Student Spotlight: Jinnie Saran

Editor’s note: Jinnie Saran was PTCB’s final student before the conclusion of the Victoria-based Home Stay pilot program, which is being replaced. Jinnie graduated in December of 2019. The following article originally appeared in the Blind Beginnings Limitless newsletter and is reprinted verbatim with permission from both Jinnie and Blind Beginnings.

Chili to Italy

By: Jinnie Saran

After receiving the Lori Sheppard Memorial Fund at our last Blind Beginnings Gala, I moved to the island in order to spend a semester as a student at the Pacific Training Centre for the Blind. My goal throughout this experience was to come away with skills I previously did not have and gain the confidence I lacked. I remember the first night I arrived and I was immediately helping my homestay host in the kitchen. The meal that night was chili, and I actively participated in chopping the vegetables and had contact with the pot on the stove. It took us about an hour if not more to prep everything before the cooking started. I chopped each item carefully behind the echoes of voices that told me I would get hurt and that the chopping had to appear nice reverberated in my head. Even when interacting with the pot on the stove, I was quite leary and took my time. It took a lot of exposure and repetition before I began to make more progress. I still vividly remember the first time I put a tray of cookies in the oven. However, somehow things changed. Perhaps it was just the very act of cooking and baking more coupled with me learning that not all needs to be visually perfect.

My progress was demonstrated and celebrated at the PTC meal for 8. Once a student is ready, they cook a meal for 8 people including themselves. From day one I had been highly excited for that moment. After a lot of back and forth, I finally decided on my menu which was going to consist of spaghetti with pesto sauce, salad, garlic bread, and to top it all off, apple crisp! After this and the grocery shopping, came the fun part of cooking everything! I prepared my dessert the night before independently. On the actual day I put together the salad before cooking the spaghetti and tossed the bread into the oven. This time, my chopping was quick yet nicely sized. Rather than stopping to measure each slice or piece, my knife rhythmically diced and chopped speeding up with the beating of my heart. My meal was on Remembrance Day, so during the middle of my salad prepping, I stopped to join my homestay host to listen to a part of the ceremony on TV and had a moment of silence. After the salad came the time to cook the Spaghetti! I had bought two packages of spaghetti and after some thought I decided to only cook one package, which in hindsight was the correct choice.

I set a big pot of water on the stove and waited for it to boil while I broke up the spaghetti. When I began to put it in the pot however, I got worried that the pot was not big enough as some of my spaghetti skittered into the back burner setting off the smoke alarm. I realized that I had to push down the spaghetti in the pot to make room and after that the rest was able to fit and I set my timer. Just as my spaghetti was finishing, my guests started to arrive. I was glad I had completed cooking before many of them were there, and all I had left to do was test and see if the noodles were done and stick in the garlic bread. I stuck in the bread and took a fork to take out a noodle which for some reason on that day was seeming much more challenging, but I eventually got one and made the executive decision that the spaghetti was done. A huge wave of relief washed over me at that point, the cooking part was done! I carefully drained the pot and mixed in the pesto sauce and left it to sit while I asked everyone what they wanted to drink, and then put out the salad. Once I went to join everyone at the table with a coke in hand, I found myself not wanting to eat along with them as my mind was too busy thinking about what I needed to be doing. After the salad came time for me to serve up the spaghetti. The only somewhat hard part of this was figuring out how much was enough on each plate, but once I asked the first person being served if the amount was enough, I stuck to a similar portion for the rest of my guests. I was finally able to eat a bit.

Lastly, the apple crisp was served! This was my favorite part, although my only over-sight was that I left the ice-cream out. All in all, I believe my meal was highly successful, and though I was nervous throughout, I kept laughing with everyone there which helped a lot. I am extremely proud of myself for coming so far and am extremely thankful to those who supported me throughout this experience!