Oh man, today was a LONG travel day but well worth it. I was out of town for a wedding so I had to fly out of the other city, which then happened to fly into my home town, and then to Portland. I had to be at the airport at 5:20 or so this morning. THAT was early. And of course I didn’t get the greatest night sleep last night because of the excitement of the wedding and worried that I was forgetting something. Turns out I was.. I had forgotten to get cash, but we took care of that easily in the morning.
We arrived at the airport, Mom was able to come through security with me because I have a disability. She stayed with me until I preboarded. American Airlines at the Austin airport had a little vibrating buzzer thing that let you know when it was time to go up. I was the only one pre-boarding though and I just stayed in the “Special Needs” seating with Mom so they motioned to her when it was ready for me. Still, I thought this device was pretty cool and high tech for an airline/pre-boarding. (Pictured below)
The first leg of the flight went by without a hitch. I was asleep before take-off even. I wasn’t told that I had to transfer planes for the second leg but then I soon figured that out when EVERYBODY was getting off. So I went out and there was somebody to assist me to the next gate. That is when the crazy stuff started happening. So all of a sudden, there is this lady in front of me with a wheelchair, taking my cane, my bag, my boarding pass, etc. She hadn’t introduced herself to me, said not a word, just started grabbing things. So I said, “what’s going on?” and she said she was going to put me in the wheelchair. That is when somebody that was working the desk said, “The wheelchair is for somebody else. She is blind and just needs your arm.” So then I asked her for all my belongings back. So then she like grabbed me in this really awkward position and practically started dragging me. She wasn’t angry or anything, she just legitmateily thought that was the way to guide me. I really think that may have been her first experience with a person with a visual impairment. Then I told her I would prefer to just grab her arm so she let me but then she tried to do this awkward thing about grabbing my arm too. I just wasn’t going to win with this one. So then when we got onto the passageway between the airport and the plane, she started manually guiding my cane back and forth. Well, that practically makes the cane useless for me because I am no longer able to detect anything by using the cane. So then she started telling all the flight attendants. “She’s blind. She’s blind. She’s blind.” Oi. She stressed me out. So then once I got on the plane, I found my seat and I put my cane over to the left side since I was at a window seat. That is where the previous flight’s flight attendants told me to put it. Well, this flight attendant said that wasn’t allowed so she took it from me. See, I was in the bulkhead so I had to store everything overhead but apparently this time that included the cane. Okay, now I’m settled and I try and get some sleep. I fall asleep and then all of a sudden I wake up FREEZING! Apparently they turned on all the air blower things overhead. I tried to turn mine off several times without any luck. The passenger next to me was asleep. Since I was short, it was difficult to even reach and try to turn it off and then once it didn’t work I needed to call the flight attendant. Well, I managed to press the button and she came immediately. She couldn’t even turn the thing off. So then I asked for a blanket, and of course they didn’t have any. So there I am freezing for another hour or more on the plane. I was so ready to get off.
Plane landed. I didn’t wait like the flight attendant’s prefer for everybody to get off. I instead got off close to the start and there was somebody waiting to guide me. He was a good guide. I think he’s had experience because he automatically guessed that I was here for the Guide Dog school and he was very good about guiding me. I appreciated that. I told him I was supposed to this certain place in baggage claim. He was leading me there when suddenly I heard, “Jessica?” It was a married couple who are volunteers for Guide Dogs for the Blind. So they helped me get my luggage and then we waited around for another student. She was about an hour later. Meanwhile, I got Starbucks. I was so ready for it! This other student, “R”, has been blind since birth and is on her like 9th guide dog or something. It’s incredible. I hadn’t met any of the other students yet and we headed to campus.
Once we got there, the volunteers brought in our luggage and showed us around our room. It’s very nice. It’s a converted double room but it’s now private. We have this super long desk and several chests of drawers, two sinks, two areas to fill and dump the dog’s water, a tie down and a mat for the dog, a patio for relieving, two closets, another super long desk on the other side of the room, and a really nice bathroom. Oh, we also have a really nice TV. These rooms are really nice. Also in the room is a nice recliner and a bean bag area. I’ll talk more about that later.
So as soon as we got our stuff in the room, the nurse came by and discussed our medical needs with us and then she took me down to lunch. “R” and I ate lunch, they had turkey sandwiches for us, and then I went back to the room to unpack. I met Laura who helped me learn a few more things about my room and then told me I needed to in a certain room at 4:30pm for our first meeting. I skyped with my family, took a shower, and then headed down there. That is where we learned about basic rules and how things work. We also did introductions. I’m the youngest here. There are 5 other people, two older individuals, one male and one female, a middle-aged man, a middle-aged woman who is a mother and then another mother who looks younger. They all seem like a cool group of classmates for these 2 weeks. We are sure a chatty bunch though.
So after that, we took a tour around the facilities so that we would know what’s where. It’s very nice. We have a library, nurse’s area, music room, public restrooms, dining hall, grooming room, several lounges, etc. After the tour, we went to eat. I had ordered Chicken Marsala. It was delicious. We placed our order for Monday and Tuesday meals as well. I’ll tell you about them as they come though. After dinner, I had Laura, the Resident Adviser who has been helping us all evening and leading the meetings, help me with my key because it was being stubborn. Then we went to another meeting where we learned more about the equipment we will be using. We were all issued a leash and a food pouch. The food pouch is for treats. We take a portion of the dog’s daily food rations and put it into the pouch and we use that for treats throughout the day. It’s a way to regulate the dog’s caloric intake and therefore their weight. The leash is very nice leather.
The above picture is of equipment we have here to use or we are issued. The top left picture is what we had in our rooms upon arrival. It’s a medium-sized bin of kibble, a cup, and a Guide Dogs for the Blind fanny pack. I think it has grooming equipment inside. The top right picture is the tie-down and doggy mat. When we are sleeping, we tie-down our dog so we make sure they are well-behaved and they learn that we are in control, etc. The middle picture on the left is something I thought was really cool. It’s a HUGE bean bag and a recliner. I’m told that the huge bean bag is so that we can cuddle up and lay with the dog. And then the recliner is just a really nice area to sit. The middle right picture is the food pouch which I described above. The bottom left picture is the nice leather leash, which we can make into a short leash or a long leash depending on what we need to do and then the bottom right picture is where we fill up and dump out the dog’s water bowl. Pretty cool, huh?
So after the second meeting, we were dismissed. I called a few friends and then sat down to write this blog. I think I’m going to pass out soon. This time is 2 hours earlier than my normal time zone so that will work out to my favor right now. I just can’t believe how early it is and how tired I am, but then I think about the long day I had and it makes sense. Tomorrow my day starts at 7:30am with breakfast.
GDB (Guide Dogs for the Blind) does this every two weeks so they have thinks worked out so well. I will tell you little things that they do that I think that are neat as I think about them. But one of them is we have phones in our room. We can call a certain extension and it tells us our schedule for tomorrow and the discussion questions we should be ready to discuss tomorrow. Isn’t that neat? As everyone probably knows, I am very schedule oriented and I like to have all the details. So, I am very excited about this feature. The Resident Advisor, Laura, also said she is going to email us the schedule and a map of Portland, where we do a lot of the training. I appreciate that because I am also a very visual person (ironic?) and so I like to have everything in writing. I haven’t listened to it yet but all I do know is that 7:30 is breakfast, we have lunch in the afternoon and then right after lunch around 1:30pm we get to meet our dogs. Oh man oh man! I’m excited/nervous!
Everything is really nice. The people are amazing, facilities fantastic, food wonderful, it is just a great atmosphere. I was a little hesitant about being away for two weeks because of all the emotional stuff that has gone on the past two months but I don’t think it will be that big of an issue. I hope not, at least. 🙂 I had heard all these things about GDB and that is why I chose to come here. I think everything I heard will prove to be true. I mean, the nurse manager came by and said she was going to the store and is there anything she could pick up for us. What did I ask for? Some Dr. Pepper of course! We even have our own mini-fridge in our room. (Forgot to mention that earlier). I’m just so impressed by this place so far and I’ve only been here like 6 hours!
I think that’s all for tonight. I’m exhausted. I’m really hoping the weather doesn’t get too bad this week because I am very much a Texas gal and Oregon weather just doesn’t sound like it would be too pleasant most of the time.
Hope you enjoyed my first post and I hope you continue reading!