The Conversations

Blind people have amazing stories to tell.  About the amount of fear that they had to go through; of living in darkness all their lives; of trying to live their lives without being too depended on others, although most of them have to live with financial assistance for the rest of their lives.  Getting out of the house, getting in and out of the bus, going out to the market for groceries, somehow the environment wasn’t very friendly to them.  The only tools they could use to ensure income was their hands.  Basket weaving was the main income for many of the blinds here, well…once upon a time.  Rattan is getting scarce these days and so the demand for them to develop more skills is getting higher.  Some chose to become masseuses – as health is getting popularity, sometimes, they could have decent income.  Some chose to beg on the streets.  They had a centre to help them to develop skills, but somehow, not knowing the reason why, they refused to be in the centre despite numerous persuasions.

Nevertheless, many were forever grateful for the centre and for those who had helped them so much in their lives.  Those who sent them for massage training for example, those who trained them to make crafts despite not able to see, and those who trained them to become excellent athletics.  Douglas Nyambung is a great case.  He has been Malaysia’s defending champion in paralympic swimming for almost 20 years.  No one in Malaysia had ever broken his record at the pool, except himself.

I’ve also talked to people with cerebral palsy – great stories of success and triumph – about dreams of breaking ribbons,  just like Joseph Choo.  Running has changed his life.  Joseph is also an Olympian, a competitive runner who won many medals.  He made it to Paralympic games in Athens in 2011 and of course came home to his proud parents with medals.

Talking to an autistic boy was an interesting one too.  Though a little skeptic whether a conversation could actually take place, 13-year-old Clement Belun answered my questions with so little problem.  He came into spotlight when he first step on the stage to become an emcee in June, 2012 during the National Early Childhood Intervention Council (NECIC) opening.  He was a little shy, but not shy enough to share his dreams to me.  He loved cultures and lifestyles and he liked to put them into frame.  That led to his great passion – photography.

“I want to become a photographer when I grow up.  I know to take photographs.  When time comes, I will capture the lifestyles and cultures of different people in digital images.”

I had the privilege to talk to a world famous Canadian BASE jumper Lonnie Bissonnette last year.  An inspiring man who didn’t give up on his dream despite been told that he would never jump again.  He had an accident when he did his 1,100 jump.  Bissonette is the world’s first and only paraplegic BASE jumper.

Remember those school times,  where you passed around those papers just to have conversation with your friends behind you, in front of you, or maybe just beside you.  Teachers were teaching in front no one was allowed to make a noise.  Two of you were having conversation, but it looked as if you were taking notes.  Interviewing 27-year-old Amy Lau brought me back to that old times.  She was probably one of the most interesting people I’ve talked to thus far.  She had hearing impaired since birth.  I don’t want to say ‘deaf’ because it felt rude.  Anyways, it was interesting also because it was the quietest interview i’ve ever done.  It didn’t feel like I was interviewing her at all.  I felt like I was talking to a new friend.  There was no recorder, just notebook and a pen.  It was just smiling and writing.

Her life was pretty ordinary – not all that great like the few people I’ve mentioned.  But, one thing she was passionate about; her family.  Amy is married and her husband also has hearing and speaking disabilities.  However, the couple is blessed with a one-year-old son who did not inherit their disabilities.

Amy told me that she wanted to become a good sign language teacher.  I’ve always wanted to know how does it feel of not being able to hear, she said everything was just quiet.  Well, obviously.  She did not know how music sounds like.  Surprisingly, she loved movies, of course with the help of the subtitles.  Her talent was in making crystal and baking.

Her husband worked as mechanics.  He switched from being a baker to mechanics because he needed better income to support his wife and son.  His aspiration was nothing but being a good husband and a good father to his son.  I asked them, ‘Do you wish that you could hear and talk just like other people?’ and their answer was no, because they learned to to live with their fate.

“It’s okay that I can’t hear or speak.  I can still communicate with others in my own way.  I have a family and I am not lonely,” Amy said.

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