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Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Blind Leading the Blind

A blind man is led by his guide dog in Brasíli...Image via Wikipedia

"The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision"
Helen Keller 

The other day I stumbled on a very interesting article about an event that is happening here in Buenos Aires. It was on the website of Landing Pad BA and it was about this theatre group called "Avitantes". I'm not going to describe what it is about because the article explains it clearly. Instead I'm pasting the link to the article and I encourage you to read it before continuing on with the blog because there is a theme here that I would like to tie in.

It is a fact of life that people who are blind have actually developed their other senses beyond that of an average human being to compensate for what they lack. I can relate on some level because I was born with alot learning disabilities and because of that, I've had to work extra hard and develop heightened awareness beyond that of my peers in order to survive in this world

But it's been interesting seeing how things that I thought would be challenges or hindrances to some of my relationships here actually have caused us to want to work harder in our friendships. This has been true of my friend Diana and my friend Marisa. Within the past few days, Marisa and I had to work out some cultural differences that were affecting our friendship. Originally I thought that our relationship would be more difficult than my friendships from my own culture but it seems to me that the opposite is happening, our friendship is actually better because of all the challenges.

You see, in this friendship she and I have to compensate for the fact that we speak different languages and are from different cultures. And I think that it's actually resulted in her becoming a better listener when she and I are ironing out the wrinkles in our friendship. I can feel when I am talking to her that she isn't just hearing the words I am saying but she is listening extra carefully so that she understands exactly what I mean. I do the same for her and it is making all the difference! I am truly amazed that a friendship where we have next to no time and are from different cultures and languages is turning out so well.

I think one of the reasons is because in my friendships with people from my own culture, it is easy to get spoiled. It is easy to assume that just because we are from the same language and culture that things will turn out find and that we understand the person. As a result, there is a tendancy to talk more and listen less and still think we are being a good friend and an active listener.

This relationship is teaching me so much and I am finding that she has an amazing natural ability when it comes to dealing with foreigners. One day soon I'm going to let her know because out of all the people that I've dealt with, I've never seen anyone who knows how to deal with foreigners the way Marisa can. As we all know, in our society people aren't as open and it takes a much longer time for someone to open up.

Coming to Argentina I think people here are used to openness and I think that it is what they expect of you. Once you become friends, they tend to be really innocent and think that you're just going to open up and speak your heart because that is the way Argentineans are. But in our society, there are levels of openness and I've been in friendships where the other person won't open up to me immediately and I have to kind of work the friendship before I get to that level where they will talk about stuff and to be fair, I do it to other people too, I can be extremely tough to get to know when I want to be. This side of me has not been easy for my friends down here who sometimes are not sure what to do.

Someone both Diana and Marisa have a way with me where they understand that friendship is something that is developed and over time with hard work and perseverance, they do see the fruits of their labor as I start to open up. What makes it interesting is that these girls are both born in the year of the Ox and in Chinese culture, that is the personality of the Ox. People that work hard towards their goal and know that slow and steady wins the race.

 In our friendships there are moments where in our struggle to understand each other it feels like it "the blind leading the blind". But in the same way that a blind person has heightened senses, these things have only opened our eyes so we see each other clear as day :)
"Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can read"  
Mark Twain

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