Language. This is such a big deal when moving overseas. And rightly so - i believe there is no other single thing more important than language in trying to reach across to another culture. Once upon a time I myself was a "national", a "local", or whatever you want to call it ;-) being reached out to by American missionaries in Europe. They worked very hard to communicate with us in our mother tongue, even though some of us would have spoken some English at the time. And this meant so MUCH to us! Thinking back to those days gives me so much motivation.

But. As a mommy with two little people ages 4.5 and 2, and another one on the way... Well, all of us here at TCKmom know that language learning is just hard, and takes long, and can at times be discouraging. I feel like we have found a plan of action that works for me, and I am encouraged when I look back at what I've learned. However, my goal is NOT to say that this is the way it must always be done. This is my point in sharing here: there are MANY WAYS to go about language learning. As moms, I think it is just hugely important that we take the freedom to be flexible and do what works for US, what suits OUR needs, even if that may not be the ideal, scientifically correct way. I'd rather learn slower, but learn anyway, than give up in frustration because the way I learned to do LL in college just... isn't happening.

Here are a few of my objectives.
1. Learn our tribal language well enough to be able to hang out and chat with my neighbors and friends and understand what people are talking about.
2. Take care of my own children - based on our children's personalities and stages in life we did not feel like it was in their best interest to have a nanny. (Again, I am NOT making a judgment call at ALL. This was just our personal preference).
3. Not only learn language but learn LIFE as one of my tribal sisters.

Based on these objectives, we made the following plan of action. Obviously, getting hours of language class in was not going to happen, especially since my husband is busy a lot of the time with his work. So, I gave that idea up and instead took a different approach.

1. SURROUND myself with language. We moved into a large house with an extended family of eleven people. Most of them speak no English at all. We all cook in the courtyard, we all use the same outdoor shower stalls. At first, obviously, this was tricky. But very soon I learned enough to survive and then to communicate - a little more every day. I hear language pretty much all day long - sidenote, so do my children and they are learning incredibly fast! I do envy them... Sigh :)

2. Seize-the-moment. This is my official language learning technique, haha. In between the meals, the potty breaks and the sibling squabbles, I have a list of things I can do, listed more or less in order of importance here:
- Spend time with an English speaking friend who can help me with language in a more structured way (We learned how to at SIL-UND, and in spite of some of my statements here, I am so grateful for SIL and highly recommend their courses!! It gave us an invaluable basis for all this.) This happens some during naptimes, etc... Less often than I'd like of course.
- Go over recordings I make on my phone during those lessons.
- Sit with my friends who do not speak English, either listening in on their conversations or trying to communicate. This happens at least every day waiting for my turn at the water pump... and in so many other places and ways. Remember my goal of learning life, not only language? In these situations, it is a constant struggle not to "tune out". Tuning out means I will not learn. If I pay attention, I find I can understand more than I thought - and I learn! This one also often happens while we are all watching our children play.
- Talk with the ever present neighborhood children... They think it's fun to look at picture books and discuss them. My own girls can be included in this.
- Listen to Scripture recordings
- We attend other random activities that mean language exposure like church, or sometimes the local literacy classes
- and sometimes I can even be found reading the dictionary... That is NOT what they teach you to do at SIL but my philosophy is... Better something than nothing, right?

3. Relax. This one is so important! If I freak out and tell myself - I am not learning, I can't learn, I won't learn... It is like my brain seizes up and blocks progress. So I constantly tell myself - It doesn't matter HOW long this takes. I don't have to keep up with anyone. I don't have to impress anyone. I am just going to keep on, and keep on, and... It's coming!

I think that we as mommies just need to get OUT of the box that says - intense language learning for a max of two years, then full-time ministry. Who says, anyway? Maybe our husbands and those single lady missionaries can and should follow this model. If you can, too, that's great! But too many mom-missionaries get thoroughly discouraged trying to juggle everything on their plate and just give up, resigning themselves to a life of translators and loneliness. But we NEED language. Not just for ministry's sake. Also for our own hearts' need for friends and a social life!

So here are three damaging myths I have chosen to discard:
- Because I couldn't fit in an official language class today, I can't "learn language" today.
- Because I don't have a solid two or three hours to spend on this, I can't learn language today.
- Because my husband and I are learning at different rates and I can't learn right along with him, I may as well give up.

And here's what I have chosen to believe instead:
- My children are not hindrances, keeping me from language. Instead, I can arrange my life in such a way that language is unavoidable and my children can be a part of the process.
- Even though doing language study together with my husband sounds like fun, trying to make it work in practical life can be stressful and just plain impossible, and it is NOT imperative for success. (There is so much freedom in letting go of that one!)
- Most importantly... I can learn SOMETHING today. A little more every day, and eventually we will get there!

I will end with the example of my own mom. My parents have been in Africa for almost ten years now... Unfortunately not in the same location we are, but close enough to visit. When I think of my mom's daily life, I think of the language book propped up beside the stove while she is cooking. Sitting next to my homeschooling brothers doing math, with a word list. Walking to town every afternoon for tomatoes, so she could practice a few words. Listening to a chapter of the Bible after every meal.
Just in the past couple years, she has really been able to communicate and understand. Ten years! Yes, but there are some very important points here. She had a very busy life, schooling four boys and keeping house in a tropical African village. Yet it did come eventually. And in the meantime? Everyone knew she was trying to learn, and that makes dozens of friends. Thinking back to those brave American missionaries in our proud little European nation - that was the message we heard louder than whether they actually spoke our language perfectly or not. And this is the message I want my friends here to get.
- I value your language, I value your culture, I want to learn from you, let us be friends!

What do you think... Agree, disagree, yes, but....?

Avocado. That smooth fleshy fruit that is almost not a fruit. A treasure trove of nutrients- boasting of vitamin C and other antioxidants, potassium and fiber and a high healthy fat content. I never used them much in the states, both because I didn't grow up on them and because they are so expensive most of the time. But when you can by them for the equivalent of ten cents at every corner....! Now I use them quite a bit.


There's the typical guacamole, of course, and we really enjoy that with our rice and beans. I often add avocado to smoothies for more nutrition and fat content. (In fact, when I made some pumpkin pie smoothies one day, with no avocado, my two year old son was scared to try it. Smoothies are meant to be *green*, in his experience!)

Because of their fat, avocados can be substituted as butter in baking. I was delighted to discover this, as butter is unavailable where we are, and I am not too keen on margarine. Recipes online will say you can substitute one on one for butter...  adding a bit more liquid since avocado will not melt like butter and baking at a lower temperature. The problem I have had is that...things turn out tasting like avocado, with a rather bitter edge. I've done only exchanging half the margarine for avocado,  but still wasn't able to hide it. Once- the first time I tried it- I made cookies that turned out a lovely shade of green and tasted delicious with no hint of the avocado bitterness. Was it the sweetness; all the sugar in the cookies covering the avocado, whereas something like bread wouldn't have enough sugar? I leave that to you all to experiment. =)


A little fact I was glad to learn from my sister-in-law: to keep avocado from turning brown, keep its' seed with it. Plop it in the middle of the guacamole or keep it on the half you didn't use and put back in the fridge. Why does it work that way? I don't know, but it does!

Here's a recipe I did find, adapted to my available ingredients and tastes. It uses a lot of avocado, which is nice if you have plenty on hand that need used. (By the way, you can freeze and use avocado later as well. Not for this dish though, probably. =) I am guessing at the amounts- I am not a measurer!


AVOCADO KEY LIME PIE

2 or 3 large avocado, depending on size
2 bananas
4 limes (actually, I used lemons...not key limes =)
1 pack of coconut cream powder
1/4 cup sugar
dash of vanilla, if desired

Put everything in blender and blend thoroughly till smooth. The mixture
will have a lovely pudding-like texture. Chill with grated lime peel for
garnish and enjoy! If your leftovers turn brown over the top, its' okay-
it's still yummy!

 

How do you use avocados? I'd love to see your favorite recipes!

Meet Geraldine, a sweet older friend of mine from Europe. She and her husband moved to West Africa with older children, and have been there for nine years. I asked her what homeschooling advice she has for mothers on the mission field. Here is what she shared with me.

 

 

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Eleven years ago I found myself in Ohio after my husband accepted a job there. We had come from a country in Europe where school is fully organized, overemphasized, and where a diploma is absolutely necessary to get even a simple job. Homeschooling was forbidden there, and we wanted to start homeschooling five of our seven children, ranging from grades one to eleven.

 

I felt like I had lost all my security and balance for our children and their educational future. I could not believe that stepping away from the school system and making Mama their teacher could ever work out well. What I did see was the benefits of not being in a system where God is not recognized and honored, and of keeping the children away from a lot of wickedness; but how to make it work without a school environment was one big question mark for me.

 

At that time I did not know that God was preparing me to be a homeschool mother in a remote village in Africa, where we could not depend on others and with no homeschool groups or homeschool families close by. Without these two years in America I don't think I would have made it!

 

Our main desire for our children was that they would get a good education in a godly environment with the opportunity to learn more skills than only educational. Everybody likes their children to be able to fit in society, but living overseas makes our children very different. They are not aware of new gadgets, fashions and ways of living in the western world. We saw how difficult it was for most of them to go on furlough and to fit in with the group they suddenly were dropped into. The most normal life activities were not normal for them.

 

In most cases we can't solve that problem for them on the field. We only can assure them that it is OK if they don't know everything, and mention that they know a lot that their Western friends and relatives don't. We admit that we as adults feel dumb when we have to ask how to do something normal. They need to realize that they are not less than others who know exactly how to behave, just different.

 

In other cases we need to protect them from difficulties. Our children are as important as the people we are reaching out to on the field. Maybe even more important. God entrusted them to our care to raise them for His glory. We have to make sure that we do everything to make it easier for them to become a stable, hardworking, and responsible person that by the time they make the decision to follow the Lord they don't stumble due to a bad work attitude or behaviour.

 

It is very easy to become too relaxed concerning school when you are overseas, to think that it is only for a certain amount of time and later you will pick it all up again. But even one or two years will influence your children. School is more than education. It is learning to be responsible, to work even when you don't feel too good about it, to go through discouragement and learn to be persistent.

 

Something we learned by experience is that our children benefit a lot by having a strict schedule. Even with many interruptions we always went back to our schedule. We have an appointed time to eat breakfast, do chores and start school. I always made sure that every child had a work schedule with what needs to be done that day and also that all their work is corrected before the next day, so that they could see that I am interested in their work and their progress even in the midst of the many other challenges we face on the field.

 

Living overseas can make us mothers very busy. I as a nurse could easily have filled my days. With a purpose, I stayed away from being distracted from the family. We have to treasure those years with our children and use the time to interact with them as much as possible.

 

I had to learn to be more flexible but I think that is similar to living in a Western country. We planned vacation breaks but often they shifted around and changed several times a year. A sudden visit from one of the other missionaries is special and school had to postponed.

 

In some areas I know that my children are lacking information or tools, but in other areas I see how much they learned to be inventive by not having tools and information. They had to find solutions for their problems. This is a skill that is very valuable also in the rest of their lives.

 

We really benefited from being enrolled in a homeshool organisation that keeps records of all the children. It helped us to stay on track and we saw a big change in motivation in the children after we enrolled them. They get their scores with the progress they make and they see more what is going on. For me as the teacher I felt that somebody else was carrying the burden with me! Nine years ago we had no internet access or phone connection. Now we can send the results by email, ask questions and get information any moment we need it. All the children worked toward an academic school diploma and finished grade 12.

 

In the nine years that we were on the mission field we saw six of our children leave home. Two had already finished high school in Europe, and four were able to finish homeschooling in West Africa. They were able to write their ACT in Accra, the capital city of Ghana, and obtained an accredited high school diploma. Our last child hopes to finish high school next year.

 

We are very thankful for a mission board that allowed us to take our children with us to Africa, and see it as a great blessing to have been able to teach them and have them serve with us.

 

To God be the glory!

We all know that for a wife and mommy, the reality of culture shock sometimes hits home in the kitchen. What on earth am I going to make that my family will enjoy, something that's nutritious as well?  You open any typical American cookbook and gaze at the recipes calling for a can of condensed soup or pounds of meat or cups (CUPS!) of cheese and quickly slam it shut before homesickness hits too hard.

I don't even keep a typical cookbook in my African house. However, I do have a few international cookbooks within reach at all times. These have been such a huge help to me. Sometimes for actual recipes and other times just for inspiration.

 

1. The Wycliffe Cookbook
This cookbook was compiled by Wycliffe members in many countries. It has lots of simple recipes and lots of variations. If you don't have something, this cookbook will likely give you a substitute idea.

2. The More With Less cookbook
Lots of simple recipes with basic ingredients.

3. Extending the Table
This one is full of international recipes. I have found that though i live in Africa, many times it is much easier to get my hands on the ingredients for Indian or Middle Eastern food than Western food (that seems to be dominated by meat and cheese). I love this cookbook - there are lots of stories and quotes in it that make for fun cookbook browsing!

4. Taste of Africa

This was actually compiled by our missionaries in West Africa. Lots of good simple recipes, some unique to W. Africa. Great ideas of how to simplify American foods or use local foods to make "American" dishes!

 

Do you have any cookbook recommendations?