We’re all starting to feel like we need a break, Culture and Language learning is tough! It’s also enjoyable though. I often wake up in the morning and dread getting out of bed; wondering “how on earth am I going to get 8 hours of language learning in today?”. The good news is that it’s usually really good fun and I end up going over hours!
This week we decided to skip the ‘project day’ and not paint the wall we intended to finish in our house. 2 whole days of relaxing (as well as you can when you have a toddler) felt amazing; but Monday comes around again and before you know it it’s back to the grind!
Time usually flies by when you head out the door and find someone to sit down with, and our ability in the language is slowly growing. We maintain a ‘listening collection’ that we regularly listen in on and I’m often having to go back to my early recordings to change the title I’ve given it or improve the translation of. We prioritize newer and more difficult things we’ve recorded, but occasionally review the whole lot and it was pretty satisfying to change ‘Unknown phrase’ for one of my recordings to ‘I’m cold’ (and then I wondered that I never knew that in the first place!). So progress.
We’re enjoying mixing up our times out too. Sometimes I’m sitting alone with a bunch of guys, sometimes I’m with Gerdine and Oscar and sometimes the Hansens join the party too (and then all the village kids follow us to see what we’re up to!) it’s a blast. We got to see a dead ‘lesser bird of paradise’ which was pretty exciting. The guys had shot it for meat, but the tail feathers will either be sold or put into a head dress.
We’re also starting to put together some ‘team’ language data. Each of us is constantly producing our own language learning materials and taking our own notes, which while helpful as learners can result in 4 different spellings for the same word! We’ve started working on our Kovol dictionary to try to pull our data together a bit.
Where do you even start on a brand new dictionary? How should we even organize it?
Thus started another little programming project of mine. We put data into an Excel spreadsheet (easy to understand and use for everyone) and every day a fresh HTML page is produced on our server that looks nice and is searchable (and offline!). While currently, our setup would work for any language the exciting thing is that we can customize it for the Kovol language in particular.
I’m thinking ahead to our verbs. So far we’ve discovered 21 different ways a verb can conjugate, and we’re sure there’s more on the way. We’re not writing verbs into our dictionary yet as we’re not sure which form they should take! We’re working on gathering lots more of them so we can have a good sit down with them sometime and work out how predictable they are. If we can come up with a rule for all 21 conjugations that works for every word then great! We only need to write the verb in once and our dictionary could generate the conjugations on its own – if not, then we’ve got lots of typing to do!
We’re getting ahead of ourselves. Right now we’ve got about 350 nouns and adjectives written in there and every one of them needs checking. We’ve marked a time every Friday where we’ll sit down and argue about the spelling of the 50 words we nominated to check that week. Once we get a nice long word list of words we’ve all agreed the phonetics of we can start the linguistic analysis that will result in a Kovol alphabet – meaning we can stop writing in phonetic characters and just write in Kovol.
After a quiet time medical wise, we’ve had three different things come up this week. First of all, we had a breastfeeding baby who had swelling on his face with a mild fever. Since his breathing was OK and he was feeding well we told the family to go back, monitor him and if they were still concerned to go to our neighbours in the Pal tribe who offer a Monday clinic.
Then we had a guy come to us for a referral letter for his leg. A year ago he broke it playing football. The hospital in town treated it and a screw was inserted into his shin, and a cast was put on. The guy only kept the cast on for a week before taking it off though, so it never healed properly! Whenever he walks around now fluid leaks out of a sore on his shin 🙁
We told him that we’re sorry that we are unable to offer the use of the helicopter to get him out to town (because it’s not an emergency), but when he’s ready to go he can send a friend and we’ll provide some paracetamol for the journey.
Finally, another breastfeeding baby was brought to us with shortness of breath, a mild fever, a nasty cough and most concerning of all a stiff neck. The stiff neck can be a sign of meningitis, but the baby being alert doesn’t make it seem as if it is as serious as meningitis. We suspect pneumonia.
We’re really blessed to be able to contact our medical clinic and ask for advice in cases like this and were advised to treat for meningitis to be safe. Of course now the voice in our head is asking us “Why treat this baby and not the one from a few days ago?”, “What if we’re wrong?”, “Are we starting something (treating infants) that we won’t be able to keep up?”.
We decided to treat them and asked the family to stay here for a few days (until injections of antibiotics aren’t needed anymore and we can switch to oral antibiotics).
We’re grateful to have Natalie with us who is an experienced nurse; I’m trying to learn all I can so I can step in and help if something comes up when Natalie is away.
It’s hard to say no when someone asks for help, but sometimes we need to. Then there are other times when saying no would be the wrong thing to do. We don’t feel like we’ve got the wisdom we need to make these kinds of calls.
Now I’m writing this I’m reminded we’re going to be talking about 2 other cases at our team meeting tonight, both serious but not currently urgent. Pray we’d have the wisdom to know what to do!