Hello from Australia. This post coming to you from Corks in Australia.
Just prior to leaving Cambodia our looming transition felt like a tidal wave coming towards me of which I could do nothing about. This is not meant to be negative description of my experience, but more that it highlights the bigness of what was coming and how quickly it was coming. Quite a few sleepless nights also testifies to the size of the change that was coming.
Then as we arrived, whiplash; like landing in an airplane with your body squeezed to seat as you land and you can’t do a thing. Pre-leaving Cambodia had been this frantic dash to the finish. But on arrival there was a necessary slowing from that frantic pace. In that slowing you realise how quick you’d been going, even if you didn’t fully realise it at the time. We went from doing many things in a day to one thing a day (not dissimilar to when we first arrived).
Then as we’ve begun to settle in, there is the feeling of floating above your body (an out of body experience). The reality of what has just happened sinks in. We have just spent the last 3 years in Cambodia and now we are back in Australia for our first home assignment. Having been away there is now a distance associated with our home culture and so with those changes that have occurred in us and in Australia, we take some time to process, hence the out of body experience.
Thus as I try to reconnect my body to myself floating above, I’ll be taking a break from blogging over Christmas, while we settle in. However, I aim to start again early 2020 with more reflections on our first 3 year term in Cambodia, reflections on being back and thoughts as we head towards our second term. If first term was about language learning (even though that was through teaching), the second term could well be characterised as primarily ministry (teaching) although still language learning (life-long learning).
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In 2018 I have already transitioned from classroom language learning to independent language learning. Now as I edge closer to October I’m transitioning out of full time language learning. With the goal of teaching in Khmer, part of my time this past 6 months has been lesson prep. To streamline my language learning with my lesson prep I geared my language learning towards learning stories from the OT; thinking through how to explain themes and topics that arise from those stories. In a sense, my language learning has been more specific than in the early days. In early days, I was learning basic Khmer for a variety of different situations and on a variety of different topics. Now my language learning (intentional learning) is much more narrowly targeted. Having the goal of teaching in Khmer has actually been really helpful for motivation, a massive carrot.
As I transition away from full time language learning, I’m not really leaving it. What I’m leaving is my independent learning category. For I’ll be still learning massive amounts of Khmer as I teach in it. It’s just that learning won’t be the primary goal, teaching will be. And I guess that’s the case in our native language as well. We never actually leave language learning fully, not even in English. What changes is that it no longer becomes the primary goal, but a secondary bonus. So while I’ll transition from language learning in one sense, in another I’ll never leave it — life long language learning.
What this looks like in practice can be seen when I contrast pre-August break and post-August break. In both periods I was doing language learning and lesson prep. But, pre-break, with my language helper I was more getting help with language learning stuff (rather than lesson prep). Once I came back I got my language helper to help me with my lesson prep. Though, because I am seeking to teach in Khmer, there was still a lot of language learning going on. I’d ask him to show me where my mistakes were, but not fix them, so that hopefully I’d learn from my mistakes and not make them as often. In this sense my language learning and lesson prep had merged. Pre-break, they felt like slightly different streams. It’s kinda nice just having one project to work on rather than two, particularly when the language learning side of things is never ending. But teaching has a definite goal and end point (the end of semester). The brilliant thing about the merge is that I’m getting to work on a long term thing, with the advantage that teaching gives the sense of accomplishment when you’ve finished the semester.
With the mission series finished, I’ll be taking a short break from blogging, into the New Year, while we prepare to and then actially move countries. I hope to start back again shortly after we arrive.
My first series will be on Proverbs-biblical proverbs. My reasons here are firstly, I’ve been loving getting into the book of Proverbs over the last few years. Secondly, missiologically they carry great insights into culture. So as I learn how to mine the OT culture, I hope to gain skills to later doing a series on Cambodian proverbs and even Aussie proverbs at some stage.