Gira goes to Norway

Gira making new friends at VinterPULSE Oslo 2017

What happens to you when you move far away from home? What is it like to try and make friends when no one around you speaks your language? Why can it be easier to make friends in band than at school? These are some of the questions that we explored at VinterPULSE in Oslo and Bergen with the help of Gira. (Read more about VinterPULSE 2017 here.)

Gira has become quite famous in the Field Band Foundation over the last four years – almost everyone knows about Gira and what her emotional journey was like when she joined a field band. The South African Gira family has been growing, and there are now several Giras in field bands across South Africa being used as tools for discussion and learning by the newly minted Peer Educators.

At VinterPULSE this year, the participants got to hear the story of Gira the way we all know it. However, this time it did not end with a final ”happily ever after”, because life keeps twisting and turning. After joining a field band, making friends, and finding stability and support, Gira’s life is uprooted. Her whole family moves all the way to Norway! She ended up living at Stovner in Oslo, and at Landås in Bergen. Gira does not know the language yet, she does not have any friends, and she is being teased by some of the other kids at school. She misses the happy, bubbly feeling of playing the marimba and finding her place in the music alongside everyone else.

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Gira found Norway to be cold and lonely in the beginning

Once this development of Gira’s story was introduced, the VinterPULSE participants became a part of the story, and contributed to what would happen to Gira next and how she joins Norwegian banding activities. The participants voted for parts of Gira’s story in Norway: where did she hear about the school band (skolekorps), who made her feel welcome when she arrived at the band rehearsal, and what instrument she decided to try. Sadly, the Norwegian school bands do not usually have marimbas, but an overwhelming majority voted for Gira to take up the drums for a new challenge! As she joined the school band, Gira was given chances to share her experiences from her field band, and her conductor let her teach the other band members a song that she used to play in South Africa. Being included in this way made Gira feel empowered and gave her a way to remember the good memories from home.

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Gira joined us for many discussions during VinterPULSE


As we got to know Gira, this gave us a chance to reflect as a group on what joining the school band did for Gira. The VinterPULSE participants agreed that even if she did not speak much of the language yet, the common activity of music gave her an opportunity to make friends through a shared interest. This may have resonated in particular with some of our participants who were newly arrived refugees from Syria, and who could be going through some of the same emotions as Gira right now. Some participants made the great observation that making new friends would not make her homesickness disappear completely, but it would give her new good memories to use when she was feeling homesick.  As a related group activity we also made notes of all the positive things you can experience by joining a band, and made “friendship walls” showcasing the notes.

Some of our Giras with our VinterPULSE friendship walls

As one of the VinterPULSE participants said – maybe Gira will end up moving again sometime in her life, but she knows she can always find friends through a musical activity. We are curious and excited to see what kind of friends Gira will make in her future adventures!


Written by/photos by: Ingrid Thorstensen

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