“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” an age old famous quote by Confucius. These motivating words catapulted into my mind as I sat at the Malaysian Association for the Blind’s office visitors’ area waiting for Zainuddin, a job placement officer. Zainuddin had kindly volunteered to teach me some mobility skills after learning that I have not had the opportunity to attend the orientation and mobility skills program at MAB. There were so many questions that I had in my mind but somehow I was not sure how to put it into words to ask Zainuddin. Yes, nerves were getting into my body system, could be due to the early Wednesday morning chill sitting in the air conditioned office.
“Good morning, Mr. Yam” Zainuddin said, his polite mannerism and way of announcing his presence. After a couple of minutes of exchanging warm greetings, we walked out from the office into the outdoor compound. Well, Zanuddin asked me if I would like to start the lessons for the day in familiarizing with MAB’s various departments and the other common areas. “Not necessary for the present time” I replied, explaining that I did get some assistance from a couple of V.I.P friends (Visually Impaired Person) who had unselfishly showed and guided me around the MAB premise. He then recalled and reminded me that I had, in our earlier meeting, highlighted to him that I had set myself a target to be able to walk independently from MAB to KL Central Commuter station, take a train ride to the nearest commuter station located near to my house and vice versa. Oh Gosh!... I realized then that Zainuddin was going to put me through this task. Adrenaline rushed and a flash shot into me like a thunderbolt. I was not prepared nor have I psyched myself for this mammoth task so soon! “OK! Lets do it” said Zainuddin who was unaware of my mental state of turmoil. I stumbled for words but instinctively, started to walk with the ole faithful walking white cane leading the way out of MAB premise towards the direction of KL Sentral station.
I silently kept reminding myself to stay calm and to stay focus and listen to instructions from Zainuddin who was following closely beside/behind me? I had to be mindful of the steps I took, and registering the various markers/landmarks highlighted to me from time to time. Really, full concentration and extreme focus came into play while I was taking a walk in the dark. As we approached the main road junction, beside Public Bank, Zainuddin explained that due to ongoing construction works nearby, I had to cross the main dual carriageway at the traffic light crossing located in front of Public Bank. He advised me that I should ask for assistance to cross the busy roads if/when I start to walk on my own especially in the initial stages when I was still not so confident in walking across the busy main roads. We continued to walk and entered the main station terminal building. Next, he guided and showed the way in walking up the escalators, identifying the various markers/landmarks and I finally made my way to the KTM Commuter ticket counter and the main staircase walking down to the respective platforms for boarding the trains. There were so much to register and remember and I really did try my very best to absorb all the information. We repeated the walking steps again starting from the top of the escalator until I was about confident in forming a clear mental image in my mind. Zainuddin even showed me the tiled walking tracks which were not so easily detectable using the white cane. Surely, the people walking past must be wondering why the two adult guys were squatting down on the floor, touching the tiles. Well, Zainuddin was showing and getting me to feel the slightly rough walking guide tracks on the tiled floor. Yes! There were differences in the tiles at this station.
As mentioned in my earlier blogs, I still cannot comprehend why people had the tendency to knock or bump into me despite the fact that I was holding the blind man’s white cane and tapping loudly to let them know of my presence. It was no joke having people bumping into me as this could easily cause me to be caught off balance suddenly or causing me to fall resulting in unwarranted injuries. Well, there and again, there are people who are sighted but yet cannot see!
Gosh! There were so many obstacles along the route. Zainuddin kept reminding me about the numerous pillars, sign posts, barriers, the indiscriminate parking of motorbikes on the walking pavements and the safety precautions to be adhered to when crossing lanes and roads.
When we finally arrived at MAB after the long morning walk, I was drenched with sweat. I was more mentally than physically exhausted. I know I will have to have a couple more such practices before I could eventually venture out on my own to the KTM Commuter station. Slowly but surely, I will get there.
“That’s one small step for man but a giant leap for mankind” the first word spoken by Astronaut Neil Armstrong when he first step foot on the moon in year 1969 following a successful Apollo 11 lunar mission. Indeed, I have taken a baby step walking in the dark but definitely it is a quantum leap into independence, striving in the pursuit of achieving my goal of becoming self reliant.
Phew! More challenging times ahead!