Writer’s Block and Writer’s Break

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Since we now have good internet at the mission base and photos upload quickly, here is a random traveling/birthday picture, after a month-long trip back to the States this summer.

For awhile, I managed to continue a fairly consistent routine of Friday morning blog posts (except for last week, which I skipped completely).  If I had internet access more often than every 2 months, continuing this schedule would be fairly simple.

However, over the last couple months, I have unfortunately not been able to write 10 posts to publish on the next 10 Fridays.  There are many reasons for this, including full-time ACL, headaches, running out of diesel to run the community generator (which results in the laptop’s batteries running out), and writer’s block.  While I normally love writing, especially when the purpose is communicating with team members back home to share what is happening here, sometimes words just don’t come to express thoughts and ideas, all that God is doing in my heart and life, or even relate daily events and experiences.

We are heading back to the village early tomorrow, and while I have a few posts drafted or outlined, all of them need significant editing before sharing and the time is just too short for writing, in addition to everything else that still needs to be accomplished.

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White River – photo taken in September

So please forgive me for this long break, especially right near the beginning of a series about ACL.  I will try to get back into writing soon, however, and edit the drafts so that they are ready to post.  If friends from the village go to “The Farm” across the river from the village, and if the internet signal there is good enough, I will go along, and post on the blog.  If not, I will definitely be back in the city either the first or second week of April, so you can expect a new post then.

In the meantime, despite such a long time without updates, please remember to continue praying, and know that I am still very thankful for your partnership and friendship in this wonderful adventure.

If you are not on the e-mail list to receive my Crossing Cultures updates (different from here on the blog, normally every 2-4 months), you can sign up here.  http://eepurl.com/bWtE6X  I will be sending out an update this evening, with recent pictures, news and prayer requests.  Take care, and keep your eyes on Jesus!

Part 3 – Becoming. Homes, Sweet Homes

Becoming…The Journey to Lose Myself in an Amazon Village.

Today started in the city, at about 6:30 with a cup of coffee, one last huge bowl of homemade yogurt, a sinkful of dishes to wash, a freezer to defrost, several Psalms, and internet that only worked for about 10 minutes, with the backdrop of traffic sounds, dogs barking, and heat that starts way too early in the day.

Today ends in the village, just after 10 PM, half an hour after “lights out”, with a few bugs attracted to the laptop’s glow, half-unpacked boxes of clothes and groceries all around, lots of cleaning tasks to be done tomorrow (or whenever), crickets chirping in my house, and a veritable jungle orchestra outside, comprised of birds, insects, frogs, and other creatures whose voices I have not yet learned to identify.  It is not a quiet place, but the peaceful noises of nature beat the cacophony of the city any day.

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True, there were so many things I didn’t get done in the city, some rather important.  So many things I wanted to talk about with my mom and sister, but our conversations were never quite long enough to remember it all.  But those things don’t seem to matter quite so much now that I’m here.  They can wait until December.  The wish that I could have finished my to-do list is overshadowed by relief to be finished with the in-transit sensation of waiting and hoping a ride will appear.

My heart has already made the transition from city to village.  Let’s just hope the brain is quick to follow, making the most of every day, grasping linguistic concepts quickly, learning with a new vigor inspired by the delay in returning.  It was actually only 5 extra days in the city, but seemed longer in my eagerness to return to the exciting routine of community, friends, language learning, and jungle life.  I am home.

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Home is a strange concept in the missionary heart, by the way.  Just a month ago, I was talking about how wonderful it was to be home…back in Lewis County, with family, church, friends, eating sweet corn and peaches, talking and praying and worshipping God with other believers in English, wading in creeks, searching for monarch caterpillars, and sniffing the fragrance only furnished by dairy farms.

And now I’m talking as if that faraway land were a dream, or a place I don’t really care about.  While I obviously know it’s real, and still care deeply about people and events there, it is no longer my primary residence.

No, I am not in the same geographical location as the people I love best, my family, because that would be Lewis County, or Colorado, or Heaven, come to think of it.  But home can also be defined as the place in which we belong, whether this belonging is determined by choice, God’s calling, heart ties, family bonds, friendships material possessions, or other factors.

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All things considered, out of all the many places on earth that I hold dear, this tiny Amazon village truly is the place where I most belong right now.  I let go of so much to come here, you know; it was no whim or hasty decision.  It was a choice and commitment made in obedience to the Great Commission and Holy Spirit’s leading as doors opened for me to come here specifically.  And as I left one home, God gave me another, just as He did back in 2008 in Itapecerica da Serra, São Paulo.  But don’t worry – I still consider Lewis County home also, and will always come back to visit and love every day spent there with all of you.  Logical or not, it seems we missionaries have a proclivity for claiming many homes, in widely scattered locations.  But enough reflections regarding home.

Tonight I look forward to the rest almost guaranteed to relax my body, soul and spirit.  It’s more than just the pleasantly cool temperature for sleeping, the jungle lullaby, and perhaps a rainy drizzle on my thatch roof.  Rest will be sweet because I am finally back home, in this place where God has called me, to live and love and work and give, and just…become whoever it is that He wants me to be, for His glory among this people.

Part 2 – Becoming…An ACL Addict

Becoming: The Journey to Lose Myself in an Amazon Village

So…the Neno language has me officially hooked.  I stayed up until 10 last night.  That’s late for me, especially in the village.  It was our second evening without diesel (this time), so from about 7:30 to 9:15, I was sitting on a small block of wood, outdoors in the moonlight with my next-door neighbors and two couples who had come down from the school to visit them.

That gathering included lots of laughter and conversation, of which your resident language and culture learner understood only about 10 percent…maybe.  Group conversations are the hardest to follow, especially when I don’t know all the speakers well, and cannot see their lips or facial expressions.  Yet they are still great opportunities for friendship-building, challenging the brain, and practicing my Neno listening and deduction skills.

Afterwards, although tired, I was too excited to sleep, and spent another 45 minutes reading a thick linguistics textbook which had fit into my suitcase this time.  Having read at least half of it before, it is more exciting and relevant now that I can apply all the principles to a real language I am currently learning.

Today, 5:25 AM found me at the computer with earbuds in, listening to a lively Neno song, which along with the mug of coffee I had already started on, was a strategic way to wake up and get going.  Three Neno “music groups” have recorded original songs (12-15 songs/group), for which I have been typing out the lyrics.

Did you know that a couple years after learning Portuguese, having spent a total of just 14 months in Brasil, I got this crazy craving to learn another, harder language?  The novelty of Portuguese had worn off.  I could speak it already, after all, and communicate anything I wanted to.  While there was definitely lots of room for improvement (I hadn’t even reached what I would define as fluency at that point) and a definite sotaque (accent) to lose, it no longer provided the mental challenge of a language totally new.  So I spent 30-some bucks on Japanese language-learning CDs, which I listened to on roads all over Lewis County while working as a home visitor.  It was fun, and I learned some phrases long since forgotten, but the motivation didn’t last without the opportyinity for relationships with anyone who speaks Japanese.

Well, now I get another chance at a harder language, built-in relationships already included, no CDs available.  Let it be known that the Neno language fits into the “High Level Challenge Category”, no doubt about it, including tones, grammatical categories that English and Portuguese speakers never imagined, and sneaky switcharoo sounds.  But it’s a blast.

I resent activities like eating, washing dishes, and killing the termites which built a small mound in my kitchen, because all I want to do is be interacting with this language and culture in some capacity.

  • Observing or doing new things with friends, “out-and-about” in the community.
  • Hanging out in groups and attempting to decipher conversations.
  • Actually talking one-on-one with someone, with much better comprehension.
  • Listening to music.
  • Sitting down for a formal organized semi-organized study session with a language helper.
  • Analyzing sentence structure.
  • Writing out the text of audio stories that friends have recorded for me.
  • Reviewing sets of vocabulary flashcards. (This one I often do while eating, actually).

I love it all, and find myself in a perpetual state of wanting more, more, MORE!

Even now, writing to you, a truly enjoyable undertaking, I’m restless, almost agitated, hoping to finish up quickly and go back to that partially-compiled adjective list.  Adjectives here are tricky, one discovers after awhile.  They remain the same whether referring to men or women, thankfully, but have a different plural form, as well as a diminuitive feature, which would take too long to explain when I’d rather find a Neno friend to help me learn it in real life (and there is a real example of the restlessness).  But not ALL adjectives have a plural form, and some adjectives are used almost exclusively in the diminuitive form, so the “basic” form is rarely heard.  There is so much left to learn.

But it’s all good.  By God’s grace, slow and steady will win the race, right?

Sure, I can’t wait to be finished with ACL, because the goal is getting “released” from the program and start teaching the Bible.  And the sense of urgency for that task is growing steadily.

Yet in the meantime, the linguistic aspect of becoming part of the Neno community is worthwhile, fun, and rewarding in and of itself.  And it’s addicting.