Thursday, July 23, 2015

Dirt Aint Hurt

Today was pretty great. As always, the course of class is always a bit too much to recall all too well, but we continued with the 24 hour experiment. Hummd, Katherine, and the other "wheelchairers" were still on it, but we had some time to relax in class anyway and actually get to know our guest speaker, who I mentioned yesterday. Sal Gonzalez came to visit us. In case you didn't know, he served for the Marines, now works for the Wounded Warriors, is a musician, and to top it off, he's even been a contestant on America's Got Talent. Having seen a quick video of his audition and another performance, it was surreal knowing he would be stopping by to hang out with us.

As Sal entered the room, everyone was just in utter awe. We were excited to see and hear him. Before we could hear him perform, we did have an extensive Q&A. With so many questions from so many angles, I had no idea what to ask. Suddenly towards the end, I did ask a question. With a long pause, as I tried to articulate my thoughts, I finally asked, "Would you do it again?" "Absolutely, was his immediate response. "Yes." This was probably one of the more striking things I heard. From this side of the spectrum, my mind cannot wrap around the thought of enduring such potent experiences and lasting repercussions. Furthermore, I felt touched when he did finally perform for us. His voice is amazing. It's raspy. It's soulful. It's powerful. Hearing in his music that he would give his life for a "hero," as he called his fallen companion, created a poignant performance and set an emotional mood throughout the room. So much of what he reflected and shared with us also resonated tons with an article I read, called "Moral Injury," which talked about containing feelings to one's self of being a "monster," feeling utter guilt, having absolutely no empathy or feelings at times for others, and such. Nevertheless, having Sal was a great way to have gotten a closer glimpse into the world of someone who has been affected, and whose experience is a part of our society (and as a result, also our class).

Furthermore, today in class after lunch, we switched being in the wheelchairs with our partners. After Hummd's 24 hours were up. it was my turn. Our group's first adventure was going to Sweet Cece's as a class field trip for some frozen yogurt. I definitely experienced the struggle within the first few minutes. I could sense the declines on the way there and definitely felt the struggle of the inclines on the way back up. I also noticed how "handicap accessible" is not always "handicap easily accessible." For example, there was a sign that signaled a ramp, but led us to a very long and arduous path to push upward to. It was, however, very fun. I can truly say that I thoroughly enjoyed all the rolling involved with the wheelchair. I enjoyed the workout (that was bittersweet). I felt the sweat. I endured my first half of the experience. I made it! Actually, somewhere alone the way up and down, Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" became my motivation jam (haha). Every time I felt the sweat drip and my arms wearing out, it replayed in my head and gave me the motivation to make those finals pushed to get to where I needed. It was definitely an experience- a perspective broadening one.

Tatted up once again
Arete was great today. I have a friend who I also had for Improv last week, Katy. Given that I've been going crazy with the Henna, she offered to help me make something on my arm. Since she didn't finish a design yesterday, she continued today, The product was hilarious. One look at the picture (the best way I could see it) led to a laugh. That laugh led to another. I haven't laughed that hard and that long in a while- it was great. It wasn't even that I thought it was bad, but it was just a finny shape. Also, I had my humorous proctor say it looked like (drumroll....) an onion. Yes. An onion. It wasn't what I expected, but it was just somehow hilarious and I just had one of the best times laughing so much in Henna today.

As I continue to reflect and an inspirational Phillip Phillips song is playing on Pandora, I'm starting to see how today was one of my best days I've had here at VSA. That turning point I referred to in yesterday's or a previous blog, wasn't quite how I expected it. Instead of it being something along the lines of bonding specifically with my proctor group, it was more of getting to bond with ome familiar faces and some new people.

For our SOFT+ time, I decided I would attend the Ceramics class. The struggle was going to just about the other side of campus, or at least it felt and seemed like it. It was pretty much a very similar experience as with going to Sweet Cece's, except that it was a more varied terrain, going across the inclines and declines of a bridge, rocky/pebbly roads, slippery concrete, etc. Nevertheless, I had a great time in ceramics. Our group split into to as we went into two different rooms. In our class of 4 for ceramics, our teacher was an older woman with an aura of genuine warmth. She taught us a bit about clay, the kind we were using, and how practical it is. In fact, in India, merchants use clay to make bowls for serving customers on the spot. It solidifies and is good for a while, for as long as the purchaser needs to eat, and is then tossed behind and left to turn into dirt again. It's convenient, useful, eco-friendly as it gets, and neat. As a result, it's nice to be able to say that this is yet another very valuable, practical, and interesting way to utilize dirt. As Lucy from the class said, dirt aint hurt (also, I like how this completely defies the stereotype that dirt is merely dirty and undesirable, just as someone in a wheelchair many times defies the stereotype that they can't function the same way anymore; there's more than meets the eye... is what I'm trying to say here). Anyway, I started off doing whatever my hands would make. Through a long process of thinking my sculpture was a cave and then a cave with stacked logs closing in on it, I ended up with a whale or some sort of fish, as well as two other small little creations: a pot and a tray of some sort..
My wonderful creations
Tonight, as I reflect, I have two things in mind. One is how my hands are worn out. The muscles on the side of my palms are sore. They ache. My fingers hurt slightly. It is hard at times to make fists. It makes me think of the struggle for people who use wheelchairs. I'm sure there is a way they are able to overcome this, but all I know is that I am feeling it right now. The other thing is having a feeling that I have been rude today. I think the initial reaction able-bodies people get when they see someone in a wheelchair struggling is that they want to help. This is nice for the most part, and it was great receiving assistance on occasions (like in slippery, dangerous situations or like when I dropped something I can't pick up), I can see how it can be annoying for people in wheelchairs to assure others that they are more than able to carry on everyday tasks, like pushing themselves. Due to this and actually trying to get the full experience, I found it difficult and found myself reluctant to telling people that I could do it on my own. I appreciate their assistance, but again, I wanted to get the full experience, and I also wanted to prove to myself that I could make it (there goes my motivational jam kicking in the back of my head again). With a longer than average blog, I can say that I'm done for the day. It's been a heck of a long day, but also a heck of a great and memorable one (hence the length of tonight's blog). It's been full of laughter, steep declines, feeling like a kid, great fro-yo, an artistic experience, and so many more great experiences- and I look forward to more.
Bloopers; A look into one of Katherine's snapchats. It was definitely
something excitingly new. (Also, I hope the blurriness in this picture is made
up by my excitement and enthusiasm; that's what I like about this one here.)

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