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Eating in the Dark

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Would you want to eat in the dark? Adam Navis and Liz Waid tell about a restaurant where no one can see. Restaurants like this let people experience life very differently.

Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Adam Navis.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Click here to follow along with this program on YouTube.

Voice 1 

A group of people wait in a room. They have gathered in a famous restaurant in Basel, Switzerland. They are waiting to eat dinner. Soon, a waiter arrives to guide them to their table. This is all a normal experience at a restaurant. But then, something unusual happens.

Voice 2 

The waiter asks everyone in the group to remove their watches and telephones. He puts these things in a box. Then, these guests form a line. Each person holds the shoulder of the person in front of them. The waiter stands at the front. He walks through one dark cloth curtain, and then another. He leads the group into a room that is completely dark. No one can see anything. It is like they are all blind. In fact, some people in the room are blind. This special restaurant is called Blinde Kuh. It is designed to share the experience of blindness with people who can see. The waiters and many other workers here are blind. Today’s Spotlight is on Blinde Kuh, and the experience of eating in the dark.

Voice 1 

The World Health Organization says that around the world about 39 million people are blind. Some people are born blind. Others lose their ability to see in accidents. Some diseases also cause blindness. This is particularly true in places where people cannot get treatment from doctors.

Voice 2 

Being blind can be very difficult. In many places, blind people are not given their full human rights. It is difficult for blind people to work. Many blind people have to depend on their families to survive. Sometimes, they must even ask other people for food and money. But what if there was work that only blind people could do? What if there were jobs that used the particular skills of blind people?

Voice 1 

Jorge Speilmann is a Christian leader who lives in Zurich, Switzerland. He is blind. In the late 1990s, he opened the restaurant Blinde Kuh. It won many awards for his interesting business idea. But Speilmann did not start the restaurant to win awards. He did not plan to make a lot of money. Speilmann had two simple goals. He wanted to create jobs for blind people. And he wanted to show people what it is like to be blind.

Voice 2 

Speilmann often invited friends into his home to share a meal. They would ask what it was like to be blind. So he would cover their eyes with dark cloth when they ate. His guests found that the meal was very different. They said that they had to concentrate on their food. They listened carefully to the people around them. They found it very interesting. Without their eyes, people use different senses. They concentrate more on hearing, smell, or touch. Food even has a different taste!

Voice 1 

Today, there are many restaurants like Blinde Kuh, where people eat in the dark. There are many differences between them. But all of them work in a similar way to Blinde Kuh. Guests enter into a lighted space. Here they order their food or buy drinks. In some of these restaurants, guests can choose a “mystery meal”. They will not know what they are eating. They have to use their other senses to recognize the food! They talk with their friends, and other guests. Some look around the room. They seem worried. This will be the last time they see anything for the next few hours.

Voice 2 

Then, a waiter enters. A restaurant waiter usually takes orders and serves food. At the dark dining restaurants, the waiter does more. It is unusual for a blind person to be a guide. But in these restaurants, the waiter is the guide for the guests. To enter the restaurant, one guest holds the waiter’s shoulders. Then, the next guest holds the shoulder of the first guest. Soon the guests form a line behind the waiter. Then, the waiter begins to walk. He leads the guests into the dining room. Here it is very dark. The guests cannot see anything. But the waiter never gets lost. He has done this many times. He does not need to see.

Voice 1 

At many dark dining restaurants, guests do not eat alone. The tables are very large. Everyone sits together. So people may sit next to someone they have never met. Many people find it difficult to eat and talk with strangers. But sitting in the dark, they feel differently. People feel that they can speak without being judged. No one can see at all. So people sometimes do things that they would not normally do. They find a kind of freedom in the dark room.

Voice 2 

There are many difficulties. Guests may spill food or drink. They may drop their forks or knives. Some people cannot easily find their own mouth. Sometimes, people even feel afraid of the new, strange situation. The guests depend on their blind waiter for everything. But for most people, these difficulties are also a chance to learn.

Voice 1 

After eating, guests often talk with their waiters. In some restaurants, waiters even tell stories to the whole group of guests. They talk about their experiences at the restaurant. And they tell stories about the rest of their lives. Blind people are often treated like they are less able than people who can see. They may learn to feel that their experiences are not as important. But the darkness of the restaurant changes this. While dining in the dark, everyone is blind. Here, blind people are the experts – they know more about living without sight than anyone!

Voice 2 

These restaurants give blind people jobs. They give people who can see a new way of thinking. But most of all, they give blind people something they do not get enough of – respect. People who can see learn more about the experience of being blind. Jorge Spielmann talked to writer Jacqueline Harmon Butler about this goal. He said,

Voice 3 

“We would not want anyone to be blind. We just want people to have the chance to experience the world the way we experience it.”

Voice 1 

The writer of this program was Dan Christmann. The producer was Steven Hofman. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Eating in the Dark’.

Voice 2 

Tell us what you think about today’s program. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. And find us on Facebook – just search for Spotlight Radio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Do you think you would want to eat in a restaurant where you could not see? What do you think would be the most difficult thing about it?

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