My daughter Kate has been active as a volunteer, helping a family who recently arrived in the states after growing up in Republic of the Congo and spending 20 years in a refugee camp in Rwanda. She spends several days each week helping this family learn the basics of surviving in the US, a very foreign land and culture to them.
The father of the family, Claude (not his real name), has been offered a job on a farm nearby and the hope is that he will become self-sufficient in getting to and from work.
In an effort to play a minor role in helping this family, yours truly offered to fix up an old bike and teach Claude how to ride a bicycle.
Finding a bike was the easy part. Teaching a 40+ year old how to ride it has turned out to be the real challenge.
Since Claude does not yet speak English nor do I speak Swahili, the first lesson was, as you might imagine, interesting – maybe even amusing to those who witnessed our first outing today.
Although Kate had offered to arrange for an interpreter to assist, I declined, figuring I could pantomime my way through the lesson.
If you’re having a hard time picturing me as a mime, I understand completely. I’m not exactly the theatrical type.
Even without a common spoken language, though, the lesson went pretty well.
That is not to say communication was easy.
At one point I asked Claude if I could take his bicycle temporarily so I could shift it into an easier gear (on most bikes you can only change gears while peddling), but no matter what I said, or tried to convey using body language, I couldn’t persuade him to dismount and part with his steed.
After exhausting my entire repertoire of words and gestures, I decided it wasn’t that important and moved on.
Yes, there’s an art to communication, and I’m still working on it.
As for progress, I’m happy to report that Claude can now coast on his bicycle, with his feet off the ground, for 8 or 10 seconds without falling over.
He hasn’t mastered the tricky part of peddling yet but me thinks before long he will trust that he can maintain his balance even when his feet are on the pedals.
I’m optimistic that when we go back out tomorrow Claude will have the confidence to take the critical leap which we all know is mostly psychological.
Perhaps a good translator can tell me how to say: “Let the force be with you.” in Swahili.
Stay tuned for an update on bicycle lessons in a subsequent post.
Speaking of learning how to balance, I’m reminded of one of Albert Einstein’s quotes: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
If you’re feeling a bit out of sorts these days, I’d love to help you get moving and begin to restore a healthy balance in your life. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk about simple ways to keep your feet on the pedals of life so you can start enjoying the ride!