Future Reflections Fall 1991

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BLIND FOREIGN EXCHANGE STUDENT VISITS U.S.A.

by Karen Mayry

Editor's Note: Karen Mayry is the energetic president of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota. She and her husband, Marsh, are also very active and well-known in their community.

We first became aware of the Japan-American Jamboree Adventure program (JAJA) when the director approached the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota office with a request for housing for a blind participant. Mostly, they wanted "tips" on how best to help Akiko. We provided the "Courtesy Rules of Blindness" to them. Although we do not know any Japanese and knew that Akiko's English was limited, we agreed to have her stay with us for several days. Akiko is a 16-year-old high school junior attending a school for the blind in Kioto, Japan. During her trip she expected to participate fully in such activities as English classes, horseback riding, swimming, water sliding, picnicking, sightseeing, and shopping. She came with the same anticipation and excitement felt by all the students.

Our experience with Akiko Noguchi was quite interesting. As with all of the students, her written English was better than her spoken. Our first day was spent in writing Braille notes to one another. As she became more comfortable with us she spoke more readily. Difficulties arose when neither of us knew the word we needed to describe a particular place or object. For example, the group was going on an outing to "Bear Country" near Rapid City. How does one describe this if one doesn't know the Japanese word for bear? Marsh used my stuffed bear to assist us. However, until the group actually drove through this natural setting of wild animals, I am not sure that we adequately relayed our message.

During her stay we compared white canes, slates and styluses, and talking clocks. I could not understand her talking clock, but she could understand mine. Our difference in cane lengths was quite apparent. Hers was very short. She did not feel that she needed to know what is more than one step ahead of her. However, as we looked at the children's canes kept in the NFB of South Dakota office, she remarked, "Oh, I have a children's cane!" She now uses a more "adult" cane.

Our experience was interesting and fun. It was a way for us to help spread the word of the National Federation of the Blind, exhibit the independence of blind adults in the United States, and become friends with a young Japanese girl.

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