Gerdine has gained a burst of enthusiasm for language learning again so we set up a visit to a nearby garden so she could spend some time in the Kovol language, snap some new pictures and have some new experiences to talk about.

Gerdine is quite busy most of the time looking after Oscar, Alice and Millie. We don’t have any babysitters on hand and so one of us is always busy with our blessings. When I’m spending my day learning language that leaves Gerdine trying to get home-school done with Oscar while simultaneously looking after two 2-year-olds! It’s no surprise then that her language ability hasn’t improved as much as my own. What’s great though is that she’s found the motivation for language study again and wants to push to achieve the next level in speaking ability in the Kovol language for our next check.

Oscar is ready to go

Gerdine is getting near the stage where she can tell a story about a familiar activity without it being the immediate context of the conversation. It still really helps to have a concrete experience she can tell stories about and it’s been a long time since we took our kids to a Kovol garden. On Monday I said to a Kovol friend “my wife wants to see a garden and do some work there” to which they responded positively.

This morning then, we got everyone sun screen lotioned, shoes on and water bottles in little bags, ready to go on a hike. Our children were all really excited about it which was encouraging! We realised it had been 9 months or so since Oscar was last in a Kovol garden! He really wanted to see one and make use of his grippy hiking shoes (football boots). Alice and Mille always enjoy a little walk around. They’re still at the age where going for a walk is an activity that doesn’t immediately result in their saying “I’m bored!”

An unfortunate mishap befell Oscar on the hike down though. A landslide had made part of the road a quagmire and while we were picking our way through I jumped over a downed tree and Oscar followed, only to find that I had agitated a nest of bees! They went for poor Oscar and he panicked a little. I went back and grabbed him, but not before 2 had gotten into his t-shirt and stung him on his shoulder and belly button! Poor Oscar was crying, and having been stung on the finger I understood why — youch! Those were stingy beasts. We decided to carry on, but I ran back up the mountain to our house to get a sting relief cream. Having come all the way home I also grabbed our adrenaline kit just in case it was a severe allergic reaction. I mean, I’d come all the way home and grabbing just a single cream felt anti-climatic. I also grabbed some peanut M&Ms because a new family rule is going to be “If you get stung by bees in the jungle you get M&Ms”.

what a view — “I see a tasty place” in Kovol

Oscar was fine when I got back and appreciated the sting relief cream and we carried on. Arriving in the village we found our friend was there with others and I asked them what garden we were going to. If we didn’t push, a likely outcome would be sitting down in the village and chatting, which is great, but we also need to get out and see things in order to learn language. Our Kovol friends want to look after us and taking us on a long, steep and muddy trail to look at some corn plants isn’t their idea of honouring a guest 🙂

The hike down was slippery and I took a tumble holding Alice, but we were both fine. Alice and Millie were carried by Gerdine and me, but Oscar turned out to be a little jungle monster. He hardly needed any help navigating the slippery, steep trail. He even refused help with the log bridges and invented his own little shimmy across on his hands and knees.
For context, it’s a 20-minute hike from our house to the village we went to, and then the hike down to the garden was another 35 minutes down a steep mountainside.

Alice finds some corn

Upon arrival, Gerdine went off with the ladies to do some weeding among the tall stalks of corn while I looked after Alice and Millie. Oscar decided to run off and explore with the Kovol kids, hiding in the garden and having a great time. He came back a sweaty, muddy mess and it was great.
The ladies coached Gerdine through removing weeds – which for us missionaries also involves watching us constantly to make sure we pull up weeds and not food!

For our culture study I interviewed some guys about the different games I’ve seen them playing and also decided to commemorate the experience by drawing a picture. I’ve decided I want to learn to draw and have spent some evenings learning how to use a digital painting program. It was time to show off everything I’d learned from watching a handful of YouTube videos 😀 After drawing a lady weeding next to some corn I decided the picture needed more excitement, so I added an angry growling dog,. Here’s how it turned out:

I asked if I had drawn a good drawing, and they said “Yes, it’s a good drawing”

It was a bit of fun, but I also used it as a bit of literacy preparation. The guys were saying that they didn’t know how to do anything with a pen and paper. I talked about how in my home country some are employed to draw pictures and they’re really good at it. I’m not one of those people; my drawing is terrible, but if I set myself the goal of drawing a few pictures a week, and stick at it, I’ll get better. It’s like that, learning new things. When you guys learn to read and write you’ll need to work hard and not quit to get it, and we’re going to help you to get there, I told them. I feel like I’m getting close to the speaking ability I need and I’m really enjoying using it to try and prepare the ground for some of the work to come.

Gerdine does weeding, Kovol-style

At about 11 we think about Alice and Millie’s 1 PM nap and start to head back up. it’s a hot sunny day, the opposite of yesterday’s all-day rain and clouds. It’s really nice, but it does mean copious amounts of sweat as we trudge back up the hill, each carrying a 10kg 2-year-old. The Kovol people are just so incredibly strong, needing to do it most days – often carrying heavy loads of garden produce. It’s a bit too much for Gerdine and she can’t carry a toddler anymore. We try to hand her twin off to a Kovol lady, but whichever twin we try just isn’t having it. Time to activate Daddy Beast mode then, and I ended up hiking the last 20 minutes with one on my shoulders and one in my arms. Who needs a gym?

Oscar is starting to get worn out at this point, but he soldiers on and does a great job. We’ve promised him some extra video time today because he’s done so well. We’ll give it a day or 2 and then we’ll ask if he has any interest in going another time 🙂

the sweaty hike back

All in all it’s a lot of time and effort in hiking, but the language that comes with it has an extra level of immersion. We’re constantly sitting with people and chatting in the Kovol language, but chatting while on the trail, about things seen on the road and what’s in the garden is this extra level or immersion that helps it stick. Gerdine has a story she can tell about the day for the next batch of language sessions she has. She can start by getting the basics across as a complete story and then add in the details as it gets more comfortable and familiar.

Yesterday I spent the entire work day in my office under the house analysing Kovol texts as it poured with rain all day. The story of our adventure out to the garden and the pictures with beautiful sunny weather are much easier to write about though 😀


Lois S. · 16/11/2023 at 12:20 am

Thanks for sharing! It is very interesting to think about what language learning looks like while also homeschooling and parenting. Quite a challenge. Did Philip and Natalie and family get to take their flight out already?

    SteveStanley · 16/11/2023 at 9:57 am

    A challenge indeed! Gerdine has achy leg muscles today 🙂 Philip and Natalie did fly out and they’ve arrived safely in Germany. So now we’re just waiting for the news of the birth of their twins sometime in March/April 😀

Jangroenveld · 16/11/2023 at 6:23 am

Great story, you guys. I always love to read your Kovol news. Good things and bad things mixed together. Also in this story. But you just seem to plog along by the grace of God. I’m not sure if I heard about your language tests though. Anything tested already? Any news on the team unity improvement? May the Lord bless you and keep you in his hands. Veilig in Jezus armen, veilig aan Jezus hart…..

    SteveStanley · 16/11/2023 at 9:56 am

    Thanks Jan! We definitely are making progress by God’s grace. I’m eagerly expecting to reach Capable High language ability soon and then it’ll be exciting to get into preparation for literacy and lessons. God will be good even if we don’t make it though 🙂 We never know what’s around the corner, but he’s caring for us.
    Our language evaluations were postponed because of bad weather, we don’t yet know when our next ones will be.

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