Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Circles of joy

A village in Romania. Use your imagination.

This drawing may look like a combination of House Hunters meets an NFL playbook, but that's not even close. This is my visual aid from our presentation last night on Romania. What you see is an artist's rendition (Ha!) of a little street corner where I had one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Unfortunately, I have no photos, the scribbles will have to set the scene.

It's hard enough for me to understand Romanian, but add in the heat of a July day with no shade trees? My brain doesn't need any more frying. But our last day in the village of Draganeste was cooler and wonderfully overcast. It made it so pleasant to have some longer conversations. Ernst and I had visited several families on the top street in the drawing. As was typical, the houses were humble, to say the least. We saw no hunger where we were, but the living conditions were rough. The kind of rough that makes one vow to never complain about anything anymore ever. I think I need to go back, my vow is getting rusty.

When we got to the corner where all the circles are, that's when it got crazy good. The circles are people, but there was no room to draw in the happy faces. The biggest happy face was mine. While the others all got into conversations, I was feeling a bit bummed because my language skills are as rusty as my vow to not complain. Then I talked to a man on a bench. He seemed to understand. I had a conversation with a woman over the fence. I understood what she was saying about Nelson Mandela. She told me she loved talking with me. Then a sweet young teenage girl came up to me. We talked. In her language. I was in a foreign country (which at the moment didn't feel foreign at all) and I was speaking the language. I was telling her that her life was a gift, it was so special, she needs to protect it like a treasure. Where were these words coming from? They were in me and they were coming out my mouth, from my heart.

She left and came back with her mother. Amazingly, it wasn't just the teenager effect, I was able to talk to both of them. I'm sure I was still slaughtering the grammar, but for once it didn't matter to me, I was connecting on an emotional level in a language other than English. All the flashcards were paying off. All the boring rote memorization that is the only way to get through to my mental tundra was coming together. But for once there was that thing that I can never do, the relaxing part, the feeling the language part. The thing that only happens when I'm talking to myself in Romanian and it all sounds great. Normally adding in an actual human being throws me off. But something about those two human beings on that humble little corner of falling down houses created a moment to remember always.

Last night, during our little presentation, the emotion of that morning came back. Not only was I trying to get out my words, now I was trying to get them out through tears. All those little circles on the drawing mean so much to me. I so want to go back and find more circles. I know what I have to do. Keep learning. Work on comprehension. Relax and just talk, no fear. Pay off this trip. Plan another one. Soon we'll be all squared up and ready to roll.