EBU(Senior group) Excellent Work
“SEE MY HANDS”
Spain Author: Enrique Lopez Clavel(47/Male)
I was living in the countryside, in a village wedged between high hills. That unmentionable afternoon, the light slipped out of my eyes circumspectly, like the sleepy waters of the Cauto River.
They put a thin stick of polished wood in my hands, so I could feel my way and avoid tripping on obstacles. A thirteen-year old youth, I was already strong enough to smash that piece of wood known as a walking stick when no one could see me. Later, I entered the gates of the Havana Special School for the Visually Impaired. There, to my surprise, I met children laughing and playing without any light in their eyes, studying as they touched books with their fingertips, and moving about with the aid of a walking stick. In spite of being clearly blind, I felt that they were big, happy, determined, without a hint of emotional disorders or afflictions. And yet, the hard circumstances were denting my character more each day.
‘This is Leonel,’ the teacher said. ‘He’s seven years old, and Lucia eight. Listen to how they read as their fingerprints roll along each line of raised characters.’ And she added: ‘Rolando, welcome to our special school. You arrived yesterday, and now I’m already placing a sheet of paper on your hands written in Braille, so you can start to recognize it and get acquainted with the raised characters of this writing system right from today.
‘This is crazy’, I thought. ‘I’ll never be able to read these signs, to me it’s like lace on a fabric, a wall with protuberances, a tanned and hardened sheep’s skin, my father’s 3-day stubble... No, no way, I’ll never learn to read those dots!’
As I was eating my afternoon snack, munching a cake that tasted of strawberry, a strong thought suddenly dawned on me: ‘I’m twice as old as Leonel and Lucia, so why wouldn’t I try then? At least I could make an effort and try to imitate what the other children do. OK, I’ll take it as a goal, a challenge, yes, my own personal challenge. If I get to learn it, I’ll have overcome the first stage and, who knows, I might even then be able to forget, just a little bit, this blindness that has taken hold of my face and that is ruining my life’.
‘What’s your name? Where are you from? What’s your favourite music, Rock or Salsa?’
The children attacked me from all sides with their questions. I felt that they wanted to become my friends, and that same feeling began to tenderly gallop in my heart like an excited colt.
‘OK, this is the deal’, I told them. ‘I’ll answer one question from each one of you and, in exchange, each one of you will explain to me the distribution and combination of Braille alphabet’.
‘I like the idea’, said Leonardo. Immediately, all the other children that were swarming around me said that they would join the two-way quiz game. ‘You use the dots 1-2-3-5 to write the first letter of your name (r).’
‘Thank you, Leonardo. Now I’ll answer your question. I know more than one thousand names of capital cities by heart. For example: Managua is the capital of Nicaragua; Kuala Lumpur, of Malaysia; Luanda, of Angola, Vienna, of Austria; Canberra, of Australia’.
‘And the vowel ‘o’, what combination of dots do you write it with?
A boy with a confident yet somewhat husky voice rushed to explain:
‘The ’o’ is the first letter of my name, Orlando, and it’s written with the dots 1-3-5. Talking of geniuses, does anyone know who devised the Braille system?
‘I was told it was a Frenchman,’ said a girl with a fluty voice. ‘His name was Luis Braille’.
Another boy shouted to make sure we all listened to him:
‘One day, Luis Braille’s father was working in his workshop fixing a shoe sole when all of a sudden a splinter flew and stabbed his son’s eye, who was at that moment playing close to him. Shaken and upset by this accident, his father went on to create raised characters on the shoe soles. Later, Luis Braille improved the method and, with great subtleness, he gave us this ingenious, irreplaceable Braille system.
A few days later, when I had learnt to read and write in Braille, I felt like a pilot soaring in his aircraft above the clouds exploring other skies, like the skies of the capital cities of the countries I would like to travel to.
In 1990, I graduated in Arts. The Braille System was the writing and reading method I used in my studies.
In 2003, I was walking along Atocha Street in Madrid, as my eyes continued to negate the light, the scenery, the architectural wonders and the skyscrapers that sliced the firmament. All this beauty was described to me with words, and I listened to the descriptions brimming with emotion. However, that day, as I walked up to the Puerta del Sol, the epicentre of Spain’s capital city, my eyes were flooded with teardrops that sprang from the deepest part of my brain. My strength was gone, I felt lost and I didn´t have an ounce of optimism in me, and there was simply no way I could move on and devise a strategy. The walking stick was swinging from one side of my body to the other, but everyone could sense that this dance had no rhythm, no grace and no magic whatsoever.
‘I think you aren’t doing too well. You need help’, said a woman walking by my side with a deliberate, friendly voice.
‘You’re right, miss’, I replied. ‘Yesterday I left my Braille notebook at the call centre so now I’ve no access to the names, addresses and telephone numbers of anyone I’d need to call in the event of emergency. And, as you can see, I’m Cuban’.
‘OK’, replied the woman. Let’s go to a stationery shop to buy a new notebook and a couple of ballpoints and we’ll start again. Not all is lost’.
The notes in my notebook were in Braille, which is the most ingenious method ever invented to enable access to written information. It’s a system that allows us absolute independence and privacy when we read or write. I often write poems, my favourite pastime.
I’ve learnt that, when one door closes, twenty other doors open. This is why I’ll never forget the poem I wrote to pay tribute to the Braille System:
See my hands open like eyelids,