That was three years ago. In the meantime, I worked on the grammar on and off as opportunity allowed. There were a few major interruptions such as a furlough, getting Janet & Lemu, and building a new house. But thanks to consistent favorable circumstances, Amber's wonderful help, and good ol' fashioned hard work, I was able to finish writing the grammar this past July.
Last Saturday night we dropped the girls off at our friend and SIL colleague Grace Halland's house. Grace also has two adopted Ugandan children, and they were already good friends with our kids. Because we couldn't get visas for Janet and Lemu to either the US or Europe, originally Amber was going to have to stay behind while I went to defend my dissertation in Holland by myself. But a few friends encouraged us to 'do what we have to do', and Grace kindly offered to keep the girls. God bless her! Needless to say, Amber and I were just a little bit excited about having a little jaunt to Europe without children...just like olden times!
But it was actually quite hard leaving the girls. We put them to bed at Grace's house, but when they heard the vehicle start up, they both started crying inconsolably. Grace got Amber on the phone with them, and she managed to calm them down. Then we headed back to where we were staying, managed to get about four hours of sleep, and were at the airport by 3:30 am. Our first short flight was to Nairobi, Kenya. We got to see the sun rise on the way:
|Sunrise heading East toward Nairobi|
|Mt. Morungole in the distance, which hosts many Ik villages|
From there we continued north over South Sudan, Sudan, and Egypt---over the great Sahara desert. Something that really struck me this time was how much of the Earth's surface is still completely uninhabited by human beings: vast stretches of harsh landscape where perhaps only hunters and herdsmen and warriors traverse. Getting this renewed global perspective from 37,000 feet helped me gain a new understanding of both the uniqueness and limitations of our little lives among the Ik.
|Popcorn or cotton-ball clouds over the Sahara|
|Snow-capped Alps behind a veil of slipstream|
|Dinner with the Neutebooms|
Amber and I spent a fair amount of time just walking around the city, taking in the sights and doing a little shopping here and there. Nighttime walking was fun with all the Christmas lights on:
|Old World cobblestone streets|
|A main canal at night|
|Enjoying the winter-time, festive feel|
|If these ancient walls could talk...|
|A savory pancake at the Pannenkoekenhuis|
|Amber relishes a hot chocolate with REAL whipped cream|
|Cheap and HOT Thai food|
|A Greek feta gyro to DIE for|
I managed to suppress the stress and nervousness pretty well up to the last day (Tuesday) by just not thinking about the event very much. But by Tuesday, the gravity of what I was about to go through began really weighing down on me. I didn't feel sweaty or shaky, nor was my heart beating fast. No, the stress I felt was deeper, almost beyond bodily sensation. Only I did have acid pouring into my stomach in large amounts. I tried to maintain composure by sticking to routines like a morning quiet time and my normal exercises. The hours slowly ticked by. I went out and rented my $90 tuxedo. I came back and crawled back into bed (Amber was out) because I felt weak and didn't know what else to do. Finally it was time.
The defense was held in the Academie Gebouw (Academic Building), a medieval church that was converted to serve as the first Protestant Dutch university when Spanish Catholic rule was thrown off. The setting was beautiful but imposing. In a room filled with paintings of dead men (former university presidents), I would defend my work:
|Standing at the entrance to the Academie Gebouw|
|A cloud of scholarly witnesses|
|I was proud to be escorted by this beautiful woman!|
|Look closely: We don't dress up like this often!|
|The academic 'altar of sacrifice'|
The opposition went out to deliberate on whether to grant me the degree. They came back in and announced that I had earned the doctorate! When the Rector said his was the privilege of being the first to call me 'Doctor', I couldn't help but smile a little. Then they handed me my diploma, and my supervisor closed with a 'eulogy' in which he said many kind things. I don't remember all of it, but one thing I do remember is that he said he was impressed with my love for the 'beauty of the word'. This made me feel good because I had really striven to make the Ik grammar simple, elegant, easy and delightful to read...in short: beautiful. And I wanted to do that because I believe God values beauty and I wanted to highlight the beauty of the Ik language and confer upon it the dignity it deserves. I may not be the sharpest linguist tack in the drawer, but I do love languages and the people that speak them.
|My two guardian angels|
|Receiving my diploma|
I now have a Phd. So what? Stay tuned for another blog post soon in which I'll reflect on the significance of this for me, my family, and the Ik project. But from the beginning, I determined not to be defined by academic degrees. Just because I can write a grammar doesn't mean I can do anything else. Just because because I could add 'Phd' after my name doesn't mean I am wise or loving. Therefore, please remember that in answer to the question "Is there a doctor in the building?", when it comes to me, the answer is 'yes' only if it's someone's grammar that needs to be analyzed and described.