeting. This didn't seem to work out. However, as I talked with different people about how to get to the meeting location, I became more comfortable about doing it on my own. I was assured by my mobility instructor that there were no complex intersections, ones with right and left turn lanes, etc., in the area. So, when the time came, I caught the proper bus, took it downtown, and successfully made it to the meeting with time to spare. I ended up not going back on my own since I went out to lunch with some people, one of whom drived. But mainly because it was very cold that weekend. I don't think we got out of the thirties that Saturday. So it was good to get a ride back. If I had to go back on my own though, I'm confident that I wouldn't have had any trouble. After that experience, my confidence sharply rose and I've felt better about traveling independently, even in locations that I've not been to before.

A few days ago, I talked with my mobility teacher about the remaining time I have in immersion. Even though we have a couple more things to go over in my neighborhood, and even though more students (regular ones) are coming to the Center this coming week, she assured me that she would give me more of those confidence building experiences. Truthfully, as long as someone doesn't send me to an area with intersections or places that are beyond my abilities, or that they know I'm not fully confident with, such as those complex intersections I mentioned earlier, I love those types of confidence building assignments. Ones where I'm sent to a specific business or location, and told to bring something back from it. In fact, I was sent on one of those assignments two days ago, to the same store I went to in week 3, and I was back within an hour with several items that I had bought while there. Some of those were chocolate related, and I made an executive decision to leave the receipt on my instructor's desk--not the chocolate, :) For those that don't know, I'm a big chocoholic and part of an unofficial chocolate lovers club (which I can't talk about, so don't ask, :)

So, those are the big things that I missed from the last round of highlights. Both of them were significant in their own ways, the downtown trip and being busted by Steve at this grocery store. I'll write later about what happened in week 4.

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