The Braille Monitor __May 1997
by Michael E. Baillif
From the Editor: Michael Baillif spent a number of months touring the United Kingdom and Europe on a fellowship following college. He still has sand in his shoes, and he still knows how to make his own fun. Here he is to talk about his recent trip to Cancun, Mexico:
I had money in my pocket, and I knew
where I wanted to go. All things considered, the venture was shaping up to be
a good, though uncertain one.
I was vacationing in Cancun, Mexico, with some friends from law school. Earlier that afternoon they had decided that they wanted to enter a go cart race. Being blind, I was not in a position to join in that activity, nor was I about to sit in the hotel and wait while they went off and had fun. Of course, I could relax on the beach and drink margaritas, but I had been doing enough of that already. As a result, when my friends headed off to the go cart race, I decided that it would be fun to try bunji jumping.
In order to undertake this venture, I had to overcome two obstacles, neither of which had anything to do with blindness. First, I had no idea where in Cancun the bunji jumping was located, and second, I did not speak more than a few words of elementary Spanish. Notwithstanding these minor difficulties, however, I knew what I wanted to do, and that was to go bunji jumping.
I began the journey by going to the front desk of my hotel and saying several times very distinctly, "taxi" and "bunji jumping," while pointing to my chest. Finally, the man behind the desk made several affirmative-sounding noises, and we walked outdoors, where he flagged down a taxicab and carried on a dialogue in rapid Spanish. He turned to me and said, "okay." I took this as a sign that all was going well.
I climbed into the cab, and we began to drive. From time to time I would look at the cab driver and say, "bunji jumping," sometimes very affirmatively, sometimes with a question in my voice.
The driver would nod and say, "Si, si." He beganme "amigo" and seemed to become more and more
cheerful the farther and farther we drove. As we traveled along, I consoled myself with the thought that, even if I never made it to bunji jumping, I would undoubtedly encounter something of interest.
Finally we arrived at the Marina just outside of Cancun, where they did, in fact, have a version of bunji
jumping. One was strapped into a device called the rocket, blasted off 150 feet into the air, flipped over backwards, and then dropped straight down. It sounded like great fun.
After saying farewell to my amigo, the cab driver, I went in search of the entrance line, which I located by asking questions, making gestures, and generally following the flow of the crowd. Once I had proceeded through the line and made it to the front desk, where tickets were sold, one of the employees came running up to the man at the front desk saying, "No vista, no vista." Even I understood enough Spanish to realize that he was raising the issue of blindness.
I put the price of admission on the counter and said cheerily but decisively, "no problem." The man behind the desk looked at me and looked at the admissions price and looked at his colleague and echoed, "no problem."
From there I walked to the rocket, was strapped in, and blasted off. As promised, the experience, which involved going from zero to sixty miles an hour in under one second was an exhilarating one.
After regaining my equilibrium, I headed back to the main office, where I caught another taxicab. On the way back to town I reflected upon how easily and enjoyably I had accomplished the excursion.
The key was knowing what I wanted and taking affirmative steps to achieve it. I did not necessarily need to know how I was going to proceed each step of the way; I could figure that out as I went along. What mattered more was knowing where I wanted to end up and having a general strategy for getting there. Because I conducted myself in a sensible, decisive, and amiable fashion, people and circumstances generally cooperated with me.
As the taxicab neared downtown Cancun, I decided to stop at a sports bar which, rumor had it, was going to broadcast a basketball game from the States. My friends would be back at the hotel soon, but I could meet them later. For the moment I was having too much fun exploring Cancun on my own.