For this assignment we were supposed to do something different for a whole week. Since I knew Romanian for the most part, I decided to pretend I was foreign outside of school and try to live like a foreigner. This story isn't true. I used some of my experiences of that week to make this story.
Communication. It's something that we have done for centuries. There has always been some type of communication and understanding between people. Even back when we were cavemen, we used motions rather than use words to formulate some thought. We don't all have the same language or method of speaking, but there is always some way to establish a line of understanding. People don't realize how important something is until you no longer have it. Sometimes, we are thrust into a situation where communication is hard to come by and often you aren't offered a mode of translation.
To broaden my 'horizons', my mother decided to travel to America from Romania so we could see the world. The first barrier I had to overcome was language. I wasn't fluent in English. I had dictionary and books to help me learn, but the best way to really understand something is if you speak it or try to have a conversation with someone. Those days weren't easy ones. In school I was quiet and reserved since there wasn't much I could say to anyone. Some people tried to talk to me but when I could not respond, they walked away and proceeded to ignore me. They probably thought I was better than them because I was foreign. I could see the frustration in their eyes and sometimes, it just made me feel horrible. Why couldn't I learn the language better? Why couldn't I learn faster? I didn't want to be hated and ignored.
Sometimes, I did try to speak to people. I knew broken English by then but I always fell back into my native tongue. At first, the person I was trying to have a conversation with would stare at me, wondering what I said. They'd ask me a question again and when I responded horribly, they would just look at me or try to talk to someone else. I felt so embarrassed! Here I was, in a whole new place and I couldn't even communicate with someone! I always had these weird looks. Sometimes they were sympathetic and tried to coach me through the words, but some would easily become annoyed with me and walk away and argue with his friends. I had managed to understand that they were annoyed that I was in an English speaking country and I couldn't speak English. They said I wasn't trying to learn, but I was.
I wanted to give up at one point. I wanted to just forget about learning the language since most people wouldn't even let me try. Maybe I should have just kept my mouth shut and sat in the corner like some recluse spider, listening and waiting, and doing nothing else. This wasn't who I was. I had been so open in Romania. I talked to all my friends and always made them laugh. Here, I was so isolated. Even if I could understand the people, I couldn't speak it right. My broken English was just as bad as not being able to speak at all. When I didn't know the language, at least I couldn't understand the negative words they said behind my back.
I remember one time trying to order food for myself and my Nona, or, my grandmother, at Dell Taco. She had given me the exact change for the food I needed to buy and I made my way into line. I knew what was coming. I was going to be humiliated and pointed out. The cashier would stare at me and then go laugh with his friends about me. I dreaded my turn up there. There were three people. Only three. I hated lines, but times like these, I craved them. I never wanted to go up and try to let the jumble of words come out of my mouth. They wouldn't be right. They didn't even form right on my tongue. I always started to roll my 'r' or slip into Romanian again. Sometimes my hand gestures looked stupid.
The three people that had been in front of me had turned out to be one group. That meant I was next! I groaned a little and shuffled forward towards the cashier and covered my face as I came up to him. He gave me that fake smile that was required of him and began,
"Hi, what can I get for you?"
All too soon, it was my turn. My mouth dried up and my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. I couldn't even swallow. "One. Numeru uno," I managed to croak. There it was. The stare. I put up one finger and repeated my statement. He gave a nod and a smile and pressed some button.
"Small, medium, or large?" he asked then. I didn't quite understand him so it was my turn to stare blankly at him. He repeated his question in a different language. I knew this one to be Spanish. He thought I was speaking Spanish! I gave a small smile but I still hadn't understood him. I pointed to a cup size and he repeated it in Spanish, then English. I gave a nod before he asked for the money and I gladly gave it to him. At least he had tried to relate to my language. I took the receipt and hurried to my seat next to Nona. When would this barrier be broken? When can I open my mouth and not have everyone laugh? Not soon enough apparently.
I saw a lot of people speaking other languages in stores and sometimes, their English was just as bad as my own. They didn't seem to have a barrier though. They always had someone to translate for them or the actual cashier spoke their language. It must have been so easy for them to adjust to life. They didn't even have to make the extra effort to know the language. People just knew their language. Why couldn't it be that easy for me? Half the time, I was given the wrong thing that I ordered or asked for. No question had been answered and here were these people that didn't even have to try. It annoyed me even though it shouldn't have. Maybe I was turning into the people that laughed at me. Here I was, a stranger to this language yet, I was angry with another who was just like me.
When at last I could speak the language, things changed for the best. Everyone accepted me more readily and at last I could talk to someone and ask the questions I had been dying to ask. Communication is the only thing that can truly tie us together sometimes. If you can't speak, you feel like an alien to your own people and no one wants to be set apart. It's just something we don't realize is important until it is taken away from us. Think twice next time you avoid someone or laugh at someone because they are different. You never know when the situation will be reversed.
What gives us the right to poke fun at someone? There is no reason to laugh or taunt anyone just because they are different. Every single one of us has some kind of trait that sets us apart from others. It is the reason we are unique. To understand each other, we need to step into someone else's shoes and try to learn how they view things. Maybe then there wouldn't be bullies or annoying people. They'd have no reason to taunt. Then again, sometimes are mean because they know they are different. It's just human nature really.