Cafe in the Dark: I Was Blind But Now I See.
Part of me was afraid of the whole experience. Being in total darkness was not something I’d tick off from my bucket list or any list for that matter. This was different and in the name of charity. I had to psyched myself to open up to this experience even if it being uncomfortable for that 20 minutes. We actually interpreted the ‘Cafe in The Dark’ event as Starbucks cafe being covered up with black curtains and we would be sitting inside sipping coffee in the dark while having conversations with our friends.
If you didn’t know it by now, assumptions are the mother of all… (lets keep this blank for now).
Cafe in the Dark is one of the programs created by My Dialogue Museum (Malaysia Dialogue in the dark exhibition) or DID Malaysia. Visitors will be guided by our visually impaired (VI) Guides into a black box to experience cafe in the dark, visitors also have the chance to dialogue with our trained VI guides for 20 – 30 min.
Donations are RM20 per person which gets us a coffee and time to chat with our blind friends. Entering the dark cafe, we were debriefed on how the programme would take place. Mr. Chong came to bring us through the tunnel with Sue holding on to his shoulder and me holding on to Sue’s shoulder. I walked slowly, worried that I might trip over or lose my way but we made it safely to our table and chairs. With Mr. Chong placing our hands on the back of the chairs, I managed to sit down and placed my hands on the table in front of us. Another voice came through the darkness, it was Mr. Zul our facilitator during the session. He would be our dialogue guide and ‘mentor’ while we adjusted ourselves to the darkness.
We started out with a round of introduction before Mr. Zul told a little bit about the Save our Sight (S.O.S.) programme, a non-profit organisation fighting unneccessary blindness and other eye diseases during early detention. These eye diseases include glaucoma, cataract, macular degeneration, corneal opacity, diabetic retinopathy, congenital eye disease and amblyopia. Through Dialogue in the Dark, they aim to raise awareness about the importance of sight and have future plans of extending the programme to Museum Dialogue in the Dark, Dialogue in Silence (using sign languages) and Dialogue in Time (stories from octogenarians who are in their 70s and 80s).
“I sleep with the lights on every single night. This is not an easy thing for me to do.” – I admitted.
He further introduced Mr. Yus, our Barista for the day who served us hot coffee with ease. The sugar and stirrer were placed somewhere on the table and we were invited to mix them in our coffee before drinking. My senses became sharper at this point because I just realized that the table was not a small one and my hands crawled around in search of my hot coffee. Another cup with the sugars and stirrers was nearby and I managed to grab hold of it too. I tore open the sugar, felt for the hot coffee and poured the sugar in. With the stirrer in another hand, I stirred into the coffee cup.
“I hope I am stirring into the coffee.” – I exclaimed in the darkness.
Laughter erupted from the cafe. They hoped that I was stirring into the coffee too as they won’t be able to tell. He he. Mr. Zul continued to share with us how Mr. Yus became gradually blind after learning about the hereditary disease. His brother had it too and is also currently blind. I felt an ache in my heart as I could not imagine being able to look at colours, the faces of our loved ones and slowly losing that to darkness. He accepts his fate with such bravery. Mr. Chong was blind since he was born but he went to school and managed to complete his SPM with the help of Braille. He then shared with us a paper with Braille writing on it and guided our finger through the alphabets as well as numbers. It was really hard for me to understand this.
To tell you honestly, this experience was really bizarre for us both. There were those minutes where I started to have problems breathing because my brain was telling me that I was in a closed up space and I felt like I was in a coffin. When this happened, I closed my eyes and told myself that this was fine and that we are in a big space. It’s weird how closing my eyes (in sleep mode) calmed me down compared to having my eyes opened in the dark. This session also made my other senses sharper and I’ve learned to appreciate them even more. We also realized how the blind were the ones assisting us, the full sighted people, into the dark instead of the other way around. I am truly humbled by this and vowed to continue appreciating every single thing in life.
You could be part of their cause by visiting the Facebook Page ‘Cafe in The Dark’ as well as their website at S.O.S. (Save Ones Sight Missions) here. I for one am looking forward to their next series and I hope you too will extend your support by being part of this experience in their next session. Thank you Cafe in the Dark for this wonderful experience and too Mr. Yus, Mr. Chong & Mr. Zul for being our ‘mentors’ in this session.
About Yafieda Jamil
A Malaysian girl currently working abroad in Phnom Penh city. I love a good road trip, hot cappuccinos, spicy food and staring at old buildings. My mission is to inspire people to see the world differently before we all get any older. Oh and giraffes are the most beautiful creatures on earth.