Saturday, February 04, 2012

February 2012 Newsletter

In November we went to Dodoma for planning meetings with our supervisor and colleagues. The meetings went well, and we feel like we have a good solid plan for the coming year. We are not yet ready to begin translation, but will begin publishing some books in Mbugwe and holding literacy classes this year.

Health Problems and the Holiday Season

The holiday season was a bit rough for us, but mostly for Julia; we ended up making several trips up to Arusha for medical care. About a week before Thanksgiving, Julia fell and got a bad cut that needed stitches. We made an emergency trip up to Arusha for that (a 2 hour drive), and then went up again a week later to get them taken out. It turned out that the cut wasn’t healing well, and Julia had to have a small surgery to fix it and new stitches. Eventually it healed up just fine.

In the second week of December, we had a visit from a colleague, Alison Compton, who gave Julia a lot of valuable teaching about how to test out the Mbugwe writing system and how to organize and run literacy classes.

We planned to have Christmas at home in Magugu, but a few days before Christmas Julia got sick. By the night before Christmas Eve, Julia had all the symptoms of appendicitis, including intense pain in the lower right abdomen. So, we ended up making another emergency trip up to Arusha (this time in the middle of the night). Julia stayed in the hospital for a couple of days, waiting for test results and trying to get better. The test results were inconclusive, but the symptoms were probably caused by some sort of bacterial infection, and a course of strong antibiotics eventually took care of it. Viggo and the kids were well taken care of by our friends in Arusha. They were fed a traditional Norwegian Christmas meal on Christmas Eve, and there were even presents for the kids. We were able to go back home to Magugu by the afternoon on Boxing Day, and we were able to open presents together and have a nice quiet meal together at home. It took Julia a week after that to recover fully, but by New Year’s she was pretty much back to normal.

A Good Start to 2012

The New Year started off great and all three of us (Viggo, Julia, and Shishe) have been making good progress with our work. The kids had a lot of fun playing with the neighbor kids every day, since they were all on a long school break. Julia is working on a Writer’s Guide for Mbugwe, including explanations and examples of all of the writing and spelling rules. She is also doing some testing of some rules that we’re still not quite sure about. Viggo is focusing on a thorough phonological analysis of the language.

Among other tasks, Shishe has been working on a history of the Mbugwe people. A while ago we were given a copy of the history of the Mbugwe, which was written in Swahili by an Mbugwe historian. Shishe has been translating it into Mbugwe. We hope that it will be ready for publishing within the next couple of months; it will be the first publication to come out of our project, and the second published book ever in Mbugwe. This has been a great project for Shishe to start with. He has been able to get practice translating and editing, which will prepare him well for translating the Bible. We also expect that this book will be quite popular with Mbugwe speakers.
Shishe has also been doing research on his own culture. This is an important foundation for future translation work, as it helps him to gather vocabulary items which will be needed for the Bible translation and helps him think through the meaning and usage of different terms. Most recently, he has been researching Mbugwe traditional religion. There are not many young Mbugwe who still openly practice the traditional religion, but it still has a significant influence in the community.


Rain Water Collection

We (and by that I mean Viggo) have finally set up a rainwater collection system. It has been great to have a water supply at the house, even though we don’t really have enough to install running water inside the house yet. Basically, Viggo put up gutters, and when it rains the water goes into the gutters and flows into a 2000 liter tank next to the house. It has only been raining about once a week since we got the tank, but that has been more than enough. The tank actually overflows every time we have heavy rain. We will still have to get wate from other sources during the dry season when it doesn’t rain at all (May-October), but this is a great solution for the wet season.

Future Plans

We have decided not to hire any more full-time employees this year, as we have not found the right candidate yet. However, we plan to hire Patrick and Sebastian part-time to assist in some literacy projects, in order to assess their potential as future literacy workers. Naomi will be helping us with editing Mbugwe texts as we begin to produce some Mbugwe literature this year. All of those mentioned above plus some others will assist Julia with testing out our Mbugwe writing and spelling rules to see if any changes are necessary. It is great to have a good group of Mbugwe speakers who are excited about helping with the project. Shishe and Julia had a productive meeting with the chairman and secretary of the Mbugwe Language Committee this week, where we came up with a list of Mbugwe who may be qualified for translation work.

In mid-February, Julia’s parents are coming to visit for three weeks. We are looking forward to their visit and to seeing them interact with Daniel and Rebekka. We’ll spend the first week of their visit on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar, before we head back home to Magugu. We’re very excited about going to Zanzibar for the very first time.

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