It has been a long time since I met new people and went on a trip for the visually impaired. When I was sixteen, I had my first experience of meeting other visually impaired people properly when I went on a Spanish Exchange with RNIB. The year after I went to the International Computer Camp (ICC) in Berlin with Look. Both international experiences were amazing socially and brought a whole new side to me out, a confident me. After ICC I started RNC (Royal National College for the blind) in Hereford and so was surrounded by the visually impaired on a daily basis. I was supposed to attend VIEWS in Paris with Look the following summer, but pulled out, as I doubted my independence levels. Thereafter, I was in a relationship with another visually impaired person for over two years and to be quite honest without going into details, wanted a clean break from the VI world. I however, did not detach myself completely and have been going on holidays with three close VI friends for the past few years, which I have previously blogged about.
I never really intended to delve into the VI world again, but an event on Face Book intrigued me. A friend shared an event from the charity VICTA Children who I had never really heard of before and they were running an eighteen to twenty-five year old weekend in March. If nothing else the activities were to my liking and the fee nominal, so I thought even if I didn’t like the people I would be able to enjoy myself. Nevertheless, I pulled out, as I always put my athletics first and had Talent Squad training on the same weekend. They were running a second weekend in October so I transferred to that instead.
I was quite apprehensive about going, as the thought of meeting new people was daunting, I convinced myself only those with no lives would attend and I had no idea if VICTA as a charity were any good or not!
Thankfully, I was met at the train station, as promised and Calvin was delighted to discover he had a playmate for the weekend, Fliss. Calvin is never nervous about meeting newbies! The first thing one of the participants said to me was that they recognised me from the documentary ‘Blind Young Things’ and my heart sank just a little bit, remembering that I was quite well-known in the VI world for that and worried that everyone would have a preconception of me.
We arrived at the accommodation and had lunch where there were lots of awkward silences, whilst I secretly panicked about the mischief Calvin was causing running around like a loon and thought I would never find my way around what seemed a complicated building, only because it was unfamiliar of course. We were shown around the building in pairs and I pretended I had mastered the layout in my head, yet in truthfulness felt quite baffled, but didn’t want to convey my weakness! We had an ice breaker activity in the afternoon and somehow I found myself in group one, so on cooking duty for the evening meal. It wasn’t as bad as I feared though, I only had to open a few cans of tomatoes!
After dinner, the awkward silences continued and we all declared how sleepy we felt, simply because we weren’t really interacting with each other! One of the volunteers suggested a game of Trivial Pursuit and I was quick to count myself in, as the competitive me came flooding out. This is when I began to enjoy myself, the mood was light hearted, conversation flowed more easily and the time past much faster. Before then, it was going to be a very long weekend!
On Saturday morning the first activity was canoeing. I had only tried it once before, so was looking forward to doing it again. On the whole it was fun, accidently and on purpose splashing each other, the only downside was the bitter wind. In the afternoon we did crate building and despite my ten thousand layers was still cold so managed to bag myself the instructor’s jacket! Crate building was pretty good, you are harnessed up and stack the crates on top of each other, climbing as you go until you fall off, run out of crates, you can’t build any higher or people find it funny to knock the stack down with you on top! After that we did a dissent, which is like the zip wire, although instead of going horizontal you go vertical. Listening to others jump off first it sounded extremely fast and scary, but once I plucked up the courage to step, note not jump off of the platform, it really wasn’t too bad or fast. It does go faster the heavier you are, so I probably got off lightly! We had a takeaway that evening and amused ourselves with karaoke on the X-Box, which past the time nicely.
On Sunday morning, we were supposed to do rowing, but this got cancelled, so we did orienteering instead. My group lost, but we weren’t really interested in winning and to be fair most of the time was spent fishing Calvin out of lakes, cringing at what he was rolling and diving in and taking bets on who out of him and Fliss would win tug with branches! I was so glad that Fliss’s owner offered to wash Calvin for me, he was a real swamp dog! In the afternoon, we were meant to do caving, but they lost the key, it was a man made cave, therefore we just did archery. Nobody managed to hit the balloons on the targets and it was quite a bit of sitting around involving me moaning how cold I was and everyone offering me their jackets, but I manned up and declined! That night we had a pub dinner, which was actually quite tasty and spent the rest of the evening just chatting. It was commented that I was such a happy person, which amused me greatly, as my mum always gets excited when I smile on the rare occasion and then I realised on reflection, I had become that confident Selina who only appears on trips for the visually impaired.
I honestly had a brilliant time, it was so refreshing to meet new people, you obviously get on better with some people than others, but everyone was good company in general. As testimony to my nice time, VICTA are holding a Christmas meal/party next month and I have booked to go. Partly because I want to buy a new dress, but mostly because I am eager to have another great experience. Thank you VICTA and all the new lovely people I met!
Where does a horse put its bit?! (Trivial Pursuit)