You think you know your way of life when you agree to give it up. The cars, red brick houses, transversing cities to attend school, eating processed breakfast bars – I thought I understood my culture.
Alas, there was something I missed. Indeed all of these things I had lived, I had lived through the lens of the English language.
And it turns out – though I admit I had been warned – the English language alone can not get you very far in the small community of El Lagartillo, Nicaragua. Not even with the kindest Homestay parents, in the most lovely home. Not even when your homestay mother, Doña Francisca, assures you that “poco a poco, vas aprender”. Little by little you will learn.
Still, you find yourself stuck in a living game of charades.
The degree to which I have relied on and taken comfort in my own English language dawned on me last night.
“Cuantos hijos tiene?” I asked Doña Francisca.
“Tuve 7, pero 2 murieran, 1 en la guerra”.
I had 7, but 2 died, 1 in the war.
These are the times your language fails you.
I looked up at her, this strong woman who I had but 20 minutes ago made the acquaintance of, and I nodded.
Eye to eye, mumbling “I’m sorry”.
She responded simply – “si”.
So it came to pass, that while stumbling in the darkness, I discovered the universal language. “El languaje universal”.
Empathy, sorrow, joy, happiness, anything to which life being a cause, may be labeled an effect.
Little by little, I will learn.