Hola, we are nearing the end of our Colombian trip. It has been awe inspiring, and surreal and amazing. We have stretched and grown and tried many things and been out of our comfort zone many times. There has been some fear and apprehension, some feeling lost and a whole lot of the unknown. When you don’t speak the language and very few speak your language, it can be unsettling especially when there is a need to communicate. Having tourist Spanish helps a little but I am certainly grateful to those who walk beside us and interpret. I also love that they are showing us the intricacies of their culture, introducing us to the fruits of the land and the foods of the people.
If you have been following my blog, you know I have embarked on a bit of a coffee social experiment. Well, it’s not as much an experiment as it is a quest. I was thinking about it last weekend when we were involved with the wedding here. The wedding was at a hacienda and much of the family stayed there for the whole weekend and broke arepas together many times. We actually spent very little time with our friends who we are traveling with which meant spending time alone or spending time with people we did not know who did not speak English or spoke little. The first day we met a fine couple and we were blessed by having the man sit with us for most of the time. His English was quite good so we were able to communicate in English with him. We learned about his family and job and we shared with him. His wife speaks English very well but was busy organizing the wedding. I am watching on FB for her to start up her business as a wedding planner.
The day of the wedding we spent time with people who knew some English and I practiced Spanish while they practiced English. We talked for hours. I told them about our kids and pets and why our pets are named as they are. We found out they have a mini pincher x chihuahua that is named Forest. Seems their cat Nina liked to run when they got Forest and Forest would run after her. Of course we showed photos also.
The day after the wedding I spent a lot of time with the ladies in the kitchen who are the bride’s family. They were cooking on an open fire pit and then preparing stuff in the kitchen. One of the young ladies knows some English so between her and I we were able to talk to each other and explain things and talk to the other ladies. We talked about all the same things, kids, pets, weather in Canada, sports (I even explained the game of wallyball), and the flavours of pop/soda/gaseoso and some other mundane things that people who share the same language say in passing but is a big deal when trying to communicate between languages.
I could have sat by the pool and had the rhythm of people speaking Spanish as white noise to my thoughts. I could have felt alone in a ‘world’ surrounded by people who didn’t understand me and talked to each other. Instead, I went up to people and said ‘Hola’. I went over to the fire to see what the ladies were doing, I went and sat down beside someone and started a conversation (such as it was). I pushed passed my fears and insecurities and I was received with open arms and hospitality.
In that setting I was with people who are friends of friends. There have been a couple situations where my lack of Spanish has not been received well, but that is part of the experience. I am not the reason for another person’s reaction.
What I learned from the experience is I have the capacity to break out of my comfort zone and push through the questioning looks because I butcher a word with my English accent. I can say something wrong, be corrected, struggle with saying it and be uncomfortable with still not grasping the accent. I can be wrong, I can be frustrated and I can try to say it a different way. I have more understanding of those who come from somewhere else and are working on learning English. Somehow now, speaking English to a stranger doesn’t seem as difficult as it did once.
Although this isn’t the same as my coffee time quest, I have learned a lot, not only from the experience of the trip but from the desire to communicate and connect despite the language barriers. Language is spoken in many ways and we are able to connect with others despite lacking in the spoken word.
I believe it is important to continually grow. Growth happens through stretching; it doesn’t happen in our comfort zone. The challenge is to move out of that zone and make things happen. Life happens more abundantly in growth.