More To Life Than A Picture


More To Life Than A Picture

     "The visual impact of the architecture is said to be…" our tour guide was lecturing to my group and I could tell by the comments and sounds of my fellow tourists movements, that they were enjoying taking it all in. We were touring the old business district and some of the buildings on this street were the oldest in the city. I could not hear all the words the guide was saying and not being able to see all what he pointed out, I stood back and opened my senses to all else that was around me. There was lots of environmental noise, mostly the traffic. "BEEPBEEP, BEEPBEEP!" Many horn blasts carried sharply over the continuous low rumble of rubber tires rolling over stone cobbles. "BONG, BONG, BONG." The sound of tolling bells came from a distant clock tower. All around us a non-English language was being spoken. Along with the auditory ambience were smells; some sharp and new, some spoke of the old, the decayed. All this told me that I was not at home. This was a foreign land.

     Later, shoes off, stepping into the cool interior of a mosque, late afternoon sun forgotten, I was struck by the acoustics that can come only with a very
large room with towering ceilings. The guide, now in a hushed voice said, "From the raised dais, if a pin is dropped, it can be heard in all corners of the sanctuary."

     Later, "HMM, smell those spices," one member of my group said as we walked up to where we were to have our evening meal.

     Inside we again were asked to remove our shoes and were seated at a low table that required us to sit on the floor. There was music being piped in, but we all knew that a belly dancer was to come later. What really was going to make this dining experience different was that the food would be eaten out of communal bowls and you ate with your fingers.

     Listening around I could hear that the people at the next table over were English speaking, probably tourists like us.

     "Excuse m," a man from the adjacent table spoke up, touching my arm to get my attention. "I couldn't help but notice your white stick as you came in. You are vision impaired?"

     "Yes," I said, answering in the same polite vain in which the man's question was framed. "I have a severe vision loss that tends to fluxuate from almost being useful, to mostly being useless."

     "I am amazed that you are here. er, Excuse me, but you are touring, sightseeing, are you not?"

      "Yes, I try to get out of my own country every year to see a piece of the rest of the world. This sure is a fascinating culture!”

     “Indeed it is. Extraordinary architecture don't you think… Er, that takes me back to my initial thought when I saw you arrive. Er, if you don't mind me asking, what do you get out of it? Er, I have a uncle who's severely vision impaired and I recall him telling me back in my childhood, sightseeing, er, traveling was out for him."

     Well, here we were again and it didn't matter that we were in a foreign land or not. It was one of those heavy personal blindness questions and I had to decide how I wanted to answer this guy, long or short. So I said, "Not to be too elaborate in my answer, but the way I look at it is, that there is more to life than a picture."


e-mail responses to

**1. My husband and I travel as much as we can. We travel for work, pleasure and usually a combination of both. We have covered a lot of the world but there
is a lot to go. There is never enough time. I am totally blind and my husband is sighted. I truly believe our trips are better because I am blind.
We both tend to experience things in a different way than people who just watch the world go buy from a bus window. people treat us differently because
I am blind. They seem to want to share there country in a much more hands on and personal way. We have had wonderful experiences totally missed or just
brushed over by other travelers.
When I hear blind and low vision people say they can't travel, I always wonder how much they enjoyed travel when they could see.

Gayle Yarnall, President AERnet

**2. I really enjoyed your thought provoker. It’s so true. I have had this question posed often, because I like to travel. There is such a fixation on vision
at times. If people would use their common sense what a different world this would be.

Somewhat related to your experience, I once had a colleague ask what enjoyment I got out of flowers my husband sent me for special occasions.

Olivia Chavez AERnet

**3. Quite true. In France I wore out my shoes visiting the Louvre and studying all the artwork till I was quite bored. What I did like was the sound of the
language, the street stands where I could buy fruit, the interesting way the pharmacy wrapped packages (as if they were gifts). What I didn't like was
the way as a single woman I was pursued by a number of men who decided I was a prostitute. (I was in my 20s at the time, and according to a snapshot I
have of myself, not bad looking--though of course I thought I was fat) I also didn't

like the intense gloom that settled over the city. It wasn't just
the weather. The people were nasty when they realized I had very little French. I met a friend, and we escaped down to Italy. It was like leaving prison.
Nothing to do with pictures!
Recently, David and I visited Israel. In the airport on the way home, a man asked David how he could enjoy the country if he couldn't see it. But what
Israel gave us had very little to do with pictures either. Of course we visited the Wall. Touched it. Prayed at it. We were both overcome with emotion.
I didn't think I would be. The sounds of wailing prayer overhead told me the reason it is called the Wailing Wall. The wailing comes from a nearby mosque.
We climbed into the excavated old city, visited Mesada (called Metsada in Hebrew), stood on the mountains, and felt the absolute peace of the cemetery
in Jerusalem where all the heroes are buried. We walked through the Orthodox quarter, and noted all the children were in costumes for Purim (celebrated
this year for about four days because it fell on the Sabbath), and that if we wore clothing for hot weather it would not have been modest enough. We passed
through security every time we went into a shopping mall or a restaurant, and had to detour once while police blew up a package left on the street in
front of us.
They would not allow David to pay for the city buses, and charged him half price for the intercity buses. They would not charge him at all on the trains,
no matter how he argued. His long cane was mistaken for a bus pole on more than one occasion, till he collapsed it to protect the people trying to hang
on to it. The stone houses in Jerusalem often have no central heating, and are ten to twenty degrees colder than the outside air. We took home colds--another
factor that had nothing to do with pictures!
The appliances in our friends' home were nothing like the ones we have, or at least her washing machine looked to me like nothing I'd ever used before.
It had its own heating element so she didn't have to turn on her boiler. The boiler went on only half an hour a day so we could take showers. In another
friend's home, we were given a small space heater to heat the room half an hour before we went to sleep. He had hot water all the time though. He drove
us around, but we had to insist that now and then we stop so David could get a sense of what we were passing through: Tiberias, the sea of Gallilee, also
known as the Kineret, an Arab restaurant.
Well, I could go on and on. But as you can see, though the architecture is different, what we took away with us was a love for a country I at least didn't
expect to love. I think David went there expecting to love it.
Great transportation there, by the way, but the atmosphere for a blind person and his career is lousy. But that's another story.
I know this is too long to put in the Provoker, but I thought I'd let you know what your short piece provoked in me.
Take care

Lori Stayer Merrick, New York

**4. Unfortunately, "heavy personal" questions are often addressed to anyone who seems different. I am a sighted female scientist. From the time I started graduate school in 1971, men I barely knew felt it their right to ask me whether I minded being a woman in a man's environment. This continued through job interviews as well as in my professional career although the questions became less frequent by the mid 1980's when there were increasing numbers of women scientists. I was also subjected to listening to negative experiences that men had with other female colleagues as though these experiences were somehow my fault.

Susan Jolly

**5. I fully agree with the comment that "life is more than a picture." After all, if it were just a matter of the visual experience, why would sighted people bother to travel, when they could go to the local library and look at pictures of the interesting sights for free?

Jeff Altman Lincoln Nebraska, USA

**6. Perfect.

We used to live in Turkey, and now when visiting a zoo in the states, I know exactly when we're approaching the camels--the smell is distinctive. I never would have recognized that if I hadn't experienced Turkey and other sights and sounds there.

Judy Jones NFBtalk

**7. I just read this thought provoker. I really liked it because I can personally relate to being a stranger in another culture.
Often Americans tend to group things and people together, the same is true of culture, customs and identity.
Being a Black and Native American and Jewish, I live in three cultures. Many times they do not conflict. Meals, types of foods, how one eats a meal, even
the seating order can matter. African Americans likewise have their own customs, some similar to mine and others not. The same is true of these cultures
beliefs about disability. Some will see disability as terrible, while others will hardly take note of it. Since Linda and I are both minorities, I Black
American and She Asian American living in a 98% all white and Gentile small community we both know how fascinating discovering new this can be. However,
Linda is blind and I have a spinal cord injury in a power wheelchair. We mow our lawn, repair our home, cut down trees, and whatever else that need be
done. Yet, people will inquiry how we manage to do it all. Others will infer that why are we bothering with having a house, when I can not walk well
and Linda cannot see. They forget that disabled people have the same appreciation for beauty and orderliness as they might. If I have heard it once,
I have heard it a thousand times. " You know my____ is (blind, disabled, mentally retarded, slow or whatever)." " They would never be able to do_____."
The question that comes into my mind is; how do you know? Have you ever gave them a open chance?" The tourist seem to be telling the traveler indirectly
that his desire to go in tours was a waste of time. Since the traveler could not see, he could not possibly get much out of the tour. He further inferred
the traveler should just stay home. I do not think the tourist mean anything rude by his comments. I believe as the traveler, learning can take place
in many ways and not just visual or other means. For example, the traveler may have picked up more on his tour than those who were concentrated on the
visual things and neglecting the sounds, smells and other things around them. Linda and I may have a difficult time with racism, taking care of the house,
yet we learn so many things that most people do not. We notice many things because we are not focused on one area of learning and sensory but many. Maybe
the traveler should have suggested that he, the tourist take the same tour with him and see what he learns and misses, he might be surprised.

John Minnesota

**8. I think it's very correct that there's much more to life, including travel, than sight. I do have experiences of sightseeing tours that were not interesting
for the reason that vision was too much implied, but even "visual" places like museums full of paintings can be interesting if there's someone who is willing
to describe the paintings.

The clearest example I can probably give of "there is more to life than a picture", is my experience in Rome in April, 2004. This one-week trip is a requirement
for all eleventh graders at my high school, which emphasizes classical culture, and at times I had worried that we would just be walking from place to
place, no time to enjoy the regular city ambiance, and just see the picture galleries or something like that. Then, still, there were many teachers really
good at describing paintings, pictures etc. but this does get dull eventually (but I assume it would to everyone). Fortunately, we were also going to
visit many ruins of ancient buildings, like the Forum Romanum, Via Appia, etc., where you can get a sense of the culture while walking these places, not
just seeing what's there to see. And when we visited St. Peter's Church, it was also very enjoyable just to walk around the church to feel how large the
building actually was. We were always guided around, and the guides (which were usually students in our school or teachers, but sometimes others) gave
lots of good information. I just tried to pick up as much as I could and to get an idea of the environment from non-visual cues.

This is the specific sightseeing part, but of course, in between, there's also the spare time, or the time walking from place to place, when you can get
an idea of modern Rome and Italian culture. This is very interesting even if you can't see all the people and places.

Let me put a side not here stating that I'm not a travelaholic, but I do try to get out of my own country at least once a year for a week or so to see some
more of the world. I'm usually on quite strictly arranged holidays, with lots of other themes beyond simple sight-seeing, but I still want to get an idea
of what the area I'm in is like. I also go for city trips at times and like the ambiance en getting a feel of the place's culture. I would not agree that
traveling is out when you're blind - although problems like poor mobility skills may interfere (as in my case) -, cause there's so much more to a holiday
than just pictures.

Astrid van Woerkom (Netherlands)

**9. I loved how you posed that question to the tourist next to you. Sighted people are so accustomed to looking at things with their eyes that they do not hear the birds, the bells and even the traffic. They are so busy looking that they never listen. Of course, I do not mean that all light dependent
folk are this way, but it tends to be the norm. Thanks.

Ben J. Bloomgren

**10. Yes, there's more to life than a picture. As I was reading the part where the man was among all the sighted tourists following the tour guide, the
first thing I thought of was being in art galleries. I personally don't like art galleries because there's nothing to touch. Unless you are with someone
who's willing to describe the pictures in detail and you and your companion are touring on your own,, then there's nothing much that can be gotten out
of the enjoyment of art galleries. But, like the main character in the narrative, I would've enjoyed entering the mosque and the restaurant. I've always
been fascinated with the acoustics of cathedral-like places, such as was described of the mosque. There's that ancient history feel, like you're back
in time in a totally different world than what you've ever known. In the restaurant, not only is there the experience of the culture's eating customs--sitting
down at a low table, eating with your fingers out of a communal bowl, etc.--but there's also the conversation and the character's opportunity to educate
another tourist about blindness and what a blind person can get out of living in a sighted world as a tourist or in every day life.
I think that in this Thought Provoker, not only did the blind person learn more about the parts of the world he's never been in before and its cultures,
but the sighted tourist who approached him also learned how blindness doesn't have to be detrimental or a hindrance. Based on the description of the sounds
and customs, it sounds like an area in which there might be different cultures combined in an old place. It sounds like a place that might be inhabited
by Muslims and Japanese; thus the mosque and the restaurant in which you took your shoes off, ate at a low table, and ate with your fingers out of a communal
bowl. Eating out of a communal bowl with your fingers is common in Asia. I remember such ways of eating when growing up in the Philippines. Taking your
shoes off at the restaurant's entrance and eating at a low table is traditional Japanese. I've never been to Japan, but this is what I've learned through
documentaries and reading about different cultures.

Linda Minnesota USA

**11. My world is rich with tastes, textures, sounds and scents. Meeting new people, exploring learning are not limited to visual things. I enjoy trying out
new experiences like paddling a kayak, learning to cross country ski. I love to wander through open air markets tasting smelling spices, talking to artisans
and finding unique handcrafts. Music is a universal language as is art. If my way of experiencing all of these things doesn't include visual input,
who is to say my way of learning about my world isn't as rich or varied as yours? If I missed out on how cute the dolphin was when she swam past, I didn't
when she gave me a kiss and we explored each other as strangers of different species for a moment in the same time and place. When we stop reaching out
to embrace the world around us is when we begin to retreat from living and I won't be ready for that for a long time I hope. Life is what you put into
living it and adventure is where you find it.

DeAnna Quietwater USA

**12. Although I am not visually impaired, I loved this Provoker, because it seems that a lot of people DON'T believe that "there is more to life than a picture"--this
has become one of my pet peeves. Prior to our trip to the Canadian Rockies, I read that only some small minority bother to walk more than 100 feet away
from a parking lot (not in towns, of course, but in the national parks). I found that unbelievable and rather sad, but it was true--scenic turnouts were
packed with cars (in some cases parallel parking so they could take a token picture without even opening a car door or turning the engine off). On short,
mostly paved, entirely accessible trails, there were only a few people--which was fine by us. We could smell the pine trees after an afternoon rain, hear
the squeaking of the chipmunks, the thunder of a distant avalanche....people can miss out on so much beauty, even in a "picture perfect" setting.


**13. I had this very conversation with a 93 year old woman and her two daughters just last week. We talked about having to get over the things we lose
in life through vision loss, and get to enjoying the things that remain. Like the sounds, smells and tactile images we can garner from the experiences
we grasp a hold of. The choices are ours to make, and we do make several each day. At each turn we decide whether to be happy about something, or to
be miserable.
Since total blindness came over me some 15 years ago I have found many ways to see the world a-new. I have come to thoroughly enjoy "people-watching" while
in airports, bus depots, restaurants and just about any place where people gather. I do it now by listening to the way they interact with each other and
the issues they discuss in those public places. Some times I smile and some times I feel like crying, but always I enjoy still being able to remain connected
to the people around me.
I do miss some of the wonderful sunsets we get on the Canadian Pacific Coast, but I don't miss them to the point that it is detrimental to my enjoying life.
If my sighted wife is with me and expresses her joy at seeing those sorts of things, then I enjoy them with and through her, but if I'm alone I pay attention
only to the things that I can hear, smell and feel. That's enough for me. In fact, it's a lot, even without the visual images.
The smell of the wind blowing through a field of dry grass is so sweet, and the smell of decaying vegetation as the tide rolls in and out is interesting
in it's own way, but the greatest joy is the sound of the Sea Gulls dancing in the wind and of children playing in the Park. Have you ever listened to
the different sounds the wind makes as it blows through carnivorous and deciduas trees? How about the sound of a good Pacific storm pounding the rocky
shore, or the sound of waves lapping up on a wide sandy beach? Who needs to see it to enjoy it?
I determined several years ago that I was only going to move forward in my life if I could put the past behind me and go forth to find the happiness that
exists for all of us. At least for those of us who desire to find it in all that we do in life. It's 10% what happens to us in life, and 90% what we
do with/about it.
I have a friend and colleague who has recently embarked on a trip to the Canadian East Coast so that he may see it before his vision is extinguished completely
by RP. Although I think that travel is good for the soul at any time, it shouldn't be undertaken for such a reason. My wife and I traveled to the East
Coast of Canada last year and I thoroughly enjoyed it despite having no vision at all. I can't imagine that he will see it in any better light as a result
of seeing it before it slips from sight.
At any rate, your story today, as always is a good one. It is an educational tool for both the sighted and the blind, as well as those who will soon be
blind. Keep up the good work.

Thx, Albert Ruel Victoria British Columbia, Canada(Just north of Seattle WA)

**14. I have traveled a great deal and hope to continue to do so, abroad as well as in the U.S. I have also had people from all over make much the same comments, usually ending with something like, "What a shame that you can't see everything the others are seeing."
I suppose I could go into a lengthy explanation of what I learn from my other senses, what I learn by listening to the comments of those around me, etc. But I usually just reply, "How much would I see if I stayed home?"

Carolyn Brock

**15. I've traveled somewhat. Though I miss lots of things, with careful planning, I can get out of it what I want. I do miss the spontaneous travel my sighted son enjoys. Being young, he can meet people, bike to places, and get invited to people's homes. The older you get, the harder that is.

Four years ago I was a tourist in Washington DC. Early Sunday morning, I took a taxi from my hotel, by myself, to the Roosevelt Memorial. I knew ahead of time that there would be four enclosed areas representing each of his presidential terms. There would be a visitors center and across from that, the statue of him in a wheel chair. I have partial vision, so I was able to walk through the rooms, read the large signs on the walls with the appropriate quotes. There were several guides there who would have done anything I wanted them to for assistance.
When I finished I asked someone how to cross the street to the main part of Capitol Mall. I met an eighty-seven-year-old Korean lady who came to meditate. She offered to walk me to the Vietnam War Wall, but wanted to show me the Korean War Memorial on the way. Part of the Vietnam Memorial experience is watching people look for the names of relatives on the wall.
One man held his three-year-old on his shoulders while they traced Grandpa's name.

I had a very hard time convincing my Korean friend to let me stay there by myself.

Yes, life is definitely more than the soda straw pictures I get. I still remember getting lost in the Paris Metro. An old lady told me what I'd done, but the price of the ticket seemed high to me. Then someone told me they just changed their currency, and she still thought in old Franks. Of course it helps to know at least somewhat the language of the country you're going to. On the last day, I went to Charter. Some nuns were taking their final vows. They had amazingly pure voices, and spoke their vows slowly enough for me to follow. They were no longer daughters of God, but lovers of God.

This is probably too long. I just want people to know that vision loss doesn't have to mean your traveling days are over.

Abby Vincent Culver City, California ACB-L listserv

**16. Like the one in this story said, "there is a lot more in life than the picture". I too like to get out, travel just enjoy nature. It is true that being blind we can not "see" the great sights but there is much more in life than vision. We hear the sounds, noises made by man, the wind whispering as it brushes past the trees, hear the laughing stream as it rolls & bounces over the boulders which try to stop its descent, & we hear the birds all around. The "smells" can be so strong too, especially in certain places like the country side after a morning rain or when passing through any town/village. Also, sometimes we can paint an even more lovely picture of what is around us, often ignoring or covering up that which is filthy or sad. Life holds so much, whether we gain this from sight, hearing, taste, touch or smell! Just to lose one of these abilities is no excuse to not enjoy the others.

Ernie Jones Washington USA

**17. I'm a sighted person who at one time may have asked a stupid question to a blind person, but as I've mentioned in Thought Provoker in the past, I'm friends with several blind people, and I'm a bit more educated on their sensibilities. It's ignorance, pure and simple. I've pointed out in the past, sighted people have no idea on how blind people deal with their lives. We don't know squat, and that's one big reason I'm glad to be part of Thought Provoker, where else can the sighted get a clue?

Bill Heaney Pennsylvania USA

FROM ME: As I have written before, we need to hear from all segments of the readership of TP, from those who are totally blind, to those who are partially blind to the fully sighted. We all can learn from one another.

**18. Hey, that's great. go for it Bill Heaney. I love the idea of a sighted person who takes the time to read our thought provoker to learn how we think and do things. I loved this topic.

I got a personal tour through the White House because one of the secret service people found out I was blind. He let me sit at the table where state dinners are served. He let me look at the special way they build fires in their fireplace. He plucked a carnation from a plant in the flower garden so I could have it. He showed us many of the gifts that had been presented to different presidents through the years. People get to see part of what the White House looks like through the newspaper or TV coverage.
You feel much closer to it when you're walking through it.

One other experience I had was getting to go to the top of Old North Church in Boston. The caretaker of the church said that the bell tower was closed to the public and very few people could go up there now, but he said that if we wanted to, we could go see it. Well, of course Dad, Mother and I went up there and stood and let that old time history feel flood our minds. How can you get a feeling like that into a picture? A fly was busily buzzing around us. The room was very warm because of the hot day and it was very quiet up there. I think the room was rather bare.

When we went down the stairs the caretaker showed us the pews with very high things you stepped over to get in. There were doors on them too. I think this was to keep the pews warmer in winter. There were names of families on little cards on each pew. I thought that was so neat. That tour was one of the best in my life for getting my imagination going.

I got to go through Louisa May Alcot's house too and saw the setting for Little Women. Well, I'm sure that Dad took pictures of much of these things, but they were the mind refreshers, not the ultimate experiences. I sometimes get postcards from travelers. Good Grief, these don't mean anything to me. Unless I can hear the noises, smell the smells, hear the conversations and feel that old-time feel and smell the old smells of an eighteenth-century house and walk over all the dents in a floor, there isn't much to getting a postcard.

Leslie Miller USA

**19. It is so true that there's more to life than a picture. I was having this very conversation a few days ago with a sighted friend I had met
only very recently, as we walked over to the nearest video store to pick up a copy of "Ray." Those of you who haven't seen this are definitely missing
out on something great. But I digress. So this friend was telling me that he just got back from Italy, where he has family. He told me about how their
beaches have little sand, if any at all. He then asked me what traveling and sightseeing must be like for someone like me, having had only light perception
since birth. I told him about the time my mom and I went to London, and how much I got out of the week-long trip just by listening to people describing
things. I did get a hands-on look at a few things, including some items in the British War Rooms. I also got to wear a headset and listen to a man on tape
describe each exhibit in vivid detail. This was also true on my vacation in Honolulu last year. Just a little while ago, I got back from an ethnic arts
fair. I went with my roommate, who is legally blind, and two fully sighted women. They let me touch all the artwork, and we got to meet the artists. Most
of them were from various parts of Africa. I also got to touch some clothing from other parts of the world, and we ended up making a few purchases at the
fair. I hope to do more traveling, as it is one of my favorite things to do.

Jake Joehl Illinois USA

**20. FROM ME: Here is the text of a message that relates to our current TP.


If you want to share this email, or any part of it, with your group, that is fine with me.

This week I had one of my blind friends visit me in Philly. She is, what I think of as partially blind, she uses a cane and has very limited vision, and I know her well enough to feel comfortable in her company and rarely think of her blindness, but I screwed up. When she left my home she tripped on the last step and nearly went down, she didn't, but it was her ability to adjust that saved her from falling on a cement driveway. I should have warned her that that last step is not exactly even with the other steps, it's shorter, but I just followed her out the door thinking she could tell with her cane where the steps were. If I didn't know her so well, or if it were ten years ago, I would have taken her by the arm and guided her.

Here's my point. Sighted people are ignorant of the abilities of blind people. We are always amazed at how well they cope and how well they get around and we don't have any guide lines on what to expect. I ask my blind friends, and by implication, all blind people, to understand that our ignorance of the ways of the blind is not entirely our fault, there is not enough sources for us to learn, and that is why Thought Provoker is important, it is the one place where the sighted and blind can communicate, and hopefully with the intention of making it a better world for both the sighted and the blind.

Bill Heaney Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA

FROM ME: Did Bill screw up?

**21. I feel that many people who are not visually impaired rely on their sight to such an extent that they forget that their other senses exist. I am congenitally blind and it came as a shock to me when I started work as a rehabilitation officer that people rely on their sight for so many day to day tasks. for example, plugging in a plug.


Carlisle social

**22. I really like this Thought Provoker. As a young child, I used to travel all of the time. For me, it was the thrill of going to a different place every
summer, trying new foods, seeing different structures, and learning something new about each place I visited.
When I was working for the US Forest Service, I was a frequent traveler having to fly to various temporary work sites. Two of my most exciting trips were
to Ketchikan, Alaska, and Washington, DC. Again, it was so interesting to observe something as simple as lifestyles of the people two their livelihoods.
My blindness was never a big deal ... in fact, most of the people I spoke with were always so fascinated with how I got around as a blind person. Of course,
I had some misconceptions and stereotypes I have had to overcome, but I have also been fortunate not to have to have dealt with some difficulties other
friends have had.
The only time I had difficulty was in the Black Hills region of South Dakota, but that's for another topic. *SMILE*

Bonnie Ainsworth Lincoln, NE USA

**23. I’m totally blind and have visited the UK. There, and I’m not so sure that they will do it here in the US, but in the UK when I visited several of the historic sites like Stone Hinge and the tower of London and others, they allowed me to go behind the people restraints, fences or ropes or barriers of what ever kind, and they let me put my hands on that was being shown. So I got to get something out of it that I won’t have; a picture doesn’t work for me, so I got “more to life than a picture.” I appreciated that privilege, thank you UK people.

Rick USA

**24. I couldn’t agree more; there is much more to life than just a visual picture. I chose the term "visual picture" because taken as a whole, life, for those
of us who are now alive, is one huge picture of a practically infinite variety. A visual picture is only part of the equation, and it is more important
to some than to others.

Visual pictures are, for instance, of relatively small importance to me. I was born with an appreciation of light and dark as well as color, and to some
degree shapes. So I have some experience with sunsets, clouds, snow in winter, etc. I could never see enough either to read print or to drive, and whenever
I looked at a painting or picture, the images never really jelled in my brain and I could never tell what I was really looking at. Similarly, when I watched
TV as a little kid, I used to sit up close to the screen because the colors and motion fascinated me. This was especially true in cartoons where there’s
a lot of motion/action.

But personally I find I don’t really need people to describe certain things when, for example, we’re driving past it in a car. What a field of flowers or
a waterfall look like holds no real interest. It’s the sounds, the smells, the tastes and feel of the world around me that tends to matter more. But again,
it’s an entire picture.

It’s like this: I’m sitting here now remembering a trip my family took to Michigan way back in 1972, when I was only about seven. We got up really early
in the morning and drove all that day till we reached my uncle and aunt’s house in Battle Creek. What I remember about it was that just before we left,
I had a bad ear ache. Also, I was so small that when my parents were seated in the front seat of our old Buick, I could lie on the floor and sleep.

And as we drove, we passed by some rivers or factories or something. I remember while we were going past this one area, the smell of raw sewage was enough
to gag a maggot! And then there was the taste of the glazed doughnuts we had while we stopped along the way. I also remember waking up at one point and
noticing all the green lights along the highway we were traveling. And I remember that my mother forgot to pack the meat we were supposed to bring out,
and my father, just an hour down the road, saying: "Well, sure as shit we can’t turn back now."

And then there were the events of 9/11. I remember that day just as it was yesterday because I lived only a few miles from where it all happened. I remember
that just a little bit before then, I was at work early and I stood up from my chair and somehow managed to throw my back out. And my office mate came
in and said that someone had just crashed into one of the towers at the WTC.

I also remember that just before the attack, I was on the phone with a friend who worked there at the time. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason that I
could then know, he put the phone down. I heard frantic shouting at the other end, and then dead silence, though the connection had not yet been broken.

Then I remember they sent us home from work early. I had to go to the drugstore to get some painkillers, and I probably encountered more people on the streets
than I then ever thought I’d see. They were all talking at once and wondering what was going to happen next.

And there was the fear and worry of it all. There was the smell the next day of burning rubble. There were sounds of jet fighters over the city before they
finally reopened the airports. There was the first thunderstorm we had after the bombings, about two weeks later I think. I remember waking up at night
thinking that I hope we weren’t being shelled or something. Every little ominous noise like a jet or thunder had me worried at that time.

And then there are the everyday annoyances which lead me to believe that most people are pretty surface-oriented. I mean, I wonder how they ever managed
not to add two and two to get four.

I am a pretty fast traveler, for instance, and I think I’m rather good at it. So naturally when I approach a street corner, I’ll be able, through hearing,
to ascertain whether the traffic is for or against me.

There are times when, despite the fact that I know full well what I’m doing, and when I’m just standing there waiting for the light to change, someone will
state the obvious to me. And then they’ll follow it up by: "So whatever you do, don’t cross yet."

Here’s the thing: If they see me standing there at a corner not crossing, and they notice that the light is against me and that I shouldn’t, don’t they
also notice that I haven’t walked out into the street? Why do they think I’m there, anyway? Just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

But anyhow, I guess that’s all for today. Great provoker though. And no, I don’t think Bill screwed up.

John D. Coveleski

**25. This is a great provoker, and my wife Lorraine & I speak often about
this type of thing. Since our marriage in 2002, we have traveled to France, London, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Texas, and I enjoy every minute of
it. She is a wonderful companion and never tires of telling me of our surroundings. One of the things she wanted to do above all was visit Monet's Gardens
in France while we there and I agreed to go in spite of my lack of interest. What would be so great about a garden I couldn't see, right? What a revelation.
It was the highlight of my trip to France! The serenity, the sounds, and the wonderful fragrances were terrific! Later, in London, I walked the aisles
of a 12th Century church that one of my ancestors was baptized in, in 1604. The hair stood up on the back of my neck! Lorraine took a lot of pictures,
but I will never need them to remember those feelings and other similar feelings in Hawaii, Florida, etc.
The web site is great. Keep up the good work and say "Hi" to everyone in Omaha.

Jim Theall Longmont, Colorado USA

**26. I have taken the time to read several of the responses this time around, and I have to say this has been a great exchange. I very much agree with the notion,
that so many have expressed, that image isn't simply visual, but all of the sensory elements that make up an experience. I have gradually lost vision since
my late teens, and at this point I may still be losing vision, but it is to the point that I can't really tell if that is happening. During this process
I have shifted my focus from a visual one, to a more full sensory approach to the world. Some of this seem to happen quite naturally, and some of it required
a fair amount of effort and experimenting. While my experiencing of everyday life may be a bit different than my normally sighted counterparts, based upon
my past experience, I would have to say it is equally as rich. I love to travel, and explore new places, and I think it is probably for the same reasons
that many folks with vision also enjoy these things. After all, if it were just about seeing these places and things, why spend the money to travel when
you could look at the pictures for free at the library?

About the fellow from Philadelphia, felling bad that a friend got hurt is understandable, none of us enjoys getting hurt, or seeing someone else get hurt.
I think though it would be good to give yourself a chance to think it through before you place blame, and a sense of guilt, upon yourself. If your friend
had been a normally sighted person, and she fell, of course you would feel bad for her, and maybe you'd felt a little guilty if maintaining the uneven
step was something you should have had repaired, but would you have felt that you had screwed up for not warning her about the situation? I've been traveling
with a cane for a very long time, and I've been teaching others how to travel with the cane for a long time as well, but like normally sighted folks sometimes
do, I have come to realize that blind people fall down. It isn't because they are blind, and it isn't anybody else's fault any more often than it is in
the case of normally sighted folks. In any case, I know it is hard sometimes to know what to do, or when to do it, but please cut yourself some slack.
Perhaps you should express your concerns to your friend, and see what she thinks, she may have a very different take on the situation.

Jeff Altman Lincoln, Nebraska USA

**27. At the moment I am sure learning this fact in a rather big way, that there is much much more to life than just a picture! I was born blind and until I
was almost 17 I had perfect hearing. Then I lost 63% hearing in my left ear because of a necessary operation. Then a couple of years later I lost some
hearing in my right ear, which has gradually gotten worse over the years. I used to wear conventional behind-the-ear hearing aids. However, as the technology
got better and they could block out more environmental sounds so deaf people could hear speech, they began to take more and more of my world away. I can
only read very large print, so real pictures, art, etc., don't mean much at all to me. I would much rather soak up the atmosphere of a place, know it's
smells, sounds etc. I got my first guide dog just after I lost the hearing in my left ear so I learnt to travel as a deafblind person and never could pay
much attention to the environment around me. I could feel the lay of the land to some extent through my feet, and I could smell all the places that sold
hot bread for breakfast. People used to tell me certain areas were dangerous and to be careful because of lots of cars. I believed them but didn't really
take much notice, this was not within my experience. I could not hear the cars and traffic, so I never really understood why certain road crossings were
dangerous, until ...

Last year I heard about BAHAs (bone-anchored hearing aids). I now have these hearing aid and the world I knew as a child is back. Suddenly, the picture
is clear, yet hard to make sense of at times. I now have to learn what it's like to relate to my environment, the dangerous roads, the fun at a disco,
sounds of a hospital, people and places! It's like being asleep for many years and waking up again! It's wonderful, yet scary at times. I can now tell
if a corridor is narrow or wide, I can hear lots of sounds all at once too! Sometimes, all the different sounds are rather like too many different colours
all in the one picture. It's hard to know which sounds to pay attention to and which sounds to put into the background. I know that in time my picture
of the world will make much more sense than it does now. The best teachers I have found are other blind people. They help a lot to make sense of the picture
because they are living in this world of sound all of the time and they are used to putting certain sounds into the foreground and background and yet,
they know what the sound is and it's place in the world. If there are others who read this response who are blind and also have BAHAs I'd be really interested
to hear from you.

Nicola Stowe, Australia

**27. This thought provoker makes me feel a little nostalgic about the traveling I have done in my life. I enjoyed almost every minute of it.
I have memories of a trip to Alaska with Dan, my husband. A tour of a rain forest at Ketchikan (I didn't know there were rain forests there) taught me
how real totems are carved, painted and created. The glaciers calving and causing huge avalanches into the ocean was much easier for those of us on the
ship to hear than to see. The challenge of whale watching leaves me longing to go back. I want to hear them play, spout water and do the things they
do. I then think of trips I took with my grandma and grandpa. Stopping at monuments, reading the markers there and learning about the history of an area
became important to me because it was important to those with me. I never had the option to avoid travel. Now, I just long to do more of it.

Nancy Coffman

**28. Your provoker reminded me of several trips my family and I had taken and my experiences (some good and some bad due to my blindness), especially the difference it makes when getting your hands on models of the sites visiting:
One of these to Posa Rica, Veracruz where the ruins of El Tajin are a common tourist attraction; during that trip and because my parents had already visited the ruins and because supposedly I wouldn't get much of the experience visually, my parents opted for buying brochures and reading me about the different pyramids within the ruins; also they bought me a model of one of the pyramids for me to get an idea of what the rest of the tourists get to see.

Another one was to the top of the Olympic Stadium in Montreal; I vividly recall the sensation of moving upwards in the panoramic elevator that takes you to the tip of the stadium, and the awe of the tourist when they talked about what they saw from such enormous heights. The matnitude of this architecture masterpiece hit home when upon buying me a model of the stadium's ceiling I got the chance to feel the intricate details I missed by not being able to see.

Another occasion where a model made a difference of valuing a trip was the time visiting San Francisco in which my parents bought me a model of the golden Gate Bridge.

In summing, if you can get your hands on a model of the site your at, definitely (aside from the smells, sounds and other sensory feedback discussed in the responses) the travel experience becomes more enriching.