Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

May 28, 2010

Speaking a Foreign Language

Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 5:00 am

We spent a year in language school in San Jose, Costa Rica.  One of the students and I were outstanding!  Now I need to define my use of that word.  There were about 30 levels of classes.  Each group had three to five in it.  There were people there for many reasons.  Most were going to serve as missionaries in various countries, while some were there to learn for business reasons.  In the top class were Judy and the wife of the one about whom I am about to tell a story.

This student, and I will not call his name to protect the innocent, and I were in the bottom class.  Does that tell you something?  He and I enjoyed going to the market and other places when we should have been studying.  But we just wanted to be part of the culture and to know the people.  Now remember, he and I are not the best students!  And prepare to use your imagination when I describe this particular event.

Our two families were going to make a trip to the west coast of Costa Rica.  Our children were older, but the other couple had a baby, still in diapers.  This friend asked me to go with him downtown to buy disposable diapers to have for the trip.  We went into the small store.  In his very limited Spanish, my friend asked if they had disposable diapers.  He attempted to use English words and just tack onto the end of the word an  “o” or an “a” or some sound that tried to sound Spanish.

They did understand he wanted something for a baby.  He asked for my help, but I could give him little.  We did not carry a Spanish/English lexicon, but we talked a lot with our hands and used gestures.  The two ladies wanted to help, but we just could not communicate.  I believe we were all getting frustrated.

Then my friend picked up a piece of paper from the counter.  I knew what he was about to do, and I moved to the sidewalk.  He folded that paper like a diaper.  Then he placed that paper between his legs like a diaper, bent his knees a little, gave a facial expression of strain, removed the paper, and then acted as if he was throwing it away!  Are you getting the picture?  I believe that is speaking a foreign language with pictures!

By now several people had gathered on the sidewalk, watching.  It was a show, especially from a gringo who was about 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighed about 250 pounds!  People did not know whether to laugh or be frightened.  The ladies responded, of course!  I am not sure they understood, but they were very quick to respond to his question, “Tiene?”  That simply asked, “Do you have any?”  The ladies with a strong gesture of head movement responded, “No, no, no!”  They were obviously wanting us to go away!

I can recall walking away and down the sidewalk.  We were certainly being observed.  That store would never be on our list again, and I thought we would  not ever come to this part of town again!  My friend left his mark that day!  But there are some other days like that with him that I will share one day!

Even with this humor, I assure you my friend went on to be a missionary who conquered the language, loved people and left his mark in Argentina.  We do leave marks where we go.  Some may be humorous and sometimes misunderstood.  But our footprints among people must be a reflection of love and compassion for everyone.  There is no doubt that was the heart of my friend.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another . . . .”  (Ephesians 4:32)



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