Learning in mutuality

Hand In Hand

Anna Guthrie is a participant in the 2013-14 ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission program. She and the 63 other volunteers in the program are undergoing orientation in their respective countries before going out to their host communities. Anna is in Madagascar. Here is an excerpt from her blog she is writing about her experiences. To read the complete entry, click here.   

Anna Guthrie has found that children, besides being friends, can be great teachers.

Anna Guthrie has found that children, besides being friends, can be great teachers.

Our three weeks of in-country orientation will soon be coming to a close. These three weeks of orientation have been all about learning. Lots and lots of learning. Word of the day: “mianatra” (to learn).

All this learning is certainly exciting and I love it, but it is also at times overwhelming. While we have been learning many things about Madagascar and Malagasy life here in orientation, the primary focus has been learning as much of the Malagasy language as possible in this short amount of time. … As we have learned more in class, we have been increasingly encouraged to practice our Malagasy with Malagasy people. …

Part of this encouragement to interact with the Malagasy came with an afternoon activity challenge from Austin and Tanya [Propst, the country coordinators]. We were asked to spend one hour outside the Lovasoa compound on our own. This was the only requirement — we could interact with the Malagasy community in whatever way we felt comfortable, whether it was observing from a park bench, sipping on a Coke, or trying out our conversation skills. …

I had noticed some kids running around the Lovasoa compound earlier that day, so I took my Malagasy notebook outside and sat by where I had last seen them. I sat making notecards, and soon enough, some little kids’ heads began poking around the side of the building, looking at me and giggling. I smiled and waved, and their heads would disappear, then peek around again. I smiled and waved, smiled and waved, until one of the boys apparently mustered up some courage and enough curiosity to come running at me full speed and then slide to a stop in the grass right beside me, laughing loudly. We had learned colors that day in language class, so we began to practice colors. What color is the grass? Maintso/green. What color is my skirt? Mainty/black. He told me the Malagasy words for me to repeat, and then I told him the English words. Soon his siblings came to join and they all enjoyed correcting my pronunciation and testing me. The oldest boy peeked in my notebook, and seeing my list of Malagasy vocabulary words with their English translations, asked for a paper and pen and began to copy them down and practice saying the words. These children were so eager to learn and practice English — I hope my students will be as willing to learn as they were. They were silly and fun, and great teachers. After this experience, I am pretty sure that kids will be my first best friends here in Madagascar. They are great teachers!

These encounters in learning and sharing language alongside the Malagasy were great reminders in not only the goals of the Young Adults in Global Mission program but were also reminders about my own personal hopes. I want to remember to learn and teach in a spirit of mutuality, with both parties giving and receiving. Larissa [a woman Anna had spent time with the previous day] and the kids, with their openness and excitement to learn and teach, encouraged me in this hope and made me even more excited to meet and engage my host community.


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