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Connecting Through Language

Often times when we think of gifts we think of monetary things, however, gifts can come in many shapes and forms. I had the opportunity to share many gifts this summer on a dance tour with another team I participate in, American Rhythm. We had five incredible weeks of singing, dancing, and performing all throughout Spain. Throughout my time I was able to meet so many people and while we didn’t share the same language or even cultural background, I was able to see them as children of God and people that I would now proudly call my friends. Here are a few excerpts from my personal journal entries highlighting some of those moments.

June 17, 2022:

To start our trip off right, we got to the airport yesterday and everything went well from checking in, and getting everyone and everything onto the plane. The plane ride actually went pretty well, even the food was surprisingly good! Then we landed in Paris, about one hour later than we were supposed to, our connecting flight was supposed to take off about 20 mins later and we hadn’t even gotten off the plane yet. I was just hoping, since my husband served a mission in Paris, that we could at least stop and grab a croissant or something specifically Parisian. However, our director had other plans. Everyone got off the plane and started sprinting toward our next flight. While some people haven’t ever traveled internationally and for others it’s been a while due to covid, it was forgotten that there are procedures that you have to go through to be able to enter the EU. So with needing to go through a second security and having about 27 people in our group, we ran to our gate only to find out our plane to Madrid had already taken off and there wasn’t a flight until the next day.

Much to our “chagrin” (yeah right), we were then able to go explore the city of Paris for a whole day. Hitting up places like; the Eiffel tower, riding on the seine, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, and we even ate a Parisian specialty of O’ Tacos. While it was all amazing the hard thing was the language barrier. We had all been preparing Spanish, we had several Spanish speakers with us, but French? Again it was lucky we had my husband who has kept up his French and was not only our teammate for the day but also our tour guide taking us to everything we saw. While I didn’t get to see him much that day it was such a fun day, but one of the best parts to me was when we were sitting on a metro, and 5 of us all sat around a man who seemed to be coming home from work for the day. I felt bad that he was surrounded by loud Americans who didn’t seem to follow local protocol. When I bumped his leg and apologized, in English since I don’t know French, he seemed to say “it’s okay” which got me wondering if he spoke English. I plucked up the courage to ask if he spoke English. He gestured to say a little, then I followed up by asking if he was from France. He then said “Germany.”

This was my moment, as I also spoke German. As I slipped into Germany quickly, realizing we could communicate, the lights in his eyes came as he realized I spoke his language and the barrier that had once existed was now gone. He proceeded to tell me about his family, and how they were actually from Turkey but had moved to Germany for work and that’s where he grew up, how he is now in France for work, where his family is now, why it was so hot in Paris, what he did for work, etc. There were definitely words I didn’t get correct, and grammar rules I forgot, but the connection and the light in his eyes that was there were incredible and I will never forget the moment we were able to connect.

June 25, 2022

Today while standing waiting for Lunch a woman turned around and started talking with me and my friend Spencer. I recognized her from the Canary Island team, her name was Mona. She was speaking English, which was honestly kind of a relief since we were the only team in the whole festival who didn’t speak Spanish as our first language. She started saying she wished more of the youth from her group would try to speak English with us since they teach it in their school. When we asked her if she is from Spain/the Canary Islands, she actually said she was from Germany. I then immediately asked, in German, if she spoke German. Then we proceeded to have a conversation about where she was from. We switched back to English so my friend could stay involved in the conversation.

Throughout the next week, every time I’d see her we’d speak in English and German, and she’d teach me a few more words in Spanish, so I could communicate with the locals a little more. She would ask me questions about our dances, and costumes, and we’d talk about her instrument and costumes. The cultures were very different. At the parties, she would learn our American line dances, and we would learn some of their steps. We laughed and talked. Before they left I got her contact information. When I learned they had to leave early I ran down to say goodbye and gave her a hand-cut sticker that she loved. With a big hug, the people we had grown close to from the Canary Islands were leaving.

July 2, 2022

I got a text from Mona. She had gone back to the canary islands and was working again. She texted me saying she saw the name Moses, which we’d talked about previously, and she’d always think of me when she saw that name. She asked how our team was doing during the festival, and how our time was going. We talked about the funny things going on in our lives and how their team was doing back home.

August 13, 2022

I got five pictures from Mona. She texted that she’s traveling all over Europe right now, and visiting family. I guess that’s possible to go all around when you speak about six languages as she does. She signed it with love and hopes everyone on our team is healthy, and recovering from our tour.

To this day, we still contact each other. While English isn’t her first language and German isn’t mine we found a connection. This amazing woman is such a dear friend of mine, and I know that if I were to ever be in her part of the world, I’d have someone to stay with. Languages make the world an interesting place when we can’t always communicate with a person sitting across from us, or in a shop, and yet taking the time and being able to have those connections is something so deep that nothing else can replace.

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