I joined a different kind of tour recently in Hongkong. Dialogue in the Dark is an exhibit that lets the participant into several dark rooms to experience life without sight.
The tour started with all the participants required to remove glow in the dark watches or shirts; no mobiles, no bags. We placed all our belongings in the locker provided. For our tour there were 6 of us.
Once we were all ready, we went past a heavy curtain where we were each given a walking cane / white cane (?) and taught how to hold it properly. Then we went into an anteroom as our guide welcomed us.
I didn’t know what to expect and the complete darkness caused a slight panic for a second or so. But then Cecilia our guide started to speak and my worries gradually eased. She made us introduce ourselves.
You know when you’re in the dark and after a few seconds your sight adjusts to the dark? There was none of that here. Everywhere was darkness, nothing to discern at all. No shape, no visual cues AT ALL.
Cecilia started us off by asking us to listen and to feel the ground we were on. It was weird walking with the cane. I was hesitant at first but gained more confidence by the second room. The voice of Cecilia was very comforting. But the thing that I hated was when the other tour participants would be so quiet. Sounds became welcoming as it helped me to pinpoint where each one was.
We went into a garden where we touched plants and crossed a bridge. We went into a bedroom and tried to find the bed. We went into a store and tried to guess what they were selling. We practiced crossing the street. One participant was not able to finish crossing by the time the walk light turned red (in Hongkong, when the walk light is green there is a fast clicking sound. Don’t walk is a slow clicking sound) and the sound effects were marvelous. We snickered as we heard brakes and horns beeping. Then we walked though a slight drizzle and “watched” a movie. Finally we went to a bar to order drinks. Hongkong paper money are all different sizes and their coins are all different shapes. We made our way to the tables and had some chitchat before the tour ended.
Cecilia encouraged us to ask anything about being visually impaired. I asked her about her dreams. It was very interesting talking to her. Before I knew it, more than an hour had passed.
We slowly made our way back to the light. In a weird way, I did not welcome the light. The dark had seemed so comforting after that tour. I had started to get the hang of making my way around with a cane. I had started to focus on my hearing and my sense of touch. 4 times out of 5, I could identify who I was bumping into.
But of course, that is only because I know that the darkness was only temporary. I wouldn’t know how I would feel if the darkness would be permanent.
It was a very enjoyable and insightful afternoon. Youngest son bought a braille set. He was that interested.
I hope more people support this tour. It is a worthy social enterprise. The kind of tour that benefits the organizers and the guests.