Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Second Language Acquisition Training (aka SLA)

Jim and I are in our last week of training here at the IT(USA) office. I've been home with Kaia and he's diligently been taking notes and briefing me on the sessions when he arrives home.

A big part of what he's been learning is that as English speakers we have a specific set of sounds that we are used to making. At a very young age we learned how to make these sounds, but the cool thing is that different languages have different sets of sounds. So, as native English speakers there are whole groups of sounds that we never even learned or were exposed to...all native speakers go through this process naturally...only learning the sounds that are relevant to their native language. So, when learning a new language we try to fit the sounds of that new language into the vocabulary of sounds with which we are already familiar.

In this course, Jim is learning how to expand his vocabulary of sounds. In addition, he has learned the phonetic alphabet (which is like learning a whole new language in and of itself) as well as received several tools to better understand his learning style and how to get the most out of studying a new language. For us, that will be Spanish.

So really, the end result from this two week course is that he will walk away with a much keener ear; he is now able to decipher how a sound is produced (i.e. what part of the mouth and throat the sound is made in, where the tongue hits, etc...) by a native speaker in order to better mimic the accent and sound being made.

The instructor who teaches the course shared two short videos with the class yesterday that I thought illustrated very well the concept that is being taught through this module of training and also highlights some of the pitfalls and struggles of trying to communicate in a new language.

German Coast Guard Trainee

Practicing English Pronunciation

Our goal is to be true students of Spanish...that we would be able to pick up on the nuances of the language and really be able to speak it well in order to have more credibility and to be able to speak to the hearts of our Ecuadorian friends. The skills we've been learning really will be invaluable as we step into language school and eventually begin serving in Ecuador...

...because you know we don't want to be like the guys in these videos...even if they do make me laugh every time I see them!!

- Suzy<><

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Positivity and Vulnerability

It has now been a little over a week since Kaia's arrival into this world. In looking back at the week I can honestly say that it has gone 100% better than I could ever imagine it would have. I know I've mentioned this to a few of you, but in anticipation of her arrival, I honestly had more fear and anxiety regarding the first few postpartum weeks than for the actual labor and delivery! If you know me well, you know that me + sleep deprivation = bad news...I shut down pretty quickly. So, that makes me that much more appreciative and in awe of how God has blessed us with an incredible little child that sleeps 3.5-4 hour chunks through the night! I'd say that I'm getting a minimum of 6 hours of sleep per night and sometimes more (of course it is interrupted sleep, but still...).

Overall, the whole experience of having Kaia this far has been rather humbling. We have felt so supported in prayer, through words of encouragement, and in the arrival of unexpected gifts; in short we have really felt loved. In many ways, I keep waiting for the ball to drop and for all of this to suddenly get REALLY difficult...so I keep taking one day at a time, trying not to expect that it'll be the same as the day before, but it usually is; at least close enough. So, we continue to praise God for His goodness and provision, in blessing us even through the small details of life.

But here's what you all should know about me. Through our training here at International Teams we've undergone a series of assessments and I've found out some things about myself. First, a strength of mine has been labeled as 'positivity'. It's not that I sugar coat life, but I do have the ability to look beyond a present struggle I'm in and to focus on the hope of knowing that God is with me and that He has a plan for me; He is in control. This strength is especially apparent when I'm relating with others and the situations of their lives. You can find an example of how positivity played out in Jesus's life in John 16:20-24 when Jesus comforts His disciples: reminding them that the end of the story is victorious - "your grief will turn to joy," he says.

Another little tidbit that I've learned about myself is that I may have difficulty in being truly vulnerable in every situation. Hopefully some of you are thinking in your head, "huh, I wouldn't have guessed that about her," but the more I process it the more I find it to be true under the surface. I do highly value humility and the ability to be vulnerable with others and often times will choose to do so, but because I also score so highly in the "positivity" category you may not always hear me talking about the more challenging times because I usually jump to processing the hope the spurs me forward.

So, all that to say - I wanted to be sure to let you all know that I am human. I know you all know that, but I wanted to say it anyway. I confess that I do have difficult days and hard moments. I do let myself grieve when needed. I do allow myself to feel the full emotion of whatever it is I'm feeling, and everything isn't always rosy. In fact, I've cried at least once everyday this past week (postpartum hormones)!!

But, above all that I do have a hope and a peace that surpasses all understanding that spurs me forward...and that's the stuff that gets me excited and what I get excited about sharing with others. However, I don't want to lose sight of the Truth of my brokenness either. So there it is; my confession.

My desire moving forward is to balance positivity and vulnerability in a way that honors and glorifies our Lord. Feel free to hold me accountable and let me know how I'm doing on that...

- Suzy<><

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Newest Member to the Olsen Family!

      So, first off-- I'm not gonna go into too much detail here. I'm going to leave it to Suzy to elaborate on the birth, delivery, and first days with our new daughter; I feel like she deserves that!

     On February 3rd, 2012 at 3:49am we finally got to meet our little girl, Kaia Ruth Olsen. She weighed in at 6 pounds, 11 ounces and was 20.5 inches long. Those are the facts.

     But on the other side of the spectrum, there sure were a lot of feelings and emotions! Suzy did a lot of reading regarding centering yourself during birth-- especially during contractions. The idea is to spiritually connect with God and be filled with peace and relaxation rather than giving into the hysterics and irrational emotions that are often portrayed to us on television. It was a very spiritual experience for us and through the pain she was feeling, I was amazed to see her calmly, slowly breathing through it and relaxing her body rather than tightening up.

    We experienced many emotions leading up to the birth, were encouraged and motivated through verses we read from the Bible, and when the last stage of labor came and we got to see our precious, little Kaia, we were simply overcome with the beauty of such a miraculous event ending with the most amazing gift we could ever receive!

   We look forward to introducing her to as many of you as we can before leaving the country!

Thanks to all of you who prayed for us, encouraged us, and celebrated with us throughout the whole process!