Jacquelyn Fa.

My latest trip to the Carlisle House was different from my first visit. Maddy, Ellen and I walked to the facility together, but dispersed amongst the people there when we arrived. When we walked through the door, Ron was sitting at a table with a huge smile on his face to greet us. We walked over to Ron and started to talk to him about his holiday plans. Meanwhile, a younger girl, named Christi came over to ask Ron a question. By her accidental interruption the girls and I ended up talking to her about a bunch of different things. Christi told us that she is 21 years old and is currently a student at Harrisburg Area Community College. She also told us all about her interests which included gymnastics. She told me that she really enjoyed writing and listening to music. I talked to her a while about her interest in music and we compared our taste in artists and particular types of music and indeed we shared some similarities. After talking to her for a while Maddy, Ellen and I began to somewhat split up. A lot was going on at the Carlisle House at the particular time we were there. A Christmas tree was set up and needed to be decorated. Two women there were gathering different types of garland and tinsel to cover the tree in as decoration. Before Maddy, Ellen and I broke off individually a small woman approached us while we were talking to Christi. She told us her name was Peanut and that she wanted us to follow her into another room. Not only did Maddy and Ellen go with us, but Christi came along too. Peanut began to tell us that she needed some people to help make her a crown out of construction paper. She told us that she is the karaoke champion at the Carlisle House. She wanted us to help her make a crown for the next sing off her and the others they would have at the facility. We then walked back over to the arts and crafts table where Ron was sitting and another woman was painting a type of ornament or a type of decoration for Christmas. She began to tell us that she enjoys selling her decorations to neighbors and friends she knows around the holidays. Meanwhile, we began to talk to Christi again and afterwards I began to talk to Ron individually. He began to tell me a more personal story that involved his family situation. I was so pleased to see the progress from the last time I had a conversation with Ron to the latest conversation I had with him. It seemed he was more at ease and felt comfortable telling me some more information about his personal life. I talked to him for quite a while before he had to leave the facility to pick up his Mom from work. I wished him a Merry Christmas, told him I enjoyed the conversation we shared and said goodbye. Once Ron left, as I had mentioned earlier, the women who were getting all the decorations ready for the tree invited Ellen and I to help decorate the tree. I helped cut the tinsel out of the package and handed it to the ladies. Peanut decided to take a picture of us while we were decorating the tree. Also, Terry, the man I had met last time I was there dancing once again to some Christmas music that was playing on the radio. I said hello to him and continued to decorate the tree with the other ladies. Following the tree decorating I had another conversation with Christi as well as Ellen. We started to tell funny stories about ourselves and discussed school and the difference challenges from major to major. After talking for quite some time I told her I had to leave because I couldn’t be late to swim practice. I said goodbye to everyone and told the women that I decorated the tree with how great the tree looked and left.
As I mentioned earlier, I had a very great conversation with Ron. He began to tell me some more personal stories about his family situation. Mainly, he focused in on his parents’ situation and how it has an affect on him today. To avoid any type of confidentiality issue I am not going to go into detail about what Ron told me. One thing I can say though is that his story had quite an affect of me as a listener. At one point he was asking me for advice and I responded by telling him I can’t offer advice but I could give him my opinion on the situation and offer him different possibilities to go about solving his situation with his family. I hope that he learned something from me that day because I know for a fact, his story really made me realize a lot about my own personal situation. He gave me a way to look at things in a different way. I realized Ron’s feelings were just as strong as any other person’s feelings that do not have a disability. In listening to Ron’s story I look back and noticed that my approach to the conversation as a helper was not any different to help or ‘advice’ I’d offer to a friend back on campus. I must say at one point I felt a little intimidated because I wasn’t completely able to understand his situation due to our difference in age, but that I was able to learn from him and use his advice through the story as an aid in the future. I think this experience was a perfect one for me. Sometimes I get the most out of my life when listening to others’ stories and I feel Ron’s story was motivating in a way that really allowed me to see just how lucky I am to be whom I am and showed me that I should appreciate my life much more than sometimes I tend to. Ron’s story was a type of experience to me that really opened my eyes and never in my life would I have guessed someone who has a disability would be able to do such as thing, but I was indeed proven wrong and I’m thankful for it.

As a final note I want to relate my last experience at the Carlisle House to Mary Douglas’s idea of categorization. She says, “…one specific difference classifies an entire person “disabled” even though the rest of the body and its functions remain “normal” (34 Thomson). I must say naturally my mind might have done this from time to time when interacting with the people at the Carlisle House. However, since my second trip I must say I got more of an idea of what that categorization Douglas’s discussed really means. I feel given any person a chance and in my case, Ron’s stories he was able to share with me really helped me see how important this is within society and how easily it can be for those who are “normal” like me, can overlook the fact that people with disabilities are actually quite alike us in many different ways. As I recall Stephanie telling my group from the first orientation “It is always nice to have the students from different colleges come in and interact with the folks here because it wipes out all biases they might have developed before meeting with you.” This also goes along with Douglas’s idea in which those who are disable can also form biases and jump to conclusions about me just as I could do the same, but when given the time and courage to form conversations and interact with one another I’ve become a better person because of it.

Rain plummets fell harshly through the trees, covering Ellen, Maddy and I. Walking through the rain to get to the Carlisle House was quite an experience. The rain altered my mood at bit going into the facility. I was drenched in wetness and thought that all the people there would laugh at me. To my dismay, everything ended up going quite smoothly. First I saw Stephanie and she told Ellen, Maddy and I to walk around and make ourselves feel comfortable. We spent the first ten minutes or so walking around and introducing ourselves to the people. Eventually, we ended up in the kitchen where one of the members was washing dishes in the sink. We asked her some questions about whether or not she had been cooking previously to washing the dishes. She told us another one of the members made a spectacular lunch that everyone enjoyed. As a matter of fact, there was one plate of food left over and she offered it to us, although, we did not take her up on the offer considering we were full from lunch. Afterwards, our attention was drawn to another member who was sitting at one of the kitchen tables playing poker on his laptop. We introduced ourselves and he told us his name was Scott. We spent a great amount of time discussing computer games, like poker and he began to talk about his interest in car racing. Luckily, I have some knowledge of car racing because my younger brother races quarter midget cars back home. I began to tell Scott all about my brother’s experiences and he really seemed to enjoy hearing about them. We spent a great deal talking about racing. Next, we began to talk about sports. Scott said that he is a die hard Philadelphia fan. Once again, I had a lot to talk about with him considering I am from Pennsylvania and am also a Philadelphia sports fan. Afterwards, we asked him where he was living and he began to tell us that he is looking to buy an apartment in New York. I was quite impressed with his knowledge of the city and what type of apartment he was looking to purchase. Scott was also very knowledgeable on the Japanese culture. He told us he took a class at a community college. I learned a how to say hello in Japanese and how the structure of the language is set up. Quite confusing, but he seemed to be very involved in it and told us he was planning on traveling to Japan at some point in his life. After talking to Scott for about 45 minutes, Ellen, Maddy and I decide to walk around some more and get to know some other members more closely. As we began to walk out into the common room of the facility we met a man named Ron. He was also very interested about cars, which I began to tell the stories about my brother and his experiences all over again. He told me that he was in a car accident and that he unfortunately cannot race any longer. Ron was also sitting next to an old woman who seemed quite shy and another man was sitting directly across from him. Country music was playing in the background and suddenly the man sitting across from him got up out of his seat and started swaying back and forth. I asked him if he enjoyed Country music and he nodded his head ‘yes’. This man made me giggle, he seemed to be a very content person, although quiet. Ron eventually had to leave to pick up his Mom from work so then Ellen, Mady and I talked to another woman named Mel who was sitting at a computer desk in the common room. She was playing a game that involved these Jewels. From what I learned, you had to match certain colors and shapes together in a certain amount of time to win the game. I must say, Mel was quite an expert in playing the game. Finally, I had to get going to swim practice so Maddy, Ellen and I put back on all our clothes and said bye to all the members of the Carlisle House before we left.
While introducing myself to the members I can remember vividly how awkward I felt in the beginning because I wasn’t quite sure what to say. At first when talking to the women at the sink washing dishes, I used basic greeting type icebreakers to make the situation more comfortable. As time went on I started to feel a lot more welcomed by everyone. Once the girls and I started to talk to Scott I became extremely comfortable chatting with him due to the fact that we had a lot in common which made it really easy for me to hold a conversation with him. I felt as if I was talking to a friend that I’ve known for a long time. I think if I did not have as much to talk about with Scott it would have been more uncomfortable at first, but he was such a nice guy to talk to and I learned a lot from him. I was so impressed by Scott knowledge of things and his intelligence about the world. I must admit going into the whole thing at first I felt as if I would have to talk ‘down’ to the members being afraid I would not be able to interact with them on an average adults level. To be completely Scott’s social skills were better than some people I know who do not have mental disabilities. Ron was also very knowledgeable about cars and how to fix them. He seemed to understand the structure of how a car is built and how the engine works within the car. I must say to be able to have an ability like Ron is a wonderful and very useful ability to have and it comes in handy quite often. I know for one thing, my Dad can barely change the oil in his car, but to be able to fix an automobile’s engine is quite remarkable. I feel these experiences have relevance to my life in the way that it makes me feel less judgmental towards others that are different from me. It also makes me feel more in touch with society in general. Many times biases are formed as if people with mental disabilities do not quite fit in to society because of the disabilities they indeed have which make them different from the rest of us, but through interacting with these people; I feel they are not at all any different from the rest of us at all. As a matter of fact, I learned a lot from these people and it made me feel good about myself in return.When talking to Ron I learned that his car accident is what led him to his disability or at least I am under the assumption of this because he told me specifically that he was taking medicine for the brain damage that was done in the accident and that he would no longer be able to race. I applied this to Geek Love in the sense of changes the characters went through within the novel. I realize in Geek Love the characters bodies were altered due to drugs that the mother took to enhance the children’s deformities for the purpose of making them more unique for the Freak Shows. I want to relate that to Ron and his life altering car accident in the way that his life was changed due to something that was out of his control just like the characters in the book. Just like Arty and the daughters of the Binewskis’ family were altered without a choice. Of course Ron’s difference is not physical but mental. Just as our class discussions involved questions dealing with the importance of understanding that differences in a way that differences are not really differences at all. Although, characters in Geek Love had unique deformities there was still a competition of social status between the characters. This can be related to society perfectly and it ties together many stereotypes I might have formed from the beginning about others that are different from me, but through this real life experience of dealing with others who are different from me, I am now able to see more clearly just how much I have in common with people who are ‘different’ from me. Therefore, we really are not so different at all. As ‘different’ as we may be, we all have share the similarity in which we have no choice of whom we are going to be either from birth or nature.

When I arrived for my orientation at the Carlisle House I felt a little nervous walking towards the building to be completely honest. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect considering this was my first time visiting the facility. Upon my arrival, Stephanie greeted my orientation group with a warm smile which helped ease my nerves right away. She continued to introduce us to several people who attend the Carlisle House on a daily basis. Everyone was friendly, some more eager to talk than others; as a matter of fact, one of the clients showed us around the facility. I introduced myself to a bunch of different people and was intrigued by their manners. Also, I was impressed by the various activities that are offered to everyone as well as how the building itself was kept extremely clean. After my tour I began to feel much more welcomed and less fearful about my future visits to the Carlisle House. The environment was very comfortable and I look forward to my future visits to the facility. I feel conversations might seem to be basic and surface structured at first upon my next returning visit. This experience I assume will feel just as if I was going through my first day of college, once the people and I get to know one another more personally, I feel the experience will be more fun and comfortable.
I’ve never had much experience working with disabled adults, although I do have a lot of experience working with many people and children. Over the summer I was a coach a swim team. The team includes children from kids as young as five to teenagers as old as fourteen. During this time, I gained a lot of patience in dealing with these children. I feel this skill will also come in handy at the Carlisle House. I feel I have a pretty welcoming personality and I am definitely willing to interact with anyone. At first, just as most people might feel a bit uptight when meeting a new person, I have a feeling that’s the type of interactions I will receive in the beginning of my visits to the facility. Overall, I’m looking forward to the experiences that will be brought to my attention in the near future. I think this will be a test of my patience as it will also challenge my comfort level with those who are different from me. I’m am looking forward to engaging in conversations with the people at the Carlisle House and I am intrigued to learn about their particular situations and experiences as a disabled person. I feel this experience will help me learn a lot about others that seem to be different from me as it will also help me learn more about myself.