Saturday, January 26, 2008

Toronto over the weekend

Toronto is known as the most multicultural, ethnic city in the world. Their website claims that most cultural groups, even many small ones, are represented here in Toronto. There are over 160 languages spoken in the city.

Saturday morning we started out by heading to Kensington market. This area is full of small shops, street vendors and stores crammed with colorful goods. It is close to the heart of Chinatown as well. We saw lots of signs, foods, and bins. Here are some pictures I took of the sights of Chinatown, full of colour and vibrancy.

These are all dried fish. Tiny dried shrimp and tiny long silver fishes, etc. Bennett (who has a phenomenal sense of smell) kept saying "Mom...whats that smell?"

Dried fruit and nut bins. Some fruits I didn't even recognize. And I can smell Durian a mile away :) Ah..brings back memories of our hotel in Cambodia.

Decorations. I think Chinese New Year already passed for this year, but all these red posters, silver paper red decorations and wild party stuff made me think they were still celebrating?

At in the heart of Chinatown, amongst all the bright neon signs, there was still a Starbucks. We went and had hot chocolate and warmed our toes. Bennett really warmed his toes, and whole legs for that matter, by dumping his whole hot chocolate all over his pants. Ooops. Anyhow, we were interested to see Starbucks, so culturally North American and calm, filled with old Chinese people, sitting around tables and talking fast. We watched their mouths, using our newly learned phonetic skills, to try to see how they formed some sounds, etc. They probably wondered why we were staring :)

We also spent an hour inside an army surplus store while Paul looked for some desert coveralls to work in for Niger. There was this really interesting old man there who walked around with us, helped us out, and told us stories.

Then on Sunday morning we went to the Toronto Alliance church. This is a church plant in the heart of downtown to minister to all people there, and restore lives. It was an awesome, touching and transparently honest service. We loved the integrity and love of the people. A wonderful small church in a very needy place. You can check them out at their website.

Then in the afternoon we wandered around a little bit, and then spent a wonderful evening at home with our community family here having chocolate fondue and watching a movie.

We are so blessed to be in a guesthouse with 3 other Alliance missionaries. We eat together, learn together, and take care of the kids together. The W family have 2 boys and with our two kids, there are 4 kids under 3 1/2. Talk about chaos and fun! All four of them got in the tub and had a blast playing together. And in the kids program all day they enjoy each other's company. We love the W family, who are going to the Arabian Peninsula, and are thankful for this time with them. And of course Kristi is here with us too..every one's favorite Auntie Kristi. She leaves for Niger in 25 days now!!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Plants Part 2

So how hard is English anyhow?

Signs seen around the world.
You know what they mean....but really...who taught them English?

Belgrade hotel :The flattening of underwear is the pleasure of the chambermaid.
Hong Kong Ad: Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists
Copenhagen airport: We take your bags and send them in all directions
Roman doctor: Specialist in women and other diseases
Japanese hotel: You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid
Thai rental shop (I saw this one with my own eyes!) For rent: Big Bikers

And even formal written communication in English can leave the reader bewildered and laughing. Here are some excerpts of unclear writing received from the American welfare department in their applications:

I am forwarding my marriage certificate and six children. I had seven children but one of them died and was baptized on half a sheet of paper.

I am very upset you have branded my son ILLITERATE. This is a dirty lie, as i was married a week before he was born.

In accordance with your instructions, I have given birth to twins in the enclosed envelope.

Ok. enough laughing now. Seriously though, the English language is HARD to learn. Kuddos to all those people I know who didnt learn it as children naturally and did it through sheer hard work as adults.

Check this out. Which do you consider odd? – there is a certain way to string things together. But could we say why when a new language learner asked us?

The small brown tables
The brown small tables
The cheap comfortable chairs
The comfortable chairs
The large wooden wardrobe
The wooden large wardrobe
My husband (paul snuck that one in there...but I suppose many of you will consider him odd too. LOL)

The granite high mountains
Cotton small black trousers
African old woman
White big wooden table
Plastic black shoes

So these last few days have been heavy grammar and sentence building and how to work with language learners. Also, I've been learning Korean...but more on that later.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

PLANTS - Toronto - Part 1

We are currently in Toronto taking a linguistics preparation course. The goal is to give us two weeks of intensive language prep on phonetics, how to learn, tools and tricks, working with a local language helper, etc so that when we arrive in the field in Niger to start learning a tribal language we are ready to go and have some idea of how to get there!

Here are some highlights that I have thus far enjoyed:

Our group of fellow learners is small. Only 15 or so. People in our group are going to:
• Kyrgyzstan
• Niger
• Bangladesh
• Japan
• Burundi
• Arabian Peninsula
• Spain
• Brazil

There are over 7000 languages in the world. Mandarin is the largest group with 900 million speakers. English and Spanish are next with 300 million each. HALF the languages of the world have less than 5,000 remaining speakers.

As the image below illustrates, the natural progression of how most of the world learns language is to go up the triangle. People learn to improve their lives, get ahead, get a new job, move to a better place, etc. It is much rarer that people move DOWN the triangle in their language learning. To people who live and speak in these lower level (speaking triangle wise - dont get all defensive on me!) they are often amazed and touched that people come to learn their language. This opens many doors into their lives and allows you to be accepted into their community. For Paul and I, we are training to make the jump all the way from the top of the triangle to the very bottom, to learn a tribal language.

In the English language we are locked into 44 sounds that make up our language. There are over 700 sounds out there in all the different languages! It is all mechanical and all of our mouths are made the exact same way. We can retrain our mouths and muscles to make all of these sounds with work. And yet even with 44 sounds in English, we make miracles! We have poetry, film, tell stories, etc. How amazing is the power of language!

In terms of trying to make all of those sounds that I cant yet make I have learned one thing. ---If you are attempting to make a new sound and your mouth DOES NOT feel funny, then you are doing it WRONG and you are relying on one of the 44 sounds that you are familiar with.

More notes from the field later.

I'll leave you with an Arabic proverb
“The power of a man is in his mind and on his tongue”.

Never forget the power you carry.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Christmas 2007

We have been back in Alberta for almost a month now. We are already enjoying spending time with many of you and sharing our journey. Over Christmas, we had so much time to spend with family. We are living with Chantelle's parents and spend Christmas eve there with the kids and Great Grandma

The kids loved the Christmas tree. They were so sad when we finally took it down last week!

Then we went to Calgary to stay at Paul's brother's house where his siblings gathered and we spent some awesome times playing games, talking, and hanging out.

New backpacks from Uncle Bryan and Auntie Lisa. They didn't want to take them off that night for bed!

The whole McIver clan this Christmas

Then back in Red Deer, Chantelle's brother Chad and his family came up from Denver and joined us for another 6 days.

Bennett and Travis getting into the mood for the football games on New Years Day.

Chad & Michelle at my photo shoot :)

We also got to see many cousins, new babies, old friends and new friends.
This is Arielle with my cousin's daughter Devon.

We wish you all a wonderful New Year and hope that you had a wonderful Christmas season. We look forward to continuing the journey in 2008!