Volunteer 'talks drum' | ELPNZ

Volunteer 'talks drum'

13 June 2014

Alexis Ferguson and Younghee An are both migrants and, besides learning about the Kiwi culture, they share a passion: playing and teaching traditional drumming. 

They both came to Christchurch first, but they didn’t meet until teamed up as volunteer teacher and learner in Tauranga.

When they met in October, they found they have a shared passion for playing and teaching drums. 

“Traditional Scottish drumming is not that different from Korean drumming. The drums are different, but music is the same everywhere. We both speak drum,” says Alexis. 
Alexis arrived in New Zealand seven years ago. She left her native Clydebank in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, after replying to an ad in a pipe band magazine for a drumming instructor in Christchurch. 
“It was the dodgiest looking ad ever, and it took them forever to get back to me, but I had a good feeling about it.” 
Alexis also registered an interest in becoming an air traffic controller for the Royal Air Force but at the time they called her up for training, the reply from Christchurch also came. 
“Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like now if I had joined the RAF, but I am happy where I am, doing what I do.” 
Alexis is an experienced Highland pipe band drumming tutor. She teaches the National Youth Pipe band and many others, and even organises lessons using Skype. 
Younghee says: “I like it that Alexis is young, and uses the internet a lot during our meetings.

"We learn things together. We searched information about the background of Labour Day on Google, and we looked up what a Jacaranda tree is,” Alexis adds. “You don’t see them in the South Island but they are all over the place in Tauranga.” 

Younghee's been in New Zealand for nine years. Her mother travelled here to visit her sister, and bought a house in Christchurch. When she came back, she asked Younghee and her siblings if they wanted to live in New Zealand, as there was a house available for them. 
Younghee didn’t hesitate to put her hand up for that opportunity. 
She comes from Seoul, the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea. The city has a population of more than 10 million people and compared to that, Tauranga is no more than a village. 
“There are similarities, though. Like the way you can fish off the wharf.”
Younghee has a passion for traditional Korean drumming, something she shares with her two sons. They have a collection of about 40 drums in the garage of their Welcome Bay home. 
She has been a freelance drumming teacher for many years, and now teaches drumming at the Korean School in Tauranga. 
Alexis never envisaged teaching anything but drums, but when she heard about English Language Partners, she was keen to find out about volunteering. 
“I had my training in Timaru, and it was really interesting. It was fun to meet so many different people and although I always said I would not teach anything else but drumming, I’m glad I made the decision to teach English. 
“People like Younghee are really motivated to learn, and that makes teaching rewarding.” 
When Alexis came in, the ‘too hard’ basket was burned in the fire. Younghee says she thinks she has learned more about apostrophes than most Kiwis will ever know since teaming up with Alexis. 
“When I came here, I was like an empty box. I could say words like ‘hi’, ’hello’ and ’excuse me’, but that was pretty much it.” 
Alexis mentions that her New Zealand residency has only just been approved. 
“I had to pay another migrant fee to get the status finalised, and guess what? Some of that money goes to ESOL services. How funny is that?” 
People joke around and say to Alexis that now she’s officially a Kiwi, she has to work on it and start wearing jandals, but she says that’s not going to happen anytime soon. 
“Jandals don’t agree with my toes!”
To Younghee, being in New Zealand is like being on holiday. “It is like I’m having a nice holiday.  I work hard, and I study hard, but the stress is gone.” 
Martine Rolls