The Blind Bucket List is getting off to a crazy start, but I’m finally in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It is really important to keep your sense of humour and remain flexible while travelling. It seemed to take forever to get my passport, then there was a threat of a pilot strike with the airline I chose, and then a flight detour due to inclement weather……It’s been an experience.
I boarded the airplane in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and had a pleasant flight to Pearson’s Airport in Toronto, Ontario. There was about a half hour layover and I was well taken care of by airport staff, making sure I got to where I needed to be for the gate changes. I then boarded headed for a stop at St. John’s Newfoundland, but when we approached the headwinds were aweful so we had to detour to Halifax airport in Nova Scotia.
On the flight to St. John’s/Halifax, I sat with a lovely couple, Carol and Harvey. It was their first time travelling to Ireland and they were quite excited and asked my advice about where they should go when visiting Belfast, my old hometown. I told them the places that I love to spend time at and they took careful notes. When we landed in Halifax, they were quite worried that we wouldn’t get to Dublin. I was sure that although we might be delayed, we would get there eventually. We had to deplane while the crew decided on a new flight plan and Carol and Harvey had left the plane before I got myself together enough and the staff where there to help me negotiate the entrance of the plane – my nemesis is the weird connection between the plane and the tunnel, it throws me every time.
I was shown a little bit of the airport by one of the staff and then went for a wander in the area I was told I had to remain. When I came back to the waiting area Carol and Harvey shouted over to me and I came and sat beside them. Carol immediately questioned me in regards to my cane. I explained t her what my visual limitations are and she was stunned. She asked me how I would be able to travel with my sight limitations, my reply? “I’ve made it this far.” Carol and Harvey made their excuses and left me sitting on my own. I went for another wander because I knew that once I was back on the plane I would be sitting for a very long time. When I returned and sat down to wait for further instructions, Carol approached me and was really upset. She thought that her words were highly offensive and wanted to apologize. I told her that I didn’t take any offense, after all, how is she to know what a blind person can and cannot do. People are often amazed by what I do and what I am planning on doing. They treat me like a unicorn = a mythical being that they are both shocked and awed by. I don’t see it that way at all. I am scared on a regular basis. I question if I will be able to do the things that I am trying to accomplish. I want to help other people in the same situation as I am, and that drives me on. If I can do these things, so can any of you.
I was seated in another row when our journey continued and I only saw Carol briefly as she was getting off the plane in Dublin. I wished her well and she the same to me. I was then stuck on an empty plane for nearly an hour while the staff at Dublin airport got me an assistant. It seemed that there was a lack of communication between the airline and the airport. Because of the detour, the entire adventure was left in chaos and confusion. I had a good time talking to the air hostess, Lindsay and the girl from the airport who was trying to get me help. They insisted that because of insurance issues I had to be escorted off the plane, so there I sat waiting for the lovely Jack who eventually arrived and helped me to find my way around.
Jack helped me to get my temporarily lost bag. It had fallen off the carousel so one of the baggage managers had to go and have a look for it. Thankfully he found it and I could have hugged him at that moment! Then Jack took me to the busses where I booked my ticket to Belfast. I said my goodbyes to Jack and waited for the bus. I heard lots of different accents and it seemed that the bus I was waiting for would have good company with two other families from Canada heading up to Belfast with me. It was a vary pleasant trip with lovely views all the way.
Once in Belfast, I was stunned at the changes. Old familiar places were so utterly changed that I got turned around and lost several times. I finally decided to take a taxi to my old neighbourhood. Sadly, even in the old familiar parts of the city, I was still lost. My old neighbourhood had changed so much it was barely recognizable. Gone were many of the old familiar buildings and in their stead were monstrous glass and steel monoliths. They say you can never go home again, well you can, just don’t expect it to be the same.
I eventually found my way to the Lisburn road and found a café to have a bite to eat and figure out where I needed to go next. I was so tired I decided to call a cab and get to my Aunt and Uncles home that way. It was a good thing because I probably would have wound up lost again. I have seen several members of my family and much of the old city. It has changed so much, but I expect that is because investment in Belfast is at an all-time high. With the troubles truly over, business has come and left their mark on a city that had been stuck in the past for decades because of the unrest. It was a place that time had forgotten, now it is a booming metropolis with newly named ‘quarters’ and ‘districts’. The old shabby city has been stripped of its decay and rebuilt, melding the old Victorian style with the ultra-modern. There are still problems here, lasting resentments and a fear of a Brexit future and what that will mean for the old problems. Only time will tell, but the city is still beautiful to my failing eyes and the people are still the friendly, helpful people they always have been.
Always be flexible, always keep your sense of humour and always try to appreciate the beauty that life has to offer. You don’t need eyes to hold these truths, you just need faith in yourself and the world as a whole.