Monday, May 5, 2014

Used Up Words

It's hard when the novelty of being a westerner wears off. I've used up all my words and any new conversation is tedious. The neighbours have seen in my home. They see how we dress everyday and see what we eat. They've heard our tone of voice when happy or upset and know our weekly schedule. Our daily habits no longer as interesting, our interactions reduced to "Good morning" and a friendly wave.

I told my teacher I'd run out of conversation and he simply replied, "Yes, but you still have to try. You are getting better."


I am so eager to learn. Eager to move past the surface level conversations and talk about deeper things. I want to connect and build real meaningful friendships.

But when people stop trying to talk to you because it's just plain difficult and takes forever to communicate anything - What's a girl to do? Even a girl who is eager to learn?

Ben, Isaiah and my frustrated language lacking self attended church on Sunday. Everyone smiled and shook my hand, but offered no conversation beyond the usual "Happy Sunday!"

After the service we stood on the church patio enjoying snacks and smiling awkwardly when my one English speaking Indonesian friend came bounding towards us. "You're back! How was Wamena? Did you like it?" We began offering answers in English and she interrupted, "When can we speak more Indonesian?" Ben and I looked at each other, "I don't have more Indonesian." I said with a shrug. "Well, everyone here wants to talk to you, they just don't know what to say!"

Wait. What? People still want to talk to me?

"Really?" I asked, not quite believing it. "Really!" she responded with a smile. And I quickly went over to Ibu Gembala to ask for a ride to the woman's Ibadah on Monday. Through limited words and mostly hand gestures I managed to arrange a ride.

People still want to talk to me. It's amazing, but she was right and so was my teacher. "You still have to try. You are getting better."

So I reach back into my brain and try to put my few words into new sentences. At the Ibadah I stumble through the sharing time and even add a request prayer. The women, staring at me with huge smiles, almost will the words out of me.

Turns out that even my neighbours, who had given up trying to talk to me, are still interested in conversation. I just needed to listen to my teacher and stop complaining about the words I don't have. Difficult or not, I needed to try again with the words I do have.

And you know what? I managed to arrange a trip to the salon this week with Ibu Gembala. If there was ever a perfect place for building relationships with local women, I'm pretty sure the salon is it.

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