In the moment... in another language

In a lovely alternate reality, I travel frequently and I am fluent in several languages...because I'm fortunate that way: languages come easily to me. In the reality I haven't made up, though, I still have a pretty good life and often get to have pretty interesting experiences. But I can barely manage to comprehend fourteen words spoken to me in Spanish.

My friend Sarah invited me to help her host some visitors in her home for dinner last night. They're from Guatemala and Mexico, and are visiting several cities in this country. They traveled with a translator and that's about all we knew before they arrived at 6:30. Sarah enjoys entertaining but it isn't always easy for her. Stress happens. I, on the other hand, tend to approach entertaining strangers from another country plus their translator kinda' like I approach most everything else: hey, this might be fun! Think I'll make a fool of myself before the end of the evening? Prolly. Let's do it anyway! No stress in sight.

If you can find an opportunity to spend an evening with people from Anywhere But Here, do. I highly recommend it for so many reasons. It gets you out of your shell of complacency. Everyone's experiences aren't the same, even those who live in the same town as you do. But actually spending time with people whose entire history is quite different from your own feels so valuable. Which is why I jump at opportunities like these every chance I get. People fascinate me. Well-traveled people fascinate me. People who grew up in neighborhoods I didn't even know existed really fascinate me.

Snapshot from dinner: Sarah's across the table engaged in a lively discussion with the visitors from Guatemala. Although I think it was around 1990 when she lived there for two and a half years, her Spanish continues to be quite remarkable and she's impressing the hell out of me. To my right, the guy from Mexico and I have just paused from our talk about Na Bolom, a cultural center in the town where he grew up, where my own sister happened to spend a few weeks, 15 years ago. This exchange has occurred in English mostly, with me managing to understand one or two words of Spanish. This guest is now buttering a piece of bread which is very good bread. A candle flickers and catches my eye. We've left a tiny sticker on the bottom, the logo of the Cape Cod Colonial Candle Company. To my left, the translator leans toward me...subtle. He utters a sentence. I respond, "Really?" and am about to ask him a question for further clarity: the statement captured my interest. He continues, filling in the detail I'm after. I realize then that he hasn't been sharing his own detail, but one from Sarah's story. The rhythms of his translation are so incredible, his tone so natural, that the words he shares are as if his own. Why can't I do that?

The evening continues and when they leave, I find myself wishing they didn't have to go. Each person has been lovely and interesting in his own way. It is likely I will never see any of them again, although life plays jokes and with modern conveniences and technology being what they are, you really never know.

I'm reminded of my thoughts after Sean drove from DC to see me in Baltimore last week. Enjoy the events when they're happening. Eat up the details while you're in them. Be in the moment. Makes our experiences richer. Then we can more fully enjoy the next ones.

It was a truly rich evening.