Saturday, May 21, 2011

When an American and a Korean get together, in which language do they communicate?

…Nepali, of course!

One of my unexpected friendships in Nepal has been with a young lady from South Korea who currently volunteers at Salvation Worship Ministries—the same organization I did much of my research through two summers ago. She goes by “Jyoti”—the Nepali word for “light”—as her Korean name is a difficult for Nepalis to pronounce. While she is currently learning English, she is more comfortable communicating in Nepali, so that’s the language we use to talk to each other. This amuses our Nepali friends to no end, especially the guys at Salvation with whom I communicate in English.

We began talking at the fellowship SWM hosts on Saturday afternoons, and she mentioned that she wanted to have me over for a meal after all her guests—short-termers staying at her place—left. I received a text from her one Saturday afternoon, asking if I was free to come over after fellowship. I said sure. The evening ended up being one of unexpected sweet fellowship with another sister—all through a language that is “foreign” to both of us!

I was impressed with Jyoti’s soft and malleable heart towards God. She shared—over a meal of spaghetti in a cream sauce, with Coke to drink—a little about how she had come to work in Nepal. She had come on a short-term trip in 2008, and at that time met people from SWM. They were looking for a sound engineer to come and help them out in the newly opened studio. She was a piano major at university, but after going back to Korea, she began praying, and felt that God was leading her toward computer music composition, which involved sound engineering. She changed her major, but then God told her to take a rest from her studies and go to Nepal for two years. She did so, and has ended up doing studio work for SWM.

“I keep asking God ‘why me?’” she confessed. “There are tons of better sound engineers out there, in Korea and in Nepal!” But she has felt privileged to do the work she’s been able to do, and amazed at God’s goodness in working through her.

Does she desire to return to Nepal? Of course, however, she is now engaged to married to a young Korean man—who is also working in Nepal right now, providing IT support in rural areas—who has a desire to go work in Turkey. Jyoti informed me that before he mentioned going to Turkey, God had been steering her heart in that direction as well. His parents have approved of their decision to marry, and it seems that they will go forward with that once they return to Korea.

Jyoti is endeared to all the guys who work at SWM. “I am going to bawl out loud at the airport when you leave,” Solomon told her one day when I visited the institute, “just like this—“ and this 30-year old man began giving a very impressive imitation of a two-year-old temper tantrum.

Raju, a young college student, takes his role of younger brother very seriously. “Jyoti cannot say my name right because she cannot say ‘r,’ ” he announced over tea one day. “So, it comes out as “Laju!”’ He then gave her a sequence of Nepali words where ‘r’ was key to pronunciation—change it to an l and the meaning completely changes. “Oh, can you say ‘rato’? No! No! ‘Lato’ mean “stupid and dumb,” I want you to say ‘rato’ which means 'red'!”

Prakash has been impressed by her consistent temperament. “You know, some people have serious mood swings—really sad, really happy—but Jyoti, she’s consistent. She’s always joyful, always smiling, always pleasant.” He also recollected, “When Jyoti was learning Nepali, we had such a good time with her! She made some pretty funny mistakes, and we gave her a hard time about it.” He ended with “we’re really proud of her Nepali language now.”

In working with a bunch of guys who know how to push buttons, Jyoti’s sweet temperament and un-shy determination to learn a new language has paid off by blessing those around her.

As I took a round-about way back to my place in Dhobighat, I marveled at how wonderful my evening had been. Sweet fellowship with a Korean sister, all through the Nepali language!