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Posts tagged ‘travel’

Illiterate for a week

I’m in Bulgaria, and I cannot speak or read the language. Over the summer I went to Brazil and I did pretty well learning a bit of Portuguese. In the end I could understand some and say some and that made it really fun and quite navigable.

In the airport before travelling to Bulgaria, far too late, I had a look for a Duolingo type programme and found this one, which helpfully gives you an intro to the alphabet as a first task and I was overloaded. I had thought I could pick up a few phrases to speak and read. Have a look – and this is only half of the letters. You’ll see there are not only different, but also completely new sounds for an English speaker:

 

Simple things in everyday life bamboozled me. Getting a bus ticket. At the kiosk I handed over some cash, got a little piece of paper and a couple of minutes later meekly returned to the lady to ask, “where?” with hand gestures and the hope that she would reply. She said: SIX. (go to bus stop number 6) See if you could have guessed…

How many stops there were to the destination? One person said three and another said one. The website showed one, but then the bus stopped at a normal bus stop on the side of the road, not a station, so guesswork reigned. I wrote the description of the destination down in English, (with Latin lettering) – not Cyrillic. I wasn’t particularly worried, but I had no clue what was happening and no real way to ask.

This language barrier is no fault of the people here. There is no reason they should speak another language, but I should have studied their language. I can get from here to there by following shapes of roads on a map and yes, the magic of modern translators (for menus) is unprecidented. If I went grocery shopping I would be relying on familiarity and certainly would not buy any cleaning products or medicines. I would have no clue. In restaurants menus tend to have words, not pictures. PICTURES. That’s why Denny’s in America can serve anyone across the country. They use pictures and you don’t have to read.

I am just so glad that I can read and write in my own language. Here I gave my lovely host at the Arts Academy here a piece of paper to write some names of places and things on it, and she wrote them so I could read – I had to ask her to write them so she could read, so if I show to someone else, they will know.

I am really at the mercy of those around me and find myself looking at expressions, listening, and more listening, feeling myself mimic the sounds by making them discretely inside my mouth – baby learning. I’m doing baby learning. I cannot read, write, or speak the language: I am illiterate. Traversing geography has allowed me to experience this in a sudden and real way, and I am now aware of just how big a jump it would be to learn to read as an adult. That cannot be understated.

Makes the stories in the Horton & Freire book all the more meaningful, giving people agency and motivation and support. Hats off to those who help others learn.

Finding the words

It has been a month since I posted anything. A month. Sometimes finding the words to express joys, sorrows, and for me now – the digestion of thinking – it’s a translation issue. It is hard enough to go between words and music, let alone begin translating living into words. The past month has encompassed a lot of living and it is through the people we meet and the stories they tell that inspiration takes hold yet again.

I seem to listen best when the lure of routine is broken and there is the luxury of space. What do I mean? Every so often my job includes travel, and personally I crave connection and interaction with those beyond my immediate experience. When in a different setting, physically, culturally, environmentally, there is a necessity for either adaption or calcification, as a form of perseverance or protection I suppose. I would like to think I am open to experience. There are also times we (certainly I) am not always receptive to stories, life, to the water we swim in and the air we breathe, but over the past month, I was. Read more

California Dreaming: The Musiquality Book

Nearly there! In 2015 a group of my university students and I had an extraordinary adventure as we set to make a dream that would take us 5000 miles away to work with a group of students in California into a reality. It was one of those things that on paper just wouldn’t seem possible. We had no resources or experiences, but a whole lot of sheer enthusiasm and belief. It did happen and it was the most amazing time – from planning, learning, baking, laughing, packing, travelling, daring to go further, doing new things, teaching, meeting new people, going new places, asking, becoming a group, and saying thank you.

It was one of those happenings that really had an impact on people, myself included, and good things came of it. People kept saying to me, you should tell the story, and so I have. With encouragement and help from those who were with me, I have written it all down. We always planned to document our trip, and so had lots of recorded and documented conversations. The draft text is pretty much done – at around 200 pages, and it’s different to other educational books. It is a combination of an autobiographical story about education, but not theory, not something in the classroom, it is about life and real, meaningful, experiential learning. It’s also about our individual stories, and the commitment and perseverance it took to make it all happen.

  • We’ve kept both the lovely bits and the struggles to make a very honest account.
  • It includes the perspective of those who were with me – my students and the teachers have all contributed to writing this book.
  • As a learning situation, we were all in it together: learning, teaching, and supporting one another, and it happened completely outside the box. …started in the box and burst out pretty quickly…

Have a peek at the 1-minute trailer to have a glimpse into the story:

 Look for more updates soon 🙂

#DontYouQuit