Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dialogue in the Dark, Jaya One

Have you heard about Dining in the Dark? I'm sure most of you heard about the restaurant which is located in Changkat Bukit Bintang. I've been there once last year and it was quite interesting except that I've ate venison which I'm not supposed to eat (exotic meat huh). Hmm.. spoil the whole experience :(

Alright. Can you read the Braille words here:

No? Then, it's time for you to learn about the words. It's Dialogue in the dark (DID).

Now, I'm sure you may not be familiar with Dialogue in the Dark. Does this means talking or chatting in the dark? That was my first impression when I heard about this place which is located in Jaya One. This place is founded by Steven Chan and the centre had helped many visually impaired individuals to overcome darkness and lead a normal life.Who's this Steven Chan? Back in May, I'm sure you had heard about a blind man with his guide dog being chased out of a shopping mall in Klang Valley. Well, he's the visually impaired man mentioned in the story. Who's the dog mentioned? It's Lashawn; Malaysia's first guide dog for the visually impaired.

Now, back to our visit to the Dialogue in the Dark centre. It was raining heavily that evening and left the office early so that I can reach on time for the unique experience. Reached there at 5pm and since the session only start 30 minutes later, we snap some shots with the props :)

Pig with the bird from Churp Churp.

Giant Braille writing on the wall

Our session starts at 5.30pm and there was a briefing given before we entered the dark. For those who are going to experience the darkness, do empty your bladder before your session start because there's no toilet in the dark (if there's one, I'm doubt you can make it there and do your business).
Briefing time.

Next, it's time to keep your valuable belongings (all your belongings) in the locker so that we don't lose any of them in the dark room. As there were many of us, we were break into a few groups. Oh, and we were in the first group to enter the dark :) 

Before the session starts, we were given one long walking stick which the visually impaired normally use while walking. It helps to guide you while you walk (you can't see because it's total darkness) by hitting the stick on the floor. You'll know that there's a danger or some other objects or person near you when your walking stick hits on it.

With a walking stick on our hand, we're ready to explore the dark. Hmm... you might be wondering why explore rather than a lecture session since the centre is call "Dialogue in the Dark". This centre is a place for you to see from the eyes of a visually impaired person's daily life. You'll be exploring how these visually impaired people think and feel in trying to fit themselves in our society. There's four specially constructed rooms which mimic our daily environments to explore with the help of blind guides. In Malaysia, the four constructed rooms are based on the theme of Cuti-cuti Malaysia in the Dark.

Cuti-Cuti Malaysia with Dialogue in the Dark.

When you enter the specially constructed rooms, you can't see any lights (I'm serious) although you open your eyes as wide as you can. All I did was knocking my sticks to see if there's a wall or someone beside me. Okay, I use the other hand to touch if there's a wall too :P  Our guide, Mimi was there for us.

Cuti-Cuti Malaysia in the Dark
The first thing we need to find after walking in the dark was to search for the bench on the left side and sit on it. I was glad to find a safe area to sit and relax after walking without direction in the dark. While we were sitting on the bench, I can feel that the floor is filled with sands and the surrounding is cold with some wind blowing us. We can hear the birds chirping and some insects creaking too. We were in the middle of a forest reserve in Malaysia. Mimi, our guide asked whether we want to search for the Rafflesia flower which grows in the forest (Okay, here we are in forest reserve in Sabah because Rafflesia grows there). How do we search for the flower when we can't see? Rafflesia has a rotten smell to attract insects to pollinate the plant. Thus, you can use your sense of smell to locate it. But we decline the offer to search for it as we don't want to smell the bad rotten smell :)  Then, pig was chosen to help the group to search for the bridge in the dark as we need to cross the river. When he found it, we all walked towards his direction by listening to his voice (your sense of hearing is important)

The bridge does resemble a real bridge but it's a shorter distance :)  Next, we could hear the water splashing and we're near the waterfall. Then, we just keep walking and Mimi said we walked through a magic or time tunnel and we're back in Kuala Lumpur! Yay! Then, we touched an ATM machine and Mimi asked how do we withdraw money to use when we can't see? We just keep searching for the buttons on the screen and keyboard. Although I can visualize the numbers on the buttons through imagination, it was hard to feel the correct numbered buttons as your finger can press the wrong button which is next to the correct ones. According to Mimi, there's 3 ways the visually impaired can withdraw their money. First, imagine and feel the buttons on the ATM to withdraw themselves (I think training is required before I can press the correct buttons) but it's a bit dangerous as there might be a snatch thieves targeting them. Second way, walk to the bank and withdraw money from the counter itself. Or you can get someone you know or close to you to withdraw it. This is the most risky as the person might cheat all your money :(

Walk further from the ATM, we're said to be visiting the Tugu Negara. Hmm, I presume that we've in Lake Gardens as our National Monument is standing in the lake. And we keep walking and banging our sticks turning left and right, I can feel that we're nearby some shops. Managed to feel the different cooking ingredients in the line of baskets. I managed to identify the pumpkin, onions, brinjal, salted fish, belacan, etccc by touching, squeezing and smelling them. Oh, and the stall next to it is the bookstore where there's a row of books, newspapers and magazines. Then, someone had simply parked their bicycle and blocked our way. Managed to touch the bicycle too.

Next, I remembered there's a motorcycle too and finally a car but I didn't managed to identify the car's brand. It was time to cross the road and thanks god that there's no real cars there or else, I'll be badly hit as I can't see whether there's any car coming in. But I can hear the car's engine sound and the traffic light making the "tick tick tick" / "save to cross road" sound. Imagine if the visually impaired is on a real street, he or she will be putting their lives on your hands. Thus, do help them to get to the safe side when you meet one on the street.

And here we were at the beach. I can hear the sound of strong waves wash up the beach (I miss it since my last visit to Club Med) and there's sand again on the room floor. And there's some beach equipment too like the life jacket (correct me if I'm wrong :P ). Oh, there's a pizza store nearby and we can smell the yummy fresh from oven pizza smell. We were hungry after walking through the dark and I think the time pass so fast without us realize it. Walk further in and we were on our way searching for the chairs to sit. It was a round table with chairs surround it. And it's meal time!

Cuisine in the Dark
From there, we ended our Exploring Cuti-Cuti Malaysia session and begin our Cuisine in the Dark session. We waited for the other groups to arrive before meal was served. Thus we chat with Mimi, our guide and at this moment, we did not know that she was blind and thought that probably she was wearing a google that can see in the dark. Thus,we asked her questions like does she blog, etcc.. questions that a non-visually impaired can do. Soon, some of the groups arrived and our group was the loudest among all haha.

While waiting, we were given some games to play. We were given a small piece of paper printed with Braille. Tried hard to feel how does each alphabet feels like in a Braille writing. I can't remember all the alphabets in Braille system and probably I have giant fingers that the dots seems so small.
Next, we were required to write in dark where one person write a word from the required sentence and passed it to the next person to continue with the next word. I was hard to judge where the previous text was written on the paper as well as the font size. But it was fun!

Soon, everyone arrived and meal was served by Mimi. Meal was courtesy of Mango Chili; a Thai restaurant located in Nexus Bangsar South City which promotes the Food for Good project. For every meal you purchased, Mango Chili will feed a child in need! We were served lemongrass tea; it was refreshing and I accidentally spilled it after that :(

The dinner begins with an appetizer which consist of  mango salad and a spring roll. Mango salad was a bit spicy but I love spicy! And the spring roll was good. Wish that there's more spring roll. Then, there's Tom Yum soup with prawns. It was difficult to peel the shells. Main meal was a round plate filled with Jasmine rice, green curry chicken and another dish which I had chop it down before I can identify it. As everything is served on a plate, I can't see where the side dish is and just scope them in my mouth. But I can feel where's the green curry chicken is as it's served in a small cup on the plate. Our dinner ended with chocolate ice-cream but that's not the end of our adventure. We were then required to search for the flask and pour the tarik into our own cups. Luckily pig was sitting beside me and helped me with it :)

After dinner, some lights were turned on and it was only then we found out that Mimi was blind and feel bad that we had asked her around getting us more drinks and served our food or even asked her questions on things she can't see now. Then, Mr.Steven Chan was there and introduced the other guides in the room. He explained some background stories about the centre and the other guides also tells a short background stories about themselves. I'm proud of them that they are able to conquer their fear for darkness and fit into our society. The Cuisine in the Dark is run by these visually impaired.

Last but not least, Steven Chan brings in Lashawn; the handsome guide dog and we had a wonderful photography session with them. It was hard to capture a nice picture of Lashawn as he's very excited seeing us around and can't sit still. Wish to know more about Lashawn? Follow his page at Dogs for Sight

The many faces of Lashawn.

Would like to thank Nuffnang for organizing this meaningful Dialogue in the Dark #nndialogueinthedark) session for us. It teaches us to see from the blind's perspective and also to appreciate the sight around us when we can still see it. And of course to take good care of our eyes. Besides that, I've also realized how attached I am to pig that I can recognized his voice and smell in darkness. There might be many pairs of hands trying to search for direction the dark but I managed to recognized his :)  I guess I need to remember all these unique traits and might be useful in future in finding myself in darkness.

I'm afraid of Lashawn who's sniffing around.

Pig with Lashawn!

Nuffies and Churpies at Dialogue in the Dark.

We flew to Taman Negara in 1 minute from Jaya One.

Wish to experience the how you would react or feel in the dark or challenge yourself to find your partner in the dark? You can get more information from DID (Dialogue in the Dark).

And you can have a special birthday celebration by celebrating it in the dark. From RM388 for up to 8pax, you and your friends can sing birthday song in the dark. Drinks and cakes included and birthday boy or girl will get a mystery gift.

Dialogue In The Dark
100-P1-001, THE SCHOOL,
Block J, Jaya One,
No 72A,  Jalan Universiti,
46200 Petaling Jaya,

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