So I realize that World Congress was Ages ago now (in student-time anyway) but I still wanted to put up an overview and a few thought. Hannah has done great wrap up of the experience that I am posting here, and I will touch on a few specific aspects in later posts. Hannah and I are a team so I am happy for her to speak for me 🙂
8th World Congress, Munich, 2013 (Hannah Silcock)
In April 2013 (in our 2nd year on the conductor course), my fellow student Jalyss Zapf bumped into Susie Mallett and Andrew Sutton in the corridor outside NICE’s School Group. They quickly got onto the topic of the World Congress in Munich (October 2013) where Susie and Andrew suggested that Jalyss should attend and potentially present! They were very enthusiastic and encouraging and, in short, Jalyss approached me to help her write and deliver a speech. I agreed, and so started our mammoth world congress journey.
We chose to do our speech on how conductor training has changed our thinking so far over the past 2 years, just as CE changes the way participants think for successful intention and eventual orthofunction. We stated that we need the three years to build up our understanding and knowledge of CE gradually and algorithmically, otherwise our understanding of CE would be at a surface level. We titled our presentation “The Makings of an Orthofunctional Conductor”. We submitted our abstract in the April and it was accepted in May.
Jalyss went back home to America for the summer holiday so as I was in the UK and relatively closer to everything/everyone we needed for the trip, I organised the logistics of the trip, with Susie who was a great help. Susie put us in contact with sponsors, encouraged to find more sponsors, found us accommodation and transferred money on our behalf to pay for the accommodation (as my British account wasn’t transferring into the German bank accounts). It was all very new and consequently very hectic! If it hadn’t have been for Susie we may not have made it to Munich.
As soon as Jalyss arrived back in the UK in the September, we set to work on our presentation. It took us many, many hours to write our speech- over 30 hours went into its writing (let alone the house and hours spent thinking over it!) and we were still tweaking things right up until the last minute. But we eventually printed the (almost) final draft a day before we left for Munich.
We set off for Munich on Tuesday the 8th of October. After we had managed to find the hostel (with the help of some very kind Germans!) we walked into Munich town centre to explore the main strip. On the way, we marvelled at the many independent bakeries and the vast numbers of cyclists (who we got in the way of until we realised that the cycle lane is on the path- unheard of in the UK). Once at the main square (Marienplatz) we mooched around for a bit, took a few touristy photos, and then had our tea (I had a schnitzel the size of my face).
Wednesday the 9th of October, we visited the CE centre in Starnberg- FortSchritt Starnberg. Susie put us in contact with Peter von Quadt, one of the founders of the centre, who showed us around and let us sit in on one of the programmes. The group was aged about 4-6 years old. They listened to a story (something about a “Piltz”-mushroom) whilst doing some manipulation tasks, which then moved into their individual programme. Generally it was quite easy to follow because the structure of the programme and RI were similar to what we do in the UK, only everything was in German. So we participated and facilitated as best we could with the “kleine” German we had. The staff were very welcoming and it was really interesting to see CE in another setting, within a different culture.
Afterwards, we sat at Starnberg’s massive (but slightly foggy) lake; taking in the view and taking more photos. As we headed back in to Munich, we chatted with one of the Pető Institute’s interpreters who had translated for us at FortSchritt Starnberg. She was really friendly and informative with regards the current “goings on” at the Pető Institute.
Later that day, we went to the Deutsches Museum. There were a lot of plane engines, modern technology- micro and macro, pharmaceutical exhibits and instruments. Another student from our year, Steven, joined us in Munich on the Wednesday so in the evening we all went out for tea. I had 2 white “wool” sausages (an interesting Bavarian delicacy) and Steven got drunk on one pint of German beer.
Thursday 10th October was the first day of the Congress. We caught the train to Fürstenfeldbruck, and then walked to the venue- Veranstaltungsforum Fürstenfeld. The congress opened with a performance by children from the Pheonix School.
After lunch the presentations started. The majority of the speakers seemed to have come from relatively humble backgrounds which made us feel more confident about doing our speech. One speech that stood out for Jalyss and I was titled “Conductive Education: lost in translation” which highlighted the importance of using the correct language to define CE; something we were going to touch on, on Saturday.
On Thursday I also met Susie Mallett face-to-face for the first time (having only spoken over e-mail). She introduced us to loads of people, giving us a few more faces to look out for over the congress.
That evening we sat with Susie at the Bavarian banquet. The banquet was amazing! We had a meat platter with traditional German sausage, cured meat, salami, gherkins, dripping etc then a buffet with sliced pork, potato dumplings etc. There was a loud band playing traditional Bavarian folk music which really aided the atmosphere. They had Bavarian bagpipes, an array of small pipes, a double base, guitars, accordion, (a box you sit on and bash for different sounds)…..all in all it was a really good opening day and night.
Friday the 11th of October had a much better atmosphere and we felt a little less like children invading an adult party. We met and recognised a few more people which aided our confidence in networking and consequently our confidence in being at the congress in general. Jalyss attended a workshop held by a Mexican poet of whom we became very well acquainted with by the end of the congress, whilst I listened to one of the conductors from Australia who we had met the night before.
The presentation that stood out for me on the Friday was given by the director of the Pető Institute, who gave a really good keynote speech on the art of CE. He spoke about CE on a deeper level than our student brains had come to fully understand. It was interesting because our speech was going to be about the changes we experience in our understanding of CE and his speech touched on how our thinking will adapt further.
In the evening we went to the old town hall in Munich town centre (Marienplatz) for another banquet. As we were arrived, we were unexpectedly greeted by a brass band in lederhosen (!)- prime for tourist photo taking. Over the evening, honorary conductor statuses were awarded, a golden jubilee Pető award was awarded, a juggling display was performed (where Jalyss crazily volunteered to stand between two jugglers and have them knock a straw out of her mouth with a juggling pin!), our new poet pal read one of his poems (which was full of innuendoes regarding the relationship he has with his motorised wheelchair) and more speeches were given. Jalyss and I also gave Susie her own personal award (in the form of some M&S biscuits in a groovy tin) for helping us with the organisation of our trip. We had another German buffet and two glasses of red wine…We left the banquet around 11 o’clock, now very tired from the past few days (and a bit giggly).
Saturday the 12th of October. PRESENTATION DAY! The morning was a bit of a blur because we were quite nervous about our presentation. We watched a presentation on CE in China which was very interesting (but had some very harrowing statistics about disabled orphans in the country). The CE ethos fits really well into the Chinese culture and works well as a lifestyle/upbringing, but doesn’t seem to include some of the CE methodology. We squeezed in another few presentations, before we started to prepare for our speech (with ever increasing nervousness).
The majority of the people we had met over the congress attended our presentation, as well as some who we hadn’t. Our big cheese (Melanie Brown) was in the crowd, which was really good because we could demonstrate that we had actually listened to her and our other lecturers but scary because she is so wise! In addition to this, the director of the Pető Institute (Franz Schaffhauser) was chairing our presentation! Susie sat at the front (to film it and give us encouraging smiles throughout) as did Theresa Kinnersley (NICE) and Shona Ballantyne (Perth, Australia).
The presentation went really well and we got a lot of really positive feedback from the audience and the chairs. We took lots of pictures to be sure that we wouldn’t forget anything and then left the room with a big sigh of relief (though for the rest of the afternoon I suffered from a really bad adrenaline come-down, with a head and tummy ache).
The congress concluded with the closing speeches, the passing over of the congress to the Pet Institute and a live performance by the man who wrote the “first official congress song”- Magic.
Everyone left the venue pretty sharpish but we slowly ambled back to the train station, taking as many pictures as we could. On the way we said our goodbyes and thank yous to Andrew and Susie, whose support before and during the congress had been tremendous.
Our day didn’t end there though. Teaming up with the infamous Mexican poet and his friend, a German psychologist working at the Pheonix centre and her partner, Jalyss and I visited the Hofbräuhaus (where Hitler used to hang out back in the day…!) The atmosphere was amazing! Just as one table would stand to toast and cheer so would another, and another would follow them etc. It was a bit of a struggle finding a table at first because it was incredibly busy but we found one in the end. It was a further struggle trying to seat two wheelchairs at the table but the host kindly assisted in rearranging the furniture. Neither Jalyss nor I particularly like beer but we wanted to be a part of the atmosphere so we each ordered a MASSIVE shandy (the stein was as big as our heads). We left the Hofbräuhaus in high spirits. It turned out that the Mexican poet and his friend had been at the same hostel the whole time and we hadn’t realised. We chatted for a long time and at 3/4 am decided to go to call it a day.
Sunday the 13th was a pretty uneventful. Of great importance, we manage to squeeze in one more pretzel J Over the course of the day we travelled by train-train-mobility car (as Jalyss’ ankles got the better of her, after a week of hobbling around Munich on her crutches)-plane-train-train-car. We started in Munich, arrived in Birmingham, took a detour to Gloucester and ended up in Cardiff for practice at Craig-Y-Parc the next day. It was a long day but it gave us lots of time to reflect on our trip, discuss the presentations we had been to and delete the rubbish pictures we had taken.
Jalyss and I would like to end our story by saying that we are so, so grateful to the people we met along the way and to our sponsors who made it possible for us to be there. It would have been a great opportunity missed had we not gone. Hopefully we can return any sort of favour to everyone who assisted us in getting to Munich, in the future!