It's Day 7 of the Slice of Life Story Challenge, started by Two Writing Teachers. I am writing around the theme topic of "What I Know For Sure." (See Day 1 for a full explanation.)
I've been fortunate to travel to a few countries in my lifetime. I didn't start serious traveling until I was an adult when I got to go to Paris and Amsterdam in 2010 and then to Spain in 2012. Those trips were amazing, and I'll never forget them. However, I was only a tourist on those trips, and I was able to get by with the extremely limited vocabulary I had in those countries.
You get the picture. Pitiful. Language barriers intimidate me. I've never been good at learning other languages. I took French for four years in high school and two years in college, and the above French words are about all I gained. Sad. I always feel like I'm going to sound like an idiot if I try out conversing in another language, and my lack of foreign language skills doesn't help. It amazes me that my oldest daughter, Libby, is a Spanish minor and won the Spanish award in high school. Where did she get that??!
There are two trips, though, in which I had to be more than a passing traveler, getting by with avoiding conversations that required real communication other than ordering a meal and asking where the bathroom was located (even that intimidated me). I took a mission trip with Libby and her youth group to Mexico in 2010 and to Czech Republic with Katie and a small mission group from my church last summer. In both places, I marveled at the people who could bridge that communication gap so effortlessly and fearlessly - especially the young people on both trips. My tactic was to avoid one-on-one conversations altogether, blending into the background as much as possible, or to always have someone who could speak Spanish or Czech with me.
Two events stood out to me on both these trips. There was a night in Mexico and Czech Republic when we didn't have to talk much. It was the most fun I had in both places! In Piste, the townspeople where we stayed put on a birthday party for one of our youth leaders, and in Bedrichov, we had a talent show on the last night of English camp. We sang, played games, laughed, and played instruments. Worship services also included music. Even when the words were sung in another language, familiar tunes filled the soul. Those events showed me that we had connected in spite of my reluctance to speak those other languages. Joy transcended that gap. We enjoyed each other's company and found some things we had in common...the love of laughter and music. A smile, a hand reaching out for a dance, a musical note, a head tossed back with a laugh...a connection.
A mariachi band!
A Czech tongue twister!
A spontaneous birthday celebration
The dynamic devotions duo!
Talent show and costumes!
What I Know For Sure: Laughter, fun, and music break down language and culture barriers. When we laugh, sing, dance, play instruments, and have fun together, it doesn't matter what language(s) we speak. We all crave connection, and if we did more singing and laughing across the world, it would be a better place. And I can't even sing.