On the hot, humid June 27, 2009 morning, I walked through the Tampa International airport terminal with a ticket in hand. The destination shown on the flimsy piece of paper was Nicaragua. At the time of the trip I was rather uneducated and had only heard stories of how beautiful, yet corrupt, this country was. I have always been on trips around the United States, and twice out of the country to Canada and Italy, but I had never thought about going to a third world country. I didn’t even think they had airports for us to land in. Oh how wrong I was.
After our entire church group of 47 and about three dozen others passengers were finally on board, the cabin doors shut and the announcements began. “In case of any emergen—” That was my cue to put in my headphones and start blasting some Dave Matthews Band. After an hour into the surprisingly smooth flight, I dazed into a sleep from staring at the constant blur of blue from above and below. I awoke a couple hours later to the climax of “Ants Marching” and after asking a couple passengers, I realized we were a no less than thirty minutes away from the city of Managua. I looked below me and all I could see were a few shacks and cattle sprawled throughout the vivid ocean of emerald and lime.
Once we landed, we drove for a few hours, received a fresh hot meal, and slept in our long awaited beds. The next morning we headed out to a local community center and hosted a Vacation Bible School. We acted out the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den and had multiple activities to go along with it. While helping the smaller children create lion masks, I met 6 year old Alexander, a boy who had an uncontrollable urge to giggle whenever I smiled. I wasn’t sure why until one of the translators informed me that most of the children have never seen braces before. When I looked around, I realized I was the only person in the group with braces. I was either scaring the children or I was a circus sideshow in which everyone had to witness.
Throughout the entire day Alexander followed me around, practically glued to my side. When he wanted to play or needed help with an activity, it was to me he turned. With about 12 other volunteers from our church available to help, I was curious to why he chose me every time. After about an hour or two we were playing peek-a-boo and hide and go seek. It was as if Alexander was my little brother that I had just met. The only odd thing about the whole situation is that he didn’t know any English, and I didn’t know any Spanish. We were communicating the entire time, but we didn’t even have to speak a word to fully understand each other.
From this experience with Alexander, I realized that, even with a language barrier, it is possible to communicate with someone else. The fact that I am willing to get to know people and become friends with them was really how I was able to “communicate” with Alexander and the other Nicaraguans. Before the trip, I tried taking beginners Spanish lessons so I would be able to speak with everyone and not feel left out, but I realized how the classes weren’t necessary. All you need is the will to get to know someone and relationships will form.
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