Yes, walking tall alone, proud with my achievement. Following my last posting `a morning train ride’ I felt such a great sense of achievement. This inspired me to move forward, that is, to grow out from the ‘baby steps’ learned so far. It was time for me to crushed the ‘fear barrier’ of walking alone, time to learn to walk tall, independently with confidence. ‘Just do it’ and ‘Walk the Talk.’ Hence, for the past couple of weeks, I stayed focus, shifted into the aggressive gear mode in improving and upgrading my O&M (Orientation and Mobility) skills to the next level in achieving my goal of becoming independent as much as I possibly could.
“Ready for today’s morning walk?” Peter M coolly asked me as he turned up for our appointment at MAB, Malaysian Association for the Blind. Peter M, in spite of his hectic schedule, had agreed to allocate more time in my O&M training lessons. He patiently walked with me, stopping several times to explain, describe the surroundings so that I could register a clear mental image or picture in my mind. This mind mapping skill was important for me to know as it would help me to visualize and allowing me to focus and be aware of the potential danger spots during my ‘walk alone walks.’ Peter M reminded me that there was no need to rush and he started to show me how to walk safely to a nearby destination and he would increase the walking distance as the days go by.
“OK! I am ready” I said to Peter M who had told me to walk to YMCA’s main gate and he would be following from behind but not shouting instructions this time round. However, he would keep me under observation from a distance. As usual, with my ole’ faithful white walking cane guiding me, I started to walk out from MAB’s main administrative office, to the main gate and began my walk to the intended destination. Like all the earlier walks, extreme focus and concentration had to come into play. I reminded myself to stay calm, utilize my sharpened hearing sense and mind mapping skills and more importantly, enjoy the walk. I could hear the traffic noise, differentiate the source and direction of the noise. This actually helped me to orientate my bearings and walking direction. At the same time, probing the tiled walking tracks along the pavement with the white cane for guidance also kept me on the right track. Suddenly, I realized I could not hear Peter M’s voice since I walked out from MAB gate. `Has he deserted me, and literary left me to manage on my own?’ I asked myself. To console myself I was hoping he was somewhere around. I continued with my walk. The most scary and challenging part of the walk to me was the traffic lights junction. It was located at the cross road intersection and I had to cross over to the opposite side to continue onwards to my destination. My ole’ faithful slowly guided me to the end of the pavement and to check my position I had to `square up` i.e. stood against the pavement with my heels touching the kerb. This would mean I would be facing the opposite pavement. Squaring up also would enable me to walk straight across to the opposite side when I had decided it was the right time to cross. I had to really focus, listened to the traffic noise, making sure the vehicles are not moving. Unfortunately, the traffic lights warning buzzer was not working. So I had to be cautious. I could feel my heart beating fast and began to sweat while making the decision to cross or not to cross the road at the opportune time. As I coolly started to walk across the road, I could hear the vehicle noise on my right, indicating the vehicle was stationary and the traffic light was in the red mode. The short walk across the road seemed like ages, and I was so relieved when I reached the opposite side, albeit a bit out of alignment. I had veered off course almost to the road but luckily at the edge of the pavement. I heaved a sign of relief and stopped for some moments to catch my breath and re-checked my bearings in relation to the destination. “Not too bad,” Peter M’s voice was heard and in all honesty, I had forgotten all about him during the exciting moments when I thought I was all alone in the world crossing the intersection. What a relief to hear his voice. I then proceeded to walk along the pavement, and had to avoid some morning food stalls located near a backyard morning market. Well, at least some of the food stall operators were kind enough to warn me or help me to divert away from their ‘danger spots’ that is, the tables and chairs placed along the walking tracks and footways. Again, I had to cross the one-way street to get to the YMCA main gate. This crossing was not as scary as the former at the traffic lights. I had to remember to avoid walking into the street lamp post that stood out like a ‘sore thumb’ in the middle of the tiled walking tracks, just outside the YMCA gate. Peter M had warned me of this obstruction earlier. “What a walk,” I said to myself. After a few minutes of cooling down and a chat with Peter M, I turned around and walked back to MAB, without hearing Peter M’s voice again until we finally arrived at MAB’s office. The return walking trip was equally exciting with me getting jittery at the traffic lights crossing again. I had to stand, wait and made sure that I was safe and confident before crossing. Again, it felt like ages just to cross the road at the traffic lights. I was mentally exhausted and my shirt, too, was totally drenched with sweat. More importantly, I was a satisfied walker! Certainly, I shall be looking forward to more of such independent walks, which I strongly and truly believe, will prepare and equip me with invaluable skill to face the challenges ahead.
Phew! More challenging times ahead!