“Shoot, I am going to be late!” I said to myself as I prepared after an unplanned nap in the hostel. The instructions on the ticket were that I should be there 15 minutes early or else, they will start without me. My destination is to go to Dialogue in the Dark, an exhibition tour where we experience to be blind for an hour. Since the transportation system in Hong Kong is very efficient, I got there on time. In fact, I was there first.
The female staff approached us and briefed us about what’s going to happen inside. She gave each of us a pole for easier navigation in the dark. She told us that Henry, a blind person, will guide us.
Then we went inside. It was pitch black. Henry was accommodating. I wonder how he was able to guide us inside the room. He asked us to rely on his voice and his instructions. (spoilers ahead)
First, we went to the park. We navigated using our poles. We knew we were in a park because the feel of the ground is grassy. We also felt the foliage on our faces. After the trip to the park, Henry led us to a bridge going to the boat. He guided us in our respective seats. After everybody settled down on their seats, he asked us to sing in our native language. We were 4 on tour. Sarah and Millea were travelling to Hong Kong all the way from Spain to watch a Kpop concert. Eric was from the USA and has a 6-hour layover in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, I blacked out (literally and figuratively), and I was not able to sing a tune for them. I should have sung Bahay Kubo or Leron Leron Sinta.
After the boat ride, we went on to a “city tour”. We experienced being blind while crossing a street and buying at a supermarket. Before this tour, I wondered why the pedestrian lanes in Hong Kong have sounds when we cross the roads. Henry explained to us that this was for blind people and a signal when to stop and when to go.
From the city, we went to a cinema and watched at a sound theatre. It was an exciting experience because you get to appreciate every sound. For me, the movie was about the evolution of music. It started with nature sounds and finished with Rhythm and Blues.
Finally, Henry led us to a cafe. The cafe owner dictated the price of the beverages and snacks. I bought a Soya drink. Henry explained to us the reason why the money in Hong Kong differs in size. Again, this is the country’s way to be friendly to people with disabilities.
While in the cafe, the dialogue started. Henry opened the floor for questions and realisations. He told us that he lost his vision when he was a year old. The Hong Kong government is doing a great job to ease the difficulties of people with special needs.
During the whole trip inside the exhibit, I used my imagination. When Henry said that we were in a park, I imagined myself being in a park. I could imagine trees around me. I could imagine the clouds and the birds above. But how about Henry and other people who were born blind and had no idea what a plant looks like? Or what a human being looks like? I also wonder if it is more difficult to be born blind or to be born with a vision and will eventually lose it?
The dark is very inconvenient for us. Most of the time, we fear it. But, other senses are heightened in the absence of sight. The soy milk, without judgement on how it looked, tasted better. Feeling an orange using your sense of touch felt good. How often do we feel everyday things? Are we taking things for granted like the sound of the rooster in the morning? Or the smell of your mom’s especialty meal?
We often judge and label objects and people using our sense of sight. This is a chair. That is a tree. He is Darby. You are Henry. But if we see everything without judgements and without labels, maybe we could reach a point where we can appreciate everything.
Walk with faith and not by sight.
Dialogue in the Dark
Shop 215, 2/F, Household Center, Nob Hill
8 King Lai Path, Cheung Sha Wan, Kowloon
How I got there:
Mei Foo Station, Exit C1. Turn right and walk along Lai Wan Road, past Lai Chi Kok Government Offices, until you reach The Household Center.
Adult: HKD 160,
Students, PWD, Senior, Birthday Month: HKD 90