Bình An, Listener
Bình An, Listener
An, age 20, is the only son of a single mom. He was raised by his mother, a shop owner in Ha Nam province, just outside of Hanoi.
An was born blind. He is told that the doctors believe a medication his mother took during the course of her pregnancy is responsible for his blindness. Though An’s vision is assigned a 1 out of a possible 10 on the scale used in Vietnam to assess the degree of blindness, he sees somewhat better than a number of his colleagues at Omamori. Indeed, he can see enough to even read a little bit, though with great difficulty. Even so, access to print media and audiobooks has made things much easier for him.
An has gone to the School for the Blind in Hanoi since he first entered primary school and is now in his final year, with plans to enter the University of Humanities and Sociology next year, upon graduation. An came to Omamori only about six months ago after learning about us from a friend at school. After only a month of training he was able to begin working with our clients, though, just as with all of our therapists, his training is ongoing. At present, his favorite massage therapy to offer is the Foot Massage.
An only child, he often felt lonely as a child but has now grown accustomed to being alone. A self-described introvert, and shy about speaking to others, we talked at some length about what it means to be an introvert. He feels this makes him a better listener, and in many ways a deeper thinker. In fact, it is not the subjects offered in high school that interest him. Rather, he wants to pursue subjects like Psychology, Sociology, Business, and Economics, and looks forward to studying these things at the university level.
Whether discussing language learning (he thinks English is interesting but difficult), learning in general, friendship or anything else, An made it clear that he is a listener, asking many questions and listening carefully and thoughtfully to my responses and to the comments of our interpreter, and expressing particular interest in learning about tips for regaining motivation to study the language. He also asked for suggestions about better ways to study and learn. I teased him a bit about finding an American, British, Canadian or Australian girlfriend as one possible motivation to learn to speak English better. Again, he listened closely, but couldn’t imagine how he could even initiate a relationship, given the language and cultural barriers.
He loves to play soccer (futbol) and Western chess. When playing soccer with his totally blind friends he plays blindfolded, using a ball with a noisemaker inside of it that makes it possible to locate and sense the direction of the ball. He says that the players develop a sixth sense of where things are and manage quite well to play the game totally blind, though it is a bit scary. It’s no wonder, then, that An has rarely used the white cane that we so typically associate with blind people out walking on the street. An explains, however, that even though he considers the use of a white cane to be a safer way to walk he prefers not to use it because it will draw attention to his visual impairment and be further cause for others to discriminate against him.
A walker, An explains that walking while listening to music allows him to gather ideas and dreams. His biggest dream at this time is to establish his own cafe, a 4D cafe where his visitors can sit and drink coffee while indulging in 4D design and entertainment.
Though An, when asked, didn’t feel that there were any advantages to being blind, he said that he considers it his challenge in life. This led to a discussion of challenges and the meaning of challenge. Here, too, An showed that he is a listener and a critical thinker and is open to the ideas of others. When confronted with the notion that the absence of one sense might heighten sensitivity in the others while enabling greater focus, he readily agreed. We also talked about the uniqueness of individuals and explored the notion that each of us has something that makes us special. As for An, he says he believes it’s his way of thinking that sets him apart. Perhaps he is a man whom the great sculptor, Auguste Rodin, creator of “The Thinker”, might have admired. You’re sure to have time to think about this while enjoying your massage with An.