Thursday, May 29, 2014

Learning curve- Part 1

It's been three months since I waved goodbye to my beloved grandparents at King Shaka International airport, since I used my new passport for the first time and then crossed the equator with one suitcase, laptop and my trusty backpack. It’s been three months filled with trying new foods, smelling unfamiliar scents, breaking old habits, meeting wonderful
people and living an expat life at the age of 23.

A yummy lunch has just settled my ravenous tummy and I'm sitting at my desk typing this post during my break. Outside, familiar sounds of sixth grade boys playing soccer filters into my classroom. Their frequent chants of “Do It!!” as they train, keeps me smiling while I plan for my next lesson. Just like that, listening to them train daily, seeing close to 300 kids a week for English and the interesting conversations with my co-teachers has now become my norm. I quite like this new normal.
I am also learning. My goodness I am learning... I have begun Ukulele classes every Wednesday and to date, I con only play the chords to ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ with gusto! My Ukulele instructor (the Musical Wonder) speaks basic English but doesn’t hesitate to physically move my fingers up and down in an attempt to teach me. Over the last couple of weeks, I have sat during the hour-long lessons feeling disheartened and tears threatening to spill over because the language barrier has been taking its toll. At the best of times I can follow instruction during the Ukulele class by watching her swift fingers and making my own notes. When the pace quickens however, my fingers feel like sausages and instead of strumming out a confident D-chord, I am still trying to figure out where we are in the song.
But miracles do happen. A turning point came during this week’s lesson! Last week the Musical Wonder gave me a Ukulele to take home and practice. I played the G7-chord over and over, trying to force my fingers to befriend the strings. During our lesson this week, I was able to keep up a little better than usual and even the dreaded D-chord didn’t kill my musical mojo. While plucking at the strings and trying to figure out some chord or the other, the Musical Wonder said something in Korean to the rest of the class and all I heard was, “Nadia seon-saeng-nim…..” (which translates as ‘Nadia teacher…). The rest of the staff grinned at me while nodding in agreement and whipping out their next page of music. Being one step behind as usual, the Musical Wonder helped me find the page. It finally dawned as to why she mentiond me to the others only when she pointed at the lyrics. She had searched for a song with both Korean and English lyrics. We were about to play and sing in my mother tongue. I made sure that each chord I played was as close to being correct as possible and we all plucked and sang a slightly off-tune version of 'Edelweiss' from 'The Sound of Music'.

I bowed deeply as I left class that day, waved and said "Ahn Nyeong Hee Ke Se Yo" (Goodbye if you are leaving the room/place). With the Ukulele swung over my shoulder once again, a large toothy grin spread across my face and humming 'Edelweiss', my learning curve didn't seem so steep anymore.

Read "Learning Curve- Part 2" here.


  1. That learning curve can be pretty steep, but you're doing so well!!! Isn't it amazing how much ones Mother Language resonates and means so much, that somebody making a small effort like finding a song in your language can tug heart strings so hard? Definitely a lesson I've learned that I hope to take back to SA with me!

    1. Sharing a song in English with the group was amazing and did wonders to revive my spirits. I agree with you 100% Erica, these are some of the things I hope to take back to our neck of the woods to share with people.