Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Day at the Table--Part 2

There is no such thing as a normal day of translation! But, here’s an example (including all real events), of what a day might look like! Don’t forget to read Part 1, posted last week!
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Phrase by phrase (photo by Amy Evers)
The morning tea break flies by, and now it’s back to work! We plow through a few more verses in Deuteronomy; these are harder—dealing with topics of lending and interest and material items that aren’t present in Kamano-Kafe culture. My back has a crick in it, and I start getting distracted as the team chatters on and on in a language where I only catch a few words, often with loud yelling and waving hands. But I catch just enough—“Actually, he’s talking to all of Israel here,” I cut into the conversation, “so we need to make everything plural.”


Kosseck studying (photo by Amy Evers)
The table goes silent, then Nathan bursts out with a grin. “Ooo, Brother, she knows what you’re saying! She’s holding your tail now! Watch out!” We all double over in laughter.

The horn blares again, signaling an hour lunch break. As the team fixes their rice and tin meat, I head back to my house for a quick meal and as much horizontal rest as I can between phone calls and people stopping by.

Back to translation! The metal roof has no insulation, and under the intense tropical sun, the little building heats up like an oven. The power flicks on and off, so computers and lights suddenly go black, but the team doesn’t miss a beat. We shift some sentences around (in Kamano-Kafe, the verb comes at the end of the sentence) and adjust a letter or two (Kamano-Kafe uses lots of suffixes to communicate meaning, which means words can be quite long and a single letter can change the entire thing from past to future or from intentional to accidental).

WHACK! “Air strike!” we shout, and Tuas, brandishing the flyswatter like a sword, adds his kill to his tally (The team have a contest to see who can kill the most flies during a year. Computers and people are considered “holy ground” and are off limits...but everything else goes!)

Lots of cultural discussions! (photo by Amy Evers)
“Ah yes, that’s a lot like our culture” Kosseck comments, and all the guys begin to chime in on the taboos surrounding women’s menstruation and childbirth. But soon we’re back to discussing how to keep an army camp clean when you’ve got thousands of men in one place, and my chronic fatigue is making it hard to focus.

Another horn—afternoon tea break! I pray to close the session and my brain mixes all three languages together until I spit out something only mildly coherent.

Smoke filling my brain! (photo by Amy Evers)
“Smoke is filling my brain,” moans Nathan. I think my head is going to catch fire!”

“I should dump some water on your head,” teases James.

“No, then he’ll just be full of steam” retorts Tuas.

We all laugh, and head to the communal office where we flip through ancient National Geographic magazines and tackle some financial paperwork while we sip more coffee. Franky peers over Kosseck’s shoulder at the giant boa constrictor strewn across the photos. “Did I ever tell you the story about the snake...?” and suddenly, he launches into story after story about giant snakes and bats wrestling in the treetops or when eagles dropped a snake carcass on a truck-load of people.

Back to translation, and we open in prayer just as the dark storm clouds break above us and rain pounds the uninsulated metal roof. We can barely hear each other over the deluge, but we shout translation at each other anyway (it’s a good test of language comprehension, I muse to myself). One verse doesn’t need any changes—“Hooray, free verse! Free verse!” we shout!

4:30 pm now, and it’s time to wrap up. We pull down the curtains, close the computers, put up the Bibles. The guys grab their backpacks and head towards home—some walk, some will catch buses. “Lukim yu tumora! (see you tomorrow!)”

 “Yes,” James hollers back, “If I don’t see you in heaven first!”