After working so hard to get into the tribe: all the training, all the preparation and the months of slogging away at building a house in the jungle, you’d expect us to be excited to return to Kovol right?
I have to be honest that I wasn’t feeling very positive about returning to the bush, despite loving what we do and not wanting to change it. Being out on break is nice; slogging away at language learning is tough, tough, tough.
We spent Wednesday travelling, Thursday settling back in and touching base with everyone. On Friday we attempted a bit of language study again and then it was the weekend. Wow were we glad for the weekend! So much for being refreshed and ready!
One issue for me was terrible neck pain that now on Tuesday has finally gone away. It’s hard to feel enthusiastic about anything when holding your head up is painful.
People were of course very, very excited to see us (and the helicopter). I wasn’t sure if I was happy to see people though 🙂 20 minutes after landing someone sidles up to me and says “I have back pain, do you have any medicine you can give me?”
Yep, we’re back in the pressure cooker of being the focus of an entire village’s attention.
It’s discouraging trying to communicate only to find the language I spent last month drilling into my head seems to have slipped away, I can’t remember what I was working on, where I was going and why I felt good about language learning.
The last two days have been much better though and we’re settling back into our routine. Opportunities to investigate language are once again multiplying and once again each day presents us with a mountain of different things and we figure out what fraction of it we should load onto our mental teaspoon and digest.
A great example is sitting with my friend Kavaluku. He and another guy were talking about bananas and I’m trying to follow, at which point he has the great idea to take us over and show us what he’s talking about. Sure why not?
Turns out he’s planted a new kind of banana. Most bananas grow rings of bananas: this one grows bananas in a spiral. Seeing this resulted in lots of talk of people saying how they’d also like to plant spiral bananas.
Surrounded by banana trees I started getting names for different kinds of banana trees. In the end, I got 37 different types of banana tree!! Here they are for those who are curious:
|Dialect 1 |
|n||type of banana|
|aŋgamand||jaŋgɛnmans||n||type of banana|
|ɛrigɛt||akul||n||type of banana|
|bɛŋg||bəᵋnk||n||type of banana|
|omu||ɛmu||n||type of banana|
|mɛna ʔus||məgəl||n||type of banana|
|banoⁱ||n/a||n||type of banana|
|sugulɛbo||n/a||n||type of banana|
|baŋgoⁱ||siliβənjo||n||type of banana|
|aliliβe||aliliβə||n||type of banana|
|dugɛli||n/a||n||type of banana|
|ʔulub||kundum||n||type of banana|
|mɛtɛmbe||n/a||n||type of banana|
|sinasina||n/a||n||type of banana|
|kina||ʔina||n||type of banana|
|bɛŋg onot||pəgətə||n||type of banana|
|mɛndi||n/a||n||type of banana|
|palug||n/a||n||type of banana|
|simbaŋ ologom||kabaŋ||n||type of banana|
|sindɛmuŋ||sindʒɛmuŋ||n||type of banana|
|sabu||n/a||n||type of banana|
|mosobagaŋg||məsabogaŋg||n||type of banana|
|simoŋ gɛnɛ||simoŋ gənə||n||type of banana|
|ɛtare||kutale||n||type of banana|
|burunoŋg||ɛlɛmunoŋg||n||type of banana|
|jaβa||n/a||n||type of banana|
|mom||n/a||n||type of banana|
|poka||sipik||n||type of banana|
|sagal||n/a||n||type of banana|
|ʔolomband||kolombans||n||type of banana|
|jolagam||n/a||n||type of banana|
|ɛgugɛg||əgugəg||n||type of banana|
|maβal||n/a||n||type of banana|
|sisijam||kogu kjam||n||type of banana|
|oŋgule||kəmuŋgulə||n||type of banana|
|raboᵘl||n/a||n||type of banana|
|lilimo||n/a||n||type of banana|
|kone||konə||n||type of banana|
Even though I’m unable to identify the difference between the different trees as they point them out, they can! Thus I discovered that the 3 banana trees close to our house are all different kinds of bananas.
Language has a frightening complexity when you dig just below the surface!
We’re not going to memorize these; using the generic word for banana is just fine in most cases. It’s nice that I can file this away in our dictionary and not pay much attention to it. Our computers can pick up consonant and vowel distribution patterns from the list that’s helpful in figuring out a suitable alphabet.
I’m getting quite tired of typing ə, ɛ, β, ʔ and ŋ (done with exotic keyboard combos) so the sooner we get round to an alphabet the better!
I spent Monday cutting grass with the guys. Today I went with Yagil down to the stream to fill up his containers with drinking water. I’m enjoying these low key daily life activities where I can try a phrase or two, mispronounce a few words and amaze everyone with my ability to take a verb they just used and change who did it (with the correct ending).
“I’m going up the hill.”, “You’re going up the hill!”
If I really feel like it, I can bring out the showstopper and change the tense as well.
Ok… no one’s all that impressed, but it feels good to say something.
I’m glad the lethargy of our first few days back is fading away and we’re settling back into language study and life in the tribe.