Sunday, March 5

Week 4 of Immersion

Greetings. Here are some of the highlights of week 4 in immersion, which was last week. By the way, my apologies for the larger second audio post. I guess that the largest those posts can be is 800 or 900 KB instead of the 500 KB that I previously thought. Now that I know how long I have though, I can better measure my time. Anyway, on with the recap.

First off, the week was a weird one since we had a Braille celebration all Wednesday afternoon and Thursday was Texas Independence Day, which was a state wide holiday. Though if you look at it another way, we worked 3 days, had a day off, worked one more day, and then had the weekend off. Not a bad schedule. I wouldn't want to do it every week, but not bad. Though, Friday felt weird since it seemed like it should be Monday, since we had Thursday off.

Last Monday on mobility, I went by bus to the neighborhood near my apartment, to one of the local grocery stores. My instructor met me when I got off the bus and we worked on the street crossing leading to the store. To my chagrin, the street crossing ended up being one of those complex ones I am gradually learning, with right and left turn lanes and different segments of traffic surges. I'm beginning to get more comfortable with these types of intersections, but I don't yet feel like I can cross them independently. We then crossed the parking lot, eventually (it was a big parking lot), and made it to the store. By that time, it was late in the afternoon and we had to leave. She got me back to the bus stop and assured me that I would go straight home, like I normally do. I was taking a different route of bus and wasn't sure of the ride back. Anyway, she said that I wasn't far from the complex and I'd be back there in no time. She was wrong. I didn't time it exactly, but about 40 minutes after I boarded the bus, I was let off at the stop at my complex. I told my instructor about it the next day and she apologized, several times, for the longer trip. It was no problem, but now I know for sure that if I go to that store on my own, I'm definitely not taking the bus back. Not just because I might have bags of groceries, but because the ride back took so long.

I did meet an interesting man on the bus who asked me the typical "sighted person" questions, such as if I've been blind my whole life, what I can see, how I lost my vision, etc. I'm fine about answering these types of questions, since let's face it, I'll be asked them the rest of my life. However, at one point he hit me with a totally unique question/statement, which I instantly marked down in a special category I have for people that ask questions without fully thinking them through. He said,"I guess its hard to walk when you can't see." I paused a moment, and then replied, "No. No harder than it would be if you could see. What does walking have to do with not being able to see?" He paused, stuttered, stammered, and never really answered my question. I don't want to talk badly of him, since he was very nice and simply didn't know. He was also very informative, telling me the names of streets every so often when I asked (remember, I had not been on this particular bus route before). However, all that aside, he was one of the many people that have asked me questions or made statements without fully thinking them through. In fact, this man's question reminded me of one that someone asked me when I was in college at the University of North Texas in Denton. The woman, while walking with me briskly to class, asked, "How do you get around campus without going up steps?" I felt like saying, "Look at my feet! What are they doing?" But I actually said, "Well, I guess I don't." And I left it at that. Anyway, another one for the books.

The Braille celebration on Wednesday was lots of fun. They had various tables setup with different games, all in Braille. There were games like Uno, Black Jack (which I ran this table for part of the afternoon), Scrabble, Monopoly, and others. There were also people that, at various points in the afternoon, stood up front and read things in Braille, talked about what Braille meant to them, or sang songs about Braille. Probably the best one, and funniest, was the first song. The director of the training center came out, and with a drummer accompanying him, did a rap on Braille. I think everyone got into that and had fun listening to him.

One thing that impressed me was a UT student at my Black Jack table who played with us as well. He said that he was getting a degree in rehabilitation and that he was visiting the Center for our celebration. He also managed to learn the beginnings of Braille from one of the Center's students. That was cool to watch. The UT student would close his eyes or wear his blindfold, and try to read the cards while we were playing. He did pretty well, for only having learned the dot configurations that afternoon. At one point, I asked him, "So, this is what you do in your degree: play Braille Black Jack?" He said that unfortunately, there was a bit more to the program than that, such as homework. All in all, it was a fun afternoon.

Friday morning in my cooking class, I made beef tacos, which was fun. I remember browning ground beef on the stove when I was a student at the Colorado Center some years ago, so this ended up being a refresher activity for me. However, after doing it, I feel like I can brown meat on the stove here in my apartment. I only had a few small tacos, in the small taco shells, so I put the rest of the meat in a freezer bag, which was about half the meat or more. I had the rest in tacos, or actually what ended up being some burritos, last night. That was quite good, and it was very satisfying to know that I was eating food that I had made myself. I'm gradually getting some cooking items together, so I can make things on the stove again. This coming week, I'm going to expand my stove cooking even more with omlets, chicken salad, and other things.

A realization hit me Friday morning that I tried to communicate to my instructor, but I don't think I did a very good job. It was: for myself and I'm guessing many students that go to training centers like this one, they enter the cooking class and other classes, with people (like their families) having told them what to do, how much to dish out, how to sprinkle on their food, and so forth. At the training center though, instead of them telling you how much to dish out, they say, "Whatever you want." In other words, they leave the choice up to you. This makes sense, but coming from a background where I've largely been told, at least by my family, how much to dish out, its refreshing to have a say in the matter. This realization led me to the thought, that this is another part of the freedom that I've written about in other posts: the freedom to choose. And, if the serving is too much, then I make note and do less next time.

Shop class on Friday was another matter. My choices weren't taken away, but I was given a tour of the big tools or the electric tools in one of the rooms. These included such things as the table saw, radio arm saw, plainer, and other things. The ones that I touched were turned off, but I was encouraged to touch and explore them, and to see where the all important blades were located. In my final two weeks of immersion, I will be making at least one, and perhaps two, miniature Braille cells out of wood. I learned that the first one, they will help me with and instruct me on how to do, that there will be someone there when I use the table saw and other equipment. However, the second cell I will be expected to do on my own, as much as possible. The thought of operating the table saw itself, much less some of the other types of saws in there, gives me the willies. Something about that spinning blade and running wood through it, and the possibility that I could lose a finger, or two. I'm guessing that this feeling is similar to one that many of the other students and staff that have gone before me, and ones that will come after me, have felt or will feel. I've done it before though in Colorado, and I'm sure I can do it again ... hopefully, :)

Last Wednesday, I got my first pay check. That was a good feeling. I've since deposited and am in the process of paying bills or setting up automatic payments for my bills. Wednesday also marked the one month point since I started working at the Center. Honestly, the two week point felt more meaningful and reflective then last Wednesday did. I suppose though that the Braille celebration was a good way to mark the time, grin.

That's about all for now. I'm sure I'm missing some big thing or two, but if it comes to me later, then I'll add it. Until next time, which probably means next weekend, have a good week.

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