This week was an exciting change of pace. It was the first time in 8 weeks we’ve had a helicopter land here so we could see other faces. 🙂 Two CLA (culture and language learning) consultants stayed with us for 2 days to both check our language ability and answer questions we have about the language learning process.
Our consultants also happen to be our neighbours; they work in the Pal tribe a 2-minute flight (or 6-hour hike) away. These guys are well down the road and are currently working on finishing Bible translation and discipling the Pal Church.
The community were excited, and they were also aware that the next batch of community soap was coming in and would be available for them to purchase. Excited meant lots and lots of people coming!
Here in PNG the current government instruction is that groups are to be no larger than 100. We clearly tell people this, but we can’t stop people turning up on our front lawn if they want to!
Hopefully, that gives you a little context as you see the pictures.
Many people from the village bordering Pal were there and the bilinguals were having a great time chatting to the guys in the Pal language. We noticed the Kovol guys also tracking with the conversation and enjoying the exchange.
Chris and Nate themselves reported that they felt like they should be able to understand the Kovol language they were hearing, but they couldn’t. They are similar but different languages much like Dutch and German (sometimes if Natalie and I need to discuss something privately, a medical decision for instance, I can speak Dutch and she German and we each get the gist of what the other is saying!)
The Kovol community were keen to tell Nate and Chris how well we were doing and how well we were being looked after. The piles and piles of local food in our houses underlined that for them. 🙂
Our 2 days consisted of meetings where we’d go over our progress so far, and discussions about language learning tools we’d been using and tools that will become more and more useful as we progress in the language. We of course also took the opportunity to ask the veteran missionaries if they ever had the problem of being given too much food. Six months in and despite determined efforts to get through the food involving: eating it daily, including it in bread and cookies, giving it away and cooking huge pots of food for visitors, we had more food than ever and things were rotting before we could get through them. Gerdine’s day was being in part determined by what we’d been given. She may have planned to learn a particular piece of language that day, but would spend the morning peeling, chopping and storing away all the raw food that had turned up. We’ll come back to this one.
Also included in the visit was an evaluation. We sat with a bunch of Kovol speakers and were asked to name foods, people, items etc. This was followed by describing things with adjectives and progressing up to making a few statements about what we did the last few days or what we planned to do tomorrow.
At this stage, the checking is pretty relaxed and enjoyable. We’re not expecting to have come too far in the language in 3 months of study, so this wasn’t a high-pressure check – later on it might be when we’re hoping to finish language study and ‘check out’.
The good news is that we’re all advancing as expected and are all in the basic-mid range.
As for specifics to work on, I need to go back a bit and drill noun phrases better. I’m quick to jump ahead and am working on material several levels higher – I find being able to build full clauses and actually say something very appealing; but actually I need to go back and really drill describing things better. I wasn’t able to describe shiny, rough or smooth during my test and my attempt to describe a man as married sort of worked, but people had to work hard to interpret what I said. There are a few holes to fill in. 🙂
The 600 bars of soap that came in are basically sold out already. Only 2 of the 7 villages haven’t bought up all their soap (they bought half a box only!). The soap is clearly appreciated; but the question for us is how much soap are we going to provide? Do we completely satisfy the demand or do we cap it? If we cap it at what level do we cap it?
We’ll have to judge the impact of the soap on our budget, time and relationships and attempt to pinpoint the number of bars of soap we’ll be providing.
We’re glad to see our coworkers the Hansens go out for a much needed break, leaving us on our own out here for the next few weeks.
Once everyone left we called the community leaders together for a little chat on our front porch.
We cut up a pineapple (flown in from Goroka – pineapples are rare here) to share with them and we expressed our appreciation for them and for the good work that was happening to bring us up to this level in language.
We profusely thanked them for the food they keep bringing, making sure to mention every step of the process from clearing jungle, to planting, to harvesting, to carrying it all the way to us. We understand and appreciate the effort they’re going through to offer food to us. We were concerned though that sometimes it seemed like there was a race to provide us with the most food and it was tiring us out because we were overflowing with food and it was tiring them out too.
We like their food (bush food is often looked down on by people in town), but from now on we won’t take everything that’s offered to us; we’ll just take what we need. If people bring us food, they shouldn’t be upset if we only take 1 yam instead of 6.
The announcement was well received and a few of them did agree that a competition had taken over a bit. So far so good; the real test for us will be the first time we send food back.
We decided to take the rest of the week easy after our CLA check. We’ve been pushing hard recently and we’re looking to slow down a bit be fore to we burn out. A couple of weeks break every 6 months isn’t going to be enough: we need to learn to relax better here in the bush, and hence take 3-4 days off (as off as it gets here in Kovol – even now I hear people chatting away outside our house!).
We’re thinking of taking the following steps:
- Slowing down our house building projects to a Saturday every 2 weeks instead of every week.
- Steve aiming for 7 hours a day of language study instead of 8, since I was over time every single week anyway.
- Steve taking Oscar more often to allow Gerdine un-distracted language time (and Steve not making up the lost work time later in the week).
- Scheduling more days of less intense CLA — we’ll be out more often without a language agenda and learning goal to just sit in a more chilled-out way with people.
- Taking an extra day off every now and then when we get run down
Last week everyone on our team was overworked, over stressed, tired, irritable and ready to lash out at each other quickly.
As much as I want to optimise my day, push as hard as possible for language progress and use every minute possible I’ve decided that it’s more important to live in a way that always leaves fuel in the tank.
Life here in the tribe is demanding and unpredictable and I realised that we were all run so ragged that if a crisis hit us we wouldn’t have the energy to respond effectively. We’re going to ease up on the pace we’ve been living at so that we can always have that buffer of physical and emotional energy to invest in our team and our community when the ‘hevis’ come.