Despite technology that makes our world smaller each day, it doesn’t take much to know that the
I traveled to
The stream of events that would become our doom began the moment we stepped into a restaurant.
Everyone in the restaurant instantaneously knew we were American tourists, and unfortunately it was blatantly obvious. People eyed us rudely every moment, and we felt their stares like an ailing fever. Our waiter smiled mockingly at us as we became confused over how to order from a set menu. While our two hour time limit was dissipating as fast as boiling steam, the amused waiter took his dandy time in serving us. I kind of wanted to cry, but the tears were buried deep in my face. Never had I felt more humiliated, victimized, and helpless.
So we reached for our last weapon, our lifeline, our emergency fire extinguisher.
It was the French language, those words that sound beautifully resonant, words you can’t replicate yourself and yet appeal exactly to your being’s complicated desires. It is the song you can’t sing along to, but you can hum its lovely melody. I signaled the waiter, then looked him in the face and started pouring out the best comprehendible French I could manage. I explained our side of the story in his language, and that proved to be the key. He smiled — not mockingly! — and soon led us downstairs so we could finally pay our bill and get out of that place. At last, the chasm was bridged, the distance between the two sides of the river was shortened. The everyday French citizens in that room, all of them, heard me speak the language they believed American tourists couldn’t possibly know. They became witnesses of a stereotype disproved. Thank goodness.
Everything else I saw in
But I will hold the restaurant catastrophe close in my mind, no matter how terrifying it was. Now I know why it’s necessary that we travel, move, make our own voyage. It’s our duty to bridge the gaps, gaps created by evil stereotypes and gaps that cause people to stare ruthlessly at people who appear different. Learning a country’s language is one of many ways to bridge those scary gaps. Language is a key that will unlock closed, prejudiced hearts; I discovered that it really is a key to peace.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.