Saturday, 26 November 2011

Összhang a Petö Intézetben








Harmony at the Petö Institute
An international conference at the András Petö Institute of Conductive Education
And what a wonderful atmosphere there was there.
This was not only my opinion, I heard a German visitor describing how cold and dull such conferences can feel in Germany. He was absolutely right, they can be a bit icy back “home” and the PAI got it just right at this Hungarian Science Festival 2011 event.
Of course I am very biased.
A singing soul at the PAI
My soul was singing as I walked up Kútvölgy, past the cog-railway terminal, past János Kórház and the other hospital, the name of which I can never remember, with the rumbling of trams in my ears.
The only thing that I felt was missing was the smell of a Traubant chugging up the hill beside me! They are noticeable through their absence!
I walked through the door of the Petö Institute with my head held high, I did not have to sneak in like I had had to do ten years ago,  and from the first moment the atmosphere was almost electric. An atmosphere had been created that any conductor would be proud to have achieved in a group.

For me there followed a continuous bumping into old friends, mostly from twenty years ago! It was like we had always been there. Some of my Hungarian friends were visiting for the first time after many years too. This made for a really harmonious singing-of-souls.
During the lunch-break I went up the stairs that for once were not filled with singing children, until I found the red floor and made my way towards my first-ever group, then the spina bifida group. There,in that group, with little Hungarian to my name in the early months of my training, I soaked up as much through my skin and my soul, as if by osmosis, as I could. I believe that many students and conductors had singing, happy souls working in that particular group and that is why we all get attracted like a magnet back there, and why when I opened the door today Laci básci had beaten me to it. He was already there enjoying being back home too.
Laci bácsi had been a special friend to me during the early months in Budapest because he was learning English at about the same rate as I was learning Hungarian. Sometimes as he gave me a lift in his brown Láda he would give me a Hungarian lesson.
I am sad to say that his English today is far better than my Hungarian is nowadays, but, never-the-less, as in Rome you do as the Romans and today I insisted that we speak Hungarian!
That funny language
When I was still at work in Nürnberg on Thursday, my colleagues were teasing me and insisted that we spoke Hungarian together in the lunch-break. They thought that I needed to practise, but I could not utter one word. My mind went blank.
I travelled to Budapest with a Hungarian colleague and still our common language remained German, until Friday morning when I walked through that door at the Petö András Institute. It was like one switch was turned off and another turned on.

My two languages today were English and Hungarian because I still cannot deal with all three at once.
The conference was in Hungarian. I decided that I would manage the introductions without a headset for translation, but I asked for one later, just in case, for when the lectures began.
The first stumbling block
I managed so well when Mihály Szivos Ph.D., from The Hungarian Ministry of Sciences, was speaking about the significance of unspoken knowledge in general pedagogy and Conductive Education. I did just as well, if not better, when Franz Schaffhauser Ph.D. spoke on the philosophy and pedagogy of inclusion.
The going got tough when Dr Ildikó Kissné Horváth, from the Ministry, was at the podium. Everyone in the audience I think realised, even before she told us at the end of her speech, that she had not known that the Institute worked mainly with disabled children and apologised for preparing a presentation about rehabilitation with adults. This lady spoke really quickly so I finally decided that I must reach for the head-phones.
I then did what I always did as a trainee conductor, I held one ear piece to my ear and kept the other ear free to get the gist in real life! I find it so important when listening to a speaker to hear how they actually say what they say, and despite it being very tiring with two ears listening to two  different people I get more out of it than just hearing it in English.
A favourite voice from the past
As I put the headset to my ear I got such a lovely surprise. Twenty-four years, almost to the day, since I first met her, I heard once again the voice of our regular translator. Kati translated for us British trainees from the word go, in 1987. She was our favourite translator. She knew so much about Conductive Education, even then in the early days, so she knew how to translate lots of the in-house terms that usually mean nothing to an outsider. She also knew how to translate what we said  in English into the Hungarian Conductive Language
Anyone watching me today would have wondered what the translator was saying to make such a huge grin cross my face. As I sought her out later just as big a grin crossed her face in the moment that we met.
Thanks to Zsuzsi
It was Kati’s non-English speaking, school-teacher sister who had taught me to speak Hungarian in two lessons a week for four years. This was the first time that Kati discovered what a good job her sister had done. Previously we had only spoken English with each other.
Today I was very appreciative of the good work that Kati’s sister had done with me so long ago. Speaking the Hungarian language somehow allows me to feel so much at home in the place that I spent four of the happiest years of my life.
The lovely one-day conference is over, but the weekend of meetings has only just begun. Also in the bits-in-between-for conductors I will be meeting people including at least one, if not two of AP’s first students, from 1947. I also dream of a dip in the Gellert baths, but can hope for a trip up to the castle and a long visit to the Mária Hári Library.
More about all of that later.

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