Namaste sounds the same in every language

A while back I posted about my experience going to the doctor in a new country.  In one of the stories, I was at the Gynocologist. I likened my experience to being someone’s pet, someone’s cat in particular. This is because the doctor only spoke German and therefore never spoke to me.  He only spoke to Thorsten. It was as if Thorsten took his cat to the veterinarian for a check up. What I didn’t reveal previously was that if I had been a cat, the Doctor would’ve said, “Yes Mr. P, it appears your cat is pregnant.”

Fast forward 6 months and we are more than halfway there.  I share this post is because the differences between one’s homeland and one’s new land are always interesting ones especially when you’re pregnant. For example: In Germany a mid-wife (Hebamme) must be present at every birth.  This is actually a law.  In addition to that, a lot of mid-wife practices exist. Each one has four or five midwives, similar to a doctor’s practice.  The mid-wife practice offers a variety of services, things like birth preparation courses, acupuncture, reflexology, counselling and other regular mid-wife activities. Some are covered by your insurance, like the birth preparation course, and others are not.

Recently, I signed up for the Pre-natal yoga.  Now– I feel it’s important to let you know that I don’t know anything about Yoga. Period. In English or in any other language.  I know some of the Yoga lingo because I have lots of friends who practice yoga and teach yoga. I have tried it once or twice but without much success. However, being that I have been unable to find ballet classes yet, and that I’ve resorted to doing some exercises in my living room, I thought it was a good idea to get some instruction for my new soccer- ball-shaped belly.

This week was the first class.  I was nervous for lots of silly reasons, as usual. First, I had to drive into town and park. Until now, I have successfully avoided having to figure out the parking situation whether it be parallel parking, reading signs or dealing with a pay machine.  I know it’s dumb, but the small, logistical details that you don’t think about when you’re at home, are the ones that vex you when you live abroad. Then–I really needed to be on time because it seems that for the most part German culture is very punctual. (Luckily for me, our “downtown” is less than 10 minutes away.) Last and worst, I was concerned because the Yoga class was in German. What if I didn’t know what to do?  What if I couldn’t talk to anyone?  These courses are kind of designed to create a community of women who are all giving birth around the same time, so that they can befriend each other and have people to share the experiences with, but what if I couldn’t talk to them and I just felt awkward?

I tried to calm down by reminding myself that I have taken ballet classes in foreign countries and with teachers who don’t speak English. But this is never a problem because we all speak “Ballet French.”  It’s the same no matter where you go.  Plie is plie, etc.  This helped me to realize that I don’t love doing things I’m not an expert at.  Hmmm, so why would I sign up for yoga, and in a foreign language to boot? Hmmm, because I guess I’m also some kind of thrill seeker or I like things to be difficult. Anyway…

I left my house a little bit early, and found a parking spot nearby. Score!  I found the pay machine and while it wasn’t totally clear to me how much I needed to pay per hour , I knew I only had to pay for one hour. So, I stuck one Euro in the machine and a ticket came out. I put it in the windshield and hoped for the best. Problem 1: solved!

I arrived and rang the bell. The teacher answered and told me that I was the first student! Not just on time, but a few minutes early! Problem 2: solved!

Next, the other ladies began arriving.  Everyone was friendly but not overly so and no one knew each other so after each one entered and said hello, most everyone was quiet.

The class started a few minutes later. First challenge: She asked us all to introduce ourselves, telling where we are from, how far along we are, our due date, whether or not we have yoga experience and finally, if we are having any physical issues to address.  All of this I understood–so far, so good.

When my turn came I think I shocked everyone. When I started talking and my German was so obviously not Franconian, everyone looked a little surprised.  Everyone in the course is from our town except me. I could hear their Franconian so I knew they could hear my “American” or at least my “foreign.” But at least they could understand me. Everyone was sweet and I understood most of what they said about themselves too.

One thing that is often difficult is numbers. Hearing and really understanding how many weeks along people said they were was hard.  One reason is because in English we say: Twenty-seven. First 20 and then 7.  In this case the listener knows that you are going to be in the 20’s no matter what the second number is. In German though, we say, 7 and 20. So the lesser, second number always comes first.  This can be hard if you are still translating the 7 in your head and you miss the 20.  Then you are lost and you don’t know what number the person said.

After that she explained some things about the kind of yoga we would learn.  I can’t remember the name exactly but it’s a type that requires you to hold positions for a long time in order to benefit from them.  It is not stressful or hot.

We got started and all was going well. I didn’t understand everything, but there were enough “mile marker” words so that I could make general assumptions. That coupled with the fact that I could see what she was doing, worked perfectly. After a while, I realized that one particular phrase must mean, “Inhale and do this, then exhale and do that.” It was great because I was learning new words and putting movement with them.

All was going swimmingly, until…she said, “Ok, now you must close your eyes.”  This was the best and the worst part because it took so much brain/listening power to really concentrate and understand without being able to see. But I made it.  Only once, she had to come and fix a position for me because I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing. This was such a good lesson in listening and taking my time.  I didn’t pop open my eyes each time I was unsure, I didn’t shout out for help or start talking in English, I just waited and listened and then if I was really lost, I took a peak. Near the end of the class we did a relaxation exercise where we had to close our eyes again.  This time she kind of told a story and we had to relax each body part and practice deep breathing.  I was amazed that after a few minutes I understood her metaphor and what she was telling us to do.  Phew!

At the end of the class, I heard her say, “Namaste.” This is one of those buzz words that I know from my yogi friends. So for me, in that moment, the word had a comforting, grounding effect.  It helped me to know where I was and feel at home, even though the environment was new.

After the course, she asked me if I understood enough and I said “yes, almost everything.” I went back to the car and there was no parking ticket on the windshield, so I must’ve guessed right on the machine.  My confidence was raised. I’ve been looking for a way to keep studying German after the completion of language school and this class will definitely help. Problem 3-solved!