Can You SHOW Us a Story?

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The music from the choir of Ziburys Gymnasiam was a beautiful start to the APPLE summer session in Prienai, Lithuania. Not everything was being translated, so when the choir director asked us to join the singing in groups, I started singing a round even though it wasn’t a round and then I stared singing with the men.

My storytelling class that I had prepared for since February finally started. After a few modules, late in the afternoon, Adele asked the question, through the interpreter, “Can you show us a story?”

We had been talking about stories in general, then about true, personal stories. They were about to begin to write their own true, personal story.

I said, “Yes, I have an example of an amazing true, personal story on video.” It was Ophira Eisenberg’s The Accident from The Moth.

“No,” she said. “We want YOU to tell a story.” Several people in the class nodded in agreement.

I smiled. I had been talking about the power of stories, to entertain, educate, persuade and transform. I had been talking about how telling and listening to stories in person allows for a connection you can’t always get with reading or writing or from watching a video on You Tube. Even if it is an Ophira Eisenberg video.

I was smiling because it was funny that I hadn’t thought of this. I should have started the class about stories with a story. Sure, there had been shorter stories mixed in during the day and there were more of those to come, but there should be one really big, badass story to show, live and in person, just how a story can draw people in, fill the room with energy and leave a mark, a memory and maybe a change.

But, could I do it now, by request, without preparing forever like I usually do?

More or less.

I chose a story I had written and prepared a few years ago. Maybe I thought of this one first, because it is the one I had prepared for a Moth open mic in New York City, when Ophira Eisenberg was the host. But, my name didn’t get picked from the hat that night, so I only got to share my first sentence….

I was lying on a stretcher, with nurses and doctors all around me, when a priest handed me the phone and said, “It’s your Mom.”

Today, I told the whole story. Now the students know what they are going to do.  I’ll let you know how it goes…

I have the questions y’all asked the students to answer, if you have another one, leave it in the comments or just say “Hello!” They will read the posts and comments in the morning (which is your Wednesday night)!


The Trip Is Now. I Leave For Lithuania Today.

Growing Up Austin - A Lithuanian Story, All the Way From Texas
I just can’t be quiet about my first trip to Lithuania and I promised a new trip, so how long do you have to wait anyway?

The trip is now. I leave for Lithuania today.

I have a hundred more stories about the first trip, but I’m done with that, maybe I’ll write a book later.

I wish I could say I will be all super-social with lots-of-posts-and-tweets during this trip, but I probably won’t. I’m going to be with the students first. I want to be present and listening and adapting the class, making it the best class that ever happened. And, I don’t know if the students want the class story on the Internet. And, I don’t know how well the Internet will work. And, I want to meet the other conference teachers and hear their stories too. Sometimes social media connects us across the globe, but sometimes it keeps us from being fully present in the place we actually are.

I will wait and see how it goes. I might post or I might not, until I get back in July. I’ll certainly be full of stories then…

Love y’all,

Carol

Growing Up Austin - A Lithuanian Story All the Way From TexasWelcome to a special series on GrowingUpAustin.com, A Lithuanian Story – All the Way From Texas. I am traveling to Lithuania this summer to teach storytelling at A.P.P.L.E., an education conference that I first taught at almost twenty years ago. The new conference is fully of mystery and adventure. The first conference gave me stories I have been telling ever since. So, I decided to write about the trips here. If you have just joined, here is a summary of the posts. I’ll return to writing about hiking, live music and art for Austin kids when I get back in July. Information is always available at AustinKidsHike.com (hiking), AustinKidsDance.com (live music) and AustinKidsDraw.com (art).


Singing Cowboy Songs, in English

Growing Up Austin - A Lithuanian Story All the Way From Texas

Language is important in Lithuania. The country of just a few million people has its own language, an ancient language that is a direct descendent of Sanskrit and a source of national pride. During the fifty years of Soviet Union occupation, the language was outlawed, but Moms taught it secretly to their children at home. Lithuanians who had escaped to America went to Saturday morning schools to learn their language. When the occupation ended, the Lithuanian language came out of hiding and became an important part of the new, independent country.

Then, about a day later, someone said, “You had better learn English.” Some resisted. For a country that had been occupied multiple times, for long periods of time, getting its own language back was meaningful and important. One man said maybe the problem all along had been that they were to willing to learn someone else’s language.

Others embraced English, because they wanted to connect to the larger world, to other cultures and to commerce. In modern times, no country can be completely self-sufficient. Lithuania would have to build relationships with other countries to be strong and stable.  Maybe now that it was their choice, learning another language could be a positive part of the new, independent Lithuania.

The APPLE conference offered hour-long sessions to practice English. I helped with a session where folks practiced English by singing English songs.  The other teacher had traditional American songs ready for them to learn, like…

Make New Friends
Make new friends,
but keep the old.
One is silver,
the other is gold.
Complete lyrics here

You Are My Sunshine
You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are grey
You’ll never know dear
How much I love you
Please don’t take
My sunshine away
Complete lyrics here

That was all fine, but I thought there must be something a bit more contemporary, with a bit more personality.  I looked through the music I had brought with me and I chose Junior Brown’s Highway Patrol…

Junior Brown

Photo courtosey of StyleForum.net

I got a star on my car and one on my chest,
A gun on my hip and the right to arrest
I’m the guy who’s the boss on this highway
So watch out what you’re doin’ when you’re drivin’ my way
If you break the law, you’ll hear from me, I know
I’m a-workin’ for the state, I’m The Highway Patrol
Complete lyrics here

We talked about what the words meant and how to pronounce them, then we got busy singing. When it came time for the evening talent show, we decided to make a play out of it, with a sheriff, a speeding driver and a backup chorus. It was silly and fun, to bring a little bit of Texas to Lithuania and a little bit of cowboy to English practice.

I’m not sure what Lithuanians figured out about the language(s) since then. Some of my students will know English, but most will only know Lithuanian. The class will have an interpreter and we’ll do a lot of group work, where the students learn from and teach each other, in Lithuanian. But I brought some music with me too, like Jimmy LaFave’s Austin After Midnight and Caroline Herring’s Texas Two Step, in case they want to sing some cowboy songs, in English.

This may seem a little random, but speaking of transportation in Texas, have y’all seen Capital Metro’s Haul Pass for students? Parents can buy one for kids ages 6-18 for just $45, then the kid can get around by bus all summer. And, the Haul Pass acts like a Go Local card, with discounts at local businesses. I didn’t get paid to say that or anything, I just wanted to share!

Growing Up Austin - A Lithuanian Story All the Way From TexasWelcome to a special series on GrowingUpAustin.com, A Lithuanian Story – All the Way From Texas. I am traveling to Lithuania this summer to teach storytelling at A.P.P.L.E., an education conference that I first taught at almost twenty years ago. The new conference is fully of mystery and adventure. The first conference gave me stories I have been telling ever since. So, I decided to write about the trips here. If you have just joined, here is a summary of the posts. I’ll return to writing about hiking, live music and art for Austin kids when I get back in July. Information is always available at AustinKidsHike.com (hiking), AustinKidsDance.com (live music) and AustinKidsDraw.com (art).