Saturday, December 5, 2009

Busy Weekends and Crazy Crossings

Hello everyone. It's past time I updated this blog of mine. The last while has certainly been interesting. I helped set up the Christmas tree last sunday. That's a sure sign that the holidays will sneak up and pounce on us all in short order. We also put a tarp over the patio furnature. Those two things were done in reverse order intuitively speaking. The tree is nicely tucked out of harm's way so I won't blunder into it accidentally. Thank heaven for small mercies.

I've now completed the racial reconsiliation workshop and am a certified facilitator. The second weekend was just as packed as the first. We covered a whole lot of ground. All of us got to try our hand at facilitating one of the workshops. I've come away with a sense that I'll feel a lot more confident once I've had my first actual experience and have become more familiar with the material. Trying to make certain I covered all the bases via referring to my netbook proved problematic. I'll have to rely more upon memory. The only thing which might possibly help would be to get hold of a small braille display which I could attach to my netbook. Prices of those are ever so slowly coming down but are still beyond my means. Even being a participant in a full set of the workshops would be helpful. We taught condensed forty-five minute ones. On one hand, more of what made me a good leader of an online community will potentially be useful in actual circumstances. There were thankfully no interpersonal issues among us. While the experience of trying to deal with such things would have been an asset, There just wouldn't have been time to deal with any such created obstacles effectively during the workshop practices.

This stuff can hit you in a very personal way. The very notion of addressing these issues of inequality can make one get defensive all too quickly. This happens even when you know full well that the people pointing things out to you have nothing at all against you personally. I can't be certain what colour a person happens to be unless and until I'm told. When I meet someone, I presume he or she is as intelligent, capable, and deserving of respect as I am until time and circumstances prove otherwise. This is the case even when I can't understand them when they speak. I just presume they could likely run circles around me in whatever their native language may be. What more can one do to approach and treet others fairly? And yet, the thought creeps in; What if there were still prejudices I unconsciously held and therefore had never challenged? You start scrutenizing yourself without even meaning to. This is particularly the case when you come into contact with people who have been hurt by both the conscious deliberate kind of discrimination and by the unwitting kind which can hurt all the more for its utter innocense. As a blind man, I'm very aware of the many stereotypes people either approach us with or, far more likely, avoid us because of. We're either thought of as infinitely wise beyond our years, totally incompetent/stupid, incapable of contributing, presumed to be musical, presumed to be def, or presumed to be unfailingly good/superhuman people. We can't just be thought of as average men and women. I had a number of discussions about the whole concept of white priviledge; Sandra explained at one point about how black parents had to prepare their children to face the reality that people would treet them differently because of their skin colour regardless of other factors. They'd likely be suspected of being up to no good merely due to how they looked. I certainly had plenty of people warn me in advance while growing up that life just wouldn't be the same for me as for other people who could see. My options would be more limited. People would feel awkward around me despite all my attempts to be as approachable as possible. I guess that's sort of similar in some ways. Of corse, I don't have to worry overly about unwarranted legal entanglements. If anything, quite the opposite. Nothing stops a blind person with sufficient skill from engaging in some kinds of crime but we'd likely be last on the suspect list.

It's an ugly and complicated situation. So much of it is rooted in the past. It can all too easily feel like white people can simply never atone for and live free from what their ancestors have inflicted upon others. It would be like me blaming one of my two little neaces for something my brother had done a decade before they were born; Completely unfair. And yet, these mistakes of the past have tendrils which stretch into the present and need to be dealt with. The only way to get through the impass and onward is by sitting down and actually getting to know one another. It certainly helps that all of us share the same faith as a starting point.

What really breaks through the resistance are all the personal stories. We've all been victims of either racial, class, disability or gender-based prejudices of one sort or another. It's just part of the human experience. It helps you realise how much racism has gone underground but is still very much present in this supposed multicultural bastian of Canada. When Irene first came over from Africa, she worked with children in a daycare centre. However, she was kept away from the parents since it was felt that they might not trust their children with her because she was black. She's patient and gifted enough to have learned three languages. English is her third. I couldn't even muster the patience to stick with learning French. I can't speak to her appearance, or my own for that matter. However, she certainly comes across audibly as someone who is just as kind, patient and friendly as I am. What a horrid slap in the face to have to live with such groundless distrust. I heard from Chinyere and Ashley. They're from Africa originally but you'd never be able to tell that from their voices. It certainly wasn't obvious to this blind man. They had quite a lot to share. Two of their stories stuck in my mind; The first had to do with a class they attended with other students concerning the whole issue of diversity. They were asked to stand in a circle holding hands. They were then asked questions regarding how much racism they had personally experienced. Eventually, it became painful and then impossible to keep the whole circle holding hands. I can't think of a more concrete way to illustrate the needless division such prejudices can cause than those friends having to physically face how different their life experiences were. Chinyere later told me of another incident where she and another friend who hailed from Africa had a conversation with a university student. It eventually became clear that his impression of Africa was of cities where lions and tigers romed the streets. That really hurt her friend. Having people making plenty of false assumptions about me as a blind person, I can certainly sympathise. I once had an American subscriber to my magazine ask me how I kept my computer and Internet going without melting away part of the igloo he presumed all of us Canadians lived in. I guess I tend to presume that things are largely the same over most of the world when it comes to civilisations. I know that this is eronious but would rather make the mistake of presuming equality and find out I'm wrong than the reverse. My grasp of geography has always been exceedingly tenuous.

I could write these down all I wanted and it probably wouldn't make a scrap of difference. This is definitely an area where learning in person is the way to go. I'm not even convinced having groups watch and listen to video presentations would do nearly as good a job at reaching one's heart. You really have to be there. The design of the workshops is quite good and they ought to start some more active discussions and get people as individuals to stop and think about what they believe about others. Learning to facilitate them has certainly had that effect on me. During the week between the two weekends which comprised the corse, I read Stephen King's The Green Mile again. Despite having read it something like five or six times over the years, I found at least twenty things in there which had never registered before. Our leaps of logic based on preconceptions can do so much damage. You come out of a corse like what we took feeling older and wiser. Every once in a while, optimists like me need to be reminded that there's a dark side to life. This corse certainly did that. I'd love it if I could simply make it all better for people. However, even if I worked on this the rest of my life, I'd only chip the iceberg. There are no shortcuts. However, there are a growing number of people dedicated to helping God make things better for everyone who might attend churches. It's a start anyhow. I hope I can be of help in the coming months. Other than that, all I can do is try to be as fair and alert for any prejudices I might harbour unconsciously.

While this experience has been the most formative in quite some time, more things have happened over the past week and a bit. My sleeping has been very good lately. I begin to think there's definitely merrit in these B12 pills Dr. Slinger prescribed. I've been waking up pretty consistantly at seven or even eight on some mornings. Lets hope that continues. Attending little Amia's party was fun. She's "*twoooo!*" now. A number of Dan and Alison's friends showed up in addition to family. Amia seemed to enjoy things but couldn't really play with her presents since there were so many to be opened. She'll certainly have lots to occupy her up until Christmas. She doesn't seem to have developed a real concept of ownership just yet. Ava becomes very attached to things she thinks of as hers. I'll have to remember to make it clear to Ava that the globe is for both of them although I suspect Ava might glean more from it. Poor Elliot, the family dog, had to stay outside for most of the occasion. He had a cone around his head to stop him from biting a certain area. The cone has since come off due to its edges getting sharp and breaking. It extended outward around his head and face like the petals of a flower and must have been keenly frustrating for the fixed four-legged fellow. I can't imagine what having his head surrounded like that would do to his hearing. I don't even like to wear tooks or hoods since they tend to alter the sharpness of how I hear things. Hopefully, he won't take out any sort of revenge on either good-intentionned human masters or on the Christmas tree which is bound to go up there sooner or later.

Ron got quite a chuckle when I told him about how I was rejected on Plentyoffish for being unwilling to become a hacker. He jokingly hinted that perhaps there was hope for him since he'd put "willing to hack" on his profile. He was, of course, joking ... I think. Given that things tend to happen in threes, I must have another rejection with a humorous element in store for me. I've had a teacher lose interest due to giving too much information too soon. I count that as the first remarkable case. Let's face it. I really was somewhat disappointed that time. However, there's that inescapable feeling of poetic justice at the thought of scaring off a teacher thusly. The woman on the lookout for decidedly untrustworthy friends is ever so clearly the second. I can scarcely believe it can get any more absurd but I've been wrong before and lived to enjoy it.

I got to see Adam again for another night of our two current games. This time around, I didn't conk out remaining alert and clear-headed throughout the afternoon and evening. Dragon Age is somewhat linear but has tremendous production values. Docobone Dungeon is a game which just keeps entertaining. The game's AI can simulate additional players. Adam has, of course, spent endless hours with the game and knows all the tricks. However, there's enough randomness that it's possible for newcommers to do well and have fun. In the middle of the evening, his mother interrupted us to pass on a message. Unfortunately, she reinforces that stereotype Jewish mothers must live with about nagging. There's really no nicer word for it. Each time I hear it happen, I can't help thinking of Robin Hood; Men In Tights, Princess Bride, etc. Having taken a corse on diversity makes one even more painfully aware of how inappropriate and yet how utterly inescapable such thoughts are. I find that I cringe for both of them simultaneously. Adam, at age 33, really ought to be able to have a visit with a friend without worrying about having that happen to him. At the same time, I'm certain she finds it hard to know when a good time would be amid all his gaming. His annoyance at these interruptions is just instant. Their different life experiences and priorities can clash. Since, like me, he lives with his parents, he must feel that his mother just doesn't respect his adulthood and all the work he's done. Mutually, Adam's mom feels like she's being disrespected and so keeps going on when she must know how not only pointless but counterproductive that is. Adam has done so many different jobs. Everything from working in a gas station to the post office to being a knife salesman to his latest one doing tech support for HP. He'll have so many stories to tell when he's older. If there's not enough material for an autobiographical book by the time he hits fifty, I'll eat my winter boots. Despite all that, there just doesn't seem to be any way to break that defensive pattern on either side.

Other than that, a good chunk of one afternoon was spent installing mom's present onto her laptop and tuning up said contraption. Things worked out with far less difficulty than I thought they might. I couldn't figure out a way to hide the icons so she can see the names of the games I purchased for her. Bigfish Games had quite a few nifty casual games which ought to suit her quite well indeed. They also have demo videos and post walkthroughs for many titles on their blog. The games themselves aren't at all accessible to play for blind people. However, acquiring and installing them was quite painless. I have only one more gift to get in an offline store. I'm hoping the price might come down a bit more but don't mind terribly if it doesn't.

I went to Symposium for the first time in something like three weeks. Going there went quite well. The meal was, as usual, quite excellent. It was also quite solitary. However, it was good to hear the odd bit of conversation around me. It was a PD day for a couple of kids who were there. I remember those unexpected gifts from the educational gods quite fondly. Presuming the snow and weather hasn't rendered the walk too dangerous for me by the 18th, I may encounter more kids since that's when school seems to be starting Christmas break this year. I can't for the life of me remember when that started during my school years. Vic, the manager on duty, and Michelle, who was my waitress, were both bustling about but still exchanged a friendly word or two with me.

Going home, I got turned around badly. I ended up out by Inlake Court. Thank heaven I wasn't in any sort of hurry. It took quite a while to get sorted out and find the way back home. People would help me cross a street and I'd walk off convinced I was in the right place only to find out a while down the road that I was approaching an unfamiliar intersection or a school I had never heard of. I believe Glen Erin and Montevideo was the intersection of doom this time. At last, my GPS got me all the way back to Montevideo and Lorca Crescent which I'm near the corner of. I couldn't feel any corners though since I was directly across Montevideo from my home. In the end, I couldn't find any crossing point near either Lorca intersection and decided to cross the street close to where the Trekkor Breeze said my home was. I was spotted by a friendly police officer who, I only realise now as I write this, saw me J-walking. Oops. Thankfully, he merely confirmed that I was indeed at the correct address. I was utterly roasting when I finally got back home and went through a couple glasses of water. Hard to believe I was that parched after a mocha and fruit freezy. Damn! It's just past two in the morning. I'd better turn in for a modicum of sound slumber. Have a good weekend, everyone.


Heather said...

Glad you've been having a good time. I'm still recovering from H1N1. It's been a rotten flu!

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