I quickly fell asleep, and I woke up some time later to find that almost everyone (including Colleen and D and Ben!) had left the house. Only Colleen’s mother and father and two other men were still there, bagging up tea leaves that had been picked and processed in the previous few days.
Not sure what to do, whether to stay at the house or go find Colleen and the others, I followed her mother around for a while, talking and observing her as she worked with the tea leaves and did other things around the house. The men left after a few minutes, and only the two of us were left at the house. I took this as my opportunity to try out all the language I could pull out of my memory. I talked about my family, how long I’d been in China, other basic things about myself like that, and then I began asking her questions about herself. She was sweeping the floor the whole while, and I followed her around with the digital recorder as she talked about her children, her brothers and sisters, and how she’d been to JH twice in her whole life, both times to visit Colleen. This time of one-on-one conversation was what I really needed to boost my confidence and help me not to be so nervous about whether or not I could communicate with people over the next few days. I usually dread trying to speak haltingly in a new language in front of a crowd, but one-on-one situations are hard to come by in such community-oriented villages. That few minutes of time with Colleen’s mother helped me to get past my fears and start talking a bit more freely. I could see very clearly how God was answering my prayers, how He was helping me to have the best language practice situation for me, and how He was keeping me from the discouragement that would prevent me from making any progress during this trip.
After I had exhausted everything I could say or ask, I decided to wander out and find where the others had gone. I told Colleen’s mother, “I want to go find my friends.” She replied, “Where are they?” Ummm, I had been hoping she could tell me that. I told her I didn’t know where they were, but I would just go walk around and look for them. She said to go look by the river or at another house two doors down from there. I set out, and every person I met along the path I tried to greet with the customary question, “Where are you going?” Once or twice people just looked at me like I was insane; the shock of seeing a white person was too much for them, and they couldn’t fathom that the words coming out of my mouth were in their own language. But for the most part, people smiled and told me where they were going, and I was happy to get an answer, even if I had no idea where the place was that they had just told me.