Hello everyone – it’s me, Fiji!
I’m so excited right now that I’m bouncing up and down and wagging my tail full speed. Because the book that Mom and I wrote is now available on Amazon.
Even more than that, we’re going to be having a launch party on Zoom and would love for you to be there. And you might win a free copy of our book, “Pause for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog”
To book for the launch party, go to https://bit.ly/38C8uHz
The party will take place at 17:00 South African time on Sunday, 12 September and everyone is invited… your doggy companions as well!
And, to be amongst the first to read our book, the Kindle version is available for pre-order on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09FGYPYP4?ref_=pe_3052080_276849420
Mom and I hope you can attend our celebration… and that you feel inspired to buy the book and read my story. It would also be wonderful if you could tell your friends about the book and the online celebration – we would love to have as many people there as possible!
Oh yes, we are planning a South African print run of the book soon if you prefer to read it in that format… more on that as we get everything organised…
With August being Women’s Month in South Africa, I decided to interview two women on my accessible travel podcast, A different Way of Travelling.
For those of you who don’t know about the podcast – where have you been? We now have 52 episodes featuring interviews with travellers with disabilities, or showcasing fun inclusive travel activities. Even if you don’t have a disability, or know anyone with a disability, I guarantee you will be fascinated by the adventures that my guests have undertaken.
Back to the point – my guests for August…
My first episode in August featured Praveena Sukhraj-Ely sharing wonderful stories of her travels and her insights into the realities of travelling as a woman who is blind. Like Praveena, I enjoy having someone with me to share the breathtaking and diverse experiences of travelling. I also found the challenges she mentioned very relatable.
To listen to Praveena’s interview, hop onto http://iono.fm/e/1080899
My second guest in August was Neha Arora, owner of Planet Abled, a travel agency focusing on inclusive travel experiences in India and the East. We spoke about her company and discussed her thoughts on the accessibility of tourist sites in India. During the episode I asked Neha what types of activities she would recommend for me if I were to contact Planet Abled. She outlined such amazing options that I found myself feeling excited about the possibility of travel for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Even though I’m not yet ready to consider travelling, it’s nice to be excited at the thought of doing so. That episode will be out any day now.
You can listen to Praveena and Neha’s interviews by searching for A Different Way of Travelling on your usual podcast player, or on our podcast feed at https://iono.fm/rss/chan/3715
While you’re there, why not take a quick tour through some of our other episodes to hear from previous guests…
I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts recently when the presenters mentioned the word blursday. It’s described as the sensation that one day blurs into the next. The word fits the way I’ve been feeling over the past few days perfectly. And it’s exhausting.
For one thing, I’m finding it hard to motivate myself to do anything. Which is impacting both of my writing projects. I know I have work to do before I can publish the audio version of my memoir, A Different Way of Seeing, and Fiji’s book, Paws for Thought. But it’s so hard to scrape together the energy to get them finished.
And because I feel like I’m not making progress I become more demoralized…
In reality I know I’m making progress, no matter how small. And I do manage to get tasks ticked off my To-Do-List every day. I’m just frustrated with myself that it’s not happening faster.
On the bright side… and looking beyond my somewhat self-pitying blursday reflections… I am now so close to publishing Fiji’s book that I can almost touch the finished product – the back cover is now designed and we are busy getting everything set up on Amazon. From there I need to start working on a local print run for those of Fiji’s friends who want paper copies, and then hit play on the Amazon pre-order of the book. And then start implementing our plans for a fun online book launch.
My audio book isn’t quite as close to completion. I’m still waiting for feedback on the audio quality of the recordings from my beta listeners, including myself. And then to move onto the process of actually getting the book listed on the various audio book platforms. So why is it so hard for me to become enthused about hitting the play button on the recordings myself?
When the blursday sensation sends me into another of those exhausting foggy states, I reassure myself with a phrase a friend of mine used to tell me – Don’t worry, this too shall pass. And I believe that is true. I just hope it will be soon.
PS: The podcast I was listening to when I heard them talking about Blursday is called Something Rhymes with Purple, a podcast about the English language and words. It’s fun and educational.
I don’t like trains.
I think train travel must be important, because I hear lots of trains whistling and screaming past my house from early morning to late at night.
Clearly lots of people travel on trains. Which means that some guide dogs must also go on them with their humans. But I don’t think I’d like to take Mom on a train unless I had no other choice.
I see trains often when Mom and I are walking on the road that is next to the trainline. To me, trains look like giant snake monsters that want to gobble me up. And they make a dreadful rumbling and moaning sound. They shake and shudder as they go from one place to another and their wheels scream and shriek as they go by. And their horrible unearthly whistles try to shatter my poor eardrums. Sometimes their doors whoosh open and sometimes they don’t, which is also intimidating. Is it any wonder trains make me a little nervous?
Admittedly I’ve only travelled by train once, back when I first met Mom and had to help teach her how to work with me. All of us guide dogs took our new humans to the train station and caught a train to Fish Hoek beach. While I loved having the chance to run, wrestle and play with my guide dog friends on the beach, while the trainers made sure our humans didn’t misbehave, I honestly would have preferred to travel there by car.
I know my guide dog sister-aunts Leila and Eccles used to take Mom to work on the train before I was her guide dog, so I know it must be possible for us to go on a train and not get gobbled up by the nasty snake monster-type thing. I’m sure I would probably also get used to it if I had no other choice. But I honestly think it would be far better to go by car or by Uber. Or simply to walk there, provided it’s not too far. But since Mom now works from home, it’s all hypothetical anyway.
So, while I know trains are good and are important to help humans and some guide dogs get to where they need to go, I’m just as happy that I don’t have to use them. Unless it’s the only way to travel to the beach. In which case I might be willing to consider taking Mom on a train again.
It’s been forever since I last updated you on the progress of my project to publish an audio version of my memoir, A Different Way of Seeing: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an ‘Ordinary’ Life in an Extraordinary Way. Admittedly, when I started the project, I imagined it would take me only a month or two to get it done. Which only goes to show how naïve I am at times. Because that was almost two years ago.
Here is an update on my progress so far.
My wonderful narrator, Julie Norman, has completed the audio files of the book. This was the first, and definitely biggest part of the project. I think Julie has done a marvelous job and has brought my words to life with her reading. Admittedly, it felt somewhat strange listening to someone else read the words that I had written, but I’m still glad I asked Julie to narrate the book.
I’m currently working with several beta readers to check the audio quality and consistency of the recordings. It’s hard for me to listen objectively, both because it is my own words that are being narrated, and because I know how much time and effort went into the recording of the text. Hopefully I will get a more honest opinion from my test readers.
Once I’m content that the recordings are good to go, I will then start the process of getting the book into the various audio book platforms like Audible. This would be easier if I lived in USA, Canada, UK or Ireland, as I could then simply upload them to Audible myself. Because I live outside those countries, I need to go through an external company to publish the books. Which, of course, means there is yet one more person nibbling away at my income from the book. But, at least the book will be available for people to read in audio.
I wish I could give you an estimate of the timeline from here. In reality, like most other parts of the writing and publishing industries, it is hard to know for sure and much depends on the focus I give the project. Since I’m also busy getting Fiji’s book ready to publish, I have to be careful about the decisions I make on prioritizing my time. But I will get the audio book of A Different Way of Seeing out as soon as I can, I promise. Likewise with Fiji’s book, “Paws for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog”.
Phew, 2021 is turning into quite a busy ear for me when it comes to writing. Busy and exciting!
Here is another podcast interview I did recently, this time with the Eyes on Success podcast.
It’s not often that the interviews I give are based primarily on my illustrated children’s series, “The Adventures of Missy Mouse”. This was a refreshing topic for me to focus on, made even more fun by having the opportunity to answer a few questions put to me by two charming young boys, the grandsons of the podcast presenters.
You can hear the questions they asked, and my attempts to answer them in a way that would make sense to them, in the interview. You can also hear my thoughts on why it is important for persons with disabilities to be represented in literature of all kinds.
Listen to the interview: www.EyesOnSuccess.net/eos_2127_podcast.mp3
You can also find out more about The Missy Mouse books on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/author/loisstrachan
Two months ago my doggy sisters and I got a new brother. Like my sister Allie, he is a rescue dog and his name is Onyx.
Naturally it took him time to settle in and get used to all us girls. It’s really only in the last few weeks that he’s started playing with us. Even now he plays mostly with Allie, while Emily and I bark encouragement from the sidelines.
When Onyx first came to live with us I noticed something a little strange. He would walk into things a lot more often than anyone else in the family, except for mom, who also has a tendency to walk into things. But not even mom walks into things as often as Onyx.
I also noticed that Onyx had an odd way of walking, almost as if he was feeling what was before him with his front paws, rather than just putting them down.
Eventually I asked mom if she knew why he did that. Mom told me that Onyx is partially sighted and sometimes he’s not able to see things. And suddenly it made sense to me.
Mom also told me that the visual impairment was the reason it had taken Onyx five years to find a forever home. The nice lady from DARG (Domestic Animal Rescue Group) told her that several people had considered adopting him. But as soon as they heard he was partially sighted they decided to adopt a different dog instead. Which was why Onyx was there waiting for Dad and us to bring him home.
I’ve been giving my new brother’s sight impairment a lot of thought. I don’t know if he’d be able to get a guide dog to help him in the same way that I help mom. I’ve even wondered if he might find a white cane useful. Except I don’t know how Onyx would be able to hold it and swing it in front of him like mom does on the very rare occasions I let her use her white cane.
On reflection, I think I’m not giving Onyx enough credit. He’s learned to adapt incredibly well and is managing just fine without any assistance. He runs around the garden with us and almost never bumps into things at home. it’s really only when we go for a walk that he sometimes bumps things. And he certainly has no problems leaping onto the couch. Or knowing when one of us girls is sneaking up to try and steal his food – and he is quick to snap at us if we do.
So I don’t think mom needs to apply for him to get a guide dog of his own. Besides, that’s my job and I wouldn’t want any competition from another guide dog, even if it wasn’t there to help mom.
Anyway, all I really wanted to do was to introduce my new brother and welcome him to the family. I’m sure he is going to be very happy living here!
I’ve recently discovered a love of reading travel memoirs. While it in no way replaces the experience of exploring different countries and cultures, it does at least give me a taste of the travel I used to be able to do, and will hopefully be able to return to in time to come.
A travel memoir I read recently was Seeing a Slice of Southern Africa My Way, by Tony Giles – aka Tony the Traveller. It is the story of a trip Tony took to several countries in Southern Africa in 2004 and 2005. During that time he visited South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
As a blind and hearing impaired traveller, Tony describes his travels through his other senses, much as I do when I travel. Having said that, Tony is far more adventurous than I am and is always ready to bungee jump, go white river rafting or seek out other adventure activities, which he also describes with his customary sense of humour
There were a couple of things I found fascinating about reading about Tony’s time in Southern Africa. First, unlike me, Tony is happy to head out and explore the world totally on his own, trusting he will be able to find assistance should he need it. And, from what I read in his book, mostly he manages to do so.
Secondly, I found it fascinating seeing cities and countries that I’ve visited through the eyes of a stranger, and a tourist. I often find that tourists see a different side to a city than we do as residents. I found this especially true while reading Tony’s book. I felt a similar thing when my brother and sister-in-law visited Cape Town a few years ago and Craig and I got to see Cape Town through their eyes.
So, if you’re interested in discovering how a blind and hearing impaired man travels through several Southern African countries on his own, and experience the wonderous world of travel through senses other than sight, or if you simply want to get a taste of travel while we are still not really free to explore new destinations due to the global pandemic, I’d highly recommend reading Seeing a Slice of Southern Africa My Way by Tony Giles. And, if you enjoy it, you can try the other two books in the series so far: Seeing the World My Way and Seeing the Americas My way. I know I’ll be reading them in the near future when I have the urge to travel again, at least by book.
Last month I was honoured to be a speaker at the HerStory Women’s Global Empowerment Conference. The conference and the HerStory platform are the brainchild of Zimbabwean-born Getrude Matshe, who has been building the concept for the past few years, first as in-person conferences and currently as online summits.
My 15-minute presentation was on the topic of independence and it’s meaning for me as a blind person, touching on the need for greater inclusion of persons with disabilities into society and the workplace.
You can watch the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqLQvX5vnMs
“I am named Fiji, and am a yellow Labrador cross Golden Retriever.
I have a very special job – I’m a guide dog for the blind. Being a guide dog takes discipline and focus, but it also means my life is full of excitement. I have had plenty of adventures with my mom, Lois Strachan, both as a guide and when my harness is released.
I have had a real dog’s life and boy, I have loved every bit of it. And I am here to share it with you in my own words.”
Fiji and I are over the moon to be able to share the first chapter of her book, Paws for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog with you and anyone you know who loves dogs.
You can download the free chapter at https://www.loisstrachan.com/paws-for-thought/
And please share the link – the more people who read it, the better! Because we are so excited to be able to share my beautiful guide dog’s story with the world.
PS Keep watching the blog for updates on when the book will be published in its entirety – we’re working hard to get there!