The SAFM Disability Report with Karen Key

Fiji and I had great fun going to the SABC in Cape Town to be interviewed for the Disability Report on SAFM. You can hear the interview with Karen Key here.

I was very impressed with how quietly Fiji sat while Karen and I were talking – I doubt you’ll hear even a clink of her doggy tags despite the fact we were in a soundproofed recording studio with ambient microphones.

Imagine how startled I was to discover that Karen’s mother had heard me speak and had bought a copy of my book, “A Different Way of Seeing mere weeks before the interview – it really is a very small world!

Hope you enjoy listening to the interview… I’ll share more audio and video recordings in a few weeks

A Little Slice of Heaven

When we were planning our recent trip to Greece, Craig asked what I thought about spending time seeing a little of the Peloponnese peninsula. Of course I jumped at the chance. My reason was simple – several of the ancient sites I’d studied at university are there – Mycenae, Corinth, Thebes, Epidaurus, to name but a few.

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We decided to make the modern(ish) town of Nafplio our base. I expected to ignore Nafplio and simply spend my time on daytrips to each of the ancient sites but, to my surprise, I discovered that Nafplio had a charm of its own that I totally fell in love with.

Nafplio is predominantly a “get-away” location where Athenians escape the frenetic pace of life in the big, bad city. It’s situated about 90 minutes away from Athens, which is about the same distance from Cape Town to Langebaan. Nafplio has a permanent population of around 10000 people… but I suspect it has almost the same number of street dogs and cats – but more about them later! With so many tourists and visitors, I’m sure you can imagine what an endless selection of restaurants, pubs, and gift shops… not to mention hotels and B&Bs there are.

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Most people, both residents and visitors, congregate either on the waterfront or on the main square, which teems with people of all ages and nationalities from late afternoon till the small hours of the morning.

But for me the best parts of Nafplio were the tiny lanes and alleys just off the touristy areas. They are filled with small but good restaurants and surprising shops, some of which are real gems! Craig and I spent hours combing the tiny lanes and absorbing the rich and diverse Greek culture of this wonderful town.

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Whether we were walking round the citadel that perches high above the town on the side of a cliff, sitting on the quay indulging in a mouthwatering ice-cream while staring out to the tiny island that was once a prison and is now a luxury hotel resort, or enjoying sampling the produce of the local distillery (including Uzo and a rather lovely rose liqueur), Nafplio had plenty to keep us occupied when we weren’t out investigating the ancient sites.

“But what about the dogs and cats?” I hear you ask, “You haven’t said anything about them, though you said you would!”

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So, about the dogs and cats – Nafplio has a seemingly vast additional population of homeless dogs and cats. Unlike other places I’ve been to, the strays neither look destitute nor do they beg from passersby. Sure, they’ll come to you if you offer food or attention, but they don’t expect it. We saw several people putting down food and water for the homeless animals – they’re obviously cared for, even if they don’t have homes.

Strangely, every night it appears that the dog population have a community meeting, characterised by lots of barking and occasional snarling, if matters under discussion get heated. I’m not sure if cats attend too, but I think they’d have a problem making a point with all the barking that happens. Meetings seem to start each night around midnight and go on for about an hour, when everyone disperses so all the animals can go off and prepare for another day.

Yet, despite all these homeless dogs surviving in and around the town centre, we saw, smelled or encountered absolutely no sign of dog mess. Not one!

My estimation of a place I visit is always based on my answer to the question “Would I go back there” and my answer for Nafplio is a resounding yes.

Spoiled for Choice

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I’ve said in the past that I experience other cultures and countries at least partially through their unique foods. And I do. It’s just that usually I’m not the one eating the food – after all, I’m the world’s worst dinner guest due to my being a (very) fussy vegetarian. By which I mean I don’t eat spinach, mushrooms, olives, or blue cheese… or any meat.

This means I’m often stuck for choice when we travel overseas. While I love the scents of the amazing dishes that are associated with each country, I’ll happily let others indulge while I munch contentedly on something fairly pedestrian like a salad or a sandwich, which may be the extent of the “acceptable” offerings on the menu for me.

So, for me, travelling to Greece is a real treat – for once I’m the one sitting there overwhelmed by the number of choices from which to select my meal rather than scratching through the menu desperately trying to find an alternative to another serving of fries.

There are a number of reasons I love Greek cuisine – most restaurants have a variety of small dishes on the menu, so I’m able to sample a few different dishes at each meal. Additionally, many of these are vegetarian – cooked cheeses, baby marrow, onion or tomato fritters, bite-sized cheese pastries, and mouthwatering spreads like Tzatziki and spicy cheese spread. All of which are usually served with freshly baked pita bread.

Is it any wonder that I’m a little…well, actually a lot… like a kid in a candy store when faced with such an array of tasty treats?

My only regret is that Greek food back home never tastes the same. Maybe the local ingredients just don’t cut it – but, whatever the reason, I’ve never had quite the same experience eating Greek food in Cape Town that I do anywhere in Greece.

So, I guess I’ll just have to go back there to indulge my craving for fried Saganaki cheese, or authentic baby marrow fritters!

Anyone want to come too? I promise I won’t make you eat vegetarian!

Now That’s What I call a Tour!

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As a blind tourist I’m generally not a fan of museums and art galleries. Usually exhibits are sealed away from visitors and touching is simply not an option… which is a problem for those of us who see with the sense of touch. My husband is really good about describing things to make the experience as inclusive as possible for me, but his ability to do that is dependent on how much knowledge/context he has on what we’re seeing.

So I was a little dubious about visiting the National Archeological Museum on one rainy day in Athens. And for a while it looked like my fears would be realized – until we were told about the tactile tour the museum offers for visually impaired visitors.

One of the guides accompanied us along with a list of statues and frieze’s that I was allowed… or rather… encouraged to investigate using the sense of touch. In fact, I had two guides – Craig giving me one description as he would usually do, and the guide giving me another.

I don’t think I have the words to truly explain what it meant to me to be able to get so up close and personal with the various exhibits from that list – a few of them in rooms that weren’t even open to the public. What I can tell you is that experiencing exhibits by touch gave me an intense sense of the tangibility of history

On one occasion the guide said I should try and guess what the statue in front of me was. It was around the size and shape of Fiji – even the tail was much like hers – but I was pretty sure that Labradors weren’t common in ancient Greece so continued looking for clues. Then I discovered the “dog” had a mane and all was revealed – what was in front of me was a statue of a lion.

In total I got to experience 20 different statues and friezes ranging from the 5th century BCE. I can honestly say I’ve never experienced ancient Greece in quite that way- it was amazing!

Full respect to the National Archeological Museum in Athens for giving me a tactile glimpse into the ancient world in a way I’ve never had before. I’d highly recommend any blind or visually impaired travellers who happen to find themselves in Athens take advantage of this amazing experience.

Paws for Thought on the Holidays

Cds 2017 02 07 19 56 37Hello everyone and welcome to 2018 – I hope I’ll be able to get back to posting on mom’s blog at the same time each month now the holidays are over.

Talking… umm, barking… about the holidays, have you ever wondered what human holidays are like from the perspective of us dogs? Well, here’s my thoughts on the subject.

Mom told me that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of a special human puppy. I’m not sure I understand –isn’t the birth of all puppies a cause for celebration, especially if they’re going to grow up to be guide dogs. I’m just not sure why one specific puppy should cause the world to celebrate… but maybe I’m missing something.

I know lots of humans also put up trees and decorate them with pretty, chewable toys and lights. We haven’t had a tree in the two years I’ve lived here but maybe that’s a good thing – my doggy sister Emily believes Christmas trees are evil and should be destroyed, or at the very least barked at!

I do enjoy the concept of a big, scrumptious Christmas dinner – except that somehow we dogs never seem to be allowed to partake, no matter how loudly we ask. And I also love the gifts… especially the pieces of wonderfully chewable Christmas paper that land up strewn on the carpet for us dogs.

There are certain things I particularly love about the holidays. Dad is home from work so I get to go on more morning runs with him. I guess the downside of that is that I walk my routes with mom less often, but then again, we get to go to all sorts of exciting new places and see loads of human and doggy friends so that’s okay.

All in all, I really enjoyed the holidays and am looking forward to an exciting and busy 2018 – hope to see you all out and about soon!

Now I’m off to check with mom if we can go back to me sharing articles with you on the first Tuesday of each month – mom’s become a little slack about that in the last little while!

Looking Ahead to 2018

Cds IMG 1348 Edit 2It’s become something of a tradition for me to reflect on the past 12 months in my first post of the new year and to consider what I’d like the coming year to hold for me. As I’ve done in the past, I want to reiterate that this isn’t about resolutions or goals for the year. It’s merely me thinking aloud on paper about what I’d like to see happen in my business in the foreseeable future.

Looking back to my first post of 2017 I wrote about my amazement that I’d achieved so many of the items I’d laid out as intentions in January 2016, despite not consciously having done so. I found exactly the same thin when I looked back at my first post from 2017 – it’s almost like those intentions had been sitting in the back of my mind and subtly shaping everything I did last year.

2017 was a year in which I clarified the area I want to work in – namely explaining how people who are differently abled accomplish tasks to facilitate our inclusion into society and the workplace, and to build relationships with the various role-players in that sector. Certainly that was the focus of much of my speaking and the media opportunities that came my way, many of which I’ve already shared with you. I’ve also started making better use of different technologies and, as you’ll no doubt agree, this will be a continuous focus since technology is constantly changing.

Here’s where I set a few of my intentions for 2018:

  • Start working on my next book – whatever that turns out to be
  • Continue Building and consolidating my brand
  • Extend my network of those working in the disability sector to leverage real and tangible change
  • Continue experimenting with new technologies and using them to build my business

And so, let’s see what the new year brings…

May I wish you everything of the best for 2018 – let’s hope it is a positive, productive and profitable year for us all!

My Second Cape Talk Interview – This Time In-Studio

Ten days ago I posted the audio recording of my first interview with Cape Talk 567 Radio during the week leading up to World Sight Day on 12 October 2017.

Here’s the second interview, this time with Pippa Hudson on her daily lifestyle show.

There were a few things that made this a memorable interview for me – first that Pippa invited Fiji and I into the studio which was a lot more fun than sitting on a phone and, second that the interview seemed to develop a life of its own – it seemed to flow seamlessly from one topic to the next.

And it appears I wasn’t the only one who felt it went well – from what I’ve been told, not only did Cape Talk replay the interview the following day, but it was also picked up by their sister station in Johannesburg, 702.

And, if that wasn’t enough, this was the interview that led to a journalist from YOU Magazine picking up on my story and contacting me to ask for an interview for their online magazine – but more on that in a future post!

I won’t be posting an article on 2 January – everyone needs a few days off to see in the new year – but look out for my next post on Friday, 5 January 2018.

Thank you for all your support over 2017 and I look forward to sharing more of my experiences and observations with you in 2018.

It’s Definitely Time to Paws for Thought

E82ac2ac 942a 4dbd a534 13d7214cd8e8Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji the guide dog.

Life has been crazy busy since mom got back from Greece… wherever that is… so I didn’t get to post an article earlier this month – before now, that is.

I decided to take matters into my own paws and dognap mom’s pre-Christmas message. And if you’re wondering what dognapping is, it’s just like kidnapping only for dogs not for kids… or goats for that matter.

So this is me saying thank you to you all for an amazing 2017, and I hope you have a wonder-, family- and food- filled festive season and that 2018 is going to be your waggiest year yet. I know mom would join me in wishing you if she knew I was posting this, so take it from me that she also sends you loads of wags, or whatever the human equivalent is.

As a special treat (sadly it’s not a biscuit, but almost as good) To celebrate the festive season, I borrowed one of mom’s Christmas songs– just hit play and you’ll get to hear it too.

Now I’m going to curl up next to mom and dream of the delicious Christmas suppers that are bound to be eaten… and hopefully dropped on the floor so me and my doggy sisters can also partake.

So, from me and my sisters Emily and Eccles – and from mom and dad – happy Christmas!

Twice in One Week!

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I know it was the week of World Sight Day… and I know I’d just drawn up a press release focusing on my ability to talk on the topic of blindness… but still I was startled when I was approached to speak on Cape Talk 567 not once, but twice in a single week.

Here is the link to the first of my Cape Talk 567 interviews, which took place at the way-too-early time of 04:45 AM. Luckily it was a phone interview so I could gratefully stumble back to bed to resume my disturbed sleep afterwards.

The second interview, for which I had to be in-studio, took place two days later at the much more civilized time of 14:00 –I’ll share the link to the podcast of that recording soon!

Here’s the first interview, on Early Morning with Abs, 10 October 2017.

Hope you enjoy the interview!

No Wonder She Left!

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It was a chilly, rainy, windy day that we found ourselves visiting the Citadel of Mycene on our recent trip to Greece. As chance would have it, of course that was the day I chose to wear a sleeveless sundress and sandals!

Those of you who know the story of Helen of Troy will be aware of why Mycene was one of those “have to see” places for me as someone who studied Classical Civilisations. For those of you not familiar with the story, Helen started off being married to Menelaus, brother to the king of Mycene before Paris came along and the two of them landed up in Troy, which was what started the Trojan War. Or so we’re told by Homer in The Iliad.

Anyhow, the visit to the Mycenean Citadel was profound for me, imagining Myceneans of the 8th Century BCE walking beneath the imposing Lion Gate, climbing the steep paths from one building in the Citadel to another, or staring from the crest of the hill upon which the Citadel stands surveying the surrounding landscape… which was probably covered by olive trees even then!

I’m sure If I’d been more warmly dressed I would have found the weather wonderfully atmospheric as I stood there recalling the story of the great battle that took place between the Greek forces under the leadership of Agamemnon, Menelaus and the wily Odysseus and the Trojans whose ruling family included such well-known names as King Priam, Hector, and Cassandra, fated to tell only the truth but never to be believed. I probably would have relished the wild weather and allowed it to fuel my imagination as I tried to conjure visions of what life might have been like for all those living and working in the Citadel almost 3000 years ago.

Sadly, shivering in my sundress and sandals, all I could do was to conclude that, if this was an indication of the usual weather experienced in Mycene, then it was no wonder Helen decided to accompany Paris to Troy!

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