Monday, May 25, 2015

If you had the choice to change your life – would you?

I wrote a blog post a couple years ago on my thoughts and feelings about being handicapped. If I could wave a magic wand and have my disability erased how would my life be different? Who would I be without a disability? I can’t answer that because I only know who I am today. I am Shawna Mattinson and I have a disability. I’ve done a lot of things during my life, and that’s affected who I am today. I am a writer, a blogger, a web designer, a friend, a sister, and a daughter. Would these be different if I didn’t have a disability?

I am a normal person inside, and I have dreams and goals like everybody else. Yes, you can see my disability, but that doesn’t define who I am as a person. I saw this on my holiday because people were extremely friendly with me.  Is it because they are friendly or is it because of my disability? There were servers who would talk to me like I was a baby and couldn’t think for myself.  I wish people wouldn’t assume I am stupid. If I could, I would like to see people not make any assumptions. People who have a disability like me are looked down on because we don't act the same way.

Everybody has a disability. There are physical disabilities but also nonphysical ones like anger management issues, drug addiction, laziness, mental illness, social anxiety, lack of self-esteem, and others. In our lives, we need challenges to prove that we can overcome them.

Sometimes, we can’t overcome the challenges in our life by ourselves. We all need help in some way, like doing a paper for school, or helping someone move out of their parents’ house for the first time, or buying a car, or getting your own house. If we don’t have family or friends to count on, who can we count on?

Just because we need help, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have our own independence, like moving out for the first time. When I was younger, I always told my parents I’d move out when I was 18. My mom didn’t know if that was a good idea for me, but I proved her wrong. For others with physical disabilities, they’re not given that chance. They’re kept at home because their caregivers don’t know if they can handle the real world.

How do you respond to people who have a disability? The answer is, if you have someone who has a disability in your life, the disability doesn’t matter. For me, my family and friends only see me, Shawna.  I really like that.  I love the way they see me as a normal but bright girl with a sense of humour and many capabilities.  I feel sad for the people with disabilities whose families don’t let them spread their wings and keep them home.

I wish that everybody in the world could see through a disability and see what’s inside not just what is in on the outside.  This will never happen but it poses an interesting question of whether or not the grass is truly greener on the other side. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hawaii, and the end of the cruise

In Nawiliwili, we went on the helicopter ride. After that, we went on another excursion called “Tubing the Ditch.” I also got a video from the helicopter ride.

The helicopter ride

Tubing in the ditch
Then in Honolulu, in the morning, we walked around. We caught the bus in the morning, he dropped us off at Wal-mart. We walked around in there, and then we went on the other side and then there was a Starbucks and we went online and then we went into two stores, and then Laura and I went to the beach at 12:30 and we left there at 6:30 to go back to the ship.

All in all, it was an excellent cruise, and I would do it again.

Pago Pago

In Pago Pago, we walked around and it was very very hot out. You couldn't even stand it. We walked to the library; it was a fifteen minute walk. You had to pay $5 to get online and it wasn't worth it, but I paid the $5 because I hadn't talked to my family for a while now. We walked back to the ship and walked all the way to McDonald's to get a cold drink. On the way back, there were a couple of kiosks where I bought a couple of T-shirts. Then we went back on the ship.

Hanging out at the pool


In Suva, we went on an excursion for the whole day. It was a boat ride, and then we went to a waterfall but you had to walk. A guy who was taking us on the boat, he carried me a part of the way, but I couldn't get up to the waterfall because it was so hot out and I was too heavy, and they don't wear shoes in Fiji, so it was hard for the guy. There was a place where I could sit and everybody else went up to the waterfall and they could swim in it. We got back to the boat and went back to have lunch. Before we had lunch, they had a ceremony to welcome us into their homes, and we had Kava. When I had Kava, oh my god, it was the worst drink I ever had. And then we had lunch and then they had a little market outside. We went back to the ship after that.

The longboat ride

The ceremony

Port Vila

In Port Vila, we didn't go into town. They had a big market outside the ship, so we walked up and down. I bought a nice dress and a T-shirt, and then we went back on the ship and we hung out at the pool outside in the back of the ship. It was a beautiful day. When we left that evening, we were outside so we could see how big the town was, but in my opinion, it wasn't wheelchair-friendly.

Hanging out at the pool


Easo was a little beach, and we needed another tender. We went over there. It was a cool day, but my roommate and I decided to go in the water and I can't believe I am saying this, but the water was nice and warm. But I did not stay in there for a long time because of the waves, and I got water in my mouth, and it was salty. Then we went back to the ship and we had lunch, and then we went to the gym and rode the bikes for an hour and a half. Woohoo! I can't believe people live on that island, but for me, all these little towns that we went to are not wheelchair-friendly, but I made it work.

Swimming in the ocean


Noumea was a city that we had to take a bus to, but when we tried to get on the bus, the driver said, “You wait for an accessible bus.” They didn’t speak English, so when we told them that I can walk a little bit with help, they told us that the other bus would be 5 minutes.

Waiting for an accessible bus

In the town where another ship docked, there was a big crowd there to go on an excursion and you can go in there and get Wi-Fi. So we went in there and got Wi-Fi, and then after that, we went walking around and we went into a store and there was everything there. And then we went out, we wanted to go to a beach, but we looked at a map, but we didn’t want to go too far and then get back, so there were two little Australian ladies who were on our cruise and they tried to ask people where you can go and buy souvenirs. So we decided to follow them and see what they took us to; it was a little mall, but with nothing there at all. So we went back to the ship, and hung out at the pool.


Sydney is a beautiful place, and I wish we had an extra day there, but we didn’t. My roommate went to walk the Sydney Bridge, so I went with her and her brother and sister-in-law. My roommate went onto the Sydney Bridge and then we went over to the opera house; we saw the Sydney Bridge when we were at the opera house. We had to take a bus to get to downtown Sydney, and we couldn’t wait for my roommate to finish so we went back early because it was two hours and a half, and we had to be back on the ship by a certain time. So I hoped she would get back on time. It was a nice day. We looked around for a bit and then went back to the ship.

The Sydney Bridge

The Sydney Opera House


We had two days in Melbourne. The first day, we had an excursion. We went on a train ride and then we went to a park and we fed the birds. After the excursion, we went back to the ship and in the terminal, they had a little store. So I bought another sweater. The next day, we went for a walk around town to see what was near the ship. The weather was getting a little better, but it wasn't warm out. We saw if we could get any Wi-Fi so I FaceTimed my mom and dad. We went to a store where my roommate could get Coca-Colas for the ship. Then we went back and then I bought T-shirts at the store where I bought my sweater.

The train ride

Melbourne is a city that is wheelchair-friendly. When we went on the train ride, my roommate and her brother helped me get into the train car, so that wasn't wheelchair-friendly. When we were on the ride to the next stop, when I looked outside, it looked like Hawaii with the tall trees. We saw a lot of people sitting on the side with their feet out of the train window.


In Hobart, Australia, we went to the zoo to feed the kangaroos, it's hard to get around because it was all rock. We went there at nighttime so it was hard to see. But I went around to see everything, but they made us go back-and-forth to see the different animals, and it was a little hard because at the zoo, it's not paved. So I really liked it, but for me, I wouldn't go back-and-forth like that. There was a talking parrot, and I got to pet a koala bear too. At the end, there was a lady who was working there, and we told her that it was hard for me to feed the kangaroo because everyone who was there was trying to feed them and take pictures. So she told us that she would help me to feed one. So at the end of the tour, we went over to the kangaroos and she got one of them and I got to feed him, and it was pretty cool.

Feeding the kangaroos

The talking parrot

And in the daytime, I hung out in the room, but everybody had to get off the ship in the morning because we were in Australia, and everybody needed to get off and go through customs, but my roommate and her brother and sister had to go on an excursion in the morning, so I had to get off with them away inside the terminal, but I had a little problem, and it was my fault. My wheelchair wasn't charging on the ship, but I had the same problem when we got to New Zealand, and I plugged it in in the hotel, and it didn't charge. I ran into a lady who had a scooter and I asked her what kind of charger she had, and could I look at it. And she showed me what it was, and I asked her, "Can I use it for a couple of hours?" And she said, "Oh, of course! But I need it back when I go to bed." And I said, "Well then, I'll borrow it just for a couple of hours and I'll bring it to your room at night." And she said, "Okay, that'll be fine."

So I plugged it in and it charged. So I was waiting in the terminal to get back on the ship. It was 11:30am when we were finally allowed to get back on the ship. And we worked out at 8:30am, so it was a long morning, but I brought a book with me, and I saw my wheelchair going down because it didn’t have a really good charge. So when I got back in the room, I talked to myself, “Let’s try it again, and see what happens.” So I plugged it in and it charged! So I was so happy. So I left it plugged in and I told my roommate what happened, and she was happy too. So now, every stop that we made, we plugged my wheelchair in.


The next day, we stopped in Akaroa for the day. We needed a tender to get off, so we got up early, had breakfast, and  we got off the ship because we thought we had an excursion in the morning swimming with the dolphins. We went to the place where they had it because it was on the same dock where we got off the tender, and it was open at 9am. So we went there and we told them that yesterday, we went online to pay for it, but they did not get it. The lady who was there said that they only had one spot left. My roommate told them that I needed help and she had to come with me. If I could go, I wanted her to go too. And she said, "I can't leave you here alone on the dock." So she said, "Forget it."


And there was nothing open, so we decided to go back because there was nothing to do. We forgot to bring the iPad to email our friend, so we decided to go to the 'queen's lounge' on the cruise ship.  Then we got back on the tender to go back over, and the weather was getting bad and the water was getting rough. So a lot of people didn't want to go out, but we had to. We went over and we met our friend, and we walked around the town. It was a little town; there's not really much to do. After the walk, we went to a coffee shop to have a drink and talk. We spent a couple of hours there and it was super fun, and I wish we had another day there. And when we got back on the tender, the weather was getting cold. The plan was the next day, we would stop in Port Chalmers and go kayaking again, but the weather was getting bad. The captain wanted to get ahead of the weather, so we headed on to Australia.

Akaroa was accessible, but not wheelchair-friendly for most of the places. There was one place that a couple of people had to help get my wheelchair upstairs.