Throughout my time in Spain over the summer with my folk dance team, I had the opportunity to meet so many people from all around the world. From Mexico, Poland, Bulgaria, and of course Spain, we were able to meet so many amazing people and make so many amazing connections. We didn’t all speak the same language, many of them didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak many of their languages. So relying on the power of song and dance, we were able to connect through different aspects.
I had the opportunity to learn a Bulgarian song and dance while at BYU, and then during our fourth and final festival I finally had the opportunity to meet a team from Bulgaria. They didn't speak much English so when I went up to them and was trying to explain I knew a Bulgarian song they were confused. So I started singing, the director of their group who happened to have his back to me, heard it, turned around, and joined right in with me. He then gave me a big hug. Happy to find a young American girl who knew his culture. Then someone who did speak a little more English explained it tends to be a women's song so they called their women over and had them start singing it with me. I ended up knowing it better than they did but there were smiles and joyful moments all around. I was even the one who yipped and they seemed excited that I knew their culture. Later that night I saw the director again who called me “Petrunko” (the name from the song), and he proceeded to grab someone who spoke English and he showed me videos of his group dancing on the news, asking through his translator if I liked the dancing. He learned my name and I learned his, Lubo.
Through the week I was able to get to know the team a little better, with what little we could communicate I showed them videos of me dancing Bulgarian here at BYU and they showed me videos of their group on the news and performing. They’d often slow it down and analyze it. They were impressed by the fact we had real Bulgarian shoes. Every time I'd see their director he would call out my name and give me a big hug. When teaching in the town on the streets, as their group was about to start Lubo grabbed my arm and pulled me right into their dance, I was the only one that wasn’t Bulgarian for a minute. As the week progressed the Bulgarians all seemed to know who I was. I didn't speak Bulgarian but I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried talking with them on the buses and at random events. I would pull out google translate and have it go into Bulgarian and they'd respond translating it into English.
They would ask my teammates where I was and say hi as we would travel on the buses. I ended up talking with a guy on the bus whose wife helped work on the song that I sang. Towards the end, as they were leaving Lubo asked for a picture with me. I ended up going to give him stickers that my husband and I had made, and in return, he gave me a CD of their group and a little hand-painted vial holder with rose oil.
I learned that what I give is something often so small and yet when you are on the receiving end it means so much more. I spent time learning the Bulgarian song which was hard but it wasn't a huge thing to me, but for someone from around the world to hear someone from another country, singing a song in their language means so much more. Shortly after my tour, I was reached out to by the man from Bulgaria who I had happened to sit next to. He was impressed and really loved the song and the dance I showed him. He reached out and expressed his gratitude for my taking the time to learn and appreciate his culture. Often as the sharer, we think it might not be that big of a deal and we don't think much of it, but when you're on the receiving end it's hard to not be touched. The little vile of rose oil now sits on a shelf for the whole world to see, so for them something that is more common and traditional in their country, I saw it as an act of friendship and connection and love. It all comes back to love, when you share something with love it can be received with gratitude and love.