International Braille Contest Prague 2010


At first, there was the national stage...

“The adventure” started one summer day, when a competition invitation came to my email box. I opened the message and welcomed the invitation to participate in the international Braille promoting contest. The national stage required writing two texts (an article and an open letter) on given topics. Following the contest rules, “Knights of the 21st century” were first to go. I looked into distance and wondered, where I could “hunt” at least one knight at the beginning of the new century. Moreover, the national stage organizer - “De Facto” Association dreamed of a plural form of a noble knight. I pondered and even had a few sighs because long, long time ago a knight used to take a lady up into his arms, without a single thought about the lady's weight...! After this short visit in the dream land, I invited my imagination to cooperate and the sheet of paper got covered with dots forming sentences. Then, it was time for the second subject, i.e. proving that it is worth living according to the “carpe diem” rule or ”catch the day man, cause every day matters” – to put it more homely.

I sent my Braille works to the organizers and could only wait for the results – maybe I will be one of the chosen and I will visit Prague!

On 15th October, there was another message waiting in my mailbox with an angelic subject: “congratulations, results of the open contest...” I read it and... gosh! I was one of the finalists of the national stage – hooray!

A workshop, and after that...

One October day I came to Płock to participate in a workshop on operating Braille Pen 12 – a notepad with Braille monitor. In the next stage of the competition we were supposed to work with this device. I discreetly “looked around” the room to see with whom I would compete. It turned out that Małgorzata Lubaś from Żyrardów, Maciej Kapczyński from Płock and me from Sieradz were qualified for the final. There wasn't  much time to talk because the new gadget was absorbing my attention. The device was small, apparently easy to operate but different shapes of the keys kept leading me up the garden path. My fingers were programmed to look for an elongated key from the mechanical Brailler, and here the buttons were nicely round. The good thing was that we could take the notepads home together with two guidelines:

1.To practice patiently every day

2.See above

International stage

On November 5th, we set out on a journey to Prague – everyone was prepared as for his capabilities and strengths, with a little bit of hope for a success in the pockets. The distance to go was quite long, but in a good company, time goes quickly by. Around 8 PM we parked our car in front of the Agricola Hotel. Despite fatigue we all agreed to meet in the hotel restaurant and discuss the “strategy” while drinking different beverages, like the good soldier Svejk. We shared our experience in using the notepad. And there I could see in “little” Maciej a potential for a noble knight because he shared his valuable remarks with us. Especially one of them was for me very important – it concerned text editing. Małgorzata also added a bit of knowledge and one could almost feel no stress, but... Jerzy (keeping his finger on the pulse in every aspect) reminded us politely that we were on a threshold of the competition. Oh dear, it was true, time to “ruffle my feathers” a bit! Soon final arrangements were made and we went to have the well-deserved rest.

The next day started with final practising and charging our devices, then a long walk with a guide and a translator, exploring nooks and crannies of the old city of Prague. In spite of the rain, we listened to the breathtaking history of the Czech Republic and in our own way admired the beauty of the architecture that we could touch.

The culmination of the walk was a picturesque figurine show at the Orloj atom clock at the old market square at 6 PM. When the gates of the eternal clock history closed, suddenly a chant sung in voice parts resounded. Gathered people, including us, were asking in lower voice – who is it singing? Is this another part of the show? It turned out that the show was observed by men's chorus from Italy, and it was them who spontaneously started the nostalgic chant.

After cultural impressions, it was time to meet the Czech contestants for the first time. The meeting was held in good atmosphere during joint dinner. Official presentation of the competition participants, shy handshakes and… flop, because how to taste at least a bit of integration when apart from the language barrier, there is also the lack of eye contact! Too bad, I resigned and even today I don't know who I talked to. What I recall most is the voice of a man who agreed to translate, because he used to have a friend from Poland and thanks to that he spoke our language quite fluently.

The last day of our stay in Prague (Sunday, November 7th, 2010) was for all very exciting. The contest took place at hospitable premises of the Public City Library. It was all about completing three tasks with the use of Braille Pen 12:

Correct writing without misspells,

Text editing,

Loud reading of a text displayed on the Braille monitor (fragments of the book “Anne of Green Gables”).

The clock was started and Kasia (member of the Polish jury) began to read the dictation text. The second jury member – Monika, was in the room, where the Czech contestant were struggling against time.

Frankly speaking, I don't know how much time it took to complete the tasks. I think that every participant proved to be perfect in a different task. Maciej asked if he could be the last one reading aloud the Braille text. I almost jumped out of joy hearing those words, because I preferred to go first. Before I managed to calm down after reading aloud fragments of “Anne of Green Gables”, Małgorzata was already coming out of the room having completed her task. Wow, so one can read Braille so quickly? – I thought with admiration. When everyone completed the contest tasks, it was time for something for the body – joint lunch, and afterwards...

The results were announced, it turned out that the Czechs were better this time – sincere congratulations! To be honest, as a curious woman, I precisely “overheard” what prizes were given to the contestants. Small correction – I didn't go into the Czechs' prizes – it would have been rude. Małgorzata Lubaś received a Symbian phone with a possibility of installing a screen reader, Maciej Kapczyński got a digital dictaphone and I was awarded a Braille Pen.

Let us hope, that in 2011 the next contest edition will be held, and then...!


Open Braille Contest 2010 – prizes awarded! by Alicja Nyziak