Language: A Door for Connections

Do we need words to communicate with one another? How deep can you connect with someone without conversation and a common language?

While I’ve done some traveling over the years internationally, I’ve never actually spent time in one place to really get to know a country; a language; a culture; a community of people…it’s nice to be able to do that here in Alamosa with the other volunteers and locals in the community…

I had a great conversation with Austin tonight at the San Luis Valley Brewery. As we asked each other general questions and introduced ourselves, we instantly got on the topic of traveling and languages. Austin, 21, moved to Alamosa from Texas when he was 14 and is now working at Milagros Coffeehouse. While in high school he took a trip down to Costa Rica with his family for two weeks and instantly fell in love. He knew he had to return and he did. For seven months Austin stayed with a host family and immersed himself in the language, the culture, and the community. It was inspiring to here him talk about how passionate he has become with learning languages.

I spent time at a disabled children’s home while in India. After working a few hours we had time to play with the kids. I remember when three of us walked into a classroom, the room was silent and all eyes were staring blankly at us. For a minute I stared blankly back. I was nervous. I spent a lot of time with a girl wearing a blue dress. She was lying on the floor, looking so lost and scared. All it took was a maraca and a wooden plate to bang on and she cracked her first smile. The smile turned into a room full of giggles as she whacked the maraca against the plate and looked at me with such pure innocence. This day in particular I grew so much.

Looking at pictures and thinking about experiences from a day like this both fills and hurts my heart.

From experiences like this I’ve told myself that you don’t often need a language to communicate. With children, that may be true—but with adults, a common language is so important.

Recap of today for journaling purposes:

I went downtown this morning with Anna and her roommate to the Ice Festival. We wandered the streets and looked at the dozen or so ice blocks that were carved into different mascots. I watched a man with a chain saw carve out a moose, but not much else to report.

We wandered into Milagros and sat down for a drink. I ordered a chai tea. Not only was it placed in a paper cup lined with a plastic coating, but the cup sleeve was lined with plastic coating as well. Who thought of needing a cup sleeve to drink your coffee, especially when it’s 0 degrees outside! My favorite part about David ordering coffee when we go to breakfast is holding his mug in my hands to keep them warm—he’d have to pry it out of my hands to drink. Since then I developed a liking for tea and my hands couldn’t be any happier. I made a mental note to bring my own mug into Milagros next time, and if I forget to then I will pass on getting a drink.

Joe, an older volunteer from the Food Bank, walked in and introduced himself. He has such a deep and interesting face, I’d love to photograph him in the future. Joe frequently hands out dark chocolate to all of the volunteers, it reminded me of Frank passing out his candy at church in Chattanooga. I miss the Smiths. Joe welcomed me into the community but then warned me not to use the words awesome and exciting around him. He said they are two words that have been so overused in our language that they don’t have much meaning to him. I told him I’d use fabulous, fantastic, spectacular, and wonderful around him instead.

How beautiful and complex our language is. There are so many words to choose from and so many ways you can form a sentence. So many ways to express yourself.

I walked through Cole Park and found a nice trail going alongside the river with a few of the mountains in the distance. This will be where I go for solitude in nature.

Our new roommate, Weston, arrived this afternoon and Katie moved into our living room—she’ll be staying with us for the next two months while her house is renovated and de-molded. I wish there was more I could do to make it more comfortable for her—it really makes me appreciate what I have. I am grateful for having this bed to sleep on and a shelter over my head.

I went down to the San Luis Valley Brewing Company tonight with Katie and Jackie and spent a few hours with all of the volunteers. It truly is such a tight-knit community, something I’ve been searching for the last few years.

Alyssa, a VolCom volunteer, is in a relationship with a guy from the Ivory Coast. We talked a bit about Africa and she said when he comes to visit in the next few months I definitely need to sit down and talk with him about my experiences in Ghana. I can’t wait. My heart tells me I’ll be back there someday. But for what purpose? Will I go for a few weeks or a few months? Will I learn the language and be able to communicate better with the people? Will my presence matter to them as their presence does to me?

A hug, a kiss, a smile, a wave—these are all gestures and interactions that communicate with those around you. The warmth of their touch fills your heart and makes you feel so loved. But so can their words. So can their stories. The greatest gift of life is to connect with those around you. Are words ever enough to communicate with others? What about the things that go unsaid? Where words are not needed and yet the connection feels so strong…

Ice Sculpture:

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Frosty trees:

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Children being pulled by a sled team:

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Frozen Rio Grande:

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Trail along river:

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