Monthly Archives: September 2012

Learning the cello as an adult.

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I love playing my cello. I can’t believe it took me 26 years to decide to pick up the cello. I love making music. I love that I can now play cello, albeit of a beginner standard. I can’t wait to improve and progress in the pieces I am playing. And I know to be able to do that, I need to practice. Every day!

As a teenager I played Violin and Viola and I don’t ever recall feeling so excited about practicing my instruments. I liked playing them but I saw practice as a chore, often. I was quite good at the time but I couldn’t play them now!

As an adult playing cello, my practice IS my playing. At the age of 27, I am never going to be a soloist in an orchestra. I’m probably not going to perform for people. When I play, I play for me. The practice, the playing is soothing. It’s happy and fufilling. I like to practice new pieces. I like to play older pieces and hear how my playing has improved and how even pieces I had previously found tricky are getting easier. I enjoy working on phrases or bars that I find tricky. I accept that my practice might sound scratchy or out of tunes at times, but over time it will improve. I have already noticed a much richer, deeper sound to the tone of my cello when I play it which I attribute to me having more confidence and strength in my bowing/ playing. When I have lessons, I really take on board the advice given and I go home determined to work on the areas of improvement such as left hand position or bow hold. As a child, I enjoyed lessons but I don’t recall ever giving them such importance. As an adult, my lessons form a vital part of my week and I look forward to them. They help guide me on my journey in learning the cello. I play scales and don’t hate them! Instead I understand their function in key signatures and how they will affect a piece of music.

When I played the violin and viola as a child, I really did enjoy making music, but except for one specific period of about a year where I practiced every day, I didn’t play with such motivation. I played in string orchestras, a quartet and a ceilidh band. But I didn’t LOVE playing the Violin or Viola. I enjoyed it but it was just one of the many things I did alongside my other hobbies such as Karate, drama and other sports.

I have always loved the cello as an instrument and I’m so happy I decided to take the plunge and buy one in Singapore. I was really inspired by Sally, a colleague at the school I was working in in Indonesia. She had begun playing the cello as an adult. It made me remember how much I had always wanted to play the cello. So I’m over the moon that now I can and that my pro active choice had brought such enjoyment and pleasure into my adult life. That singular choice to start learning the cello as an adult has been an excellent choice. I’ve only been playing 6 months and I can play relatively well for having been learning for 6 months.

I wish I’d done it earlier.  There are so many instruments I’d love to play; the saxophone, the oboe and the harp spring to mind. I finally realised that it didn’t matter how slow my progress was on an instrument as an adult, it was the actual choice of choosing to do it and to make the investment in an instrument and lessons, and to make the investment in my time to practice. Imagine how good I’ll be in another 6 months? In another years time? I already see such a difference in my playing.

Have you ever wished you could play an instrument? If you could choose an instrument to play now as an adult, what would you choose? Has anybody else enjoyed learning an instrument as an adult and how have you found it difficult to your experiences as a child if you played an instrument when you were younger?

Here is a video of me practicing my cello from the other night. It’s not perfect but I’m so happy with my improvement!

On another note, check out these cool cello videos …
Like start wars? Check out this excellent spoof video …

These guys from Apocalyptica know how to rock out on the cellos … love this.

Finally a wonderful, wonderful video of an amazing double bassist, Renaud Garcia-Fons.  I found this whilst browsing the web. I’ve never heard anybody make a double bass sound like this. Superb. I can’t embed it here but this is the link and I really recommend watching this guy.

http://www.npr.org/event/music/160103516/renaud-garcia-fons-tiny-desk-concert#

 

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Things I love about being home: Things I miss about Indonesia.

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So a lot has happened since I last wrote on this blog, oh so long ago! The biggest thing was that I have returned home to the UK from Indonesia where I was teaching at an International school. It’s September now and boy is it cold here in Newcastle! Brrrrr. I miss Indonesia a lot, but there are definitely benefits to being home. I’ll try to weigh them up here.

Things I love about being at home:
1) Driving.

Yes, now I am back in the UK, I feel I can climb back into the drivers seat and drive myself in a car. Did I drive in Indonesia? Of course I didn’t! Have you seen the crazy traffic and drivers there? I swear to god, at roundabouts in Indonesia, people on the roundabout give way to people coming onto it. I remember one of my colleagues at SWA described how she loved driving in Indo. She described the craziness and lack of organised rules and space as something she enjoyed and that when she went home, she didn’t like having to drive slowly and watch out for speed cameras etc. Haha. Now I’m home, I’m thrilled to be driving but gosh, the speedbumps, roundabouts and slow drivers are becoming a little painful and frustrating. In Indonesia, every day in a car or even better, on an Ojek, travelling on the road felt a little dangerous, if not very dangerous! It is kind of liberating though! I did drive once in Asia, but in the Philippines which it has to be said, had similar road safety issues, and boy was that one story. Kerry and Daryl, you’ll know exactly which driving trip I am talking about. I’ll just say being persuaded to drive back one large van to the school in the DARK was not a hugely enjoyable activity for me! I did get there goodness knows how! Still on the whole, being able to drive in England in a definite plus of being back home. I really love driving.. Except have you seen the price of petrol in England at the minute?!

2) Being close to my family and friends.

Indonesia is a long way from from the UK! Skype is great but time difference is not. Being back has been lovely and I know how relieved my parents are that I am home safe and they can see me more often.It’s lovely to spend time with family and I’ve been lucky enough to see all my cousins and Aunt and Uncle who live far south from here since I’ve been back. I’ve also spent lots of time with my sister has been lovely. My grandma has  been ill recently and I’ve been thankful to be home and be able to visit her in hospital and spend time with her enjoying her company. I am very grateful that my sister came out to visit me in Indonesia. No matter how much I could tell people from home what my life in Indonesia was like, I really felt that unless you could be there and see it, it couldn’t really be understood. I wanted my family to see Indonesia and see my life there. I loved being able to show Carla around BSD, the Gili Islands and Singapore. I’m really glad she had the opportunity to come out and see me there. I felt so lucky. I wish my parents had been able to come but they will next time I’m teaching overseas!

3) Food – Cheese – Wine

The choice of food in England is incredible. Supermarkets, Deli’s, all kinds of shops so it was super, super exciting to walk into ASDA, one of my fave supermarkets to find whole blocks of cheese for 1 pound! That’s the equivalent of about 14,000 RPH! I LOVE cheese. Good cheese is sadly missing in lots of Indonesian supermarkets. Nice shops like Kemchicks or Hero’s would have some but it was super expensive. So just imagine my glee and how much cheese I gorged on my return! Wine is so cheap here. What a novelty! Wine was so expensive in Indonesia. And not of that great quality.

4) Rocking out at my kickboxing club, BSBB.

I love my kickboxing team. Rick, the Boss who runs is is a really wonderful example of somebody who has turned their love and passion for martial arts into a successful family friendly martial arts club. BSBB is a wonderful example of a great martial arts club. When I did Karate when I was younger, I really enjoyed the discipline. I got to 1st Kyu but stopped because I found the club to be a pretty demoralising place which didn’t make me feel any good at it. One of the instructors there I remember was pretty mean to us, even as young students. So finding a great martial arts club, as an adult has been a blessing and joy. Being awarded my black belt, almost 3 years ago now, was just so special to me. I finally had that black belt I had wanted for so long! Being back at BSBB now I’m home is really lovely. I’m getting fitter and having fun. I’ve also started as a STORM team member at BSBB so I’m lucky in being able to help instruct/ teach the kids and mini dragon classes. The mini dragons are students who are 4-7, which is the age of the kids I usually teach, and its so fun to see them enjoying sport and martial arts outside of my usual interactions with students in class. I found out the hard way running an extra curricular club last year that enjoying being an active participant of Martial Arts is VERY different to teaching it. Tons of respect to Rick and the rest of the great teaching team who do a fantastic job every day at BSBB.

I also had the opportunity to take part in a Fight Night at Andy C’s tournament just the other weekend. Andy’s events are always great fun and our club really enjoy taking part in them. I have been active in entering the tournaments and competitions there for a long time, but since heading overseas on my 2 year adventure in Asia, I haven’t fought in a competition environment for almost 3 years. So being asked to step in for an injured fighter was pretty nerve wracking, on 6 days notice. And I still didn’t feel that fit! I can’t describe my sheer terror in having somebody opposite me, fighting me, who I know is going to try their best to hit me. All I can do in that blind panic is move as fast as I can, dodge or block their attacks and hope to score first. Or more often than she does. I’m fairly well advantaged in the scoring system in that I have long legs and fast head kicks which score 3 points compared to 1 point for any hand technique. A kick to the torso is worth 2 points. So if you are good with your legs you can really score well in points fighting. However, there are lots of people out there in martial arts who are extremely good with their legs too. Nat Loy, my opponent in the fight night is very good with her legs. I really enjoyed the fight and the experience, and I was buzzing afterwards. Sheer terror beforehand though! That moment where you realise you just have to walk out there and get in the ring and do it. That’s the moment I tell myself, ‘if it works me up so much to do it, I’d better try my damn best to win this’. And I  almost did! Well I made a great recovery from a poor round which ended 8-1 to my opponent, to score 15 points in the second round and even it out to a draw at 16-16. That meant 30 secs extra time. I didn’t score in that time but Nat threw, I think, 2 lovely head kicks. Never mind. Great experience. Rick always tells our team and anybody competing, that everybody gains experience from entering. And it really is true. It takes balls to get up there and walk out to fight or compete in front of other people. It’s scary. It’s wonderful when you win but you learn the most when you lose. Here’s the video of the fight.

Things I miss about Indonesia:

Hmmm, this is going to be hard. There are many!

1) My friends and work.

I feel really lucky to have made some really great friends and friends that I know I will keep in touch with and be friends with for a long time. I’m lucky that skype and email makes it easy to keep in touch with people in Indonesia or wherever they are in the world now. I miss that real face to face experience though. I miss Book Club. I miss evenings spent with friends and wine, I miss easy and friendly company from my wonderful and varied friendships in Indonesia. I would love to come out and visit you guys at some point this year. Don’t know if I will be able to though yet!

I also miss my job a lot. I really loved working at SWA. It was a fantastic learning curve for me. I learnt so much. I grew so much as a teacher and as a colleague. SWA is such a beautiful school and working in the Early Years was a really enjoyable experience for me. I miss my students a lot too! I miss having a class of my own and enjoying the work day in/ day out. Working in the UK as a supply teacher is a very different experience. To all my friends still there and those who’ve moved on, I send you my love.

2) The weather.

Wow, coming home has proven to me just how much I dislike the cold. I have one Canadian friend who spent years evading a bracing, icy winter by travelling to hotter climes. He described himself as ‘allergic to winter’. I’m starting to feel that same allergy. Wrapping myself up in bulky coats, scarves, gloves. URGGGH. I feel claustrophobic in all that gear. And you know what, it’s still not enough! I’m still cold. My feet are still wet and my socks squelch. The UK has had severe weather warnings and floods recently and Newcastle and the North did bear some of the brunt of it. The other day, I looked at the gray sky outside, the water furiously lashing against the glass and the whistling wind which whipped the trees and decided I simply wasn’t going out in it that day. So I didn’t!

Weather in Indonesia was hot and sticky. But preferable to this cold. I loved the beautiful sunshine and blue skies. I loved waking up to a bright day (rather than it starting to get light at 8am here … urgh and the end of summer time will soon be upon us). I liked that even if I was hot, I could cool off in decent AC. I liked being able to wear nice light clothing, dresses and skirts every day of the year. And NO tights. Surely tights are the most irritating item to wear ever?! I spend the whole day pulling them up and feeling them pinch my toes. NOT pleasant.

3) The Chaos.

I love organisation. I really do. I like to clean. However I’m not so good in theory. I try but probably fail often. But in Indonesia, there was no pretence whatsoever in the city being organised. The traffic was horrendous. Roads were disgusting. Everything took an insanely long time to get done or do. BUT, the craziness and liberation of living in that society was exciting and fresh. Taking ojeks was a regular highlight for me. I loved feeling the wind whip my hair and my face being blasted with cool air as we zipped around on the motorbike taxi. Dangerous? Yep! Exciting? Absolutely!

4) The Travel and the Holidays.

Yep, it had to be in there. No matter what people say about teachers being in it for the holidays, I don’t agree. I don’t teach for the holidays. I love teaching. Holidays are a highlight though. But in Indonesia, it was so easy to travel for the weekend or the half term and it was affordable enough to do so with regularity. I went to Medan, to the jungle to see orangutans in the wild … twice. I climbed Anak Krakatau, a live and active volcano. I dived in many beautiful places including Bunaken in Sulawesi which has to be up there on the top 10 dive sites in the world. I’ve snorkeled on beautiful beaches such as Gili Trawangan and swam with bundles of exotic fish in warm, clear and crystal blue water. I traveled to Singapore several times. Bali. Boracay. Lake Taal. Thailand. Malaysia. Burma. What a treat to be able to indulge in so many places and see so much of the local culture and beauty of the places and regions I was living in. I can’t see me indulging in any holidays soon to escape the gray gloomy skies of England unless I suddenly get a full time job with a monthly pay check! Saying that, I can’t wait to see the Autumn leaves and colours soon splashing themselves over the foliage and trees. That will be stunning. Always is.

5) The language and culture.

I loved learning the local language. I actually think I got pretty good. I had some help with Indonesian friends, especially my cello teacher, Asep. At one time near the end of my stay, I spent 40 minutes talking to the taxi driver in Indonesian in traffic! I think that’s pretty good. As soon as you stop using it regularly though, you easily forget. I really don’t want to. I try to speak in Indonesian at some point, normally to myself haha throughout the day but already I am forgetting words and I have to really think hard to remember them. Even simple ones I used daily. Sigh. It was my first ever really decent attempt to learn a foreign language! I also loved many aspects of the Indonesian culture. BATIK! Gosh, I love batik design and clothing/ fabric. Some of my favourite skirts and dresses I bought in Indonesia and are made of batik. Intricate, colourful and local. I also loved the Wayang puppetry and shows. The traditional music. The local schools and children. The day to day interactions of a friendly and welcoming, warm nation. I heart Indonesia.