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I can imagine most of the people who are reading this, have no clue what the Loo Erf was all about, or what it is all about I should say. I will try below to explain this first, and then I will tell you a few things about it that were important to me or that I remember about it in particular.

What is the Loo Erf?

The Loo Erf is located in the town called Apeldorn in the Netherlands. It is an organisation for the blind and visually impared who want to learn skills so they can live on their own, independantly. I do not really know much about the history facts. In general, it is designed for people who have seen all their lives, but at a certain point, for whatever reasons, have become blind or partly sighted. the purpose for them is to learn new things, so they can continue their lives as much as possible. Most of these people have lived on their own for all their life, have done their jobs, had their hobbies and such. the idea is that they will learn new skills for things they are no longer able to do now they have trouble seeing. For example: if you are cooking, you use your eyes to see wether food is ready or not. this becomes difficult if you should become blind or partly sighted and can't see these things anymore. the teachers at the Loo Erf will teach you new skills, using your other senses, so you can stil figure out wether your food is ready to be eaten or wether it will need to cook a bit longer. If you have difficulties with a certain hobby they'll help you find new ways so you can still enjoy this hobby, or if this becomes impossible they will help you find new things that might interest you. They'll teach you how to use a cane, how to walk and find your way, how to get help if you need to find a store or a building where you don't really know the way, teach you to get on and off busses or trains and how to travel safely. They'll teach you also how to use a computer, write a letter using the keyboard with your 2 hands and 10 fingers, making use of software that will read out the screen of the computer too you. Of course for every partly sighted or blind person this explanation was not really neccesary but I hope many people will visit this website so I thought it might make sense to really explain it clearly.

this is just in general what this organization is about, and what it was about in the time I went there. Now I am blind from birth, so you will ask yourself how I ended up there??? This organization is generally for people who became blind or visually impared later on in their lives, but also people like me are allowed to learn things there, and that's what I did, for a total of 15 months.

My time at the Loo Erf

the first time I heard about the Loo Erf was I think in 1994, and my first thoughts about it were like: oh no....Not another kind of boarding school. So in january or february of 1995, I am not completely sure about that anymore, I went together with my parents to look around at this Loo Erf for one day. when I was there, I discovered it was nothing like a boarding school at all, it was independant, free and just fun.

So I finished my school that I was on and I had my exams and that all went well. then after the summer vacation of 1995, which we partly spent in Italy, it was time for me to go to the Loo Erf for the first time, which was really exciting but also made me a bit nervous. the first time I would only go for 2 days, for evaluation and tests, but still it was the first time I went to stay somewhere else without my family going with me. So during packing I got quite stressed and nervous, hoping I would not forget anything. I remember running up and down the stairs twice because I wanted to ask my mother something, but by the time I had reached my mother I had forgotten what I came to ask her. And when we departed from home, because this first time my parents took me there, I left my cane at home and we had to drive back to get it.

When we arrived it was really a strange sensation for me. It was a huge building, it seemed to me even bigger than it really was. and I knew from my previous visit that besides this main building there were several other buildings as well, so it would be hard at first to find my way around. there were already quite a few people present and drinking coffee or so and talking busily. we had to sit and wait a few minutes at the entrance and I thought: oh no....What have I gotten myself into? then a gentleman came, who worked at what they call the living department, which is actually a group of people who arrange the things that have to do with everyone's stay, like deciding who gets which room, helping newcomers or other people if they have general questions, assisting during the meals or free hours and such. Now this description is not really completely accurate maybe but I'm sure you get the point. So this gentleman welcomed me at the Loo Erf and explained several things to me, like which lessons and tests I would be doing this week, about the rules of the building and such things, and then I was shown into my room, room 212, which was really a nice one. Not so big, but with it's own little bathroom and shower, a desk and a nice relaxing chair to sit in, and a bed of course. There was also a telephone in the room so I could receive my own phone calls in my room and after paying for it I could even make phone calls. And it was also possible to call inside the building to my teachers or other students or so if I needed to, and that was free of course. My parents helped me unpacking and such and then it was time for the afternoon meal and they went back home.

Before my first lessons and tests started there was a little bit of time where there was nothing for me to do and I spent it in my room, for the first time during this day alone. Suddenly I felt like really a small girl lost in a huge building not knowing the way and not really knowing what to do with my free time, I felt sorts of lost. Thankfully the gentleman who had shown me into my room also came on time to pick me up and he taught me the way to the place where I had my first test. Well, taught???? He attempted to do so but at first it was all too much for me.

During those first 2 days I had several different tests, some that were nice and others that were boring. And I met Esther and several other people who became friends of mine. During my second week I also only stayed 2 days and that's when was decided that I would be coming back next week to start my training and that from then on I would be going there each monday and staying until friday. I soon discovered that there were also many people who for their own reasons had decided to stay only 2 or 3 nights per week or so.

More than only lessons

For me the time at the Loo Erf was more than just doing my lessons. It is safe to say that I learned almost as much from the other students and from my activities in the free time as I did from the teachers. At least once every week I would work at the bar during evening hours serving drinks. At the start the tuesday was my bar tending evening and sometimes I helped a friend on thursday. When he switched to monday I decided to start working with him on mondays as well, sometimes filling in on tuesdays or wednesdays if neccesary. Although the plan was that I worked at the bar only once a week, it frequently came down to twice or more...

Other things we did were visits to other towns or to the shopping area of Apeldoorn, where we frequently went to McDonalds if we still felt hungry after supper. It was really easy to find my way there so I also started taking friends with me so we would be out for a while. I think I have never eaten as much McDonalds food in my life as I did during that year. I also clearly remember visiting Arnhem with a friend of mine and we had a lot of fun, and he also taught me how to go on the escalator, something the teachers of Loo Erf didn't manage to teach me.

The hardest thing for me to learn, which also made me most nervous, was travelling by train. Now I am so used to doing it, it is hard for me to think back and imagine why I was so frightened but I guess once you know how it works that feeling of fear and uneasiness fades away in time.

Second Loo Erf period

As I mentioned before, I stayed there for a total of 15 months, but there was a break in between. After 9 months I decided I was ready to go home, there was at that moment really nothing for me to learn and do there. My original plan was to go study something and live for that time with my parents still. But as the end of my time at Loo Erf approached, I grew restless because living with my parents suddenly didn't seem so appealing and easy anymore. So I went home, not really knowing what I was going to do with my future. Just before I left I heard from someone about a project that was about to be started in september, and I talked to my personal guide and told her I might be interested. Only 1 week after I officially left I came back one day to visit and talk about this new project, which was also the day on which I signed up for it. 2 weeks after that I also once again came back, now as a visitor of my friend Alicey for some goodbye parties of some friends of mine, which was a lot of fun. And then in september I was back again, now until the beginning of march 1997. this is where I decided that I was going to live and study in Deventer.

The Loo Erf time has been, and still is, a very important chapter of my life, with many great times that I remember about it. It was an adventure and I really enjoyed it, and like to think back on it as the period in my life where I became independant and a different person, not knowing if that is always better or worse but anyway.......

October 10th 2008

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