The weeks have rolled past in a flash. We’ll be flying out to Goroka on Tuesday after being back for just 4 weeks. It’s come around very quickly indeed! We have always had scheduled a flight out to Goroka at the beginning of October for our annual conference. We’ve decided to come out a little earlier though as our leadership team recommended that it’d be wise to prioritize time for working on our team relationship.

We’ve been experiencing ongoing friction that’d be good to work through. As we draw closer to preparing for a literacy class, ongoing disagreements over how we should spell certain words aren’t being resolved and we’d like to take some time to properly work through those things.

These are cool little bugs

So we’ll be out in Goroka before the conference to make time for that, followed by a break (since we didn’t get one during ALW!) and then the conference. We’ve got flights booked to return to Kovol the day after the conference. We’ll be praying for productive meetings and continued progress with discourse analysis.

I have to admit to feeling quite unsatisfied with discourse analysis. I’m spending day after day charting texts and producing a write-up. I think I have write-up fatigue. Our phonemic and grammar write-ups are done, the cultural summaries write-up is in progress and now the discourse analysis write-up. I feel there’s a lot that can be done without. I feel so useless when people come and visit and I’m sat charting texts and writing them up. “I’m working on a write-up,” I tell them, and I feel so guilty telling them that after 2 years of working full-time on their language, I’m still writing reports and it seems we’re no closer to starting a literacy class.
We are making progress, and my speaking ability is gradually (glacially) improving, but the recent focus on computer work rather than getting out on the trail to visit people and talk does leave me unsatisfied.

Alice and Millie “working” at their table

It just takes ages, and it feels like being lost in the weeds. My latest thing is spending hours pouring over examples of “om” this and “nom” that to try and figure out if something more is happening. Is “om” being used as a replacement for “onn” (he) as a pronoun for characters that have already been introduced? Is “nom” being used as an emphasis marker? If so, how is that different from a focus marker? Are “om” and “nom” conjugations of the same word, or completely different ones if they’re doing different things? I’m sure if I figure it out, the Kovol penchant for throwing “om”s and “nom”s around like a word salad would actually be revealed to be a simple pattern that I could imitate. Until the epiphany comes it’s more staring at the laptop screen and back to drafting the write-up section on “lexical replacement as a cohesion device in narrative texts” which I had a goal to finish yesterday but remains unfinished still.

So there’s no exciting news about an upcoming Kovol literacy class, but there is a football (soccer) tournament next week. Our village is entering 3 teams (at a K150 entrance fee per team) and guys went to town to buy soccer shoes with their vanilla money. There’s a no football boots no playing rule. Each of our Kovol villages is entering 2-3 teams with the hope of winning the K700 prize money, and dozens of other language groups are all sending teams too.
With that many people coming together, and money involved too, I asked if they were expecting a big fight. It turns out that that has already been considered. If during a game you bad mouth an opponent your team gets a K50 fine and for starting a fight on the pitch there’s a K100 fine. It’s fascinating stuff and I almost reach for my voice recorder to get a clip about it so I can file it under social control in our culture file, but I’m tired of write-ups and it’s just nice to chat.

Millie becomes a creature of the night
Alice also

We’ve also heard lots of banging on drums and shouting in the village across the ridge, so I assume that’s also preparation for the tournament. Our own village has been training too, with a big football match yesterday. I asked how the soccer ball I provided 6 months ago was doing and it turns out it was kicked into a machete and popped 😀 We’ll have to get another one, probably two. I bought that one so Oscar and I could kick it around, but every other day the Kovol guys asked to borrow it and one day it never came back. It turned into a community ball 😀

I asked the guys if they thought they had a good chance of winning the tournament. The answer seemed very… Kovol. “If we play well then we’ll win. If we don’t play well we won’t”.
The timing works out quite nicely for us to head out to Goroka, as we leave the same day everyone will be hiking off for the tournament. That’s great as it doesn’t mean people feel guilty for heading off and leaving us with no language helpers for our language study!

artwork in progress

Alice and Millie have been talking a lot about the upcoming trip to Goroka. Millie likes to tell us “dooka, airplane self, auto, bega” which means “we’re going in a helicopter, then I sit in my own seat on an airplane, then we get in a car and we’ll be at Sobega”. Every day we catch them packing their backpacks with toys ready to go to Goroka 🙂
Not that they aren’t having fun here. Each child recently got a stretchy pipe with some LEDs in it and when the sun goes down it’s party time with the lights.

Next week’s blog will be from Goroka then. With all the write-up work to be done, it’s not a bad time to head out for a bit, I can keep myself quite busy with catching up on my Kovol recordings for quite a while 🙂

the finished piece


Mandy · 02/09/2023 at 1:38 am

Thanks Steve- praying for resolution. Today I was reading the Equip360 notes on Teamwork and the guy said:
The topic that we’re going to be addressing is a fascinating study. The name of it is Conflict Resolution. I would rather call it “conflict reduction”. Wouldn’t it be better if we could reduce the conflict before we had to resolve it? Resolving it means that it already happened. There’s already been a problem. There’s already been a breakdown. Whereas conflict reduction has the meaning that, as a follower of Jesus, I’m going to try not to be a cause of conflict.

Wim Evers · 21/09/2023 at 12:34 am

Dear friends, we feel for you in your frustration with all things. Keep up the good work while we do the support work of praying for you. I realise how tiring this all can be and admire all the work you are doing for our great God and Saviour. It is not always easy to follow the Lord and going the road to take up the cross and deny yourself, but it is the one and only way in which the life of Christ can and will be manifested in and through us. We will pray that the Lord will bless you in this way. Warm greetings also to Gerdine. Wim

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