Our Athletes

My interview with a Special Olympics Athlete from Macau

Ken sits at a workshop table with a book on his lap.
Ken is a Special Olympics athlete from Macau who participates in athletics and bowling.

I’ve been doing blogs for a while now and was interested in writing one on autism. I wanted to interview someone connected with Special Olympics who has autism since I have it and wanted to share and connect experiences. I wanted to compare my experiences to those of another person who has autism and see what they go through and how they view life. In addition, I have a strong interest in Asian culture. I’m well aware of the challenges of an autistic person in the United States but I wanted to take this opportunity to learn the challenges people with autism face living in Asia. That’s how I got connected with Ken, a Special Olympics athlete from Macau. During our interview we talked about Special Olympics, personal experiences, autism, and lastly questions about Macau.

Ken and I first talked about Special Olympics and personal things. Here are the highlights on those topics. While I work at Special Olympics in Washington, DC, Ken works in a pastry shop in Macau. Both of us like our jobs, have responsibility and make money. Ken’s been involved with Special Olympics Macau for 10 years, while I’ve been involved with Special Olympics in Montgomery County, MD for about five years. He participates in track and field (athletics) and bowling and he really enjoys them because he gets to do new things and make new friends. I did basketball and softball. They kept me active and they helped me push myself to try my best. Ken and I both like movies, and Ken likes to go hiking, while I take long walks in Sligo Park, MD.

I then asked Ken about how people relate to him with his autism. From his answers, it sounds like people are very understanding about his autism and he doesn’t feel like it interferes with his interacting with people. He seems to have no trouble making friends and finds people very understanding. By contrast, my own experience has been that I need to depend on myself and most people focus on their own problems and are indifferent to what happens to me. I don’t know whether this is based on cultural differences between Macau and the US or just differences between my personality and Ken’s. From our talks, I could tell that Ken is more outgoing and optimistic than I am. Additionally, my early times in a Russian orphanage have made me cautious in warming up to new people I meet.

We then talked about the differences between life in Macau and life in the US. Ken speaks Chinese and Cantonese. And, since I don’t speak those languages, we used an interpreter to communicate with each other. From my reading, I’ve learned that some people in Macau speak Portuguese. As far as the COVID-19 pandemic, Ken mentioned that there are not a lot of cases there and it sounds much less wide spread than in the US. Ken told me that Macau is a good city to walk around in and he mentioned that he enjoys taking hikes. He also mentioned that Macau has gambling casinos and suggested that, if I ever visit Macau, I should be sure to try the delicious baked goods. This makes sense since Ken works in a pastry shop.

My experience speaking with Ken differs from my earlier interviews with Sayako (Special Olympics Japan) and Egor (Special Olympics Russia) because Ken comes from a different country with a different culture, we used an interpreter because Ken doesn’t speak English, and Ken, like me, has autism. I found that even though Ken and I both have autism, his experiences are very different from mine. He finds people understanding and doesn’t feel isolated from others. I appreciated the opportunity to converse with someone involved with Special Olympics from another Asian country since I have great respect and appreciation for Asian culture. Overall, I found my talk with Ken and his interpreter very enjoyable.

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