Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Dialogue in the Dark

Our most anticipated Take Off Tuesday finally arrived today!  A couple of months ago, a friend told me about an exhibition currently in Atlanta called Dialogue in the Dark.  After checking it out online, I knew it was something we had to do!
The exhibition gives sighted people the opportunity to experience blindness.  

In complete darkness, blind guides lead small groups of people through a series of ordinary situations.  Did you catch the complete darkness part?  

At the beginning of the tour, everyone selected a cane and a sighted guide taught us how to use it. 
No, it is not a light sabre.  Or a sword.  Or a gun.  Just so you know.  (A few members of our party had some confusion about this.)
The anteroom of the exhibit had light cubes for seats.  A recorded voice talked about how being blind was different than being in the dark.  This is the point where Carolyn began to (slightly) freak out.  As the voice continued, the light cubes began to dim until there was no longer any light.  This is where Carolyn repeatedly requested to leave with Ms. Loretta, our sighted guide.  I talked her into trying the first room and promised her that I would not let go of her hand. 
 Deep breathing got her through it. 

This is what it looked like inside the exhibit:
There was no light.  NO. LIGHT. At all.  

We bumped our way through the doorway of the first room.  There was grass under our feet and the sound of birds.  Our new guide, a blind woman named Debra, directed us through the park.  We found trees and bushes, some big rocks and also a wrought-iron fence.  And I found a metal park bench with my shin.

It was hard! (The experience and the bench!)
After about 15 minutes of being in complete darkness, my eyes started to strain.  Our guide said it is from the nerves in your eyes trying to find SOMETHING to see.

We moved on to the next room:
This was my favorite room.  It was a market with items hanging on the wall and baskets of produce and shelves of nonperishables.  We identified lemons and pineapples and grapefruit.   We also found bags of popping corn and maybe flour, and bottles of salad dressing and cans of tuna.  Not identifiable were shelves and shelves of cans- green beans? Peas? Corn?  This was definitely a touch and smell room!

The next room:
Getting the picture?  
We walked up a dock and got on a boat.  The boat rocked and the wind blew as we rode the boat across the harbor to New York City.

It was NOISY. There were storefronts, and cars and trashcans.  There was a curb and a VW bug and a traffic barricade.  There was a house with a number on it (note: it is much easier to "read" block numbers than script with your fingers!)  Luckily, none of us was mowed down by a speeding car! 

The final room was a cafe.  We ordered drinks at the counter and listened while the cashier ran our money through an audible money reader.  Christian mixed up our drinks (fortunately, Sprite smells different than Diet Coke!) and Carolyn dropped her bottle not once, but twice (luckily, the lid was on both times!)

We then all sat down at a table with Debra and had our dialogue in the dark.  She let us ask her anything we wanted-about her blindness, about being blind in a sighted world, about the exhibition.

  And Carolyn?  Once she was distracted by feeling the bushes in the park she was fine.  She even let go of my hand in the market and traversed the rest of the exhibit on her own.  

All I can say is I'm glad our tour group was just the six of us.  I was felt up more times than I can count!  (Kim said she felt like she should have a cigarette when it was all over!)
It was fabulous.  Truly an extraordinary experience.


Paula said...

What an amazing experience!

Note to self: wear shin guards and football helmet if I attend.

Jenn Ann said...

Super cool! I need to come hang out with you. You always find interesting stuff to do!

Wendy said...

Interesting... I had to laugh at the cigarette part.

Jane: a female given name of English origin said...

Oh man!! I would love to take the kids here!

Kim Thomas said...

This is so incredible! Wow...what an amazing experience.

Queen B said...

LOL @ getting felt up. no charge for that part ;)

what a neat exhibit and concept. I'd love to do that... with shin guards and helmet, as Paula mentioned.

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