Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Sensory Trail

We tend to take the simplest things for granted; walking down stairs, enjoying the sight of trees blowing in the wind and the ease of ordering food at a counter are all actions we are familiar with on a daily basis. But for some people, these basic lifestyle needs are inaccessible, because of their lack of sight. 

On Saturday, April 20th, our school organized a "Sensory Trail" on the picturesque island of Pulua Ubin. The island, once used as a granite quarry, allows visitors to glimpse into life in Singapore and its rustic Kampongs as it was in the mid 20th century. Worn down shops and gravelly paths lead into a tropical rainforest that brings a refreshing break to the towering concrete jungle of the main island. 

Inaugural plaque, April 2000 
Since 1996, with dedicated biology teachers like Mr. Early, Ms. Toma, and Ms. Began - who tirelessly worked to create the Sensory Trail that exists today - SAS has partnered with National Parks and the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped to bring the joy of nature to those who can't see it on their own. I lead a middle aged lady with 10% vision, who on first sight wouldn't even be considered visually handicapped. Initially, I assumed that she could see and was unsure about how much help I should provide, because it was not apparent that she was visually impaired. As she started groping the walls to walk on the even surface of the platform leading to the ferry, I realized that she did need my help after all. Her arm holding onto mine, we walked onto the ferry and through the verdant overgrowth of Ubin. She explained the numerous difficulties that she experiences on a regular basis, such as problems discerning the edge of a step, or working on the computer at her office (she's still an administrator for a company!), and profusely thanked me for helping her experience Singapore's nature as she had in her youth.
Walking with the visually handicapped on the Sensory Trail allowed me to take the nature in more slowly and through all of my senses, not just sight. We smelled the leaves, felt the bumps that covered the fruits in great detail, tasted the "toothache" plant's leaves, which made my mouth feel like it was back at the dentist getting braces again, and described the ripe, bright colored, half-eaten, seeded papayas that hung from the trees, ready to fall at the slightest breeze. 

It was an eye-opening experience - a sense of nature that still exists, tucked away from the shiny metal buildings of Singapore's city, coupled with the satisfaction of helping those who didn't have access to this kind of nature, made my Saturday before Earth Day complete. 

Her final goodbye is still with me: "There are so many good people in the world. Thank you."

Happy Earth Day! 

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad we got a chance of seeing the way it was and we should be thankful to the people of Singapore for leaving it the way it is.