Today was my last day at the school, which completes the first phase of my Ecuadorian vacation. We had a special program complete with dancing, food, and a puppet show. A visitor came by the school to see the facility and observe the students. She engaged me in conversation and I was able to speak well with her in Spanish until finally we reached a point where I faltered in my understanding. I confessed that my Spanish was not very good. Her response was that at the school, it doesn’t need to be good. She is so right. More than words, the students understand a smile, a hug, kisses, and affection. In those things, I am fluent.
Language. Or lenguaje, if you prefer. If you don’t speak the native tongue, then language is always a challenge with every volunteer job. As I mentioned before, it was more of a challenge for me this time because I was alone in my struggle, staying with a Spanish-speaking family and working in a Spanish-speaking school with no other volunteers. But this assignment served as a potent reminder (because I seem to require constant reminding) that there are many things that transcend language, and those things communicate far more effectively than the spoken word.
After I helped load up the students for the last time, I bade them all farewell. Vanessa and I shared a last hug, Hernan reached out for a last high five, and Dario gave me a final kiss on the cheek. And today, Francisco called me his friend.