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A Journey of Learning and Gratitude: My Experience in Japan

A Journey of Learning and Gratitude: My Experience in Japan with the Chava Shelhav Child'Space Method

I recently embarked on a transformative journey to Matsue, Japan, where I had the incredible opportunity to serve as a Co-Assistant in a 10-day training segment of the Chava Shelhav Child'Space Method. This experience not only marked my first venture into international teaching but also my initial travels abroad since the COVID-19 pandemic, following my graduation from the Chava Shelhav Child'Space Method program in Amsterdam in 2019. Working alongside esteemed Senior Child'Space Trainer Barbara Leverone and Child'Space Trainer Akiko Takao was an immense honour and privilege, making this journey a truly unforgettable experience.

My initial day at the Shelhav Method training in Matsue overflowed with gratitude; a big warm thank you to Akiko Takao's exceptional organizational skills. As I stepped into the beautiful, spacious room, the welcoming and respectful staff guided me on where to place my shoes and which slippers to wear. I was handed a mat, a name tag, and the choice of a doll to work with during the segment. The day proceeded meticulously, with everything starting and ending on time. Despite my initial nervousness about the language barrier, having a translator proved seamless. I felt incredibly privileged to be part of this experience, a sentiment I shared with the group and one I will continue to express.

I was also given the opportunity to facilitate the morning hands-on practice sessions with the students. During these sessions, I reviewed the hands-on practice from the previous day, providing students with the opportunity to practice under my supervision. On the second day, I had the exciting chance to teach my first Developmental Movement Exploration (DME) lesson on 'extending to squat' to a wonderful group of Japanese students. Their enthusiasm was contagious, and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity.

The third day marked a significant milestone for me as I conducted my first baby demonstration session in a training segment with a Japanese mother and her adorable 9-month-old daughter, Yuki. It was a profoundly enriching experience filled with memorable moments. One highlight was demonstrating Yuki's impressive movement abilities to her mother and showcasing how introducing variation to her transitions could enhance her crawling symmetry. I stressed the importance of spending quality time with Yuki, emphasizing that even dedicating just 10 minutes a day to read or play could profoundly impact her overall development, especially in socio-emotional, language, and cognitive aspects.

Each day was filled with a full and intense program, starting with hands-on practice followed by DME lessons and baby demonstrations. The afternoons were dedicated to more hands-on practice and lectures. The students also undertook their practicums during this segment, providing them with the opportunity to work with mothers and babies and practice what they had learned throughout the training. For me, teaching was a significant highlight, coupled with being immersed in a rich and stimulating learning environment.

Amidst the intensive training, we had one day off, which I used to explore the cultural treasures of Matsue. I visited the Adachi Museum of Arts and Japanese-style Garden, a sanctuary of tranquillity and artistry. Additionally, I had the opportunity to explore Matsue Castle, one of Japan's oldest original castles and a designated national treasure. The castle's historical significance and architectural marvel left me in awe, reaffirming my deep respect for Japan's rich heritage. To culminate this remarkable day, I was treated to the most breathtaking sunset at Lake Shinji, renowned for its spectacular sunsets, creating a perfect ending to an unforgettable experience.

The experience in Japan not only enhanced my professional skills but also broadened my cultural horizons. The enriching environment and respectful culture have left an indelible mark on my heart. I am eager to share my newfound knowledge and insights with the mothers and babies I work with in Soweto, knowing that this journey has equipped me with invaluable tools to make a meaningful difference in their lives.

This trip to Japan was more than a learning experience; it was a journey of gratitude, cultural immersion, and personal growth. I am profoundly thankful for the opportunity and look forward to incorporating these learnings into my practice, enriching the lives of those I work with.

Arigatou gozaimasu, Japan, for the unforgettable memories and the wisdom shared. Until we meet again!

Note: "Arigatou gozaimasu" means "thank you very much" in Japanese.

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