The end of an era and beginning of another

11 months ago yesterday I stepped off a plane into a country that was strange to me with people speaking a language I barely knew. After about a week I got frustrated and wanted to start learning the language as quickly as possible and learning as much as possible too. That began a long, frustrating, draining and sometimes butt-kicking 8 months of study.

That all came to an end March 14th. I no longer head into language school every day for 4 hours and only speak German. I know longer struggle with grammar or vocabulary issue when speaking with Germans….of wait, no i definitely still do that. I don’t know if I can say that I am fluent, but I can say that I can carry on a conversation on a variety of topics without too much difficulty.

While I said that one era ended, it really didn’t. I’m not done learning German in the least bit. I am still trying to practice it as often as possible, but language school is over.

Last week began my first week in the office full-time. It was a good week, but man, was it difficult. The projects I am working on weren’t hard, the co-workers are great, but it is hard for me because I haven’t worked full-time in 2 years, since I left Mattawoman. I also have not ever worked in front of a computer the whole day either. It is definitely an adjustment, but I like what I am doing and who I am working with, so I can only see it getting better. There is also a very flexible environment here, so if I need to go for a short walk or just get away from the computer for a short bit, I can.

Currently I am helping to write articles about online course creation and facilitation, creating a curriculum for an ESL camp, and organizing a short retreat that most of the eDOT team will be going on the beginning of April. I am enjoying these projects and am looking forward to adjusting to the full-time work too.

I am very thankful to God that the language school is done and I was able to pick up the language at least decently and also that I can already see the value of my abilities that will be used by eDOT for His Kingdom.

Language School Nugget – Lebensmittel

A little while back I learned the word for groceries in German – Lebensmittel. Lebensmittel is a compound word consisting of Leben (live) and Mittel (medium or “means to”). So when you put these words together in English groceries are a medium or means to live. In class when this clicked in my head I realized the subtle difference between something being a means for life and a means to live. Since that day  have come to understand that Leben means both life and live, but the premise of this post remains the same.

What is the difference between “means for life” and “means to live?”

Quite simply I think it is this:

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

      -Matthew 4:4 (bold added)

Jesus doesn’t say we live only on the words of God, but he says that we also do not live on bread alone. We need food to live….that’s it. Technically the only reason we have to eat is to get nutrients into our body so that it can function at the level in which it is supposed to function. That is food (Lebensmittel) as a means to live. We need it to live and….done!

Unfortunately I know I and many others use food as a means to life. As soon as I am done eating breakfast I often time find myself thinking about lunch. Why? Because food is what I revolve my life around. It is how I experience life. My brother made a joke last summer when we were in Alaska that is very fitting for this topic. He said most people come to Alaska to see the different wildlife, but I came to eat it. It’s true, I wanted to try as many different kinds of meat as I could.

That in and of itself isn’t bad, but if that is all my life is focused on then am I really full of life? I’m probably full of food, but not of life. This is the same for anything. What is filling your life? What should be filling your life? It doesn’t have to be a bad thing to take up too much of your time/energy/thoughts, it just has to be consuming. We are  to live every day to the fullest for Him who has blessed us with that life. Use food/family/sport/work as a means to live, not a means for life.

There is only One who is our means for life.

Where everybody knows your name (and that’s about all they can say in your language)

Language school is an interesting beast. On day one you are placed in a classroom with a group of 15-20 other people and you know absolutely nothing about them. It’s not until they write their name on a placard that you even know their name and then you might not be able to pronounce it.

Then class starts and it is completely, 100% in the new language. So in the first day you learn how to say what your name is, where you are from, where you live, etc. So now you know a little bit about each other, but can you ask them anything in specific? Nope, sure can’t! If you want to ask what city they come from in their country, that might be a stretch. Maybe a little more info about their family? Well, you haven’t even learned the word for family yet, so good luck!

As the days go on you begin to learn more and more words and you can piece together, what I am sure sounds like some of the worst sentences ever to native German speakers. You get to kind of know the other people in your class and yet something is happening. You are becoming friends. You are suddenly involved in these people’s lives and yet you barely can have a decent conversation with them. You spend more time stumbling over remembering the little vocabulary that you have that it takes 10 minutes to have a 2 minute conversation. And yet, you take those 10 minutes to have that conversation.

There is a bond, a bond between people who do not speak the same language, but are trying to learn a new language together.

I am Yacob in class (German way to pronounce Jacob with a short a, not a long a) and I sit next to Olga and Denis. Denis comes from France and Olga comes from Portugal. They both speak about as much of English and I speak of Portuguese and French (pretty much none). Every day, we talk though. We talk about our family, we talk about the classwork and we talk about anything that we have the vocabulary for. Five weeks into class we are beginning to be able to have decent conversations, but it is still uncomfortable.

There is a bond, a bond between people who do not speak the same language, but are trying to learn a new language together.

We want to say so much more to each other. We want to share what we care about with our new-found friends. But so far, it is a slow process. So we take it day-by-day and every day it gets a little bit easier to communicate. Every day we get to know each other more and more. Every day we get closer to a point where we no longer have to use the Google translate app to translate something from our native language to German and then the native language of the person next to us.

There is a bond, a bond between people who do not speak the same language, but are trying to learn a new language together.

We have struggled together, we have had victories together, we have had fun together and we have laughed together. Soon, we will be invested in each other’s lives and hopefully my life will shine with the light of Christ so that they might now Him more.