Babes In The Jungle: A Year of Village Life in the Niger Delta
I met author David Clark when we lived on the island of Malaita in Solomon Islands in the early 1980s. At that time, we were working as advisers to Malaitans who were trying to translate portions of the New Testament into their own languages. David was a consultant for the United Bible Societies. In that role his job was to check over translated scripture passages for exegetical correctness before they were published.
The events of this book took place long before we met David, while he was a Ph.D. student in linguistics, doing field work in Nigeria. David, his wife Glenys, and baby daughter Helen lived in a village called Orupata in a language group called Ekpeye.
I enjoyed the tales of making do, of learning to eat new things, of trying to identify the snakes, and of dealing with the heat and insects. It is always fun to hear the mistakes people make when learning a new language, especially when they don't take themselves too seriously. And it is interesting to hear stories about relationships with people, learning what is important to people, and how cultural values sometimes clash.
I especially enjoyed hearing how their toddler daughter made their life easier. Not that chasing after a toddler is all that easy, but baby Helen certainly did provide the Clarks with a way to relate to the people of Orupata. And at that age, children are very busy learning to talk, so Helen absorbed the tonal system of Ekpeye with no problem, while learning English at the same time, whereas her parents were struggling. David's stories about Helen are evidence for something I've always suspected: having children on the mission field is a good thing, in so many ways.
It was also fun to hear how the villagers figured out that Glenys was pregnant with their second child before she even realized it.