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!

Keeping the jungle away takes a bit of effort

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.

Normal bananas

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:

Spiral bananas – the latest rage in Kovol
Dialect 1
Dialect 2
ntype of banana
aŋgamandjaŋgɛnmansntype of banana
ɛrigɛtakulntype of banana
bɛŋgbəᵋnkntype of banana
omuɛmuntype of banana
mɛna ʔusməgəlntype of banana
banoⁱn/antype of banana
sugulɛbon/antype of banana
baŋgoⁱsiliβənjontype of banana
aliliβealiliβəntype of banana
dugɛlin/antype of banana
ʔulubkundumntype of banana
mɛtɛmben/antype of banana
sinasinan/antype of banana
kinaʔinantype of banana
bɛŋg onotpəgətəntype of banana
mɛndin/antype of banana
palugn/antype of banana
simbaŋ ologomkabaŋntype of banana
sindɛmuŋsindʒɛmuŋntype of banana
sabun/antype of banana
mosobagaŋgməsabogaŋgntype of banana
simoŋ gɛnɛsimoŋ gənəntype of banana
ɛtarekutalentype of banana
burunoŋgɛlɛmunoŋgntype of banana
jaβan/antype of banana
momn/antype of banana
pokasipikntype of banana
sagaln/antype of banana
ʔolombandkolombansntype of banana
jolagamn/antype of banana
ɛgugɛgəgugəgntype of banana
maβaln/antype of banana
sisijamkogu kjamntype of banana
oŋgulekəmuŋguləntype of banana
raboᵘln/antype of banana
lilimon/antype of banana
konekonəntype of banana
Bananas, lots of bananas

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!

Our new photo album is very popular

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).

Mr. Jungle Tiger himself

“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.


English Editor · 26/08/2020 at 12:01 am

The people may not be impressed with your ability to change the actor and the tense, Steve, but I AM! Keep up the good work.
I was fascinated by the banana varieties.
Names such as being, sinasina. sipik.,
mendi and kina intrigue me. I wonder what they call my favourite which I know as karapua. I suspect that is the name in Yagaria. I think it was when we were living there that I learnt it.
Bai God I ken blessim yutripela nogut tru.

Hannah Mole · 29/08/2020 at 7:34 pm

Always good to get your updates and your honesty is very much appreciated. Thank you guys!
Uganda has several types of banana as well and I also can’t get the difference (but woe betide you if you use the wrong type of banana for the wrong type of cooking!)
Love and Prayers

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