Travel challenge: Ride in the darkness for a change.

I have been procrastinating about this post for over a month now. Probably because it is not a typical travel article and not a complete first hand experience. It is close to my heart.

Breath taking scenery by Turkish painter, Eşref Armağan

Breath taking scenery by Turkish painter, Eşref Armağan

Forgive me but I have to set the background for what I want to say and hope that this wont take a lot of your time. My twin sister has just embarked in a journey of self discovery. She has been volunteering at different centers and in return she has free board and a chance to discover new places and culture. Now, I don’t have any telepathic ability that allows me to communicate with her as many seem to believe of twins but since I have spent a considerable amount of important times of my life including 7 months from conception, I have the strongest ability to empathise with her. To feel how she may have felt. We have been in many situations and I have experienced many feelings with her to be able to do just that. The last time she traveled she volunteered at a school for the visually impaired. She met wonderful kids and learnt quite a lot from them. She told me stories that made realise my blindside. And I can not in any form of language express the feelings they envoked. As much as I wish that I could write their stories especially of the blind headmaster who does his best to educate his students single handedly; I can’t do them justice as I have not had the priviledge of getting to know them, their dreams, aspirations and opinions.

About a month ago when I was taking  a bus ride to a conference in Dar-es-salaam, I decided to blindfold myself and experience what it may be like to be blind; I know that as I am not blind my senses were underprivileged because my essence depends on all of my senses. I will tell you what it felt anyways and hope that it offends no one:

I was in a world of darkness, had I not seen the person next to me before blinding myself, I wouldn’t have known anyone was there and if I could feel them, I had no idea whether they were male, female, young or old. The ride felt soo boring, all I could hear was the sound of the different loose parts within the bus and the chattering of the travellers. I spent several hours sleeping, waking at intervals into pitch darkness and falling asleep out of boredom. I was soo afraid to go out of the bus during the breaks because I wouldn’t know where my bus was when I got back. I had to hold my bladder for the longest time (frankly, I couldn’t ask for help because I was afraid everyone would think I was crazy doing what I was doing). If I had never seen the beautiful landscape, the blue sky, the birds, the people in villages that we drove by before then; I would think that there isn’t much out there. I have seen the blind discover the world through touch but how could I touch the sky and the clouds? How could I have known that the ocean stretches far beyond the eyes could see? How could I while sitting in the bus know that there was more to the outside than the wind and the warmth from the sun?

Eşref Armağan - is a born blind artist. I don't know how he knows where to put the trees and what colour the sky is.

Eşref Armağan – is a born blind artist. I don’t know how he knows where to put the trees and what colour the sky is.

I took off my blindfold half way in my journey, my eyes hurt from the pressure but my heart was in a spiritual battle. All this time, I have never thought of how it must be to be blind. The things that I take for granted, the ability to see. I have never stopped for a moment when I saw a blind person to hold their hand and show them the way, to show them love. To touch them in a way they understand; to let them touch me and show me what I can not see; what I do not understand.

So my twin was out there one night with some of the blind kids and she stumbled on something and asked them not to move too quickly (they new the terrain and the darkness was a friend; they walked in the night as if it were day); naturally, they were curious as to why she stumbled, she told them that she could not see clearly. The kids in surprise asked her, ‘madam, are you like us?’ (Meaning, ‘ are you also blind?’)

Perhaps out of intuition from knowing that she would never be able to explain the concept of darkness having not been blind herself, she said, “I am blind, sometimes.”

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