Bumba and Language Study.

The town of Bumba is right on the bank of the Congo River. Our house was literally a stone’s throw from that river. The Congo River is immense and takes the crown as the largest river in Africa. The river is ranked second largest in the world with the Amazon River being the largest. It is also rated as the deepest river in Africa and the World, and stretches over 4700 kilometers.
We left three of our four children at Karawa, where the school for Missionary children includes a dormitory, which is run like a huge family home. Our youngest, Terry, went to Bumba with us, as he was  preschool age. Climbing aboard a Cessna airplane and leaving half our family was heartbreaking. We knew they were in good hands, Janine at just thirteen must have felt like she had to be strong for her siblings. Marilyn, eleven seemed to accept whatever life handed her and Robbie, just eight was, I am sure, a bit confused and trying to be brave.
In Bumba, we were met by an older single Missionary lady, Kay, who became a dear friend and prayer partner. Kay would be our Lingala teacher with Zairian/Congolese tutors, to make sure our pronunciation was correct. Lingala is primarily a phonetic language with few deviations from the rules. Kay pushed us hard to learn quickly so we would ‘think’ in Lingala and not translate as we went. There were a few words I determined to learn as I was pretty sure I would need them. The first being the word for “snake” which was ‘nyoka’, pretty short, simple, easy to remember. Our studies were progressing and one afternoon I went to our little chicken coop to see if there were any eggs. There, coiled on the nest was the very thing I had determined to remember! Yes, a big fat long snake! I quickly retreated to the house yelling that there was a… “nyama molai” long animal, in the chicken house. Of course, our workers all knew what I meant and never let me forget that I had called a snake, a long animal!
There was a small Flowering tree in our yard which Terry liked to try and climb. Our little old yard sentinel was annoyed with Terry and said, in Lingala, “Kita na nse!” To Terry, who knew no Lingala, those words sounded like, “Get down I say” so Terry mimicked him with just that. Terry did get down not realizing he had done what the sentinel commanded. Language is interesting and comical at times.
We all learned the language quite readily and became conversant within about three months. Lingala, being a phonetic language with few irregularities, is relatively easy to learn. Yes, there are some high and low tones which can significantly change the meaning of a word. Usually, the context of the sentence helps and we found the people to be very patient with our learning curve.
The people of the Democratic Republic of Congo were very friendly and generally kind and helpful. A number of them became close friends and we miss them, even now, so many years later.

Every day river traffic included barges, passenger ships, small local boats of many types.

This picture was taken from our front porch/veranda. Every day river traffic included barges, passenger ships, small local boats of many types.

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