Communicating is Connecting.
The door of the Prius closed symbolizing my complete detachment from anything familiar in a country half way across the world. I didn't realize it then, but I was now a part of the Komatsu family. For the next two days it was me, my host brother Takuma, his parents and their little dog "Loco". The short twenty minute drive to my new home felt like two hours as we struggled to get acquainted with each other, blending two distinctly different languages and cultural upbringings. Though the app iVoice helped with some of the translation, explaining things like how to use a bidet on a Japanese toilet without using words simply can't notbe awkward. At that point, I assumed that communication was going to be challenging, if not nearly impossible. That I would remain a stranger in this families home. That it would be uncomfortable, if not unbearably awkward. That they would be hospitable, but that in no way would I be able to connectwith them. To be utterly transparent: I was apprehensive, nervous and merely trying to survive this part of my Japan experience. Especially the meals.
My host brother directly in front of me, his mother beside him and his father to my left, I began sifting through the dinner menu, pointing out pictures of what might look good, nodding and smiling politely when they pointed to an item and asked me something in Japanese. I figured, as long as we have something to do, like order our food, it wouldn't be awkward. Unfortunately, ordering only took about 37 seconds and then we were back to our guessing game of a conversation. After a tenth failed attempt at communicating a question I had, I slumped into my cushion feeling defeated. Before I could so much as look up I felt an arm around my shoulder pull me towards its owner which was quickly followed by a cheery and joyous, "CHEEEESSSSEEE!" *flash* The camera went off. Dumbfounded they passed the camera around all laughing at the look of surprise and shock on my face in the picture. Without skipping a beat I duplicated in dramatic effect the face I had during the photo, adding to the laughter at the table. For the rest of the evening, we communicated not through our words, but through laughter. Through pictures, facial expressions, plates of food and raw human emotions. In fact, I had one of the best dinners of my life and barely spoke a word.
By the time I left I couldn't help but reflect on the fact that not even one of my assumptions was proven true. Through sharing pictures of our families, our hobbies and our passions I felt as if I could communicate better with them then some people who spoke English. Karate lessons from the dad and practice sessions with my host brother gave me a sense of home and belonging. Family breakfasts, watching Japanese game shows that I'm not even sure they understood and exchanging of personal gifts helped build a connection between myself and a family half way across the world I don't even have with my own neighbors.
Communicating is not about speaking or delivering a message. If communicating is viewed as something that occurs from one human to another; then our effort is for naught. We must view communication as an established mutual connection that will create change. Communicating is connectingand connections are powerful. As human beings, we have the ability and opportunityto connect with every other human being on this earth for one simple reason: they are also a human being. We all love to laugh, to eat, to share our passions and to feel like someone has connected with us.
In the end my biggest assumed obstacle turned out to be the least of my worries. Don't let something as small as a foreign language stop you from communicating and creating a connection. Life is about making the lives of other people better... and what better way to do so than creating a karate-kicking, laughter filled, hula dancing, japanenglish speaking, human being connection.