Sunday, June 29, 2008

What missionaries do for fun

Last week my teammate Dana sent out this invitation:

Come de-worm with us!

Dear all,

Yes, hard to believe it’s been 6 months already, but it’s time to flush the system! Won’t you come de-worm with us? Grab your meds and join us as we celebrate the start or finish of treatment.

We’ll have a nice dinner chez nous on Wed 25 June around 6:45. All the yummy servings will have the shape and/or texture of our favorite parasite. Don’t be afraid! Just wiggle on over!

Please let us know if you can make it.

See you then.

Dana and Heather

Note the wiggly yarn garnishing the table. We ate spaghetti and green beans. Even Monkey joined in and brought her pills too.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Facebook photos from June

Here are some recently uploaded photos of interviews with pastors, a BBQ, a concert, etc.

PS: My friend Carrie comes in only 20 days!!!!

"Revealed Medicine"

Last week I interviewed pastors and visited a number of parishes of a large denomination here in Brazzaville. I really enjoy this work because we get to see cool things that God is doing in this country and we get to meet wonderful people who are serving Him.

At several of the churches they mentioned their "therapy center" or their practice of "revealed medicine." At one parish they invited us to come see. These leaves and roots were arranged on the floor. We were told they are used to make tea to heal various ailments. They know which ones to use according to the inspiration God gives (although I think they also have knowledge of the healing properties of the various plants). I asked if something could be done for my eczema since it's hard to find things that help it. "Nothing is too difficult for God," they said. I was told to come back in the afternoon.

When I arrived these pots were boiling over large fires in this courtyard. It was really cool to see! Several people were sitting on a bench, presumably awaiting their treatment, while several men and women bustled around checking on the pots, taking out the roots, etc.

They called me into the office and the man who had talked to me earlier in the day presented me with a wine bottle full of the freshly brewed tea. "Take a half a glass full three times a day, " he said. "And put this oil with these crushed leaves on your skin in the morning and at night after you've bathed." He prayed for me, thanking God that I had come all the way to Africa and that I would trust my African brothers and sisters to take care of me. I think people thought it was cool that I would try their methods and have faith. He told me, "Don't put your faith in the tea. It is God who will heal you. We are the intermediaries, hearing from God what to give you for your healing." There was a really sweet spirit in the place.

So I'll have to report on how it goes. I've been taking the stuff and so far it seems like it's maybe a little worse :o) But I know that if God wants this to be the way He heals my skin that He'll do it and it will be for His glory. If not, then He has another plan.

I'm thankful that there are churches helping people in this way because pharmaceutical treatments can be so expensive. Also, many Christians are still tempted to see the fetisher when they have a problem. This is a great way for them to be able to seek help while also satisfying their need to handle problems on a spiritual level. Reminds me as well that even when I'm taking more "scientific" meds that I still need to put my faith in God and not in the pills. Ultimately He is our Healer and we can't do anything without Him. Our faith "does not rest on man's wisdom, but on God's power." (1 Corinthians 2:5)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Principles of Language Learning

Since I’ve been planning my own lessons in Laari, I’ve been dredging up from the recesses of my mind the things that I learned back in 2002 at Oregon SIL in my Language and Culture Learning class. Here are a few principles of language learning that you’ll want to apply if you’re wanting to break the great American monolingual mold.
• Get comprehensible input. I don’t know why, but when we start learning a language we want to collect long lists of words and try to memorize complicated expressions right from the start. We should begin by spending time listening to things we can understand, which often means using concrete objects. When I wanted to learn the names of different food items, I brought in a basket of food, learned the phrase “What do you call this in Laari?”, and began pointing to items and writing down their names. Then I had my consultant ask me to give him or touch different items as he called them out. Sometimes he can’t resist making it more complicated and adding in new things, but I just keep reminding him that I need to focus on what I can actually understand. Sometimes he can add new things in a comprehensible way, such as by showing me what he wants me to do as he gives the command.

• This leads us to another important principle: Total Physical Response (TPR). This means actually doing or touching the thing you are talking about. Sit down and stand up as you learn those verbs. Pick up the tomato and the onion as you memorize those words. Our brains just function better this way. Also, it allows you to associate the new vocabulary with the item or action itself, rather than with the word you know in English.

• Listen first. This is just a good principle for life in general, eh? In language learning it means hearing the words and phrases many times before you try to pronounce them. One good tool for doing this is to make recordings of the vocabulary to listen to over and over. Another way is by doing drills where you respond to commands given by your consultant. Only after hearing and recognizing words many times should you attempt to use them yourself; and you’ll be surprised how much you can say when you open your mouth the first time if you’ll really spent a good amount of time listening first.

• Another handy tool I like is to use photos. I cut out pictures from magazines, looking for different kinds of people and common actions such as someone washing their face or eating. I started by learning phrases like “This is a man,” “These are women,” “This is a girl,” etc. Then I added descriptors: “He is tall,” “There are two women,” “They are beautiful.” etc. Next I plan on describing actions in the photos (“The women are dancing”) and talking about the setting (“The girls are in the kitchen”). For verb practice you can describe the picture using different tenses (“Yesterday the women danced.”). More advanced speakers can make up stories about the photo, describing what happened before and after the present scene (“The women were tired after coming home from work, so they danced and now they feel happy.”).

Those are just a few of the principles of language learning that I have been applying and it has proven to be a fun way to study. My consultant is impressed with the method and thinks I’m learning quickly. Bon apprentissage! Happy studies!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Doo-doo's Day Card

Click to play Happy Father's Day!
Create your own free ecard - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox free ecard

Socks, sweatshirts, and La Saison Seche

So it's the beginning of the dry season, which also happens to be the cool season. Hallelujah! The Congolese are pulling out their sweaters and scarves and winter coats. I'm not quite that bad, although I have a confession...Today I'm wearing a long-sleeved shirt, a sweatshirt, shoes and socks. Granted, this afternoon it's feeling a bit warm, but this morning I was seriously cold!

I decided I should find out what the temperature actually is. According to Yahoo Weather it is currently 84 degrees. There's something wrong with people here, including me! But the low was 64, which you have to admit would feel really cold if you're used to 80s and 90s and 99% humidity. Today the humidity is only 62%. In any case, this means I've got problems when I go back to the States in December!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

bo betsy--hand embroidered sweetness for you!

Hey everybody, my Good Sistah Cathie Jo has started a store at ("your place to buy and sell all things handmade"). She's got some really cute embroidered items and there's a big sale going on until June 15th--free shipping within the US! Check it out here

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Someone is watching...

Hey! Check this out! I'm being watched. Better be careful what I post!

Friday, June 06, 2008

More Adventures in Language Learning

I’m learning a new language. Not that I’ve mastered Lingala already, but I’ve decided to move on to Laari because it’s the language most of my friends speak and it’s the main language where I do my marketing, so I have more opportunities to hear and use it than I do Lingala right now.

Laari is more difficult. Lingala is a trade language so it’s simpler in some ways, kind of like the grammar of English is simpler than German. Laari has more of the typical features of Bantu languages. Here are some fun things I’ve learned so far.

There are 15 noun classes, which means that a lot of words in a sentence are different depending on the class of the noun one is talking about. Just to say something like “Is there ____?” requires different forms:
Dimpa ha die? Is there bread?
Nsusu ha ye? Is there chicken?
Mbiji ha ze? Is there fish?
Loso ha lue? Is there rice?
Mungwa ha we? Is there salt?

My Lingala sometimes helps me because there are some words that are the same:
Sala: to work
Tala: to watch
Mona: to see
Loso: rice
Mafuta: palm oil

And sometimes the words are similar to what they are in Lingala and I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep the two languages separate!
Lingala: Mbisi Laari: Mbiji “fish”
Lingala: Telema Laari: Telama “to stand”
Lingala: Soso Laari: Nsusu “chicken”

When learning a language it’s always interesting to pick up on some cultural items. For example in Laari there are two words for “to lick.” One is for licking like we would an ice-cream cone and the other is just when you stick your tongue on something once. I’m like “Why do you need a word for sticking your tongue on something?” Apparently they do that a lot for when they have some salt or sugar on their hand. Not really sure of how that works just yet, but it’s important enough to have its own verb!

When my language tutor had the opportunity to teach me whatever he wanted one day (as opposed to me planning the lesson), the important expressions he wanted me to know included the commands: “Bury your spit” (like cover it up after you spit on the ground), “Wipe your mouth” and “Stop making noise.” Not exactly the first expressions I would think of to teach a beginning English speaker!

Learning local languages is fun here because people freak out and are so encouraging. You can just say a simple greeting and they’re like, “You speak my language!” My friends don’t get tired of hearing me say the same simple phrases, “I’m fine and you?”, “Until tomorrow,” etc. People also get a kick out of learning that I have a Laari name, “Mikembi.” A boy at the orphanage exclaimed, “That’s an old person’s name, like a mama who works out in the field!”

There’s a French guy here who sings with a Congolese group and speaks fluent Lingala and Laari. I heard when taxis pick him up they won’t let him pay. People all over recognize him. He’s highly revered for his adaptation to the culture, like a legendary hero. Someday…

Thursday, June 05, 2008

life mottos

So I've made a new hobby of creating personal life mottos the past couple months. They take on a sort of informal vow-like quality for me...

"Everything is better with basil." So true. With basil sold at the market for about 25 cents I've decided I should put it on and in pretty much everything I eat. And don't forget the fresh pesto!

"Never drink Nescafe." After all the great espresso in Kenya and Ethiopia, I've sworn off the stuff at our coffee breaks at the office. Why do I drink something I don't even like? No, friends don't let friends drink instant.

"Don't bother posting videos." (not really a life motto, but I need to vent) OK, so 5 stinkin' days ago I posted 3 clips. This was like a technological miracle. Where's the love? Granted, they weren't fantastic, but I was so excited to finally share my choir with everyone and what do I get? Silence. See if I post any more videos!!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A few more pics

Hey, since I've got a good connection I'm just uploading everything I can! Added a few more pics to the Facebook album. Went to an amazing concert tonight. If you like Jack Johnson, check out "Tete" who is like his French counterpart. His latest album is "Le Sacre des Lemmings." Haven't heard it yet but I'm ordering it this week.

Monkey's Theatrical Debut

This is a lame video intended for the familial audience only. I figured they'd like to meet their grandcat slash cat niece. I tried to capture Monkey Business playing with her ball. She usually does summersaults, but of course for the video she just wants to lay there. Cats.