20 January 2013

Heart searchings

Susan was in tears.  She had not, until then, genuinely faced the probability that she would likely now cease to be what she had thought of herself all her life: an American.

I was not in literal tears, but I was, nonetheless, gripped by a deep, panicky feeling of dismay: I was - surely! - abandoning what I had believed was God's calling for me, to be a linguist - indeed, to be a Yapese linguist.

When, in the summer of 1974-5, I had gone to Yap and come back with the idea of trying to get them to hire me; when, in fact, in early 1976 they did hire me; I felt that God had confirmed, by a special act of Providence, that that was the life's work He had called me to.  I was to spend my life working on the Yapese language.

Over the now seven and a half years of our life in Yap, I had gradually, in fact, ceased actively to work much on Yapese linguistics.  I was, it is true, actively working on Yapese language matters, but at a practical level: the production of school books in the Yapese language.  It was for me, as for Susan, the shock of realising precisely what this move back to New Zealand would mean, that brought me to a momentary halt.  Was this really what was going to happen?

I lied to myself.  Strictly speaking, I told myself a story which, in reality, I could easily have seen to be very unlikely.  I said to the people at the Yap Evangelical Church that I would commit myself to coming back in five years as a Bible translator (at the time, all of the New Testament, and a large part of the Old, existed in Yapese; the remainder has been completed now).  I said something of the same thing to Richard Flinn, in Auckland, who was to sponsor our setting up the Pukekohe Reformed Church.  He thought that, in principle, this was not an impossible idea.

The function of this story was, in fact, to reassure myself that I was not really abandoning Yapese, only taking time off to start this church in Pukekohe.  An outsider would not have thought much of the idea.

Somewhere in this time - and I am very unclear as to where - Ross had an idea.

Ross bought some land - perhaps 12 hectares or so, I don't remember - near Glenbrook.  Was this before we were committed to moving to Pukekohe?  I think it may have been, and may have been part of the motivating influence for the move.  Ross wanted to build a two-family house on the property.  He and Glenys and their four children would live in one half; Sue and I and our four children would live in the other half.  At one point I put $10,000 into the project (Ross not only completely paid me back when it was clear it would not happen, he paid me interest as well).

Our last six months in Yap are a bit of a blur to me.  I signed a contract with Interactive Applications, as a 'system engineer' (the title was due to the fact that, as a programmer, my speciality was in Assembly language - the language closest to the built-in machine language itself, by contrast to high-level languages, like BASIC or FORTRAN (well, they were high-level at the time :-)).  All of our belongings - quite everything, I think - was packed into six container-sized wooden packing cases made by Yap Public Works for the purpose.  On, I think, 17 May, 1984, the six of us flew on Air Micronesia to Guam.  We spent much of the day there - rented a car with the, to-us, fascinating gimmick of a motorised seat-belt, that whipped around in front of you (but did not fasten itself) when you sat down.  That evening we flew on Air Nauru to Nauru (with a stopover in the airport in Truk, or possibly Ponape - I have forgotten - a stopover made memorable by six-year-old, air-sick, Helen's running down the corridor when the 'plane landed and vomiting on the carpet.  We were two nights in Nauru.  When, on 20 May, 1984 - our 12th wedding anniversary - we were to board the 'plane in Nauru for Auckland (with, again, a stopover - where? - Solomons? Vanuatu? Fiji? - don't remember - we brought our baggage to be checked in - security, at the time, having increased, it was all supposed to be opened and searched - the poor baggage man looked at the refugee-quality stuff, mostly cardboard cartons strapped with tape and tied with cord, and the four children - shook his head and just passed it on through.

We arrived at Auckland International Airport about 10:30PM on one of the first really cold nights of autumn.  I was wearing jandals, shorts and short-sleeved shirt; the rest of us were similarly attired.  Dear Ross and Glenys were there to pick us up.  They drove us to their three-and-a-bit bedroom house in Pukekohe, where they with their own four children lived, found beds for us, somehow, and we were asleep perhaps by 1AM.  The next day was Monday.  Ross drove me to work that morning in Newmarket.

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