Have you ever imagined being blind?
Probably you did, I think we all did at some point!
Sometimes, at the shower, while I am washing my face and have bubbles and shower gel all over my eyes, I imagine what would be finishing that shower without being able to open my eyes, being able to see… It is such a scary feeling….
Remember when you were a kid and played Blind Man’s Bluff (Cabra-Cega)???
It was fun, but was frustrating… remember that we had our eyes closed and have to find our friends or guess which one was just behind us… we could feel them just behind… and sometimes guess who it was by the smell, or the small noises or even the way they breath …
So to most of us, if we ever stop to try imagining how it is to be blind, maybe this old kid’s game memory is the closest you will be of being a blind person…. at least it was for me. But not anymore…
It was with great surprise and even excitement when I found out that the second most recommended attraction in Hong Kong (after Hong Kong skyline) was actually an activity where gives you the opportunity to be “blind” for a couple of hours: Dialogue in the Dark
“Experience an “Unseen” tour you never experienced before. Unlike ordinary sightseeing spots in Hong Kong, we offer a “dark” and inspiring experience. Please visit our website for more detail.”
Right, I was convinced and automatically tried to purchase my ticket online, to find out that all the tours in English were sold out for a few days, so I changed my plans and book the earliest spot which made me stay a few extra days in Hong Kong. I was decided I wanted to experience how it is to be blind.
The true is, I actually have been haunted with this idea forever: someone coming to me and tell me that I could just keep my sight or my audition, I would have to choose only one… and I would think about this forever… to lose my vision and not being able to see the most wonderful things in life, or lose my hearing and not being able to listen to music and talk with people which is my favourite thing in life… (unless I am really weird you might be familiar with this feeling – of being haunted with such scary thought – and felt the same at least a few times….)
Plus I had several nightmares where I was blind and is something that truly scares me, probably one of the biggest and only fears in life so yes, I had to do it.
So when the day arrived, I was quite nervous and excited for what was about to happen. Left my hotel with enough time (or at least I though so…) as they have a policy where you must be on time to be able to participate.
But as a good Latin as I am, of course that something happened, and was running extremely late…. got in the wrong metro line, had to walk over 15min inside the underground (and I though London underground was bad), than tube wouldn’t come, taxi didn’t know where it was, people didn’t speak english, had no credit on my phone to let them know I was running late… basically the typical trouble that always happens in my life.. when you really want to do something and then the world becomes this bad monster that is conspiring against you and you feel hopeless….
Anyway, when I FINALLY found the place (is not easy by the way), after running like a mad person and with almost tears in my eyes, I looked at the staff with a puppy face preparing myself to tell anything in order for them to let me in as I was already 20min late.. but for my shock, they just asked, “Emma?” Surprised at their nice and smiley expression and that they knew my name, I said: “yes yes it me and I am so so sorry is just…. ” they didn’t let me finish… “we have been waiting for you, come and lets meet your group and your guide…, and by the way, do you need the toilet? because if yeah we strongly advise you to go now while you have sight”
Ooooook. This scared me a bit I must say, but no, I was just happy they were letting me participate and they didn’t seem mad at me at all… maybe they are used to deal with Latins I thought….?
So after announcing my arrival, I was sent to a door, and told that I would be in the dark for the next 2h. And so it was.
I went into a sort of a dark room, there was absolutely no light, and once I was inside, I was guided by my guide’s voice.
She asked me a couple of questions and I felt she came close to me. Then I had to introduce myself to the rest of the group. It was 8 of us and none of us has seen each other, apart from a couple that were together.
At first was quite funny… because since we all introduce to each other, we could only imagine how people looked like. But then the activities started and we had to walk – with the help of a cane – through different rooms, and we did a lot of activities since going to the park, go shopping, be on the street, to to the cinema, go to a coffee shop and go home. So we experienced different surroundings, places, smells, sounds, we touch different objects and surfaces.
The whole thing was pitch black, so no sort of any light whatsoever and slowly became more and more frustrating and actually scary (the worst was when I tried to cross the road and for a second I though I was going to be hit by a car – obviously there was no cars but the sounds were scary and very realistic).
You learn to use other senses more… specially the audition and the touch… you don’t just “go”… you are much more careful…. and realise thats almost like another part of you that you are now using very differently.
But the most impressive thing was at the end of the activities, still in the dark, we discuss the experience and the frustrations, and I then learn that all the staff guides are actually blind, and my guide – I thing her name was Shelley, was actually born blind. So all that time I was convinced she could see us with some sort of special glasses or something, as she always knew where I was and she would always call me by the name and if she would touch me she would apologise saying my name. She was actually able to identify who was speaking when we asked questions but she also knew where everyone was. That completely blew my mind. I though she was taking care of us as she could see us, but she was actually real blind. Impressive.
The main thing I have learned is how lucky we are and how we take things from granted. I feel so lucky to have a healthy vision. It really made me appreciate what I have and I am so grateful I am to be able to see the world around me.
It also gave me a whole new perspective on blind life, and deepened my respect for the blind people and the partially sighted people. To experience for a couple of hours what they experience everyday was mind-blowing, eye opening and heart touching.
An experience I will never forget , it took my awareness to a different level.
Please please, if you ever go to Hong Kong, you must go and do this “sightseeing”. It will be one of the most outstanding experiences and you will probably feel feelings you never felt before…. at least not in that way.