You know that time last summer when I took a 3-week French 101 class, and I almost drowned in notecards, and I was soon speaking basic French in my sleep? Try cramming that amount of information into your brain in one week. Erin & I have spent the last 4 days with our cawundiko (teacher), B, learning Zarma- and it has been sooooo much information! We are so so so thankful, however, that we have this opportunity. Because I have a notebook full of Zarma words, it will make the transition to Boubon so much easier. For instance, when someone asks where my bellybutton is, I'll be able to show them because I know the words for "where" and "bellybutton." Or, if someone tells me there is an unhappy hippo in the village, I'll be able to run to safety rather than being trampled before I have time to pull out my handy-dandy Zarma-English dictionary and figure out what's going on! So you see, we are very thankful for this week of language training.
B has been so sweet and incredibly patient. We have asked her question after question for 6 hours a day, and she still has patience even when I mix up the phrases "I'm hungry" (Ay harey) and "my ears" (Ay hangaey) at least 12 times a day (because I get hungry often). I'm so thankful for B!
So far, my favorite phrase to say in Zarma is "atinni atalata." It actually just means Monday Tuesday, but it's fun to say with an African accent. So, when I come back to the States, if I say some fun phrase but you don't know what it means, don't be impressed- I'm probably just saying a bunch of nonsense! My most-used phrase so far is definitely "bong londi," which is brain, because my bong londi has often felt a bit heavy from all the new words inside of it!
Throughout the week, I have often found myself asking why on earth I am sitting in an un-air-conditioned room studying the days of the week in an African language. There are certainly times of frustration (especially when I can't distinguish between ears and food). But when those moments come, I am reminded of the ultimate reason we are even on this continent, and I am encouraged to keep a grateful and enthusiastic heart. The call of Christ to share the Gospel with all nations is worth the work. It's worth slaving hours over foreign languages and driving 14 hours in a hot car. It's worth saving my money to even go on this trip. It's worth missing family and friends back in the States. Although I do love to travel, I would not be in this country if the Songhai people did not need Christ. Why are we here? We are here to share the Gospel with an unreached people group, and it is certainly worth the work. And amidst the notecards and sweat, there is no place I would rather be than in the will of my Master bringing glory to His worthy Name.