Sleep, a bit-in-between that conductors sometimes need too!
I have just returned from three weeks in Hamar, Norway, which in some ways feels like three months or even years! I went straight to work on Friday, on the Christmas Market in Nürnberg and then I slept for thirteen hours, 'absolute soundo', as my Mum would say about our dog after a day on the beach.
The reason for my reluctance to leave was not because of going off into the unknown, I was really rather interested to find out what was being developed in Norway as far as Conductive Education was concerned. I was however very reluctant to live out of a suitcase again and longed to have some free time in my lovely flat.
I have taken at least eleven trips away from home this year, both within Germany and abroad, one of these for seven weeks, and in between moves in Germany I was also living out of boxes! Now, though, I am thoroughly enjoying being in my cosy warm flat for a few days sitting under the half decorated Christmas tree.
On 29th November luckily I had no choice, all the contracts had been signed and I had to get packing and on to that plane the next day. There were six little boys with their dinosaurs waiting at the other end for me and Stinky Stig: more than this I didn’t know, except that I was planning on having fun with them despite not speaking a word of their language. For me this was a problem as I would have loved to have had silly and serious chats with these boys, and when they asked when I was going to speak Norwegian to them it made me very sad.
I plan to change this for next time. Intensive Norwegian lessons are on the cards for 2009.
When I was still in Nürnberg I could not imagine for the life of me how it could possibly work out, me a leading conductor with no Norwegian language, not one word! It made me quite nervous I can tell you. I had experienced something like this once before and it was very difficult. The first time was in Hungary when I was a student, and not leading a group. As a first-year student at the Petö Institute, I was not expected to write programmes for the whole group, as I would be in Norway, to lead them, to write reports and hold meetings with parents.
I was to discover, however, that being English I could do this in Norway much better than could most of the other visiting conductors, as English is the language that is used for everything except the work in the group (and this Lill and I got sorted on the first day, resulting in excellent team work).
Conductive Education in Hamar
The 'block' system the world over - can it work?
I prefer the system in Nürnberg: it works more efficiently, both for the conductors and the children. The Hamar system may be better for the parents but makes it difficult for the conductors to follow work through during the whole year, and the children may need to get used to new peers and conductors each time they visit. Hamar has the added problem that, apart from the two permanent Norwegian conductors, the other conductors change every three weeks.
It is all swings and roundabouts and each country must find the best way to fit conductive upbringing into their culture and into the structure of their health and education systems, but first and foremost we are all here (all of us being the conductors, parents and management) for the children and we must always aim to do what is best for them.
My work-place was in a wooden cabin not too far from the lake. I actually saw this cabin in daylight four times in fifteen days! Once while we were out sledging, once when we went to the barbeque lunch, and twice on the two Sundays when after lunch I set off to the centre to do overtime, to finish the paperwork, to write programmes and progress reports and, if I had any time left, to write a posting for my blog.
Types of groups
Over the years in Nürnberg we have been lucky, as we have always had enough conductors to call upon and have had some heterogeneous small groups, but now as elsewhere we, conductors, are being reduced in numbers and the groups are homogeneous again.
Proof enough that that education, upbringing, learning, joy and having fun can all come in the same package.
More on language
How glad I am that I got on that plane and made it to Oslo and found myself in a foreign land unable to understand a word. I had no idea then that all Norwegians from as early as six years old, learn to speak English as correctly if not more so than I can. I was soon to realise that with my English and German I would do fine and I could stop worrying.
Those Norwegians working at the centre certainly use English a lot more than I do in my life in Germany. Believe it or not, this was only my second experience of Conductive Education in English, but it was English with several other languages going around in my head or coming out of other people's mouths. I was speaking Hungarian at the house where I was living and English at work, and both socially. I was in my element! My Hungarian improved dramatically over the three weeks, thanks to my Hungarian colleague Erzsibet, and I think that my English improved too! I was learning lots of English terms used in Conductive Education and I became more fluent in every-day English!
It was interesting being out together with my Hungarian colleague, Erzsibet, as she speaks Norwegian probably like I speak Hungarian, although I can not judge this very well. She speaks a little English and with my German and English and Hungarian we were communicating and understanding everything going on around us.
At the centre the Norwegians are really good at swapping into English as soon as a non- Norwegian appears. When this non-Norwegian happened to be only me I asked them not to change to English, especially when it was in their very short lunch hour, as I loved to hear them “singing” to each other.
We inspired each other in Hamar for three whole weeks and we will all miss each other in January, when I will be busy with my painter friend in northern Germany and in Hamar the little ones will be enjoying life with Postman Pat and his black and white cat. Hopefully they will have snow for sledging and winter barbeques.
How do words like 'seriosity' get invented?
Lill and I were using four languages both actively and passively. This is extremely tiring and this is when the brain starts refusing to switch from one to other as quickly as is necessary and these funny words start to appear. I wish that I had collected them over the years and made a book, it would make far more interesting reading than the English- Norwegian- Magyar task series dictionary that I came across in Hamar. Although that made me smile in places!
Maybe I should start collecting the funny words and phrases now, I already have the first two – “seriosity” and “ I open my knees”. For executing the later I visualise either using an old fashioned tin opener to expose my knee cap, or having a zip running around it (probably the easier version!).
Swapping similar words with different meanings is also common in our work, as I remember doing in Hungarian with cipö (shoes) and csipö (hips). I used the wrong word for a whole lying programme in the spina bifida group, where hips are mentioned in nearly every breath. It happened to be my exam and no one said a word except the very senior conductor, in her assessment afterwards, in very broken English!
Returning to Hamar
Norwegians are returning from their training in Britain and gradually they will take over leading all the groups, and they will at last be able to work together. This means they will be dealing with only one language and this their own mother tongue and that of the children. What bliss for them all! I long to be able to do just this but, unless I return to England or go to another English-speaking country it will not be possible. At least here in Germany I only have English in my head and German in my mouth, although I do speak Magyar occasionally with my colleagues, firstly because it sounds nicer to my ear, secondly at least because one of us will be talking in our mother tongue which makes the situation more relaxing and, thirdly, I like to practise.
As for my return to Hamar, I hope that this will be very soon. Maybe to experience Norway and its greenness and light so that I can compare it to Norway in its darkness, its blues, pinks and whites and every shade in between.