Looking for something special to do midweek in the middle of the day for Liz’s birthday in Hong Kong, we found Dialogue in the Dark.
Similar to the Dining in the Dark experience in Paris so many years ago, Dialogue is meant to simulate for a short time the life of the blind in an everyday environment.
Asked to leave EVERYTHING we had (except some small money) at lockers in the reception, we were lead through heavy black curtains and into the total darkness that is not my typical Hong Kong experience.
Guided by our blind host Sherman, we were lead through compressed scenes typical to Hong Kong: boarding the ferry, crossing the street, doing a little shopping, or ordering at a cafe.
Though initially moving at a slow crawl, each step tenderly seeking out safe footing while our canes annoyed our neighbors by constant tapping at the heels, we seemed to slowly gain confidence as we began to trust in our guide’s directions and our own navigation. As we were lead over a crosswalk across temporarily halted traffic, one of our number would clearly have run the risk of being hit by moving cars. We were invited to guess by touch what make of car was set up in the display, and it was much harder than I’d imagined.
Surely the most interesting part was the “theater” as we searched for seats and listened to a recording with what must have been a heightened sense of hearing as our unseeing eyes scanned the darkness for a hint of movement or a familiar silhouette.
From the theater we adjourned to a nearby cafe, making orders and attempting to pay with the coins we’d kept in our pockets. What size is this? What shape is the $1 coin? Is this the right amount? How much change do I get back? And WHERE is my friends’ table?!
Finally, as we drank our dark coffee in total blackness, Sherman explained how he came to be blind and how he had learned to cope with this new life and encourage others to do the same. It was an inspiring story, and the whole experience a smart reminder that not only do we not all see the world in the same way; but that many have learned to live without seeing it at all.
I also realized, in the course of our conversations after we left, how strongly we use “sight” vocabulary to discuss our lives and interactions. “We’ll see”, “I see what you mean”, “I wanted to see if I could figure out what car they had inside” and so on. So much of our experience with the world is bound up in sight, and Dialogue in the Dark was an interesting look into what difficulty it must be to adjust to this input being snatched away.
Planning to spend time in Hong Kong? Keep in mind that accommodation can be expensive around here. Check out HostelBookers for info on hostels in Hong Kong.