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Bridging understanding
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Woman Standing on Dock
Woman Standing on Docks

Pillow Talk


It’s dark, quiet, all is calm.  The cats are at peace with one another for now.  We are speaking Dutch as we drift off.  Weird.  The fact is that ten minutes per day helps.  If I don’t do it while at home I suffer for it.

Learning this language is the second hardest thing I’m doing here in Apeldoorn.  What is the hardest?  “Reading braille.”

The focus is the Dutch and not the braille.  With it I can communicate to others, convey ideas in a new way and understand a culture that is older than the American culture I was raised in.  So learning Dutch is vital and something that I want to do.

This last week I played scrabble using only words in the Dutch language.  It was a challenge, and while my words weren’t very good, and I struggled I did learn.  It was a fun way to learn.

I have an entire team that teaches and works with me.  They are invested in my success.  I’m a “lucky egg.”   There is something about the learning process that takes me back in time.  It makes me think of being a kid and not having all the words for the feelings I had.  Feeling complex emotions and having complex experiences but not being able to convey to others what was going on in my head.   The most difficult part of this process is the desire to convey, in my new language, the thoughts and feelings of my heart.

Education teaches us the mechanics of how it all works.  We learn words.  We spend time learning how to put it together “correctly.”  At first all you have is simple language for complex thoughts.  I find myself wondering if it sounds as stupid as I feel sounds.  Deep thought is what I want to convey, and can’t.  I am stuck with short sentences that mean little.  At 52 years of age I feel like a young child.

Now I find that speaking and learning are about confidence.  Speaking is also about NOT speaking English and being disciplined enough to NOT utter those English words.  It isn’t easy.  The fact is that when I don’t think, just speak, I’m fine.  If I stop to think about it I’m like the kid on the bike: I fall down because I look.  Learning a language at my age is also about letting go and submitting to childhood: admitting that I am a beginner.  All Children begin from the same place.  Well here I am in that place.

I am a beginner in other areas as well.  There is one hour per week where I focus on my sight.  I learn in very real ways what my limitations really are.  Last week I learned to confront my recognition of someone at a distance: I can’t recognize someone from a distance.  My facial recognition software is buggy.

I learned during this same hour to find the best possible seat in any given room.  I discovered that tiny little things make a large difference.  Sitting with my back to a window is best place for me.  Siting so that the window is on the side is better than having the glare.  So I now I can claim my seat with good reason. In “sight training” I am learning to speak a new language as well.  The language of “admitting ones own disability to the fullest.”   I don’t have words for this: I cry.  She understands the pain.

The tears are an admition of what wasn’t and should have been for me: not full sight but rather acceptance.  The tears are about coming to terms with the fight to fit in in the sighted world.  A fight that I, as a low vision person, could never win.  This is also something that is difficult to fully convey with words as it is very experiential.  For this aspect of the process there are other means.

So to my team of wonderful teachers I  am thankful that you are teaching me to speak and to understand.  I hope some day that I can express my thoughts in a well put together manner.  For right now I am only an egg who spends time talking in the dark….reaching for the words…hoping it doesn’t sound too juvenile.

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