Going into week 7 of straight language learning (since we had to spend 2 weeks in Goroka, we’ve been in language study maybe 10 weeks in total now) and this week is a little slower.
We’re running out of the really obvious nouns all around us all the time to study in a concentrated way. Thousands of nouns are there for us to find yet, but it’s getting hard to think up what they are!

just chillin

So we’ve been working increasingly on understanding Kovol verbs. After all dipping our feet in the water in a shotgun-like approach we decided to set 6 verbs that our team has to study this week so we can actually compare our findings.
Midway through the week and I’ve discovered that Kovol has both distant past (yesterday and further) and recent past today) which means another set of suffixes to memorize 🙁
On the positive side the present tense doesn’t really have it’s own set of suffixes. You can add -jɑm to (pronounced yam) to almost any verb it seems to make it mean “it was done for a really long time”, we’ll possibly call that a continuous aspect – we’ll see.
Well if you add that it was being done for a really long time to the recent past (which is just today) then it seems to become the present tense – after all if you were doing it for a really long time in the recent past that brings us up to now right?

Oscar wanted coffee, who was I to say no?

This sort of investigation is much slower than getting 10-20 new nouns a day, but of course it’s the essential next step towards being able to communicate. One of the difficulties is that the suffixes change based one what letter they’re next to. Eventually, we’ll figure out all the rules for that, but for now, it can be tricky to identify what the verb root actually is. The other major problem is trying to keep your frame straight. Since tense and actor (who did the verb) seem to be communicated with the same suffix it can be hard to isolate just the actor for example to get a full list. Our language helpers sometimes switch tenses on us, or actors.

It can commonly go something like this:
How do I say “I scrape the sweet potato?”
… “you scrape the sweet potato?” (because they’re talking to me!)

remote pastrecent pastpresentfuture
Verb paradigm for “to scrape”

On Friday we’re meeting up to compare notes and have a go at writing some rules that work for our data set. Hopefully that opens the door to us using and recording lots of verbs (we’re not really writing them down yet as we don’t know what form would be best to write them down in – there’s no sense spending lots of time typing if it could be predicted).

Lendi update

In other news Lendi has been back with us for a while now. You may remember that in January she broke her leg (the x-ray showed it was a clean break through her thigh bone). We set the leg as best we could out here, but we also arranged for the helicopter to get her out to Madang town so she could go to the hospital.

Lendi’s back (with Oscar for scale)

She spent 2 weeks in a traction bed, then her leg was casted up and she and her dad stayed with some friends in town for the next 8 weeks or so. When Lendi got an infection on her leg under the cast the family decided it was time to come off, so off it came.
Shortly after that, when the sore had gone down the family made the journey back to Kovol, which took days of hiking. Lendi was carried or hobbled along with her crutches, but they made it back!
We saw Lendi on Sunday and are pleased to announce that she’s walking just fine (but not running yet!) Thanks to everyone who prayed for her. We’ve been glad to have her dad back with us as he’s a really clear speaker and we love to learn language from him!

The sun moved?

Saturdays are still project days and this week was all about plumbing. First off I needed to bypass the pressure switch included with our water pump, it just wasn’t working great and one day didn’t switch the pump off at all! Our pump has been sounding gruff and a bit off. First thing we did was clean the strainer into the pump (which made it sound better), but that didn’t fix it. We’d been warned that the inbuilt pump pressure switch was prone to breaking and hence our kit came with a mechanical pressure switch which we installed at the weekend.
A snip here, a switch there and now we’re very satisfied with the robust ‘thunk’ our switch makes when our system hits 45psi, instantly stopping the pump. I never thought I’d be so satisfied by a pump turning off, but days later I still feel nice inside whenever I hear the pump cut out. (It beats listening intently to make sure it DOES in fact turn off!)

That’s one sweet pressure switch (grey box on the right)

The other problem we had is that the sun seems to have moved. When we built the house we pointed our solar panels and our solar hot water heater to the south… which didn’t make sense, because we’re in the Southern hemisphere and they should point North…
Oh well we checked over several days and, yep the sun’s in the south – weird.
2 months of the sun heating our water for free later and now our showers are always cold – the solar heater is in the shade of the house all day long!
The electrical solar panels are mounted so high on the roof that they’re still giving us all the juice we need, so no worries there – but we were keen to get free hot water back.
I say free because we also have a gas hot water heater. On the cloudy days we take the output from the solar hot water unit and run it into a gas heater and we got hot water on the cold, miserable days (about 1-2 days a month, if that, our solar heater works great!). That of course costs gas, and gas is flow in by helicopter, which is a bit pricey.

So a bit of new plumbing on the other side of the house and a team of strong Kovol guys later and the heater is back in the sun giving us all the hot water we need. I couldn’t be bothered to build a platform for it this time. Initially we raised it up to stop kids playing with it, but that’s a big project. meh. Let’s just get the hot water back.

glorious hot water again

Next task is to scrub and then oil with decking oil our stairs and veranda to stop them rotting so quickly. It’s lots of work building a house – who knew?

1 Comment

Lynette Cottam · 27/05/2020 at 10:37 pm

This is a very interesting article, Steve. I especially enjoyed the table showing the suffixes for the verb “to scrape”.
I only read about Lendi’s medivac this afternoon after seeing your post about bars of soap on Facebook. I am pleased to read that she is now safely back and recovering well.
I shall pray about your solar hot water panel situation.
God bless the three of you,

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