The Quail Trail

Wia Kotzé
Copyright 2001

I call my story the "Quail Trail". For those of you who don't know the story of the Quails... I call my CI buddies the Quails or Kwartels (Afrikaan for Quail) because we have an Afrikaan saying that goes (literally translated) "As deaf as a quail"..

.[Editor's note: Parts 1 and 2 of The Quail Trail are available to read at]

Part Three

About people and babbleboxes ...

After receiving some comments on part 2 of my story I feel inclined to talk a little about the people that I met and relate some emotions about my CI.

I got this message from someone who has been to South Africa before:

" I remember when I went to J'burg I came back and thought some very similar thoughts. It's just amazing the differences in the countries and how we take for granted all that we have here. I was amazed at the people in the Squatter camps; I doubt you could get that many Americans living in a 5 foot by 5 foot room with no electricity and no running water. I was just amazed!!! Your country has the most gorgeous countryside and Kruger Park is unlike any place you will find here in America!"

Both our countries have their beauty, their problems and their diversity. It's just that the contrasts were so much more evident for me this time. The previous time I visited I mostly went to the big cities, but this time it was not a normal "tourist" or "work" visit; it was about people that I longed to meet and visit. Little did I know how fortunate I would be to become part of their lives for a short while and how enduring those fond memories would be

So, first and foremost my trip was about people and secondly about my CI. Or maybe I must not push my babblebox to second place. Through everything, my CI was just "below the surface" and my (new?) hearing was actually part of all the emotions.

The people that I met were so different from each other To give you an example: I visited amongst millionaires and ordinary working class people, people in the academic world (with which I am more familiar) and people just enjoying the tranquillity of a simple life style in the countryside.

Their ages were as varied as their occupations and life styles. I shared the wisdom of people older than me and I enjoyed the excitement and joy for life of people less than twice my age The best of all was seeing my young friend with his wonderful recovery from the silent world doing so exceptionally well with his bionic ear. It brought me to tears many times seeing him reach out to a world of sound opening lifetime experiences and opportunities for him.

I also sensed the anxiety of one of his other young friends and her disappointment of not being a candidate for the CI just now. This girl is very involved in the Deaf culture and struggling to let go of a boyfriend who is not interested in her yearning to get a CI, but scared that she may leave the safety of maybe the only "world" she is familiar with. The conflict in this young girl's whole being ripped my heart! Especially when I saw her face lit up in wonder about what our young friend with his bionic ear could hear. It warmed my heart to see how he supported her and encouraged her not to give up without pushing her in any direction about her own conflicting emotions. I spent a day with them gallivanting around London and it was sheer joy and made me feel 20 years old again.!

I met people across the board as far as CI's go at the convention. Everyone was willing to share their experiences with me. I will tell you more about them later...

So what I am trying to explain is that I first had to paint some of the less emotional pictures for you because at the time of my arrival I did not think about how the sheer beauty of New Jersey, Canada and England would so to speak "prepare" me for the adventures that lie ahead. One cannot really relate to people and their lives without observing their environment as well...and in the end I just appreciated what I have here a little more.

The images of America and Canada and England made me take a better look at the hidden treasures that I have here right on my doorstep! We have a lot of hard work to do - similar to getting used to a babblebox - and I have faith that like with my own hearing, the possibility is that in my own country things can only get better... We have to work at it a lot more but in doing that we also need the understanding and support of the rest of the world. Only then can we have peace and prosperity...

In everything I experienced there was the undertone that this would never have happened with me if I had not become deaf in the first place and recovered some of my precious hearing with my babblebox however imperfect it still may be. It made me accept it with a heart full of gratitude and it spurred me on once again to work harder to make it better. I've also seen people doing worse than me hearing-wise and it made me more determined to reach out to my fellow CI/HOH friends to give back some of the wonderful support, love and caring that I received. Wherever I went friends and strangers tried to make what I have better for ME. They shared whatever they could and added so much fun and laughter too. I had opportunities to enrich my life and get to terms with what really matters to make me happy. I left a lot of unnecessary baggage behind and now I am at another fork in the road and I am better prepared to face the challenges ahead. And I came back to similarly wonderful friends.

Like with my travels in the past the people that I met brought me more fun and happiness than the sights I observed and after a while one tends to remember the people more than the scenery. When I now look at the hundreds of photos that I took, I remember the people and how they made me appreciate the beauty from their own perspective ­ they opened my eyes not only to see the beauty but to experience what it meant to them in their daily lives.

Part Four

Canada ­ beauty beyond imagination

Visiting my good friend Cher in Canada was one of the things that I looked forward to most before I left. We built up a friendship by writing e-mails to each other for a long time before my departure. My friends in New Jersey could not understand that I was so anxious to visit a person "that I'd never met before", forgetting that I also did not know them a mere week ago. Someone commented it was a "brave" thing to do.

Cher was meeting me at Pearson International Airport in Toronto and we'd been ticking days off our calendars since 90 days before the day we were to meet for the first time. I had a window seat on the plane and was noticing the green landscape and some lakes as far as the journey took me to Canada particularly remembering a previous visit to Niagara Falls. Cher lives in a small town on the Niagara escarpment. I wondered whether I would recognise her.

As I walked into the departure lounge there she was right in front of all the other people holding up a poster that said: "HUGSAKABUNCHES WIA"!!! Our very own special word for sending lots of "cyber" hugs to each other in our e-mails! The next moment I was enveloped in the grandest "real" hug you can imagine and we were both crying with happiness!!

After getting out of the airport and leaving the not so pretty parts of Toronto behind (All the airports that I've been to seem to be disrupted by extensive building alterations ­ do they ever stop building at airports?), the trip to her home took us along the scenic route to her home town Eugenia, near Owen Sound in Ontario. We went past farms on a clear sunny day and I was amazed at not observing mountains and valleys like one sees in postcards of Canada until she told me that we were actually on top of the mountain! It was beautiful but the real beauty of the countryside was still waiting for me.

Eugenia is a quaint little town with a mere 500 inhabitants. Shortly after settling in at her home we took her hearing ear dog Mikey for a walk to Lake Eugenia. The lake is literally on her doorstep!! A crystal clear lake bordered with huge trees and the azure blue sky caressed by silvery white cotton ball clouds! Later on she took me to the exact spot where some of Canada's bottled water bubbles from the earth to fill the lake. We could get this same cool and refreshing water from the tap in her kitchen!! The lake water is so clear you can see the salmon and other fish swimming about fifty feet from where we stood on a bridge. I simply could not get enough of the scene ­ beauty beyond imagination

A few days later we went to the Eugenia Falls Park, more or less at the end of the street where she lives. We walked through the huge trees of this forest to where the crystal clear water from Lake Eugenia drops down to the Beaver valley. From there one can look past the majestic pines with new growth shimmering in an almost fluorescent green on their branches right towards where she would later take me to Owen Sound.

Over the next few days even more beauty was in store for me when we drove to Owen Sound through beautiful towns with flowers in hanging baskets on all the lampposts, past farms where cattle and "beefaloes" (Ugly beasts!! - a cross between cattle and buffalo - breeded to be slaughtered for excellent steaks) grazed peacefully with mountains, rivers and maple trees keeping guard over them. We stopped numerous times to overlook the Beaver Valley to drink in the scenery from the various outlook posts as we descended towards Georgian Bay and Collingwood. We visited at the Talisman Ski resort where she works during the winter. In summer the resort is closed except for the golf course and there were only a few people enjoying the sunshine while fishing for trout in yet another small lake.

We also drove to Collingwood on the shores of Georgian Bay, which is part of Lake Huron. Our drive took us past the Scenic Caves, and down the valley into Collingwood, famous for its ski resorts. What was interesting to me about Georgian Bay was that the water was absolutely lukewarm and the floor of the lake is not sandy but consists of slate. The slate is used for making the famous Blue Mountain pottery that is exported all over the world ­ except to South Africa!! So I HAD to buy some when we visited the factory and even went on a tour of the factory to see how the pottery is made.

One cannot visit Cher without sharing her love for motorcycles!! The annual Ride for Sight event was scheduled for the weekend after my departure when Collingwood would once again welcome 15,000!! Bikers taking part in a charity ride with the aim of raising one million Canadian dollars for blind people. The evening before the event we attended a barbeque for the workers where I met some of Cher and Randy's many biker friends. What a joy that was ­ to meet this friendly, happy crowd and share their enthusiasm to simply do good to less fortunate fellow human beings while having heaps of fun. The pure goodness of these people left an indelible image of "caring" in my mind.

The best part of that evening however was riding back to Eugenia with Randy on his huge Goldwing motorcycle! It was the most exhilarating experience I could wish for!! After dressing me up for the part in Cher's black leathers they promised me I would be as comfortable as being in a Cadillac for the ride which indeed was the case! We departed just before sunset and saw the sun go down over Georgian Bay. It felt as if I was in a bubble looking down on the countryside that flitted by because one is sitting much "higher" on a bike than in a car. The best part was that, unlike in a car with closed windows, I could smell the flavours of the countryside ­ scented flowers, people's dinners, freshly cut hay and even some cow dung - as we passed the farms in the twilight to arrive home safely after about 35 fun-filled minutes. Cher was ready at the end of the ride to capture this lovely memory with the click of my camera as we rode past her in the driveway

Apart from drinking in the beauty of Ontario, we also strengthened a friendship that will last a lifetime!! It was with sadness that I got up on that last morning to drive back to Toronto when it was still dark. We had to leave early for me to be in time to fit in a mapping appointment at the Sunnybrook Hospital before I returned to New Jersey. Unlike driving to Eugenia upon my arrival we were quiet in the car as the sun rose like a red ball of fire on that last morning as we hit the rush hour traffic in Toronto. A few hours later found us crying as we said goodbye and clung to each other for a last "real" hug

Thank you my dear friends for the beauty you shared but most of all for the lessons in caring and compassion that you so expertly bestowed upon me.

Continued next month ...


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