The Hebrew that is translated into English as “wilderness” is usually rendered in Aekyom as “no-tree place.” But since here a tree is mentioned in the next verse in this context wilderness has to become a “no water place” since this is relevant to the story.
In Aekyom, years are counted as “turtles” (ambum).
Norm Mundhenk tells this story:
“Recently I was checking some New Testament material in the Aekyom language of western Papua New Guinea. It seemed relatively clear until suddenly we came to a passage that started, ‘When Jesus had 12 turtles, …’ Surely I had misunderstood what they said.
“‘Did you say that Jesus had 12 turtles?’
“‘Let us explain! Around here there is a certain time every year when river turtles come up on the banks and lay their eggs. Because this is so regular, it can be used as a way of counting years. Someone’s age is said to be how many turtles that person has. So when we say that Jesus had 12 turtles, we mean that Jesus was 12 years old.’
“It was of course the familiar story of Jesus’ trip with his parents to Jerusalem. And certainly, as we all know, Jesus did indeed have 12 turtles at that time!”
In Tok Pisin, krismas (derived from “christmas”) is taken as the fixed annual marker, so Jesus had 12 “christmases” (Jisas i gat 12-pela krismas pinis) or Abram (in Gen. 12:4) had 75 (Abram i gat 75 krismas) (source: Norm Mundhenk). In Nyongar it is biroka kadak or “summers had” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang).
See also advanced in years.