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Igborize: Just like a Marathon

So, a couple Sundays ago was the 2018 Houston marathon race and coincidentally, I had worn my 2014 marathon finisher shirt for some in-home workout. Got me thinking about training for a full marathon and how I was able to cross the finish line of ‘no return’. Yeah, no return cause no more marathons for this Igbo chic… I mean, running is a major part of my life now however, that 26.2 mile run has been scratched off my bucket list for good. Hahaha.

I actually went from avoiding running at all costs throughout my teenage years to becoming an instant avid runner in my early 20’s. Gave it a first try in 2005 after being bugged down with conflicting tennis partner schedules. I was also tired of having to deal with my hair post each swim (my then second favorite sport). A jam-packed college schedule dictated that I find a low maintenance and less people dependent sport… The perfect option that came to mind was running hence, I registered for my very first 5k!

At the time, I could NOT run for 10 minutes straight without passing out! Thanks to my earlier naïve believe that ‘yams’ aka killer toned calves was caused by running! Obviously my teenage self refused to taint our fine legs for some sweat. LOL! Needless to say, my running stamina needed a major boost which ofcourse meant training , training and more training for the 5k.

In hindsight, running has truly proven to be the best independent sport in my opinion… just wear clothes, lace up, and go! Can be done indoors or outdoors. In cold or hot weather. On flat land or in elevated areas. You get the picture rigut? All you need, is YOURSELF to run! I sure am so thankful for that non-refundable paid first 5k race cause it forced me to follow through. Ain’t nobody got money to waste in college… that and the fact that I rarely quit anything.

Fast forward to 2014 with quite a few 5Ks, multiple 10K’s, 2 half-marathons, and the birth of my first baby (a self-imposed pre-requisite) under my belt. I finally ran a FULL marathon! 26.2 miles of serious effort. Yippee… the training process was more about the mind than the body for me. Knew my body could do it… the question was: will my mind allow us be great? Cause frankly, completing a marathon wasn’t something I needed to accomplish. My mind knew that and always pointed it out each time I trained for the longer runs. Like, who sent you? Will you get paid?

As I reflected on that Sunday, couldn’t help but notice the parallel between training for my marathon and starting this igborizing mission. Just like running, my mission was born out of a necessity. For running, I needed an uncomplicated sport to stay active. For Akwukwo LLC, I NEED to get my children fluent in the Igbo language. There was a serious need for high-quality Igbo learning material to maintain my munchkins interest in Igbo especially after realizing they ‘hear’ aka understand but were struggling to respond back. Observing their preference for boards books in any language (English, French, Spanish. etc.), instilled the strong urge to create something similar in Igbo.

My conviction on their need for more relatable  Igbo learning materials was confirmed by their excitement upon the very first sighting of my vibrant Igbo children’s board books (each page is sturdy and tear-free)! The board books legitimized Igbo in their eyes… As in, the Igbo cool factor shot up from a 2ish to a SOLID 10! No jokes. They no longer see Igbo as some old school/sub-quality language being forced upon them… No sir, my children are quite excited to select our books from their rather extensive library as they are comparable to AND even better than most!

Completing and launching my self-published children’s board books was much more exciting than finishing my very 5k race! The experiences are somewhat comparable as the board books were the first step to this igborizing mission just like my 5k was a first step.

The need for deliberate focused Igbo learning time to read the books and discuss with my kiddos in Igbo led me to start our Oge Akwukwo Igbo learning and speaking sessions. Here, we (my children and I) explore the building blocks of our language and also converse in Igbo. This is actually how our ‘Akwukwo LLC’ YouTube channel originated. I realized kids everywhere will benefit from our focused sessions and so, started recording…

On our YouTube Channel, we utilize a few focal words/actions/sentences to learn and speak Igbo. If you have been watching, you will notice Kehz and Azah have been improving… From feedback, our subscribers are also improving (both children and adults). You should subscribe HERE and learn with us! I should mention that we have always utilized that learning board for sporadic lessons in English and Igbo… started this when Kehz was like 18 months or earlier because he loves to learn! 😊

The addition of the focused Igbo learning time is not only maintaining their interest. It actually has boosted their love and awareness of the Igbo language! They actually initiate conversations with me AND sometimes, one another in Igbo! Like, really? I didn’t *hessperrit*!

My children’s interest is just the genesis for Akwukwo LLC… The same way I had to train for each race leading to the marathon is the same way I intend to keep reaching out to the world so that more parents/guardians decide to igborize with us. That way, my kids will have loads of their mates to speak Igbo with! No fun in speaking alone… The same mind that asked who sent me to run marathon and who marathon ‘epp’? Is asking who sent me to put in efforts and invest personal funds to igborize? Who igbo language ‘epp’? Haha. The good news however, is that the mind is mine. I do constantly and consciously control it to drown the negative thoughts while moving forward. 🤣🤣

It has been a year and I am happy to report that we’re almost at the 10k training stage… meaning? My kids are speaking Igbo. Some of their learning friends especially the ones that regularly attend our in-person story time sessions AND watch our videos are also able to respond to basic questions in Igbo. The goal is to keep training and hitting milestones until we get to that marathon level… don’t worry, unlike my running fate, this won’t be a one-time marathon!!! 🤣

Please join us in our mission and spread the word. Though igborizing your children will require some effort from you, we have provided great prompts to make it easier 😉. Your efforts could start from 5 – 10 minutes a day of watching our YouTube videos and reading our books while speaking Igbo continuously at all opportunities. Your children will appreciate it when they grow as they will be able to identify with their culture…

Chimmie Gbugu is the author of two children’s color board books in the Igbo language (Ndu Anyi: Okigbo na Adanze and ABChD Igbo ) and informal teacher on the ‘Akwukwo LLC’ Igbo teaching YouTube Channel. She mothers’ her two active kids plus her newborn baby diligently non-stop; Engineers during the day; Travels far and wide; Bakes & cooks concoctions or rather innovatively; Teaches Sunday school; and is just dabbling into blogging.

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