Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Things I Wish I Knew years ago

Since I've always been blind, independence is an important issue for me. I don't know if sighted or able-bodied people ever think about it. People have cars, and they can just pick up and go whenever if they have the money and the time. Sighted children are always learning from their environment, and they watch the people around them to learn behavior.
I was a sheltered child, but thanks to a social worker, I entered preschool when I was three-years-old. I was so happy to go; I remember grabbing my backpack and running out the door. By that time, I loved books and stories, and my family told me there would be more of those there. What I didn't know how to do was talk to and play with other children. The next oldest cousin was 11 or 12, so the opportunity just wasn't there. I had a cane and took it with me whenever I went with my family, but I wasn't encouraged to explore. There I was in an unfamiliar environment with all of these other people I didn't know. I don't remember when it happened, but the teachers encouraged me to walk around the room and touch everything. They did the same thing outside on the playground. Eventually, after a couple weeks, I started talking to and playing with the other kids. Some of our favorite games were pretending to drive the cars, racing to climb the jungle gym and slide down the pole, and climbing in and out of tunnels and boxes.
As the year progressed, I became talkative, but I was still scared of new experiences. We had show and tell, and people brought pets to school. I attended preschool all day, unlike most children who went either for the morning or afternoon session. Someone brought in a kitten; I wouldn't touch it. Another time, the teacher brought in a bunny. I was so scared it was going to get me that I sat in a chair all morning and refused to go anywhere in the classroom. By the afternoon, everyone was playing with the bunny, and I decided to go over to it. Of course, it didn't do anything to me, and my classmates and I spent at least an hour trying to get it to hop and play with us. Parents and teachers of blind children should encourage them to explore and look at everything if they can. It is good to have them around as many different people and animals as possible, especially if there is the opportunity for a play group. I wish I had had that chance, and it is something I encourage my students to do now and will continue it in the future.
Another thing I wish I knew was how to keep advocating for myself when I was little. By the time I was in kindergarten and first grade, I was outspoken. I had an aide with me who would walk withme from classes, help me at lunch, help me on the playground,ETC. Children are not tactful, so I was always saying I can do it myself. One morning, she wanted to tie my shoes for me and carry my tray. tole her to go away and I ddidn't need her help! This made her cry, and she told the first grade teacher. I also told her the same thing later in the day when I wanted to walk back from lunch to class. Some time later, maybe the next day or next week, a teacher pulled me aside. She took me into a closet and shut the door. She kept telling me I needed to be a good girl and not sass my aide; she was there to help me, and I should let her do her job. I remember it wasn't a nice tone of voice. I was scared, but I continued telling people what I could do for myself.
The thing that broke me was when I was called to a confernce. Everyone was there: the aide, the first grade teacher, the school psychiatrist, some person from the intermediate unit, the principal, and me. They kept telling me it was a safety issue, and she had to carry my tray in the cafeteria because other people could run in to me. I wasn't allowed to walk to class because I could get lost. I wasn't allowed to say what I could do for myself because it was rude and hurt people's feelings. Maybe I was allowed to at home, but that conflicted with what the teachers wanted for me at school. I just remember being really afraid of all of the adults, and I just nodded and smiled when they were done talking.
After that day, till seventh grade, I didn't speak up for myself. If someone asked me something, such as "did you miss me?" I said yes even if it wasn't true. I didn't learn to travel well because the mobility instructor I had at the time was afraid to take me outside and let me cross streets. I let my aide carry my tray and get my food, even though I should have been encouraged to learn it for myself. There won't always be someone to do the day-to-day things for a blind child, so I encourage all of my students to do as much as they can for themselves.

oh the irony

The bloomsburg University website is probably 95% accessible; if I want to see what's for lunch or the events for the day or the news, I can use it with no problem. What has never been accessible since I got here was the student information system. This is the personal site that has all of my grades, unofficial transcript, financial info, scheduling, ETC. They have just made a new system, and of course it is completely acccessible for when I am about to graduate in five weeks! It was really nice to be able to read my unofficial transscript; well, maybe not so nice seeing when I was having my depression crash and how badly I did that semester. My over all GPA is 3.2. I was always having to ask someone to log on for me, and I didn't want to share the info with friends or whoever I could get to do it. It's not that I didn't want to share (I probably would have told my grades), but it would have been nice to have the choice.

Monday, March 28, 2011

public noticing and private knowledge

My friend ensomnia is as prevalent as ever, so I thought I'd write again. A post from An ya from her daughter wanting to know how to answer people's personal questions reminds me of something that bothers me. Why do others feel it is appropriate to approach me and ask whatever they want? Random people don't even ask me my name. They ask why are you blind? Were you born that way? What is your dog's name? And if that isn't bad enough, they touch, grab, or push me, my guide dog Dee, or my belongings. They would *never*, I hope, do this to an able-bodied person. Now, if I am about to crash face-first in to a glass structure or am one step from falling down a 20-foot manhole, then it is ok to grab me without warning. What I do not appreciate is when people do it without talking or asking. For example, I was in line waiting for the campus shuttle last week. Dee knows how to move forward when the line moves, and we were doing just fine. Some person rabs my arm in a death grip and tries to propel me forward. I stoppeed and told I was fine and I didn't need help. She continued to hold my arm, so I ducked and moved away. Another person jumped in front of Dee and me while I was crossing a busy street. Dee stopped suddenly to avoid me crashing into this person. I shoved her hand away and said don't pet my dog. I then calmly told Dee forward, and she went around the rude individual.
I was in line for pizza at the cafeteria when someone pets my dog's head; her tail wags faster than usual when she is being petted. I said please don't pet my dog, she's working. She even has an orange sign on her harness that says so. The woman says so who cares and continues her petting. I pushed her hand and told Dee to lie down and she did after I repeated it with a correction. The woman procedes to be huffy and said to her friend, "how rude, I was just petting, what's the deal?"
When I am traveling sans dog and using my cane, people try to grab the end of my cne and a misleading attempt to guide me across the street. Ifthey thought about it logically, I need my cane to touch the ground if I am going to see where I am going!
People don't often ask me about adoption, because they see my disability before they ever see my skin color, and it isn't something I share unless I am going to be friends with someone. I can't discuss it with my family because they say "I am lucky" and the subtext of the message is you should be grateful. On the one hand, I am glad to live in America and have the opportunity for a colege education. On the other hand, there are just so many other complicated feelings about being an adoptee. What my family and random people dont understand is there is a loss of culture and identity. I am latina on the outside, but white on the inside. I wasn't raised in the latin-American culture or Paraguayan-American culture, if there is one. I do not know what I have in common with my first mother and sibblings, and what is my own from nature and the environment in which I was raised.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My Side Effects of Adoption

For a long time, I was angry, and I had repressed these feelings for a long time. I didn't when I was a teenager, but I never had anyone to talk to about them. This probably didn't do good things for my mental health.
My mother is the strict Roman Catholic; God let's everything happen for a reason, and adoption was one of those things. She says I would have had a horrible life in Paraguay, and maybe I would have. I will never know. I grieve the loss of what could have been. She didn't understand my need to know about the culture and to learn Spanish. She says English should be the official language of the US, and why do I want to learn, it's borring. I have so many questions that I will probably never have the courage to ask her. Why didn't you encourage me to learn Spanish? Why did you stay in your white, Polish, German, Catholic bubble? We didn't have many Spanish things in my town, but I know sometimes there were churches or cultural festivals. Why did you never take me to any of those? Why did you never find any latina role models for me? Why did you never introduce me to food that was not Pennsylvania Dutch, go to ethnic restaurants? Why did you never encourage me to learn Spanish when I was younger than ninth grade? Why did you never provide me with books to learn about my birth country? Why did you not let me find my own identity with support instead of being against everything I am?
I identify as latina, even if it is only on the outside. I don't know any people of color or people who speak Spanish as their first language. I don't know if I would be accepted by anyone in those communities, but I don't know how to start trying. When I was a teenager, I started saying "i'm not white," and my family would respond "yes you are."
I wish I knew who I looked like. I wish I knew how to start a search for my first family, even though they are probably dead. I want to go to Paraguay. There is a company who does homeland trips for adoptees and their families/friends. I would love to go on one of those, but since I have trouble affording groceries sometimes, that is not going to happen any time soon. I wish so many things, and I have no idea what to do with all of these feelings.

Who I am and Who I Want to be

Here I go again, starting a new blog. I thought about making separate blogs for these issues, but it is better this way.
I am a transracial adoptee from Paraguay. People tell me "you should be grateful" or "you are just soo luccky." My feelings on this have never matched the happy-clappy adoptive families that I saw on television. It's so much more complicated than many in the industry like it to appear.
I care for the environment. Over the past four years or so, I have noticed my chemical consumption, dangers of plastics, how everyone is affected. I have slowly changed my habits, but sometimes "convenience" still gets me.
I am a Christian, and I am still figuring out my place there. I am not evengelical or Catholic; anyone can believe whatever, Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Pagan, or no religion at all. I was raised Roman Catholic, but by age 11, I was not feeling like I belonged there anymore.
I am a college student about to graduate after 4.5 years with a dual degree of journalism and sociology. By the time I realized I didn't want to write full time, I was too far in to quit. I am applying to Louisiana Tech to hopefully get a degree in teaching blind students.
I am a blind person. I was born three months early and have retinopathy of prematurity. I was fortunate to learn Braille when I was three and have a cane in my hand when I was two. I grew up reading and listening to stories of positive blind children and successful blind adults. However, I didn't know any of these people until I was 16 and got reinvolved with the National Federation of the Blind. I was never allowed to go anywhere alone, and I think I was a little shocked when my first independence came at college.
I am now an unnoficially a teacher for blind people. I go to their houses, schools, and workplaces showing them how to email, use the internet, use microsoft stuff, ETC. We also work on Braille notetakers, cell phones, Ipods, and whatever technology is around. We also work on Braille, which is extremely important to me. We cook, sometimes from mixes and sometimes from scratch. My students are often frustrated because they are having trouble understanding or it takes them a while to learn something. I always tell them "learn it in baby steps and soon it will turn into a mile." Many of them have additional disabilities: cerebral paulsy, paralysis, autism, brain tumors, learning disabilities. My heart is with the children. I hope, in some small way, that seeing me will let them know that they do not have to sit at home for the rest of their lives and have someone do everything for them.
I am a guide dog user. I have had three dogs, all black labs, since 2006, and I have run the gamet of emotions with them. I didn't have pets growing up, and now I couldn't imagine my life without a dog.
Finally, I am someone who has depression. I crashed at the end of 200 when I kipped haf of my classes, didn't return calls or emails, failed my internship, lost my guide dog, ETC. I'm so tired all te time, and I have little motivation. There are so many things to take care of, and on their own, they are managable. However, taking them altogether just totally overwhelms me. I have trouble concentrating and remembering things; I used to be able to write quickly and well, and now it takes me an hour to write a page for a paper, not to mention trying to do research analysis. I sometimes feel like a hipocrit telling my students they can do anything when it takes all of my effort some days to go grocery shopping, to the cafeteria, and walk to class.