If I grumble about coping with life without sight, beat me over the head and remind me of the two young blind women in China. You can watch (or just listen to) our conversation in Chongqing https://youtu.be/tLJUNO5EnVU
Wan Lin and Lisa had spent a few hours cooking with me and the Head Chefs of the Intercontinental Hotel – together we’d explored using touch to cook steak, taste in a salad and sheer naughtiness with chocolate mousse. They both had very little experience of cooking as, at the massage clinic where they live, an “auntie” prepares all their meals.
They were both in their early twenties and seemed tiny to me – I felt like a giant looming over them. China was starting to develop when they were born but there were still difficulties for some people in getting all the food and medical care they needed – with the consequences upon their health.
But Chinese progress is very swift: they had been educated at the local school for blind children and progressed to training in medical massage – an intrinsic element of Chinese medicine and health therapies. But for Lisa, her small stature added further difficulty to her work: she only has the strength to massage very young children.
What was so impressive was the determined independence and motivation of them both. With very little sight, they were travelling across this huge city – and not a white cane or guide dog between them. I tried to offer them a taxi home that evening as dusk would reduce their vision even more but they refused :wary of becoming car-sick. They were delighted to have new experiences, meet new people and learn cooking skills.
The chefs were fabulous: caring and kind, patient and empathetic. They had probably never encountered someone with disabilities in their work place but were naturally generous and inclusive. They put together a mini-hamper of the dishes we had all made together so that the girls could share their experiences and success with their colleagues at the clinic.
It was extraordinarily poignant to see how big hearty Head Chef Jack warmed to these young women – there was no need for me at all so I stepped back and let them enjoy their cooking together.