Sense and Disability

occasionally pink-haired traveller, often spotted with blue cane.

Archive for the ‘trains’ Category


Posted by Chelsey on June 22, 2009

When I left Ottignies I was rather grateful to be on my own again. I stayed at the Flying Pig Downtown Hostel where everyone was really sweet.

The first day, I did a touristy boat tour, going to the museums and major sites. The Anne Frank museum touched me in a way that I did not think it would. I went up every narrow flight of stairs thinking that were something like this to happen now, I would not make it, really .

But I was also proud that I made it up those stairs, even as I empathized with the older couples being shown to the emergency exits when they couldn’t climb.

I also read The Diary of a Young Girl for the first time while i was there, which I had not read before. I think I connected much more with Anne than I would have were I younger, and her voice embedded itself in my mind for a while. Such a normal teenager in such horrible circumstances, and then I read another book that focused on the stories of six women who encountered Anne in the camps. What a horrible awakening to horror for the girl…


What also made an impression in Amsterdam was the Rijksmuseum. I love Dutch art, particularly Ver Meer and some of his more famous works were on loan from Washington so that made the visit even more special. (Picture taken just before I got told off for taking it)

.The one picture I took at the museum before I got told off

The second day I had to go to a doctor to get a bruise on my foot looked at, so I decided to change my night train booking and stay an extra day. I probably should not have booked all my trains in advance, really. The doctor’s visit went well, as did the adventure to find a pharmacy.

Added bonus? It was free cone day at Ben&Jerry’s, and though I usually do that with my friends in Atlanta it was awesome to be able to do it in Amsterdam!

The third day I went to some bookstores and the flower market.


The market was not what I expected, I really expected open air.

I really loved Amsterdam, for the water and the architecture. It reminded me a little bit of Kensington, to be honest which i loved. I also found some nice graffiti!


That night I set off for Zurich.

Another important thing for me about this leg happened that night. There was a young family sharing my compartment who had not booked a lower bunk. They had a child, a little boy of two or three who sang to himself happily. They wanted to switch, but I could not. The conductor made them wait as each stop boarded to see if the holder of the second bottom bunk boarded until eventually they set the child up in the top bunk with his father. All went well, but I felt guilty for not being the twenty-something who could happily sacrifice a bottom bunk and also glad that i had stayed in Amsterdam a day. My ticket for the day before had been a middle bunk, and I realized it would not have been as easy to change as the ticket agent had said…

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Posted by Chelsey on May 21, 2009

Can I please just point out– and after six trains in Belgium, I know– that Belgian trains have ridiculously high steps? And it’s not just me, when I returned home a friend of mine and I were discussing Belgium and he agreed. Epically high, a stranger pulling you up, nearly dropping your cane steps. It also does not make things better when you take the wrong train. Sorry if I expect the train on my platform five minutes before mine leaves actually goes where I need to go…

But that’s beside the point. I went to Belgium to meet Maude, another young woman with Dermatosparaxis. I stayed with a woman who had once been her tutor. At her house I got to know her very nice daughter and two granddaughters, as well as her study abroad student from France. I also got to talk with several people about disability attitudes and such.

Maude and I had very different upbringings. I am very lucky to have parents who see my disability as just another part of me, and let me live my life as ordinarily as possible– just with added bandages. Maude’s parents were more careful, and justifiably so. It’s a scary thing when the merest bump could lead to a long battle with infection.

But, I also learned how grateful I should be for American school inclusion and for my friends who never saw me as different.

One day while I was there my host and her exchange student took me to Bruges, an adorable city outside of Brussels. I used a wheelchair that day so that we could see as many sights as possible. They were very helpful, but I have to admit I cannot imagine being a wheelchair user on all of those cobbles!

I don’t have a lot of commentary on Brussels itself, we only went for one day. I can say that the Cathedral of Saint Michel is GORGEOUS and so much more awe-inspiring in person. Also, it has a handicapped bathroom, fun fact.

Travelling, though, is more than seeing he sights. It’s about cultural exchange. I got to speak French in my three days there, and that was so encouraging, to see that I could really manage. I also hope I got to inspire some thoughts about what a disability does and does not have to mean. I think that was part of my motivation for traveling in the first place….

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Writing in Retrospect

Posted by Chelsey on May 11, 2009

Well, I’m home now, but I have decided to write this blog about my trip in retrospect. I just did not have enough computer access while travelling to write, so I’ll take it from here.

The last place I updated from was Edinburgh where I spent four days. Edinburgh is not really a city in which being mobility impaired is an easy thing. Lots of hills, and stairs. But you know what? Whenever I climbed a massive staircase or made it up a hill I was proud. Proud that I did something I should not have been ‘able’ to do. What that says, I am not exactly sure, but it’s the fact of it.

From there I went to Glasgow, where I saw P!nk in concert. Most of my time there was downtime, but for the concert. In the super-long walkway between the venue and the train a very drunk woman came up to me and asked if I was ‘doing okay’ and to tell her if I needed help. A very nice offer, but she looked as though she needed the cane more than I did at that point.

The next day I had to get up early for my train journey between Glasgow and Stansted, because I am an idiot who did not realize that Glasgow has an airport. Anyway, at my last change, from Peterbourgh to Stansted I noticed a sign next to the stairs at the station. “If you require assistance, please inquire at customer services inside”. I smirked at it as I hauled myself up the stairs, across the bridge, down the stairs. I had eight minutes to change trains. If I had needed assistance there is little way that I would have made it. Asking for help is not adequate replacement for a lift in this case.

Next up: Copenhagen

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