It’s funny how it’s called a “language barrier”. Usually when there is a barrier it is almost impossible to connect to the other side unless you are able to penetrate and tear down the barrier, but when it comes to communicating with a fellow human being there are so many ways to communicate rather than speaking. In Chajul many of the children speak not only Spanish but also a Mayan language called Ixil, this could somewhat be interpreted as a double language barrier in some cases. Of course a translator never hurts (shout out to Molly, Steven, and Alice y’all are the best), but sometimes it takes more than the exchanging of words to form a bond with someone. You have to live through experiences, learn about each other, and have a genuine interest in those people if you want to experience a true connection. Although I speak the same language as however many millions of people in the world, it doesn’t necessarily mean we will get along or will ever get past the typical small talk. I’ve never really given thought to the term language barrier until today in Guatemala, but I’m beginning to think this barrier is completely mental rather than an actual barrier from connecting.
Today was one of the best days that I’ve ever had abroad. You might be wondering what was so extraordinary to make such a lasting mark…did we walk through a rainforest on a bridge over 50 feet high only made of rope and boards? Did we take a tour through a city of ruins and climb a volcano? Did we snorkel in a lake as clear as glass? All I can say to these types of guesses is think simpler. Today we were simply given the opportunity as a group to interact with the Limitless Horizon scholarship students. It started off fairly awkward, fairly uncomfortable, trying to talk to these students in Spanish. I felt like I was making a complete fool out of myself with every word coming out of my mouth, every time I blurted out an attempt at Spanish I would be met with a few giggles but mostly blank stares. The few times I was able to put together a feasible sentence the conversation usually ended right as it began. Then we started playing. This may seem like such an empty, pointless interaction to many, just playing basketball and futbol with these children, but I had so much fun I can’t even begin to describe the joy that filled my heart today. I feel as if this was a way to bond as a unit seeing each other’s competitive…and not so competitive sides. As we continued on with different activities I realized that I didn’t have to say much more than a muy bien and a high five to give encouragement to those around me. We continued on with cool down games such as Amarillo, Verde, Rojo, which was their own version of red light green light and still managed to laugh and smile with no exchange of words other than the occasional rapido. Other games such as the human knot were a little more difficult, but once they got the concept we were able to work together and untangle ourselves in an astonishingly little amount of time. Overall I am looking forward to continue working with these kids even though there may be a bit of a language barrier between us, but I believe that that will make little differences towards the overall bonding and experience.