written on October 4, 2016
This afternoon my brain started to feel slight linguistic overload. What a terrific feeling to have again, proof that another language is in the beginning stages of inserting itself into my brain, stretching it in new ways that will change me forever and open up doors for deep friendships and new ministry.
The Neno language and culture are becoming addicting, in the best possible way. All I want to do is go out and be with people, practice words and questions, write down new vocabulary, experience daily life, do what they do, and then come back inside just long enough to organize my data and study it briefly before heading out again. Housework and meal prep and washing my hair and even eating all seem like annoying tasks to be hurried through to get back to the real work, which is also the real fun.
Today I spent hours out in the village, sitting with friends in their kitchens or on outdoor benches, sometimes just listening to conversations, sometimes practicing vocabulary and learning new questions to ask in Neno. Since we had a few bananas almost ready to spoil (here in the tropics, the “banana-bread stage” of overripe lasts barely a minute before progressing to “truly-rotten stage”), I invited the five unmarried girls over (ages 11 to 16, I think, 3 who live here and 2 visiting) to watch and help and hang out. All of this provided plenty of relationship-building and CLA (Culture and Language Acquisition) opportunities. Here are just of the few varied phrases from the eight notebook pages filled just today.
-nurse/doctor (same word)
(Just have to say that oil and egg are both pronounced the same, except oil has a low tone on the last syllable, and egg has a high tone. The poor girls had to say them both about a dozen times before I was even correctly hearing and identifying the difference).
-I made a cake today.
-I think so.
-The cat only came around early this morning.
-Maybe Isadora will come back tomorrow.
I just took a quick writing break to investigate a strange, distracting sound. Turns out it was a small insect that makes a popping sound as it jumps straight into the air. It sounds like a quieter version of popping popcorn, and seems to be a sound the insect somehow makes, not the sound of it landing. Until further notice, it shall be called Popcorn Bug. Hopefully it entered the Insect Olympics, because it would definitely have a chance at the gold medal in vertical jumping, if that is an event. It is only between ¼ and ½ inch long, yet some of its jumps reached one foot into the air! If the Popcorn Bug could learn to aim itself, it might be able to win a game of Ants in the Pants, against the plastic ants aimed by human players..
Anyway, back to the Neno words and phrases from today.
-Where do you live?
-What are the names of your brother’s children?
-What are the names of your sister’s children?
-The names of my brother’s children are Jeremiah, Gideon, Abbi, and Jubilee.
If I can get all these words and phrases before the generator turns off and the bugs start flocking to the laptop screen instead of the lightbulb, it will be a satisfying end to a good day of ministry.
Yes, I said ministry. No, I didn’t lead a Bible study, teach Sunday school for the children, or even talk about who Jesus is. But I am unable to do these things in this culture, so I am doing what God has given me to do today. CLA. Culture and Language Acquisition. Investing my time and energy into living the language, becoming part of the culture, and building friendships with these people who are my teachers. You see, before I can be a teacher, I must be a learner, with a humble, teachable heart, and the mind of Christ. This is the foundation for future ministry, which will include Bible teaching, sharing the Gospel, and working with children, and whatever else God has in store. And every little achievement, even things like learning how to say words like scissors and beans, is a small step in that direction.