Today was a VERY interesting day. We didn’t know just how interesting until the end of it.
We met at Harburg Bahnhof at 9:30 and caught a bus to Wilhelmsburg near the river Elbe. At this point in the river it is safe to swim. As we travelled, we watched the lightning dance across the sky, not ideal swimming weather! Nevertheless, we decided to give it a go as the storm had passed safely by when we arrived.
Some dug in the sand, a few ventured into the water, one was buried and others lounged on the beach for a couple of hours until it was time to go. The bus was about 15 minutes late, and I wish we would have missed it! This bus trip was about as bad as I have ever experienced. Being tightly packed like cheap sardines in a blazing hot bus on a humid day is not fun! Just as we came into sight of the station we stopped. We didn’t move for what seemed like an eternity. After fifteen more sweaty minutes spent staring longingly at our intended destination we were finally off that bus!
We spent some time searching for food and enjoying the air conditioned brilliance of the Phoenix Center Mall for 45 minutes or so before we braved the insane crowds on the S-Bahn into Hamburg. Once there we ventured to Dialogue in the Dark. The kids did a wonderful job as they experienced what life is like for those who are blind. Crossing a street, walking through the park, strolling through a warehouse and boarding a boat were all experiences that take on a whole new dynamic without the sense of sight. Our students were expertly led through this maze by a person is permamnently without sight. Judging by their conversations afterwards, I really think that our students benefited from this experience greatly!
The following are paragraphs that were written by our students about their time at the Blind Experience.
My experience at the blind museum was not only neat but very dark. I have never been in such darkness, and to experience what it was like for some people all the time made me realize it must suck to be blind.
Mundane tasks like walking across a street or paying for a drink suddenly became incredibly difficult. Even with a guide telling you where to step. It was not what I expected it to be. The little stick we have to bump things around was not that helpful. We still ended up hitting walls and railings. I couldn’t imagine living my whole life like that and not experiencing sight. It provided me with great insight and respect for the blind community. Overall it was a great experience.
Being blind wasn’t only hard but fun, even though it killed my eyes. in the middle of the museum I was getting excited to actually see light at the end but knowing when our guides were finished with our tour they came out and still saw the same thing. I feel bad for them. You would have a total different life being blind. For instance our guide inside asked where we were from and we said Washington close to Canada, and his response was that it has been my dream to go to Canada and ski but now that I’m blind I can’t.
Today I went to the blind museum. I didn't really know what it was like to be blind. I don't think anyone besides blind people really understand it. To be obvious it is really dark and you can't see anything. But everyone that can see takes sight for granted and when I got into the museum Mr. Davidson reminded us of what it would be like to never be able to turn on the lights. When all of it was over we left with a better understanding of blind people and what their life is like. I wouldn't last long. I ran into a wall during the tour and I get the feeling I would get killed by a Smart or a bicycle. All in all it was a good trip and very informational.
The Blind Museum was really interesting and really made me appreciate how much harder than I realized the blind have it. I don’t think I would be able to be blind for real. It was super cool to have a real blind person guide us around and how they have adjusted to living in the dark all the time. It was really fun and I would do it again!
The blind museum was amazing! It gave me a real new respect for blind people! I give blind people a lot of credit; they have to walk the street without knowing where the cars are coming from etc. In the blind museum the first thing we went into was a park. Not tripping, running into people and not falling and falling on someone was very very hard! In the museum you can take pitch black and multiply that my one million and that’s how dark it was. The guide had to take my hand at least 100 times just from me falling into the wall. Considering how hard it is being blind the blind museum was really fun. My favorite part was when we went on the boat and since there was no wind inside they had a really big fan behind the boat. Every time I bumped into someone I always blamed it on Tanya because I didn’t want everyone thinking that I was such a clutz! The good thing about the blind museum is when you get out, you really think how lucky we all are that I am not blind!
Walking around like the blind to was very different than I thought it would be. You really can’t see anything, like at all! It was a lot of fun. Mostly I kept running into people and tripping. The guide must have noticed how much I was stumbling because he kept grabbing my hand to show me where we were going. I guess my hearing isn’t supper good so it was really hard to place where "over here' was sometimes. My favorite part was the music room. I just lay down, closed my eyes, and almost fell asleep. For a moment I freaked because when I did open my eyes, I still couldn’t see. That scared me. But now I really understand how hard it is for people that are blind.
Today before going to the blind museum I had a high level of respect already for the blind because it is not an easy cross to bear. But after really experiencing it I have a greater deal of respect and it’s amazing that they can maneuver through cities or just complete everyday tasks while being blind. I had a hard enough time with 1 hour and a half in the dark; I could even comprehend a lifetime.... It was a big realization for me how much we take our sense of sight for granted and I am happy to have recognized we shouldn’t.
It was a powerful experience for everyone involved, yet at the same time an enjoyable one! I hope that our students take this experience and turn it into empathy for others who face challenges in their lives that we cannot even begin to fathom. Not just blindness, but the countless other difficulties and impairments that so many in our society struggle with on a daily basis.
As we returned to Harburg, we were greeted by an individual on the train who noticed our English. It turns out that he is an engineer here in Hamburg and spent a year studying on the east coast of the United States. He explained to us why the crowds and trains were so bad today. I found the reason incredibly interesting!
During World War Two, Hamburg was one of the most heavily bombed cities in Germany due to its geographic location and its plethora of high value industrial targets. After the war, the British quickly built new structures for the citizens of the city as they helped to clean up the mess that the war had caused. What they did not realize at the time was that an estimated 1,500 unexploded allied bombs were still in the ground all over the city! Currently, as they take down the buildings built after the war and dig deeper foundations to replace them with more modern structures, they are unearthing these old but still very dangerous bombs. Today at the Wilhelmsburg S-Bahn stop, they found an unexploded U.S. 600 pound bomb! Of course they shut down the station and are diffusing it as I type. People have found these bombs in their gardens, under their houses and in many other unexpected places. There is a specific team of government para-military agents whose sole job it is to search for and safely diffuse these unwelcome relics from World War Two.
Tomorrow we are off to a museum detailing the rich and interesting history of Hamburg. Then it is on to climb the most prominent church tower in the city, the Michel. In the evening we will be touring a local fire station. We remain busy to say the least!
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