As the afternoon blazing sun softened into evening light my homestay mom came out of the door of our turquoise house. She gave me a deeply kind smile and held up a curved, short tool I’d never seen before. I took it and followed my homestay sister and brother up the hill. We followed a well worn path for a few minutes before it turned into ankle-high grass. At this point we followed my younger brother to a spot known only by locals. Here we cut tall grass for the water buffalo. Each time we rested I’d exchange silly faces with my brother and we’d jokingly wrestle while admiring the valley and sharp hills he’s known for years and I only a few short days. Each time I cut the grass the wrong way my older sister would laugh kindly and remind me not only to hold the grass with my left hand facing up but also to find humor in my faults.
A day later I sat on my neighbor’s porch relaxing and watching the morning fog. I glanced over and saw a young girl who’s probably four or five. I waved and she turned away but pretty soon we started playing peek-a-boo. Within a few more minutes we’d silently created a game: she’d make a gesture (raise an arm, stick out her tongue, or cross her arms) and I’d mimic her. This simple game lasted for over half an hour and included nearly constant giggling. These magical moments share something remarkable: not a word of English was spoken. It was this realization that gave me a greater understanding of how human connection can transcend differences in language, origin, and culture.