Little Miss Turtle Toothbrush

I only want to buy a toothbrush

Strange encounters

 

When you are in a wheelchair, people tend to tell you their whole life including all their diseases and worries. I mean situations like this one: About a year I ago my brother and I were strolling through Hamburg when suddenly a strange woman came out of nowhere. She stopped next to me asking loudly why I was sitting in a wheelchair. She didn’t give me a chance to answer her question as she continued holding a monologue about her friend suffering from multiple sclerosis and about all her own health issues. Just like that – out of nowhere. Kind of strange, isn’t it!? The idea of asking a stranger anything about her or his health would never even cross my mind.

 

Up to now I’ve never found an explanation for the WHY? Is it my wheelchair that invites people to explain their “suffering” or their troubles in life? Or is it my friendly smile? Is it to make me feel better? Or to make them feel better? Is it to show, that valid-looking people also have problems with health, relationships or what ever? Is it because people expect me to understand? Or simply because they need to pour their hearts out? Please let me know if you have any ideas! Most of the time I listen patiently to people’s stories but sometimes I simply don’t want to hear their private stuff. I’m not yet a therapist – I’m only a young woman sitting in a wheelchair.

 

The other day I was in a big drug store with the intention to buy an electric toothbrush. A simple plan. While I was standing in front of the shelf, studying the different models, a pleasant salesman joined me. I briefly told him what I was looking for and asked for his advice. He told me that he would buy model XY and started to ask about my disability right away. He was kind of a funny, nerdy guy and within 5 minutes I knew about his relationship, his divorce, his taste of women (luckily I didn’t fit) and – of course – about all his health issues. I nodded and nodded and after 20 minutes I finally managed to escape with no toothbrush. I’ll get in on Amazon!

 

What kind of weird experiences with strangers did you have? Let me know by contacting me or by leaving a comment below.

 

 

A short trip to Berlin – Misfit Models

 

Two weeks ago I took the plane to Berlin. I had an appointment at Misfit Models, a model agency in Berlin-Pankow. This agency, founded and run by Del Keens, is looking for people with character and style who do not fit the current ideal of beauty. I’ve discovered their website not too long ago and decided to apply as a wheelchair model. I already did some work in front of the camera and loved it. But more about that in another blog post.

 

So, I booked a flight with easyJet to Berlin-Schöneberg airport, mentioning my foldable wheelchair and my “special needs” in the booking process. At the airport the mobility service accompanied us through the security check. Sometimes being disabled comes along with great advantages – at the airport you’re always treated like a VIP and never have to wait in endless crowds… Me and my boyfriend were the first to board. At the gate two helpers from the mobility service took me to the airplane, sat me on a small transfer chair and folded away my own wheelchair. They took me to my row and installed me on the passenger seat. Once landed in Berlin-Schönefeld we were the last passengers to leave the aircraft. Again the mobility service helped to get me out of the plane and put me back into my own wheelchair. We then were taken to a van and driven to the arrival zone.

 

First things first: We had to stop at a takeaway and eat a Berliner Currywurst which is unique in its taste! That was so good! We took the public transport, which is very wheelchair accessible, to get to our hotel. The Wyndham Garden Berlin Mitte is a nice 4-star-hotel with a very good breakfast buffet, but it isn’t 100 % wheelchair-friendly.

 

The next morning I had my appointment at Misfit Models. There are some steps at the entrance but as soon as the staff saw me they came out and installed a funny-looking wheelchair-ramp. After some paper work I finally met Del and he took some pictures for their website. A camera man from the German BILD News was filming the shooting and afterwards the BILD team asked me some questions. Half an hour later we were already on our way back to the airport to take our flight back home. What a cool short trip!

See me in the news on German Bild.de: “Dieses Casting ist keine Freakshow”

And here you get to my card: Misfit Model Melanie

Air France Airbus A320 Paris CDG

Nice surprise at Paris CDG Airport

I lately took a flight to Paris CDG Airport together with my boyfriend. After landing, a nice disability service assistant helped me to leave the airplane. He lifted me back into my wheelchair and accompanied us all the way to the arrival zone. At the exit, he asked us what we would do next. I replied that we would go to our hotel and that no more help was needed as we came here often and knew how to get to our destination.

 

The service assistant wasn’t satisfied with my answer and kept on asking where we would spend the night. His insisting way of interviewing us was very uncommon – I really didn’t know how to deal with it! It made me feel slightly uncomfortable. My boyfriend replied that we would sleep in a hotel at Roissy, not far from the airport. The service assistant then wanted to know the exact name of the hotel. “Okay …”, I thought, “Why is this guy so curious? What might he be up to?”. But friendly as I am, I told him where we would stay, with a slight note of impatience in my voice.

 

Finally he informed us, that there was a free shuttle service especially for disabled travelers and that he would call this service right now to take us directly to our hotel. “Why didn’t he tell us right away about it?”, I asked myself with a sensation of relief. The assistant explained that he had been doing the assistance job for more than 20 years and he only wanted to make sure that we would reach our hotel without any trouble. He continued that he took his job very seriously which I confirmed noddingly.

 

As a frequent wheelchair traveller, I regularly fly to Paris CDG. However, no one had ever mentioned this shuttle service before. So in order to make this very involved assistant happy, I decided to give it a try for the next morning. The service shuttle picked us up at our hotel at 07:30 am. It felt like being some kind of VIP as we were the only 2 passengers. We were back at the CDG airport within 10 minutes. What an unexpected surprise! I’ll surely take advantage of this great shuttle service again!

 

 

Snow and the blue sky

Wheelchair accessible Skiing in Isola 2000

Skiing with my pilot in Isola 2000

 

Last weekend I went skiing! Yes, I really went skiing! In France the government does very well in offering all different kinds of accessible sports for disabled people. Accessible Skiing is one of the many choices!

 

 

The Tandem’Flex (by TESSIER) is a bucket seat construction on a metal frame which is directly fixed onto skies. You can rent a pilot (who has a certificate for skiing with the Tandem’Flex) and the material on the date and in the ski resort of your choice for free – and there you go! I rented my pilot Véronique via www.handiski06.com.

 

As location I chose Isola 2000, which is a nice ski resort in the French Alpes-Maritimes department not far from Nice. Luckily the sun was shining on that day, it was not too cold for me and the sky was as blue as it can only be on the French Riviera.

 

My pilot Véronique and I met at 2 pm in front of the Ski School of Isola 2000. Thanks to the help of my boyfriend, it was easy for me to install myself in the Tandem’Flex. I was quite surprised by the comfort of the bucket seat. Almost like in a relaxing chair! My excitement grew from second to second. I impatiently watched my pilot fastening all the safety belts.

 

After two more security checks, Véronique and I started right away skiing down the blue piste! The first sensations of sliding down the hill, combined with the sound of creaking snow, made me feel so happy that I could cry! It’s been such a long time since I last went skiing as a child. What an awesome feeling!

 

The slope led us down to the ski lift. While I was asking myself how on earth it would be possible to take the ski lift in this thing, my pilot did some adjustments to the Tandem’Flex and suddenly the whole seat construction automatically lifted itself to an upright position in order to safely take the chairlift. Getting on the ski lift’s bench felt a little bumpy and for a second, I wondered if I would survive this ride. Okay, I have to admit, at first I was indeed very scared that I might fall out of the chairlift! But those worries quickly faded away when my pilot explained how the security features work.

 

 

Once arrived on top of the mountain, the Tandem’Flex gently switched back into its skiing position. Véronique clicked her ski boots into the bindings and we took the ski slope for beginners. On our way down we stopped to watch some grass-eating chamois. I could hardly concentrate those little fellows, as I just wanted to ski on! The fast and slalom parts were my favorites! Véronique even took the red slope with me, which was of course much steeper than the blue one! I’m a big fan of all Alpine skiing disciplines, especially downhill… Speed is everything to me! I wouldn’t have stopped riding the Tandem’Flex, if the rental time hadn’t gone by so fast… !

 

During the 2-hour-tour I felt like a Queen on her throne and sometimes even like Lindsey Vonn. So many kids and other skiers were staring at me in this extraordinary vehicle! I had so much fun experiencing the snow and enjoying the unique feeling of riding down the slopes of Isola 2000. What an adventure!

 

If you get the chance to try out wheelchair accessible skiing, do it! I can totally recommend it for wheelchair users.

 

Little Miss Turtle Strange Encounter

You are so charming, Miss!

 

Strange encounters – A true story

 

Yesterday I went to Cannes to meet a friend. While I was waiting on the sidewalk in my wheelchair, a scruffy, unkempt looking man stopped next to me and said “You are so charming, Miss!”. I looked up, surprised by his words. I thanked him when he continued “It’s such a pity for you to be in a wheelchair! You are so beautiful!”. He inspected my wheelchair and said suddenly that I had a bad life. “What the hell is wrong with this guy!”, I asked myself.

 

“Me, a bad life …! This man has no idea!”. I answered straight to him that my life was not bad at all and that it was only a matter of opinion. The man obviously didn’t expect such an answer and acted kind of embarrassed. He grabbed my hand and shook it with an awkward smile on his face to say goodbye. He left with a “Stay strong!” and walked away.

 

I regularly experience those kinds of strange and at the same time funny situations. It’s a weird feeling to explain a stranger that I do live a happy life and that my wheelchair is a natural part of me. After this short conversation I had to smile and I thought for once more that I could write a book about all my adventures!