Listening to places
As a Stargardtien, the sense of listening is more important than vision. The sounds around you can tell you much about what is going on. Even if you just sit on the porch of your house. The following newsletter features an audio recording of a typical Sunday in Nyahururu.
The invisible mask
This is a short one: Recently I met a friend who works in adult education. The new semester had just started and due to the current COVID-situation, the students were required to wear masks. My friend mentioned how difficult it is to recognize his new students and learn their names because of those masks. Well, for a Stargardtien this is the steady-state: Even when people don't wear masks they are difficult to recognize.
Stargardt and culture shock
I've been here in Nyahururu for two years now and sometimes I still get the question of how I dealt with the culture shock. My answer is usually: Sorry, but I didn't encounter that one yet. Now I've found out how a culture shock expresses itself and read things like "Adaptation to the unknown", "Feelings of insecurity" or "Orientation systems". Doesn't that sound like Stargardt?
For once a technical contribution: As a Stargardtien, I can't do much with a laptop: The screen is too far away to work comfortably. The enlargement software helps a little, but it usually ends with back pains because I have to bend over the device. So all that remains is a permanently installed monitor of the correct size and height. Or isn't it?
What am I eating here? (Part 2)
The colour of the plate helps to see what is edible on it (see the article “What am I eating there?”). In Kenya, I had to revise my preference for white plates. And since some dishes are eaten with the fingers, new challenges emerged for a Stargardtien.
Stargardt in Africa
After a while without posts, I resume blogging. The reason for this is my three-year stay in Kania. Just over a year ago, I came to Nyahururu, a small town in the centre of Kenya, to help out with two socially engaged organizations as part of a personnel development cooperation program (see Comundo).
Eye color and hair style
When I sit at a table and a person is looking straight at me, I do not see her face. So I peer past her with both eyes to see her head and at least roughly recognize her face. The finer features of a face are not recognizable to me at least, at this distance. This means that I can not use faces to recognise people.
There are situations where I puzzle over a remark or behaviour of people around me. This is not surprising in itself, to Stargardtians this happens frequently and constantly. The solution to the puzzle is always that I lacked a visual cue, or I've simply not seen the triggering event.
For Stargardtiens faces are difficult to recognise. It is usually already a challenge to figure out if the person is looking at you or not. The distinguishing of facial expressions is only possible in particularly good light and only when the facial expressions are clear. This is an limiting factor when dealing with other people.
The blind presentation
It's surprising at first glance, what is achievable in the office in spite of Stargardt. On closer inspection however there are several obstacles that can be difficult to handle, especially when directly cooperating with other people. It starts with the simple reading of files and stops at the blind presentation.
Mobile phone under the magnifying glass
The modern mobile phones offer a wealth of useful tools and features for Stargarsters, starting with the electronic map or the use as a flashlight or magnifying glass up to the text reading features. Nevertheless, they also have some serious disadvantages.
As Stargardter stumbling is part of everyday life. Curbs, stairs, roots or just things that are in the hallway on the floor, and were not there when I went by there the last time. You get used to this fact as such and the occasional blue toe associated with it. But: You can also stumble over other things than objects.
Adventures at the ATM
ATMs - here as representative for all other automates such as tickets, self-checkout at the grocery store, or check-in at the airport - have evolved considerably since their introduction. But despite all the improvements they are always good for surprises.
On many occasions in daily live eye contact is important. It signals attention, respect and sincerity. Or it signals the driver that I want to cross the street or the waiter in the restaurant that I want to pay. As Stargarster that is not quite as straight forward as it sounds.
The quiet ones are the dangerous ones
Obviously, traffic is a problem. I've given up riding a bike a while ago after I've overlooked and rammed a parked car. As a pedestrian, I've got a little more reaction time, because I'm slower. The basic problem is that an oncoming vehicle can be completely invisible to me if my blind spot happens to fall on it.
How much are 10% ?
My eye doctor tells me regularly that my eyesight is at 10%. This is determined by the usual letters and numbers in various sizes, which are projected on the wall. Sometimes you can still see the panels with the many E's showing to the left, right, up or down. The largest are at the top, towards the bottom they are getting smaller. 10% equals the top two or three lines that I can still see. With my glasses, of course, without glasses, I don't see a thing on these panels. But what means 10% then?
Selective and punctual seeing
Seeing is like any perceptive process is selective. We see certain things consciously other we overlook. This is useful protection against an otherwise not hand able information overload. But what astonishes me again and again how punctually people see.
Self-service and Labels
Shopping also has its pitfalls. I don't particularly like the serviced counters. The goods are usually presented very nicely behind the glass, but I can only roughly see what they are, not to mention the prices. I can only say: - I would like a piece of that, please. And I point to it. This is a shame, since the same range of sausage or cheese is not always packed in the refrigerated section. But I can also make it a little adventure by simply pointing at something without knowing what it is and letting me surprise what I get. Like this, I discover something new..
Looking at it by looking away from it
An effect of Stargardt is that it is sometimes not so clear who or what I'm looking at. If I want to fix something or look at someone, I need to specifically look next to it with both eyes to see anything. I'm cross-eyed with both eyes at the same time. If I look at the object of interest straight forward, it is completely gone and I do not see anything.
About toilet lids and vases
Recently at my place of work, I went to the restroom. When I walked into one of the compartments and got ready for my task, I halted puzzled.- Since when do we have toilet lids? In recent times much has been renovated and re-built in the building and I was prepared to search again for some offices and learn new locations. But the toilets were still in the same place and excluded from the construction work. Then I looked at it a second time, and behold, there was only the usual toilet seat there. My first look at must has been aligned in such a way that my blind spot came to lie exactly on the toilet seat. My brain quickly filled the gap and inserted a toilet lid.
Binoculars in the train station
When I 'm travelling, I usually have some binoculars with me, especially when I move into areas I don't know well. I need the binoculars than to read street signs or house numbers. For others, this looks somewhat confusing, as I stand at very unusual places and watch something with my binoculars. On a hike, instead of looking at the view I stand with my back to it and look at the rock wall behind the tail because the signpost is standing there.
White on white
Here is a challenge from everyday life: Try applying white toothpaste to white toothbrush bristles, all against the background of a white washbasin. It was not uncommon for me to get a portion of toothpaste on the white tiles on the floor or on my feet. How to eliminate this problem.