We made it — it’s break time! We’ve been limping along recently looking forward very much to a break. We’ve realised that we haven’t had a proper break for about a year because the last 2 times we were out of Kovol were “working breaks” where we mixed days off with conferences and workshops. The weather isn’t cooperating though and we’re unable to leave Kovol!

That’s not good helicopter weather

We’ve been feeling quite tired at the end of a 4-month stint in the bush. It’s been challenging to be motivated for language learning and we know we’ve pushed it a little bit too far – not that much, but enough to feel it.

The last bits of work to finish off were a series of interviews in the Kovol language about “luck and chance”. There were interesting discoveries and it was quite a challenge to ask about. I didn’t know a Kovol word for luck, so how do you explain the concept and ask about it? I started asking about people saying things like “It’s not going to rain” as we’re hiking, even when dark clouds are visible. Does saying “it’s not going to rain” cause it not to? Does speech have any power? What about at community meetings when the village agrees “this sickness is done now”, does that help?

“We’re just saying those things; it might be true or it might not be” was the response. The attitude came across clearly that people were more stating their desire than thinking the words caused anything. The hard thing to interpret with that is that it’s a settled procedure to meet as a community to declare sicknesses to be finished, and if people truly thought that did nothing why is it so consistently done?

What about when a tree branch breaks and almost hits you but doesn’t, what’s that? “it was good the branch did not hit me” was the response, so our word for luck seems to be the word for good – a very generic Kovol word. Out of ideas, I then used some English “We say luck, it was lucky. Have you heard of that?” and they had, so we were able to confirm that good was the best translation and it wasn’t a separate category.

We chatted about superstitions that might cause bad luck. “No, we don’t think it’s bad to walk under a ladder. We don’t have that”, but they did reveal a particular dream they have. If they dream that they are out hunting and upon seeing an animal they draw their bow, and the bow breaks they know that someone is going to die. If the bow breaks at the base a parent will die, if it breaks in the middle a brother will die and if it breaks at the top a child will die.
A batch of conversations along those lines gives a broad brushstroke understanding of the Kovol opinion on luck, along with audio recordings of people giving the information as a source. There’s always more to do, but after break it’ll be time to move on to something else.

As we start packing for break, Oscar is jumping off the walls excited to get out to Goroka. He loves playing here with the Stous boys, but he’s super excited about small things like picking a milkshake carton out in the store, playing in a playground and most importantly not having school.

We’re looking forward to guilt-free time as a family. Time when we can read a book together without feeling guilty that we’re hiding inside. Being able to step outside without a dozen heads snapping up and locking in on us, not being watched like a zoo exhibit as we burn our rubbish or run around playing tag with our twins.

The only problem was waking up to rain and fog. Our helicopter can’t fly without visibility so we settled in to wait for the weather to improve. We’re juggling finishing off our cleaning, keeping our kids happy and being with Kovol people. A big crowd has come to see us off and are saying “We’ll all get back to work in our gardens when you guys go.” it’s super nice, but it’s also one of the things that has us so tired out; that daily pressure to be outside, to speak Kovol, to sit with visitors; the daily guilt of knowing there are people outside sitting, waiting for us whenever we choose to go inside.

Unfortunately, the weather didn’t change and we were informed that the flying had been postponed to the next day. So we’ve started our break as a Kovol staycation. I crash and take a nap and wake up to see Max and Mongogam sitting on the grass outside our house. They had hiked over from a village one and a half hours away to see us, and they had been sitting on the grass before I took the nap. They want to spend time with us, and I guess I should. First I need to get Oscar set up with a video to watch (holiday!) and pull some stuff out of the freezer for dinner, all the while psyching myself up to get out again and sit down and story. When I’m done 10 minutes later however they are gone and guilt and relief mix inside me.

We finish the day expecting better weather and flying out in the morning, all the while trying to keep our bags packed and the house clean and ready to leave the next day.

Unfortunately we woke up today to a thick wall of fog with rain. The mission helicopter is waiting for a good weather report from us, but it doesn’t seem likely today will be a good flying day either. Will tomorrow be better? Will the flight schedule be able to handle another postponement? Should we unpack? I cleaned our water filter and set it aside to dry out while we’re away, I guess I need to set it back up again and prime the filter candles as we use up the last of our leftover drinking water

At least it’s raining hard enough that the Kovol people are all inside taking shelter by their fires and we’re not feeling guilty for being inside. In weather like this it’s the cultural thing to do 🙂

Be praying for better weather! We’d like to get out and unwind and release some of the pressure. We’re bothering feeling worn out and that right now here in Kovol we’re neither able to rest well nor connect with people and minister well.

There are still things to enjoy of course and today we cracked out the pens and paper and did some drawing 🙂

A creature of the forest
A Bible text
A stone carver


Gill Watson · 16/02/2024 at 3:24 am

Praying for good weather for you to fly out and have a break.🙏✈️🙏 God bless from Brian and Gill

molehannah · 16/02/2024 at 10:09 pm

Praying for a good break, whatever that looks like! I certainly get the “zoo exhibit” feeling! It caught me off guard today as I’d popped into a trading centre to grab some lunch that I don’t normally go to. I just wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible and forgot to psych myself up for all the gawking!

Leave a Reply