Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Language Barrier

When my sisters and I were in high school (maybe I wasn't quite) my parents sponsored a Vietnamese family through a program called World Relief. When we picked up the family of five at the airport, they were wearing their feather-like clothing and were obviously freezing, but had the happiest faces I'd ever seen. They were SO elated to be in America.

They proved to be a fun bunch the instant we headed to the car. My Dad opened the back of the minivan to load up their luggage and in they all climbed . . . Yes, through the back of the van! It was silly to us, but we refrained from laughing. They road with their arms around us (we must have seemed like jolly giants to their small frames), squeezing us every so often to show their appreciation.

The supermarket brought intense delight the moment they walked in the door. The littlest of the family (she was just six) jumped for joy at the produce section and the parents oohed and ahhed over the selection of meat. My Mom stood there, pleased to have shared such an experience with such grateful people and she loaded the cart with whatever they touched.

The washing machine was a battle. My Mom would load their clothes in and shut the lid only to have the woman sneak behind her, open the machine, and start scrubbing the clothing. My Mom would shoo her away and try and reassure her (BIG Language barrier) that the machine would do the washing.

But mostly what I remember was the littlest girl trying to teach us her language. She'd say a word and point to what she was talking about. We'd repeat unsuccessfully, and she'd scold us and kept raising her voice. We'd all laugh (including her brother and sister) and she just got so fed up with our lack of language skills. The reason this memory has popped back into my head was due to Kate's behavior this morning. She'd come over to me as I was laying on the couch and tell me something. A few seconds later when I didn't do whatever she wanted, she came back and scolded me louder . . . then louder . . . then louder! Finally she was so frustrated and red-faced that she gave up. We definitely have a language barrier here, but it's nothing we haven't experienced before:) I'm really thankful we got the chance to practice language barriers before we had children!

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