The language barrier has been very real for us Fellows this first week. It seems to be the common frustration with us all at this point. We are all so motivated that it saddens us to think that something would get in our way of really reaching the kids. All I have to offer the children this week has been a smile and a kind face in place of words but I have found a lot of comfort in the fact that a smile can cross this language barrier. The kids smile back, we exchange high fives and sometimes we even laugh but the jury is still out on whether they are laughing at me.
One thing that I have realized is how you can still learn a lot about an individuals personality without any words at all. I sit and watch the students in the classroom and can immediately see how much they care and how much they want to be right. In the first English class I saw at Etoile de Mer the young boy next to me was determined to take great notes. He got out a ruler and drew vertical lines to outline where he was going to do the addition for his math problem. Writing took most students a long time only because of the simple fact that they were being perfectionists about it. One boy would start to write the word ‘walk’ and halfway through would demand the eraser from the student next to him to erase his work and start over. To an outside observer there was nothing wrong with his work but the fact that he was putting so much effort into it really showed me that these kids are taking ownership of their work and their learning.
I was able to see a more playful side of the student’s personalities at Ecole Fatima by just bumping a volleyball around with them for an hour. Very little words were exchanged but the effort they were putting forth was evident. There was an abundance of laughter and smiles and I was happy to know that we were all having a good time.
At a place where language is not the only barrier of communication among individuals, I found a smile that much more powerful. I could not smile enough at our first day visiting Amour Sans Frontieres. My jaw actually started to hurt by the end of their dancing performance. I think the feelings us Fellows had are some that only the few that had the great opportunity to be a part of their performance will ever truly understand, but the joy of the kids was absolutely overwhelming! I cannot think of anything I have found more personally gratifying than dancing with the girls and boys to Shakira on that day. Disability and the language barrier was overlooked and all that was left was a group of people jumping and twirling to the music with a smile on every face.