My Language Barrier
My ears pop. I don’t fly often and my body isn’t used to it. It’s been three years since my family has visited Colombia. I notice my fingers drumming and I stop. I’m worried. Two years of middle school Spanish aren’t enough. How will I get to know the relatives on my dad’s side when I can’t hold a conversation?
“When does the plane land?” I ask, looking over at my mom.
“Nine more hours,” she says.
I notice my fingers are drumming again.
I awake to the sound of the plane touching down. I’m still groggy as I shuffle through the airport routine. As we enter the main area, I realize some people are waving at us. My parents’ faces light up and walk towards them while my sister and I follow.
My parents introduce them to me, but it’s hard to keep everyone straight. I struggle to remember the ones I’ve met before—my dad has so many relatives. We eat together at the airport but I’m tired. And I don’t talk much.
But when we get to my grandparents’ home, I feel more comfortable. They talk slowly and carefully. Whenever I get lost in the conversation they help me back in. Without realizing it, I stay up until 2:00 chatting with them.
Even though I speak very slowly they always waited happily to hear what I had to say. I go to bed hoping to be as giving as they are.
The next day, my uncle and his four kids come over. We play cards and Dominoes together. During our games, we start to “trade” words. They’ve taken English at school and and we are able to talk to each other in a mix of both languages. The games last longer than they should, but we don’t mind. Time passes smoothly when I’m patient like my grandparents.
It’s been two weeks and I’m on the plane again. I’m surprised by how much closer I got to my relatives. I didn’t let our different languages interfere. I used the challenge to my advantage. And I was able to help my grandma cook and shop with my aunt. Thoughts swirl around in my head as I step off the plane in North America. Two years of middle school Spanish weren’t really what I needed. Bonds form when I chase after them.