i was at my weekly neurophysio appointment yesterday for first time in 2020. since it was the session of the new year, she asked if i had any goals or specific plans for this year – honestly, nothing came to mind and i hadn’t really thought about it.

she reiterated that my daily exercise routine was meant to improve my stability and balance. and that “putting it together” in a regular walk outside might be beneficial for me. i wouldn’t impose on my wife as she is tired from work and does household chores. although i exercise everyday, the last thing i want to do is go out exercise and do more of it.

so it might be more practical to arrange an NDIS-funded carer to take me for a walk. i sometimes already do this indoors in our “long” hallway at home so you might be perplexed. i’m not very confident walking alone on uneven surfaces. i was given an “assignment” before to walk around our house – case in point, i only tried this once as aside from it was slow going my walker kept getting “stuck”.

she thought walking outside may be beneficial (she was even willing to write the NDIS a letter to support an increased funding for this activity). i did some digging and i think it’s prudent to arrange a “trial” first using my current plan before “committing”to it in full.

we went to a a temple where one half was a tiger and the other side was a dragon – hence the title (subtext aside).

it was mostly raining while we were there (not at all typical for that time of year). my wife presented at Kenting (going there was a long , wide, and straight highway – our driver explained that the dividers can be removed and as a contingency can serve as a makeshift runway), a beach town (which we were unable to enjoy because of the weather and time of year – December isn’t exactly an ideal time), which was still about a two hour drive away from Kaoshiung airport. we were able to go to the night market – we would have enjoyed it more had it not been so windy. we had a cheap meal there – luckily the menu had pictures because we didn’t speak Chinese an they didn’t speak English at the restaurant. that said, most of the cuisine has a pronounced star anise or 5 spice smell and flavour – so if your not a fan of liquorice or aniseed be careful what you order.

the wi-fi at our hotel was very “efficient”. when we left the room that network disappeared. when we were at the lobby it was different, and when we were downstairs at the conference area another one took over. moreover, they had one on the tour bus they helped arrange.

among the tour, we were able to see a “shelled” beach where people are no longer allowed (as some tourists kept taking away the “sand”). we also visited the southern most tip of Taiwan (where you can supposedly wave to someone in the Philippines – it’s a “nice”, if highly implausible story). A very kind stranger got out of his car and helped my wife push my wheelchair up as the road was inclined upwards (it must be because we encountered a lot of Hindu temples).

we spent the last few days in Kaoshiung so we changed hotels. I was delightfully surprised that it was also highly accessible (and in my experience, second only to Australia and well ahead of several Western nations i’ve visited). honestly, i didn’t have great expectations as most Asian countries have what Hofsteder refers to as high cultural (adjective my own) power distance – case in point, ramps in other parts of Asia are quite steep and assumes there is someone at the back pushing the wheelchair instead of being self-propelled (which wasn’t an issue in Taiwan – at least the places i visited). that said, our driver said that a person in a wheelchair couldn’t just hail a cab off the street and special (read as: prior) arrangements need to have been made)

anyway, we were also able to go the night market in the city (it was obvious it was Japanese designed as the architecture and layout reminded us of Tokyo) but were not able to find the stall driver recommended – it’s really difficult when you can’t read or Speak Chinese. serendipitously, we ended up in a restaurant were another Filipina worked so it was easy ordering food.

our driver took us around the city before dropping us at the airport. we were able to visit the temple i mentioned previously. there were a lot of Japanese tourists and i noticed a heap of flights back to Japan at the airport. it was a “hidden” gem – we wished we had a few more days to explore it “properly”.

it’s been over a month since my last entry – this post is not an excuse but an explanation.

for nearly the first fortnight of December we were overseas: Taiwan-China-Hong Kong. my wife had to present a paper so we took the opportunity to explore afterwards

it’s true that i had my phone with me but condition were not “conducive” for blogging for me. never mind our nearly full-schedule but the “small” on-screen keyboard is extremely challenging for me – this requires significant time and effort, not to mention my frequent mis-hits. i prefer a full-sized physical keyboard and “big” screen so i can “easily” type.

the second half of December was mainly allocated to my wife’s sister. seeing as she went through a long and arduous journey from America to spend Chrissy with her family in Australia, we had to make the most of her “short” time here.

now that she’s back home, i will endeavour to get back to the swing of things and try to post more “regularly” ( sometimes life gets in the way and i have a tendency to “process” things before i post – “overanalyses” is my proclivity i’ve been told numerous times).

that’s my story and i’m sticking to it!

i’ve always been “terminally trivial”. as i am a keen reader (i consume less books now given my vision impairment) and watch a heap of TV/movies (i no longer watch those exclusively with subtitles as the captions are too fast for me to read), the accumulation of factoids can be said to be “eclectic”. sadly, this hasn’t translated to any pub quiz wins and any major prizes in HQ Trivia.

with the advent of Google (and similar technologies) , this predilection for facts seems passé. the ubiquity of search engines and voice assistants like SIRI have resulted in “information at the fingertips” for some. this “JIT” (Just In Time} approach has transformed our relationship with facts – it’s, after all, when (and no longer if) we need it. it’s psychologically more efficient and practical to store information external to your person rather than in your mind (as evidenced by our “over”reliance on our phones). the onus has shifted from the right answers to the right questions. i’ve always believed questions were important but more so now – Jeopardy! was only “tangentially” right.

i asked a former knowledgeable teacher and very smart friend why digital technologies used the Red Green Blue (RGB) palette when i was taught early on that the primary colours were Red Yellow, and Blue – so i was thinking shouldn’t it be RYB instead. i was told that RGB had always been the standard spectrum. i was placated for a while by their answers but it was always in the back of my mind.

one day i was just compelled to do a web search. apparently, RGB are the base additive colours: That is they are “active” and can be combined to form various hues and shades (through the use of such things as lasers). primary colours uses paint and paper to make other colours and are more “passive” – if that makes sense.

it’s no longer just about memorising facts in the digital age as it is, also IMHO, about having the intellectual curiosity to ask “interesting” questions. From now on, i’ll also share the results of my “research” on this blog.

we recently came back from New Zealand (Aotearoa in Maori) to attend a wedding. no, it wasn’t bloody like the GoT episode – it was just the bride was Vietnamese and her gown was a shade of crimson.

despite also having a tea ceremony after the nuptials, it was not at all stuffy – i found their vows funny and they even had a jumping castle for the adults.

not only did we travel overseas to get there and drive a long way to attend the event but we really wanted to be there on that joyous occasion. unlike some destination weddings it made sense to me. although the groom (who’s my wife’s cousin), the bride’s a Kiwi and most of her relatives are still there. it was at a garden for people to feel more at ease and so that there could be other “fun” activities. it was a balance between fiscally responsibility and meaningfulness – i think most couples spend so much time, money, and effort on just one day instead of being mindful about the remainder of their lives together: there’s even a stat that states the more money that the couple spends on the wedding, the likelier they are to break up.

we also had a little time to do a few “touristy” things. we drove aways for most destinations but being on several OZ road trips the NZ views were much more picturesque. My son took several photos using a proper digital camera of the scenery – to keep the post downloadable, i exported a select few to “smaller” files.

Rotorua – Landscape
Rotorua Nightscape

DISCLAIMER: The copyright of all the pictures is his and these were shared with his permission.

we also saw a geyser:

Rotorua Geyser

while there are kangaroo crossing signs in OZ, NZ have them for cows. i thought the dairy products were already good in OZ, but they were better in NZ as their milk is much creamier (and i could tell as i like my cheese, coffee (although i’m partial to doppio and ristretto, i get lattes in countries that have good milk), and ice cream). That said, vegans close your ears, cows are bred better in OZ for eating.

there were too many photos so in the interest of space and download speed i’ve decided not to share all of them.

we had a chance to witness a Haka performed live – prior to that we’ve only seen it on TV, mostly by the All Blacks prior to a rugby match. we know it was for intimidation and, if possible to avoid conflict. it was also interesting to learn that it is used to “warmup” major muscles so it makes a lot of sense in the sporting context.

because i’ve always been a nerd (it would be a misnomer to call me a John Ronald Reuel Tolkien geek, although both can be socially awkward, because more than just being an enthusiast i can get quite cerebral about the topic. case in point, when Gandalf in the movies (played by Sir Ian McKellen) utters the words: “You shall not pass!’ in the original text it was will not shall – it was a “happy accident” that wasn’t edited out of the film) we also visited Hobbiton.

interestingly, the movie set is in Matamata which translated in Filipino means eye-eye and the whole Fellowship of the Ring was formed partly because of the expanding reach of the Eye of Sauron.

i even tried to read the books (as i was a fan of fantasy novels). alas, i wasn’t able to finish the books (i attempted The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring) as some words were a bit obtuse for me (my excuse was that i was young and English wasn’t my primary language) and the author was a Professor of English Literature at Oxford. i instead settled for the cartoons and movies.

in any case, i want to return for a longer time but their accessibility facilities can still be improved…

today (November 19) is UN World Toilet Day. i know it’s to promote sanitation and health but, with your indulgence, let me “hijack” it to discuss some of my concerns about accessible toilets. it may be crass and gross to most but to me it’s a microcosm of how disability is viewed/treated by society at large: a few do it for the sake of compliance and to merely adhere to the law, while most are well-meaning but “misunderstand” the issues because “designers” have no lived experience (whether personal or ancillary) or lack proper awareness.

doors. some doors are “too” heavy without a spare set of hands. another “pet peeve” of mine is when there is another set of doors: this is extra effort because i’s another “obstacle” and there usually isn’t enough space unless you close the first set. moreover, my wife or son sometimes need to hold the door open for me to get in and out. furthermore, a few open the “wrong” way so that i need to position my walker to the side in order to open it (i always wonder how people with wheelchairs manage).

locks. some people no longer or aren’t imbued with the necessary dexterity to operate locks: i’ve used the facilities a number of times without engaging the locks or spent several minutes to unlock it (and it’s really bad for me as i have claustrophobia and can get terribly anxious).

space. i understand there are costs involved but sometimes i can’t turn and need to exit “backwards”. i also encountered a few that requires you to “park” your mobility aid elsewhere to use the facilities – there was even one with a wall separating a toilet. in such cramped quarters, how can people using wheelchairs safely transfer to the toilet itself.

handrails. there are a few with “misplaced” handrails or items (usually toilet paper) placed atop where you are safely meant to grab. i’ve even encountered some without any handrails – they just assume that everyone will just sit down but you may need to hold on to something to adjust your seating or help you get up.

toilet paper dispensers. i’ve yet to find one that’s easy to use. i can understand the intention but you have to be adequately nimble to get any TP: sometimes your fingers need to navigate a “small” opening to either get the first square or because after you tear a few off it goes back “in”. These are often sharp and is problematic for me as i’ve got co-ordination issues and occasionally involuntarily movements – i can’t even imagine someone with “severe” movement disorders.

lights. a few have them have the switches behind the door. automated ones are usually handy but i find they don’t detect you when you’re on the throne and cut-out after a certain time – i have to “furiously” wave my arms to get the light back on and even tried moving various body parts to no avail.

smell. unfortunately, i’ve got a keen sense of smell and most do double duty as parents’ rooms with nappy (diapers to you American-English speakers) and when there is something in the bin (or trash can) it can get a bit “whiffy”. Alternatively, the bowl isn’t flushed because it was hard to do by a previous user; they forgot or don’t care; the flushing mechanism doesn’t work or doesn’t function well enough – whatever the case may be, the result is the same: it stinks.

i’m sure there are other things i’ve missed as the topic gets me worked up. on second thought, hotel bathrooms need a seperate entry as my family and i like to travel a lot. i need to say this because the country by far with, IMHO, the “best” accessible toilets is by far Australia.

there are even chairs in a few toilets. you might ask: isn’t this a good thing? yes and no. for people that need support, it’s wonderful thing but it’s a subliminal indication that persons with disabilities can’t or shouldn’t participate in the community independently.

CAVEAT:  you might have noticed that my title format has slightly changed.  i’m still starting it off with what ever comes to mind and after the colon i’ve appended what i think the post is about (you might interpret it differently or have an alternative understanding when you “read between the lines”).  it has been brought to my attention that some readers may not want to go through the entire thing for the title to make any sense.  this is not an egregious attempt to increase ‘likes’  or to act as ‘click-bait’ but shouldn’t it be part of ‘sharing’ to make stuff ‘more digest-able’ – looks like i still have a ways to go.

i underwent a medical procedure recently – recovery time is typically from one to two days –  because of my age it took me three days. so i temporarily stopped my daily exercise program for about two weeks – this affected me but i didn’t notice right away.  it became first obvious to me at a speech pathology session.  i used to get through them just fine even if they were during the afternoons – i didn’t feel winded afterwords but my sound production performance faltered occasionally.  Moreover when i went to my regular neurophysio appointment, she could physically feel the difference – i found out that apparently pain can also cause your muscles to “relax”.  At first i had done this to reduce my anxiety levels (but perhaps because i now take a natural supplement for it it’s less pronounced) but, also very importantly, getting my core strength up not only helps me avoid falls (and minimises potential injury) but also helps my speech.  Suffice it to say i’ve started up again and hoping to get back to the level i once was.

these aren’t directly related but are also from recent “trips” outside my house so…

i want to whinge about the three (let me be clear: not all or even a majority of them) taxi drivers driving skills were really bad:  the sudden stops-and- starts, not slowing down enough to take a round about, or abrupt jerking of the steering wheel.  These gave me a headache despite sitting in front and having the road visible – imagine how much worse i would have felt if i sat in the back.  i was going to complain about another thing but in hindsight one of my drivers was “self-obsessed’ that he would have acted that way to an “able-bodied” passenger.

Despite using my “letter board”, some drivers (not only taxi drivers but one support worker), still misunderstood me.  i suspect it’s either because they’re not patient enough to listen or having a preconceived notion of what i’m going to say (Ding!  Ding!  Ding!:  it’s usually wrong).  i understand that my speech can be hard to understand especially since this is probably the first time we’ve talked (on a few occasions i get the same drivers) but mistakes ca be avoided:  like going the wrong direction, it’s on the other side, that’s the wrong address, accidentally running me over,  etc.

we just want to feel listened to.  here’s a video by Purple Orange (it kind of reminds me of the You Can’t Ask That format on the ABC) about diverse communication shared on Darryl Selwood(Ph.D.)’s blog:  http://darrylsellwood.com/?p=998.  While i don’t  relate to everything said, i agree with the central premise of respect and the underlying theme of “not judging a book by its cover”.

it is very easy for me to accuse the drivers of not thinking: parking too close to the incline, the ramp, or curb so it’s “tricky” for me to get into or out of the car;  dropping me off by an entrance with only stairs ; driving “far” the door so need to cross the street, walk “some” distance, or negotiate a challenging surface (like inclines, uneven surfaces, pebbles, etc.); ask me directions or instruct them where to pass or stop; or turn the meter on while i’m still trying to get in the car (i believe the law states it should be only activated when i’m seated).  sometimes they can’t be bothered or are in a rush but sometimes i think it’s because they haven’t been exposed to or educated about disability – these are tasks they take for granted so there’s a need for more “training”.

FINAL WORD (let me know if these prompt helps with readability or i should go for more “traditional” headings – i know a poll is a more suitable for this but i probably won’t get enough respondents for a truly statistically valid result and, frankly, confronting my readership numbers scares me).  There’s a tension between keeping the post short-and-sweet and making it comprehensive enough to be informative – after all like they say, perfect is the enemy of good. Moreover timing is an issue, some thoughts have an ‘expiry date’ while others not so much.  While Twitter isn’t for me (trolls aside), it take me some time to type – this has the added bonus of letting me reflect and not simply reacting, All-in-all, i’m still struggling with the balance.  Furthermore, i feel the pressure to post frequently – as evidenced by the number of “self-corrections” right after i publish – when i should learn to recheck my drafts first.