Do you ever get the feeling that everyone knows about something apart from you? It’s a common occurrence for us learning a new culture and language and I’ve lost track of the number of times a crowd of people have gathered seemingly out of nowhere. Upon investigation, it usually turns out that people decided days ago to do whatever it is, and I’m the only one surprised by it!

The latest example was a government vaccination drive. On Monday morning I was running around with Alice and Millie on our volleyball court while Gerdine got something ready when I saw a big group of visitors from a village 2 hours away.
I went to say hello and found out that they ‘were all here for a vaccination drive. I was told that a helicopter was going to land today and drop off a vaccination team.

“I’ll believe it when I see it” was my internal response because, well… there are lots of times things don’t work out as planned in PNG 🙂 Sure enough though at 10 am a Heli Niugini helicopter lands on the soccer field and drops off a 2 man team. It’s kind of novel to have a helicopter land when it’s nothing to do with you. It makes a nice change!
The team make an announcement that they’ll be doing measles and polio vaccinations the day after next. First they need to hike to the village 2 hours away (the same one the group arrived from) to start there.

I’m actually quite pleased to find that no one in our village knew this was coming. They’ll need to go and carry the news to people who are off working in gardens. It’s nice for once that we’re not the only ones out of the loop!

2-days later the vaccinations start in our village and it’s great to see lots of kids under 5 getting vaccinated. I sit on the sidelines and watch and am able to practise sentences like “see, now that kid is happy because he doesn’t know what’s coming, but then he’ll be in pain and he’ll cry”. The verb for injecting is a new one for me; it’s similar to some other stabbing verbs, but a little different. I’m not sure if its a new one, or if the old one I got was wrong, or if there are multiple specific kinds of stabbing. The latter wouldn’t surprise me as the Kovol language has a very rich set of verbs for cutting, breaking and shooting type actions.

Asking a friend about it with my trusty voice recorder on I also manage to catch some conditional and logical relations.

etilig (sick) honn (time) hutam (one) hutam (one) endet (like that) ogol (?) yab (go) hooloogul (strong) heleb (become) nalasi (they work) etilig (sick) hutam (one) hutam (one) nom (that) egee (will) tebinn (come) mehamonn (work) nalasi (they work) etilig (sick) egee (will) tebinn (come) etilig (sick) honn (time) honn (time) taba (come) nom (that) wig (not) heb (see) amb (speak) i pugum (needle) wog (they) lum agand (they vaccinate)

Do you get it? … it’s hard for us too! Rhett has taken to saying recently “I don’t know how it communicates, but it does!”.
I think it’s something like this:
“For the time when that sickness comes and is strong they work. The sickness will come sometime and the work they do means we won’t see it. They vaccinate them.”

I’d need to sit with someone for an hour to exactly figure out what is going on here. It’s just a fraction of the material I’ve gathered this week though; there’s always more coming in than it’s possible to process! One thing I’ve noticed recently though is that the verb “to see” is often used as a “that will happen” or “that’s what we say (see)” type way, which seems to be the case here. Except for of course “heb” to see and “eb” to make are almost identical in our dialect (the h is silent, it’s a glottal stop) so there’s no real telling what it is here.

We’re glad to see vaccinations out here, and we’re glad that people are snapping them up.


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