Tonight when I was in a taxi with Tsering going home from Thamel doing errands, it was pitch black outside as the zone from Thamel to Ratopul had their electricity blackout schedule, and it amazed me (the possibility of a pitch-black metropolitan city) and frightened me (not being able to see ANYTHING at all) at the same time. I recall times when I had to hop into a taxi in Kathmandu and in Nigeria alone at night (sometimes I had no choice…) and there were no street lights, my drivers often did not speak English so I would try to write in their own language where my area was. Sometimes they would ‘think’ they know where they’re going, and with their dismal 70-watt yellow lightbulb headlights they would swerve at break-neck speed to avoid a deep pothole, a stray dog, a drunk human being and go crazy speeds over barren, rocky, damaged roads. I always have this habit of grabbing the car seats with the clutches of life, wishing I had the superhuman (or 20/20 night sight) powers to see at night and correctly navigate my way home, but that’s never the case. There were horrific instances when the taxi driver got us lost, saying ‘this is the way’ but I ask them to stop in the middle of a deserted street, so that I can whip out my trusty high-voltage LED headlight and slowly scan the buildings and exclaim in horror “not here” and gesture to the driver ‘no, no’… in those cases, I manage to get home safely, an hour later (than the usual 15 minutes) and get panic attacks as I grasp the car door handle to let myself out, and then the drivers begrudingly bellow out ‘more money’….
There was that instance in Kaduna, Nigeria, when my intervenor and I were separated in the night and she was nearly stoned to death and I was encircled by 10 dangerous Nigerians that salivated at the sight of a lone Deafblind white girl. (remember that, Olawepo Olabisi-Adunni Kafayat?)
So tonight, as I sat with Tsering, I found myself still grabbing the car seat tightly with one hand and the other holding his hand as we cruised in our dipilidated taxi and as my eyes scanned the buildings in the darkness I knew I would get home safe with Tsering by my side.
I do live dangerously, and with a finality, I have decided to reduce the risk of ending my life so soon by moving back to Canada this June. The future of Nepal Deafblind Project will unfold itself in the next few months, we’re still debating what to do. I just cannot live this way anymore, with scars on my body bore by that large pothole that swallowed me last month, or that packed Coca Cola truck that nearly turned my foot into a pancake (or made me roadkill had I stepped an inch) or that neighbourly white truck driver who didn’t care I was walking by the quiet street with my cane and rammed into me early last year.
I have nightmares from my own experiences in Nigeria and Nepal, not by reliving it, but by imagining what the Deafblind people in these countries and around the world in developing countries go through everyday… I often wonder if they think staying in their own room is a safe haven, and if they dared to step out of their house, fear would consume them because of those dangers that I already see and know exist – and they would just retreat back into the house in one piece. I completely understand that intense fear, and if I were born in that society, I would have done the same thing. Many Deafblind people who do this that I have met are mentally and emotionally empty, because of lack of stimulation from the outside world. They do not have access to tactile with sign language, to sighted guides, to accessible places or to a better quality of life like most in the Western world do.
After I finish up my three years in Nepal (five years living in developing countries) I will go back home, care for my ailing parents, rediscover myself and re-assess my future goals and most definitely write stories of Deafblind life around the world as I saw it in the hopes that it would inspire change, in the system that oppresses and in the society that closes doors, but also for those Deafblind people who don’t know what they can do to open their own door and create a way to safely step out.
So as I finish my chapter in Nepal, I look forward to a new beginning. I’ll still travel around the world, but come back to a place where I know I am certainly safe and loved.
Thank you, to my boyfriend, Tsering, for being there to save my life this year, and thank you to my family for praying for me everyday, thank you to my friends for giving me the love and support I needed throughout my five difficult yet rewarding years, thank you to my fans for cheering me on and believing in my passion, and I most certainly would like to thank the Deafblind people I worked with in Nigeria, Nepal and around the world for changing who I am, for teaching me so many lessons and allowing me to weep and share my courage with you.
Namaste and Tactile Love,
January 27, 2013