Language learning has a momentum to it that’s hard to describe. After taking a few days off after our consultant check I was wondering how to get started again. I needed some time to read through the materials the consultants left with us and plan my next move, and I felt a bit lost. Where do you even start?

A few days into full time language study again though and the things I want to study and learn are growing exponentially and it’s impossible to keep up!

The last two days we’ve been hiking out and about visiting other place; we were invited both times – and both times we turned up and the people who invited us weren’t there 🙂 People were around though, so it was still productive language time.

Limpet-Koala on his perch

Oscar is learning to hold on tight like a little limpet-koala as we hike around. We try and get him to hike, but he prefers sitting on my shoulders and he’s learned the importance of holding on: sometimes I slip!
All the Kovol kids his age are hiking for hours at a time, but like us Oscar is made of softer stuff:)
Oscar enjoys his ‘walkies’ though, seeing new places, playing with new things and showing off his colouring pencils and toys. It makes us smile to see him colouring away on a paper surrounded by Kovol kids doing the same and we eagerly anticipate teaching literacy classes here in the future. Showing off our literacy and enjoyment of reading and writing is something we can do now to build a desire for kids and adults alike to put in the hard work to become literate.

Oscar’s getting heavy! 2 hours of hiking down a mountain with him on my shoulders and then back up again was tiring for both of us. Luckily Oscar’s made a friend. He usually refuses to let anyone else (even his mum) carry him, but Dramat pushed him around in a wheelbarrow a month ago; and ever since Oscar has been talking about it!
After a small tantrum I managed to get Oscar onto Dramat’s shoulders for the last 20 minutes of the 2 hour climb back up. What a relief that was! I hope we can do it more often!

Let’s hope this is the beginning of a new norm!

A huge advantage of getting out on the trail is that new things come up constantly. On today’s hike, I paid attention to what the kids were foraging for while we were walking along. While we hike kids are constantly in the bushes either side of the trail looking for different things. One thing they got their hands on was the curly shoot of a particular tree.
They gathered a bunch of them and played a game similar to conkers that we play in England.

Each kid would hold the end of a shoot, lock the ends together and pull. The strongest shoot would win, pulling the head off the other one and holding onto it as a trophy. The kids work their way around until they find the strongest one. While not as violent and dramatic as conkers, the winning shoot gets to show off how many foes it has vanquished by holding onto their heads 🙂

The kids’ foraging also resulted in finding a bird’s nest with eggs in it, opening up a whole new realm of culture and language to do with the life cycle of birds, how to find them and how to cook them!

Jungle bird nest

Another thing we happened to see was a bunch of sugar cane shoots lying ready to be planted. A quick chat about these revealed that there’s more language to learn here –the parts of the sugar cane plant, language about how they’re harvested and language about how to plant them. All new areas to investigate.
We can’t even take pleasure in the fact that we know what the word for sugar cane is — there are words for all the different species and they have slightly different tastes and so some are favourites.

3 different kinds of sugar cane seed

Arriving at our destination we wonder, “What are all these banana skins doing hanging over the fire?” Turns out people smoke the skins dry, then cook them in a fire. The ashes go into a bamboo and water is added. A hole is drilled in the bottom of the bamboo releasing the water into another container. The water now contains ‘bush salt’ and is mixed with tapiok. I had a go at describing the steps — but I’m not there yet. I’m going to need to study this activity too!

On its way to becoming salt

Then there’s the whole “the people who called the meeting didn’t show up” thing. Our village made the 2 hour hike over for a meeting (about how they can best look after us, their missionaries), but something else came up. A ‘heavy’ in another village resulted in another meeting and people were double booked. They yodeled a message that the meeting was postponed till Sunday. I’d love to investigate what people think about hiking all that way and being stood up, but that’s language and culture for much further down the road!

We didn’t mind too much, and Oscar had a great time finding flowers with the Kovol kids.

We learned the word for decoration thanks to Oscar’s accessorizing

I feel like I can only skim the surface of each of these discoveries which is just the language I can take in right now. Tomorrow will bring more discoveries. I find it helpful to just focus on getting my (productive and correctly proportioned) work hours in on a given day and being satisfied with that. The dozens and dozens of loose ends and unfinished language acquisition tasks that every single week brings up would be impossible to keep on top of!

The view today

1 Comment

Lynette Cottam · 10/07/2020 at 12:59 pm

Another very interesting ad informative article, Steve. It is very encouraging to realise that Oscar using his coloured pencils and letting the Kovol children use the also is preparing those children for learning to write this on language just as it is preparing Oscar to hold a pencil and write.
I was also interested to learn that there are different varieties of sugar cane. I noticed that some sugar cane had a red shift but never realised it was a different type.
Sure hope Oscar adjusts to having the Kovol men carry him on their shoulders and so make your family hikes easier for you.

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