Monday, November 14, 2011

Darkness, my old friend

“Hello darkness, my old friend,
I've come to talk with you again,

Daniëlla and I met André very early one Monday morning in Witpoortjie, Roodepoort. I remember I was still aching for coffee and bought some Lucozade as I knew I needed to be wide awake and since I didn’t eat that morning I needed every vitamin and mineral I could take in. You might say I’m not a morning person.

Little did I know how difficult this assignment would turn out to be… but immensely rewarding.

“People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share 
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.

On this assignment we got on a bus with André, travelled around 30km’s to Gandhi Square, walked through the CBD to another point where we got in a taxi, who then took us to Newtown where Dialogue in the Dark is. It was difficult for André to navigate through the CBD as he explains in the story. I felt I needed to illustrate the difficulty involved in this ‘feat’ that is his daily life. Its because of this that I included a pic of where he walked into a dustbin that was standing on the sidewalk – not out of disrespect, but with great respect.

“In restless dreams I walked alone 
Narrow streets of cobblestone,”

After we did the story, Daniëlla and I walked back to the Bree-taxi rank in Johannesburg CBD, so that we could take a taxi back to our car. Being the only white people in thousands of black commuters, was somewhat intimidating, but they were very friendly and it turned out as a very liberating experience.

Here is Daniella’s story, hope you enjoy it.
(I used Google Translate, so excuse some of the grammar)

-Cornel van Heerden


Seeing in the dark

Daniëlla du Plooy

It's hardly light, but the Monday morning traffic on Ontdekkers, one of the busiest routes city is already noisy.

Andre Manders, the cars swept past, not seeing, nor the drentelende school children on the pavement not. But he could hear it.

The first bus just before 6:00 roars around the corner at the stop in Witpoortjie outside Krugersdorp.

"It's not mine," says Andre. "It was the first bus, I caught the second bus."

The 50-year-old waiting to greet the people around him friendly and make small talk. He already knows many of the people who Metrobus 438-day city take to Gandhi Square.

The second bus stop, and people's voices began to move. Andre walked together, using only his guide rod - a pink, not white - to the door of the bus way. He climbed the four steps and greeted the manager.

Andre paid with a slice of that money and pre-loaded on the bus are scanned and then shuffled feeling back. The bus is not full, and it's easy to find a seat to be found.

He has been blind since birth, said Andre.

"My mother had jaundice when she was pregnant with me, and my retinas were damaged. I can see nothing. "

At that time there was only one nationwide school for the blind, and he had all six year old boy than to Worcester, where he also wrote matric.

He wanted to be a physiotherapist - a course which was not yet in South Africa is presented.But in London to study, was not a possibility. "My father worked on the railways and it just was not financially viable."

Andre went to Pretoria, where he studied psychology through Unisa - just towards the end of his second year to hear the blind are not allowed to practice it. As it distance learning, his staff did not realize he was blind.

"It was then said that we can not see, can not be blind to read body language and that it is important for this profession."

He thought a while back still. "So far, this plan also the court."

This rule has been amended since the blind's other senses and intuition often better than that of wise.

"I went on to include the switchboard of the department of information work," he said when the bus stop and got the next group. Andre sits along the path, turning his head to the block - school bags of children and large bags found easily.

It's nice to ride bus, he said, but there are also challenges. People can be rude.

"I have often climbed, and when I asked the driver where he drove, he asked irritably:" Can not you read? '"

He gave a laugh.

"And then I have to say that the character unfortunately is not in Braille."

It is not at first sight obvious that Andre is not blind. He was not wearing sunglasses and his staff are pink rather than white. A conscious choice, although he could not distinguish colors. "I do not like stereotypes."

He shook his head. "If you were to ask someone a picture of a blind man to say, it is usually someone with a stick and glasses. Maybe a dog. But we are not all the same - all we have in common is that we can not see. We do the same work and not have the same hobbies. "

Andre does have many hobbies: "Especially gardening, and cooking. I make delicious food. "

The bus drove through Johannesburg. Outside the City Press has become the flowering jacarandas.

How he makes his garden as the plants can not see?

"I can feel the plants, smell, and know. I can match textures, and different herbs planted together. "

He is an active sportsman - one of the reasons why he never had a guide dog had.

"It would not be fair to the animal. Pretoria was my tiny apartment. I regularly go out on weekends, and it is too difficult for an animal with them. "

People often ask if he is not bitter because he is not blind, or he did not count life owes him something.

"And yet it is ironically exactly my disability my many wonderful opportunities given ..."

Andre was once an athlete and to sprints, high jump and goal ball, a Sport with ball for the blind, participated. He was in Spain to athletic participation and Germany for goal ball.
He was also a member of the South African cricket team for the blind, who in 1999 at the World Cup for the blind in India participated.

"I would not all necessarily have experience as I could see."

The bus drove past the University of Johannesburg in Auckland Park and then turn on the Nelson Mandela Bridge and the CBD's rate. "I'm always more or less exactly where we are.After a couple of times bus drove to know a person but the stops, and I know when the bus turned and how long it will drive every street. "

He often cast in the bus, sometimes not. "People act differently. Some are scared, some scared, some are curious. "

For sighted people aware of the life world of the blind, was something he did in his position as liaison officer with the South African National Council for the Blind, a position he kept until four months ago held. It was there where he had heard of Dialogue in the Dark in South Africa will be presented. This program offers a unique experience where roles are reversed and the blind guides for those who can see. It is now for the first time in Africa, the SciBono Centre in Johannesburg hosted. Andre has applied for the post of chief guide, and before the opening helped other blind as guides to lead.

"We are now near Gandhi Square," he said when the bus twice in quick succession left. He pressed a button on his armhorlosie and a monotone voice, like a GPS, beep, "Half. Past.Seven. "

The people jumped up, presses to get to the bus to arrive. It's peak.

Andre waited until last, get off. Buses drive back and forth over. The air is filled with the smell of exhaust, coffee from McDonald's on the corner and spices street vendors peddling.

Some people looked curiously at the man with the stick that feels its way from the bus takes. He waited until it was quiet and then walked across the street.

He was on his way to Jeppestraat, where he was a taxi will take the last few miles into Newtown to go. This is where the center is SciBono.

This piece of the journey is difficult, he says, because the inner city seems never the same. The informal stalls every day at a different location. Human waste on the sidewalks. Bins fallen, not just pick up.

With the stick he could find his way, but it does not protect his body. "This is somewhere for a plate which I head a few times when bolt hit," he said.

And a month ago there was one day suddenly a hole in the road at which people could not warn."I was inside the case, hurt. People had me help out, "he said. "But what, but it happens that one can do."

He stopped at a traffic light waiting for it to be green. "In this regard, the movement to make my way is actually easier. I can listen when driving cars and buses and stuff, I know whenever I can walk. "

At the corner of Jeppe he stood on the edge of the pavement and raised his hand - five fingers down to show he wants the street. A few taxis raced by.

Finally a stop a few feet further down the road. Andre walked to the door, ask the driver will stop at Newtown and then climb.

His fellow passengers save eight minutes - two to talk about work and most other types of music listening on their mobile phones. Andre took as long as his money, to feel the coins and count down R8.

He spoke a few words with the Zulu driver. Andre the language almost fluently when he learned to speak for a while in Newcastle worked at Eskom. "I jogged with my co-workers and so when they learned Zulu."

The taxi stopped and got out Andre. There are fine stone on the pavement and he almost stumbled, but then walked the last few hundred meters to the SciBono Centre.

He was the first morning of the guides that clock to Dialogue in the Dark - the first group that he will lead will have an hour here.

Each of these people will also find a guide rod, and Andre will in a dark room meeting. The participants know their cheap only by his voice and touch, and see him or her even when they are finished.

Some of the guides has been blind since birth, others not. One of Andre's colleagues was a taxi driver who lost his sight after being shot in gang violence is.

The participants in the program learn how it feels to be blind - even if only for less than an hour.

And people's reaction is great, says Andre. "They learn not to feel sorry for us, but is rather impressed by our skills and how we use our other senses."

This is precisely what he wants to accomplish his work here. "I want people who can see, we must realize the blind can do whatever they do.

"We just do it in a different way."

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