Saturday, July 08, 2006

Moment #643. French-Fon at laundry. Sat, Jul 8, 2006.

07/08/2006. Saturday night. I had previously been thinking about doing laundry but it was late, perhaps 10:00 pm or so, and I could easily wait until Monday. I was tired. I had spent several hours outdoors in the hot sun walking around at a ham-fest (amateur radio). I had taken a late nap, and still felt a tad groggy from that.

But the prompting to go do laundry tonight had reached the obvious level, and furthermore I was not to dilly-dally on the Internet before hand, but to get going. I took a quick shower and changed clothes to be presentable.

I realized I didn't have to do everything and make a full production, that I could do a small trip. I had a coupon to use two top-loaders free, so I just took that much, and didn't even unmake the bed. If I can buy gas a couple times a week in order to make placements, then occasionally doing two trips to the laundromat seemed reasonable.

When I got at the all-night laundromat, there was an African-looking lady folding some clothes. Later, her brightly colored dresses in African patterns caught my eye. So it seemed she was my intended contact.

While coming back from the snack machine, I stopped across the folding table from her and asked if I had already given her any of my blue books. She said no. I asked "parlez-vous francais?" She said "oui." She was from Benin in West Africa. She agreed to receive some church material in French, so I retrieved French and English copies of the Book of Mormon and a VHS tape of "Finding Faith in Christ" in French.

She happily and gratefully accepted the material. I asked what other languages she spoke, and she mentioned a several others, but the only one of those that have Church material is Fon. I said I had a Sunday school book (Gospel Fundamentals) in Fon, and she agreed to see that too, so I went out to my car again. I discovered I didn't have it in the car, so I drove the few blocks home and obtained it, and took it back to her along with the English.

You should have seen her face light up when she read the title on the front cover! She said books in Fon in her home country are rare, and not all children who speak Fon at home are taught to read and write Fon, but she was. I was surprised too, because of the three or four people to whom I had offered the Fon Gospel Fundamentals, she was the first who could read it right off the bat. Some of my previous Fon-speaking contacts either couldn't read the language, or it was a different enough dialect of Fon that it was not discernible to them. It is not strictly in a Latin (A through Z) alphabet. There are special characters and special pronunciation rules when reading it. Therefore, even if you already speak it fluently, it takes practice to learn how to read it if you weren't already taught it in school.

With the coupon, it didn't cost me any extra to do this extra trip. And the look of joy on that lady's face when she saw the Gospel Fundamentals manual in Fon was worth the whole trip. But there's even more coming. Read the next blog entry to find out what else happened at the laundromat that night.

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At 7/11/2006 12:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great story. You probably know more than anyone else about the variety of African languages, I'll say that.

-Adam Greenwood


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