Learning language and culture is hard. It’s never-ending. There’s no point at which you can say, “I’m done. I know all there is to know.” It’s always-changing, a process that causes you to re-evaluate what you knew yesterday and realize most of your assumptions were wrong. It’s messy. For a while you have the functional ability of a one-year-old – you can’t articulate your needs, you can’t understand your world, and you act inappropriately without realizing it.
It’s humbling, humiliating and frustrating. And right now, it’s our full-time job! 🙂
For instance, here’s a typical Tuesday:
- 6:15 – Get up, get girls ready for school. Begin inner war (see previous post). Review language flashcards to start thinking about new words for the day.
- 7:15 – Leave for school – takes about 30 minutes between walking and riding the bus.
- 8:00 – Return from school – study language flashcards for 30 minutes while walking/riding.
- 8:30 – Computer – return emails, type reports, process financial transactions in two or three currencies. Work on taxes.
- 10:00 – Language study – workbooks, websites, and creating flashcards.
- 11:30 – Lunch break!!
- 12:00 – Walk to the store, post office, etc. Stumble through asking for necessary items, reminding people that we’re learning Slovak and asking for their patience.
- 1:00 – Meet with language teacher for lesson. The location varies – might be at the apartment, coffee shop, store…
- 2:00 – More errands around town, language study while riding buses and trams.
- 3:15 – While I’m getting off the bus, an older lady begins to chew me out in Slovak. I’ve obviously done something wrong – maybe I was supposed to let her get off first?? – but I can’t catch what she’s saying. I can only apologize profusely… at least I know how to do that!
- 4:00 – Pick up girls at school. Once again, practice language speaking to their teachers to find out about today’s happenings and upcoming events.
- 4:30 – Back to flat for quick dinner, homework and chill-out time with girls.
- 5:30 – Babysitter arrives, off to nearby office for Conversational Slovak meeting.
- 7:15 – Return home, worship as a family and read books. Girls go to bed.
- 8:00 – Walk the dog. Praying and studying language flashcards while walking.
- 8:30 – Hunker down with computer again for online ESL training class.
- 9:30 – Turn on TV and watch recorded Slovak news show or other language listening activity. I feel happy if I understand 10%!
- 10:30 – More ESL class or language study, getting ready for bed.
- 11:30 – Hopefully asleep by this point.
Granted, this is a mashup of both our daily schedules, but it’s a pretty good picture of life right now.
Now before you see all the frustration and humiliation and nothing more, here’s a peek between the lines of the schedule. Here’s where we find the grace I mentioned in the previous post:
- 6:45 – Enjoyed breakfast with the girls – conversations include last night’s dreams, today’s school schedule, and their excitement about playing with the babysitter tonight!
- 7:33 – Encouraging interaction with a Slovak woman on the bus, who tells our girls they are beautiful – even though they can’t really understand her.
- 8:20 – Finished a set of flashcards and realize I’m further along than I thought!
- 8:40 – Read an encouraging email from someone who’s read our recent blog. Also excited to see plans coming together for a visiting team this summer.
- 12:15 – Had a pleasant conversation (in Slovak) with a man who works at a local store where I’ve been shopping.
- 1:50 – Finishing a fun language lesson, where our teacher has complimented our progress! Also tried a new food at the coffee shop.
- 4:05 – Girls are bubbling with energy about a fun day at school. They chatter all the way home about games they played, things they did in class…
- 4:35 – Arrive at the flat to receive a letter from a family member, and a care package from a church in the U.S. The girls are ecstatic!
- 6:45 – Great time at Conversational Slovak class, interacting mainly with students from around the world who are attending college and graduate school here in Kosice.
- 7:30 – Brief time of family worship and prayer before bed. Reminded once again, by the girls’ enthusiasm, of all the things we have to be thankful for here.