Saturday, April 25, 2015

Home Away From Home (by Jennings)




Tomorrow I go to Goma for another 2-week visit with the translation team. When I was leaving from my last visit, in December, one of the team members (far right below) said aloud what I was also thinking: it was actually hard to say good-bye. We've always had a friendly relationship, but we've spent so much time together now that there is a depth to that relationship that wasn't there in the first years. I was deeply touched when he said that... and a little scared... great, another chance to suffer, more people to miss. But that's part of the deal, a blessing that is precious and painful.


Goma is one of the biggest cities in Congo, over a million people. But when I'm there, unless there's a good reason (like illness), I only see it on my way in and out. There is a lot of crime in the city, and the team don't want people knowing that a foreigner is staying at the translation office compound. It could attract thieves or worse. So, during the visit, I generally don't leave the compound. There is a large, brick building for the office and a small, wooden house for the caretaker and his family (wife and 6 children). 

So, the translation office has become a kind of home away from home. I have my routines and habits there, like I do at home. During week days, I'm with the translation team all day, for work, meals and discussion. After work, I might play with the kids a little, then go in my room and "exercise" for about half an hour (mostly jumping around or jogging in place in the space next to the bed, below). Then my bath water is ready around 6 and dinner is around 7. Then I lock myself in for the night.
My room
Pounding greens for dinner
On the evenings and weekends, the translators are at their homes, and I'm with the caretaker and his family. I've watched his 6 children grow. The oldest, a young man finishing high school, lives with extended family now. 

Aimée, who was a baby when I first started coming, is 5. (A fun conversation with her from last year.) 


We have our weekend routines. Or rather, they have their family routines and I'm there, too. On Saturday evening, after dinner, they come in the office to listen to a radio show and play cards.

Saturday night entertainment: listening to the radio and playing cards
Showing off their homemade cards, made from bits of cardbox box.
On Sunday evenings, we watch a movie on my computer (they don't have a TV or any other way to see video). It's been a challenge to come up with something appropriate for all ages, that isn't too dependent on dialogue (I can find things dubbed in French, but not Swahili, so that doesn't help the mother or the younger children.) The favorite so far has been Charlie Chaplin's "Gold Rush". They laugh and laugh, even the littlest ones, especially at the scene where the house is tipping over the edge of the mountain. It's a bit hard to explain snow, but at least the small, clapboard cabin looks a lot like their own house. We skip the dance-hall scenes (confusing). They also really liked Jungle Book, especially the music. This time, we'll try "The Nativity" and "Madagascar".

Serious family pose after Sunday night movie. (The youngest picked up Tembo books, to show they love to read.)
On my last night, I take a photo of the whole family, and then individual photos of each child and of the parents. Actually, any time is a good time for a photo... they are real hams.


Manu and Safi... with a photo bomb in the background.

Close-up of the photo bomb. This child is the family entertainer.

Safi showing her playful side, with serious Manu on her hip.
I've also taught them a few songs, though my repertoire is not great. I happened to know "Head, shoulders, knees and toes" in English, French and Swahili, and I taught it to them on my first visit, years ago. They often greet me with that when I first arrive. In December, we sang "Love the Lord Your God" (from Cottonpatch Gospel) and put it roughly into French and Swahili. They are good sports. Just wish I had better material.

Honestly, even though traveling is a big part of my job, I'm not crazy about it. I like being at home, with Douglas, with my own stuff and routine. But the translation team, and especially the caretaker and his family, have made Goma a home away from home for me. It will be good to see them all.
View from the front porch of the translation office, towards Lake Kivu, at sunset

Friday, March 20, 2015

This Little Puppy Went to S.P. , This Little Puppy Stayed Home...

Elikya playing with her pups
In December, the day I returned from Goma (previous post), our dog Elikya had puppies! Douglas texted me when the first arrived, while I was still in the Goma airport. By the time I got home, there were 5, and by the time we went to sleep there were 6. When we woke up, there were 7!
Of course, having the puppies made for a very fun - if slightly chaotic - Christmas and New Years. Then, quite suddenly, two of them got ill and died. We think it was worms, though we're not sure. It was heartbreaking... I try not to think about it too much...
Puppies having one of their first meals, back when their ears and paws were still so tiny.
The others stayed healthy, and the first one left to go to his new home just a couple of weeks ago. The day guard at our office, who loves dogs, had picked him out of the litter because he's unique-looking, all white. He asked what the puppy's name was, and we told him that we were calling him "Whitey" (or "Le Blanc" in French... "the White One"). I asked him a few days ago how Whitey was doing. He said he is a very nice dog, "très gentil". I love that he appreciates that about him! He said that they changed his name from "Le Blanc" to "Le Bon"... "the Good One". I love that, too. I am so happy that Whitey went to this new home!
Whitey getting ready to go to his new home. Now his name is "The Good One", Le Bon.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Goma update - December 2014 (by Jennings)

A few highlights from my latest trip to Goma, to check Hebrews with the Tembo team.
The Nyanga delegation, including one of the original translators (far right)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

When a "literal" translation is not accurate (from Jennings in Goma)


In Scripture translation, we're aiming at four goals, which are sometimes in tension. We want the translation to be: 1) accurate, 2) clear and easy to understand, 3) natural-sounding rather than stilted or "foreign" and 4) acceptable to users (especially the local church leaders).

Of these, my first responsibility as a consultant is to try to ensure accuracy. If the translation don't reflect the meaning of the original text, then it doesn't matter how clear or natural it is, it isn't a good translation. So I need to be sure that nothing has been added, omitted or changed.

But accurate is not the same as literal. Sometimes a translation can be very literal -- even word-for-word -- and yet be completely inaccurate. That's because meaning doesn't just come from the text, from the words. It comes from the text plus the context: the linguistic, cultural and historical context of the original language and how it fits -- or doesn't fit -- with the context of the target language.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Dispatch from Goma: "Say My Name" (...or don't, that's fine, too) by Jennings

Aimée is fascinated. With me. She stands on the veranda outside the office and tries to catch my eye, then gives me a small, shy wave. I give a small wave back and a smile. She walks away, then comes back again a few minutes later. This goes on for hours. Aimée is 5 years old, and I've known her since she was a baby, since 2009, when I first started coming here to Goma a couple of times a year. Her father is the caretaker for the translation office compound, and she has 4 older siblings and a baby brother, Manu, who is not quite 1 year old and is walking.

Aimée

Manu, back in February (before he could walk)

When the translators have left, I go outside and sit on the steps with Aimée and Manu. She strokes my (fascinating) pink, furry arm. We play a game, with my limited Swahili:

Me (pointing to Aimée): What is your name?
Aimée (softly): Aimée
Me (pointing to Manu): What is his name?
Aimée (again softly): Manu
Me: And what is my name? Do you know?
Aimée (looks up with a big smile): Muzungu!

Right, close enough. I could tell her what my name is, but she knows me as Muzungu, and that's all right. People seldom address me here by name, anyway... I'm not sure it's quite polite to use first names. So people call me "Madame" or "Mama" or "Madame Douglas", if they know Douglas' name. As for "Muzungu"... I've never been crazy about that name, but I'm coming to terms with it. Especially when it's used with obvious respect or affection. Or by a little cutie like Aimée.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Healthcare Among Friends - Part 2

Another tale of friendship and surgery, this one far more serious. You will notice that, as in the last post, there are a lot of "as it happens" in this story. Lots of happy coincidences. Some of these I attribute to the fact that Congolese society is highly networked and inter-dependent, with lots of unexpected connections between people I never would have guessed knew each other. I also can't help but see God's hand in how things came together. Here's the story:

The head translator for one of the projects we work with, Pierre, had known for some time that he needed prostate surgery. He lives up north in an area that does not have great hospitals. But a couple of hours outside of Bunia, in a town called Nyankunde, there is a very good hospital, furnished and supported by Samaritan's Purse. It is well-known throughout the region. That is where Pierre hoped to have this surgery.
Pierre, head translator for the Bible in his language. During tea time at the translation office.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Healthcare Among Friends (Part 1)


A few months ago, I (Jennings) noticed a sore on my face that wouldn't heal, and I began to be suspicious of it. Back home in the U.S., I would call or email my dermatologist to make an appointment; the spot would be removed (if needed); and the insurance company would have sorted out how much I owed (perhaps a hundred dollars or more).

Here, it works differently. Here, you use the friend network.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Celebrating Mother-tongue Languages (by Douglas)


We (Douglas and Bagamba) participated in the commemoration of International Mother Languages Day in Bunia on 21 and 22 Feb 2014. Here are a few highlights:
 
Bagamba says that an important step in saving an endangered language
is clarifying the objective of your intervention.
Douglas introduces the subject of the Vanuma community
before presenting an evaluation of the state of health of the Vanuma language.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Friendship and gratitude

When Douglas lived in Congo in the 90s, before the war, he became good friends with a pastor and his wife. Their son Blaise was gifted in school and wanted to study medicine, so Douglas agreed to help pay his expenses. That was some 10 years ago, before we got married.

Since then, our pastor friend was given a post at Shalom University as chaplain, which brought the couple to Bunia, where we live. They have been some of our very best friends in town, though we don't see them as often as we'd like. Blaise is still in medical school, in a faraway city, Kindu. It has taken longer than expected for a variety of reasons - none of them his fault - and he has persevered and done well. Just before Christmas, Blaise came to Bunia, and the three of them came to our house for a celebration.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Snapshots of December 2013

A few photos from December in Bunia. This is a wood carving of the Nativity (it's hard to make it out in this photo, sorry) that we bought from a local artist. I had been decorating the house with Christmas cards we received from the U.S. in previous years, and I was struck at how, well, white all the figures were - the angels, Jesus, Mary. It made me appreciate all the more this depiction of Jesus in an African context, in African art.