Vignettes in Silence: Learning a New Language

Vignettes in Silence:

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The Flood (Inundar)

What do you do when you don't speak the native language of the country you're living in but you're apartment is flooding? I had to Google translate the word "flood" before I ran downstairs to tell the guard...that's when another kind of flood took over. Six people immediately rushed to my kitchen to find the source of the leak. I could talk to none of them but everything got cleaned and soaked up and fixed without one word from me.

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Migration Office

At the migration office collecting all the records of Pedro and I's travels in and out of Ecuador, documents we were tasked to collect in order to apply for a common law marriage license, I was overwhelmed with this feeling that I couldn't speak. Or shouldn't speak. Not even to Pedro. I was suddenly terrified of people knowing I didn't speak Spanish. I thought it better to not speak at all. Pedro tried to comfort me but it only made me start crying. Crying forced me to talk so that Pedro would know my tears weren't his fault. So there I was, a crying white lady explaining myself in English, my fears becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

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Clown Car to Ibarra

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On our way to Ibarra for the rugby team's first away game, the van carrying the bulk of the team, that the coach had rented for the trip, broke down. Pedro and I were behind the van, driving his mother's car and carrying one other team mate. After a few quick calculations, 3 additional ruggers climbed into the back of our car. Two of them were skinny enough to weight 1 actual person. I experienced 2 solid hours of picking out the few Spanish words I knew (none of them spoke English or at least didn't address me the whole ride) and trying to piece together their sentiments. Two hours of what felt like code-breaking with only 5 pieces of a 100 piece puzzle left me mentally exhausted. We reached the stadium in which the game took place, and I instantly found a quiet corner of the stands to piece myself back together. I hope the rest of the team doesn't find me aloof or rude or anti-social - I just can't broken-Spanish/hand gesture my way through poor attempts at communication right now. I need to recharge in a manner that doesn't require deciphering.

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Taking Up Space

In the States, in all the cities I lived in, I always wanted to take up less space. As a bigger girl growing up and an average sized woman who still feels overweight, I always strive to take up as little space as possible. I never want to be the in way, or in other words, perhaps I didn't want to be noticed because to me, being noticed equaled being judged negatively. I didn't want to to be seen, yet I also wanted a massive amount of personal space. I think most Americans, perhaps not New Yorkers who regularly use the subway, can say the same. However, boundaries I became used to on Philadelphia are less important in Ecuador, or at least seem to be. Here, you're allowed, as a human being, to exist in whatever physical capacity you deem fit. Young or old, upper class, well dressed business persons or a vendor on the street, wherever you are, wherever you're walking or going, that space is yours and others seem to respect it.

Here, I think, I can be someone who takes up a bit more space .... and not feel guilty about it.