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Travelling the World Without Sight

Vincent Lam
Ada Chan
Participants learning Xinjiang dance in the workshop
Ada giving a presentation on her journey to Vietnam
The visually impaired familiarizing themselves with Xinjiang musical instrument through the sense of touch

One afternoon in mid-March, about 40 visually impaired people gathered at the Hong Kong Society for the Blind (HKSB) at Shek Kip Mei to begin their journey to Vietnam. Neither luggage nor passport was needed; the only thing the participants had to do was sit in a hall.

'Featuring a magnificent design, the opera house at Hanoi was built when Vietnam was under French colonial rule. The building materials such as bricks, stones and pillars were imported from France. On the façade, you can see several white columns on primrose yellow rectangular pedestals. Each column of about two storeys high stood at regular intervals of about several metres, forming a few entrances to the porch of the edifice. In Hong Kong, audience would file out of the theatre after the performance, but in Vietnam, no one urged us to leave immediately after the show so I went on stage stealthily to sing. The theatre was designed for professional performance so the sound resonated well in the hall, like singing in a cramped toilet.'

Ada Chan, a music graduate of CUHK, gave a detailed and vivid account of her trip to Vietnam in a sweet voice. She talked about her experience of singing solo on the stage of an empty opera house, talked about traditional Vietnamese food, and sang a Vietnamese song praising Ho Chi-minh, the revolutionary leader of the country. Vietnamese rice rolls were also provided so the attendees could taste the local flavours.

This was one of the workshops of the social project MOTIVIC (Music Of Travel In Visually Impaired Community) initiated by Vincent Lam, a music postgraduate in ethnomusicology. It aims to lead the visually impaired to get to know different cultures through different senses by sharing music, food, costume and dance. Four workshops on Xinjiang, North India, Cuba and Vietnam have been held.

An Idea Brewed from Idleness

MOTIVIC was born as a result of leisure. In 2010, Vincent accompanied his friends to serve as audio describers in a movie show organized by HKSB. This was the first time he came into contact with the visually impaired. HKSB asked him if he was interested in conceptualizing activities related to music for members. Thus the seed was sown in his heart.

About two years ago, Vincent attended an academic conference in Rome. There was free time between sessions so he had room for reflection. 'As the CUHK I•CARE Programme was calling for application for social service project funding, I thought, why didn't I work out something to serve others with my expertise?' Sitting in an outdoor café, Vincent pieced together his thoughts to write a proposal. The project MOTIVIC was finally supported by the I•CARE Programme. Afterwards, he invited HKSB to co-organize workshops on music culture.

An Interactive Travelling Programme

A passionate traveller and music lover, Ada was invited by Vincent to speak on her backpacking trips to Cuba and Vietnam. She gave some tips on talking to the visually impaired people. The words shown on the screen should be as large as possible, in contrasting colours such as black and white so that they can read. During narration, details should be included to make the audience imagine the pictures.

Having enrolled in the workshop several times, Ms. Lui Yin-fong said, 'It is wonderful and fun.' She seldom travels due to poor vision. Now there is somebody to do it for her. In the workshop, she can ask the speakers questions if she wants to know more. It is like an interactive travel programme. Ms. Ko Sau-ngan, another participant, added, 'I have been to Vietnam before. I only went to those famous sight-seeing spots but Ada led us to some interesting places that we didn't know about before. The trip was really an eye-opener.'

Live Out Ideals When Young

Although MOTIVIC can't be regarded as a large-scale project, Vincent was swamped with planning, negotiation with partners, logistical coordination of activities, recruitment of helpers, as well as administrative works. But he believes that youth is the time to follow his dream and no gain ever comes without pain. 'I have gained much more than I would have from books. These first-hand experiences taught me how to persuade others, how to balance the interests of different parties, and how to manage my negative emotion when being rejected.'

Website: http://motivic.weebly.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MOTIVIC2012