It was probably within my first three years of teaching, that I had a student in class from the country. She told me she was from the country, she was in her late 50’s and new to blindness, and she had never been in a big city before. Every student brings a challenge into the classroom, some are scared of stairs, some do not like crossing streets, and some may have other physical disabilities, but this was one of my first geographic challenges.
Now many people know that I was raised on a farm in Iowa, and went to high school in a very small town, I really had never experienced a large city before moving to Minneapolis to get training for my blindness. I was a bit nervous as well, everything of course was bigger, more traffic, more people, and a lot of noise. The cool thing about where I worked was that we put the students up in an apartment building; which was a short bus right away, this allowed students to travel to and from the training center each day on a bus, exposing them to real life situations. This was both exciting and a bit scary for me. I had always walked everywhere I needed to go, but being in a bigger city it took a lot longer to walk to places, so I got really good at riding buses really quick.
Now when this lady, we’ll call her Jane, came into my classroom and said she was from the country, I drew back on my experience. Like I said Jane was in her late 50’s, she really had no desire to get back into the workforce, and she just wanted some basic cane skill techniques to get her around her environment. Jane and I would spend quite a bit of time in my office having deep discussions about traveling in the city. I shared with her my experiences, but she would always respond, “I’m from the country and I’m in my late 50s I don’t need to know how to travel in the city”. “No Jane”, I explained, “Being from the country was staying at the student apartments a short bus ride away”; this meant that we needed to work on the bus route to and from the training center.
Well we worked on getting from school to the student apartments a number of times in travel class, and in Minneapolis the buses can be fairly entertaining at times. You can run into a lot of characters on the bus! Jane was not too fond of characters and each time we would ride the bus she would be petrified, literally clinging to my arm. The straw that broke the camels back as far as bus goes was the day we witnessed a fight between two guys. The fight was verbal, and before it could get physical the bus driver kicked both of the guys off, but this still scared Jane.
About a week later we were traveling down busy Nicollet Avenue, on the sidewalk about ten feet in front of us a drunk man proceeded to vomit all over the sidewalk, that was at! That happened on a Wednesday, and by Friday Jane was on her way back to the country. I thought about Jane for quite a while after she had left, and maybe she was right, maybe everyone isn’t cut out for big city travel. Each person has their limits, but a person will not now until they our pushed outside their comfort zones. It is important to not fear the other side, but get first hand experience to really make the decision if you are a city or country traveler.