Sunday, June 28, 2009

The International Language of...

When we attended our host training back in April, the staff kept reiterating that the language barrier wouldn't be the biggest hurdle during our five weeks of hosting an international child. Mark and I were slightly incredulous. How in the world could anything be more difficult and frustrating than trying to communicate with someone who doesn't speak much English????

During our first few days with Sintija, Mark and I frequently exchanged that look that said, "Those NHFC staff folks don't know what they're talking about. Either that, or they get first dibs on the truly bilingual kids. This language thing is HARD!" But after several days together, we have learned that some things translate well in any language.

1. Gas
Having two young boys in the house, I knew going into this that at some point personal comfort would trump proper etiquette. I was, however, hoping proper etiquette could hold out a little longer than it has.

Yesterday we were swimming at our friends pool (Thanks, McLarrens!) and Jude absolutely ripped it. I mean all out tooted. Sintija laughed and said, "JUDE-UH!" in her sweet Latvian voice. Gas must sound the same no matter where you come from. (I imagine the smell could vary by region though.)

2. Amazement
Today I took Jude, Cal, and Sintija to Opryland Hotel. If you ever find yourself in Nashville with a little extra time to kill, you really should walk through Opryland Hotel. Now having lived here for four years, I have been to Opryland Hotel a half dozen times, and really, for me, the novelty has worn off a bit. Big building, lots of plants, a waterfall here and there. Today I got to see everything there through Sintija's eyes, and it was breathtaking once again. There were many oooohhhhhs and aaahhhhs and "Look! Look!" We took 89 pictures while we were there! Sintija's enthusiasm was contagious, and we had a fabulous time together.

3. America's Funniest Home Videos
Tonight we had an indoor picnic, complete with pizza, picnic blanket, and AFV on the tube. Falling down, practical jokes, and surprise hits to the crotch are funny no matter what language the "ouch!" is spoken in.

4. Wipeout
Along that same line, a commercial for the TV show "Wipeout" (Weds on ABC) came on tonight and Sintija hollered, "Wipeout! Wipeout! Latvia have Wipeout!". It is a small world after all - we actually plan Wednesday evenings around that show. It's hilarious.

5. Puzzles
Sintija and the boys spent some time her first day here working on a few puzzles. She is very, very good at them, so I busted out a 500 piece puzzle and she and I worked on it for awhile tonight. She is so quick - it's like she has this amazing engineering/spatial relations thing that former theater majors like myself must not come equipped with. I loved sitting there tonight working on the puzzle with her.

It has been an adventure learning to communicate with this sweet, shy Latvian child. But for all of the frustration, we have had these moments of absolute clarity - when I can look at her and she at me, and we know exactly what the other is thinking.

There are some things that translate perfectly.

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