Imagine, you’ve been preparing to go on a mission trip for months and you’ve finally touched down in Chincha Alta, Peru, a region roughly two hours from Lima and two hours away from the likelihood of running into anyone fluent in English.
This was my experience in the summer of 2015.
Of course, we had people in our group who spoke Spanish, and the missionaries who were hosting us knew English. So we had translators, but they couldn’t be everywhere at once. Everywhere we went, we stood out. Our group stood out so much, people would approach us asking all kinds of questions, the most common of which was “are you Americans?”
Our strangeness alone served as a really good conversation starter. So much so that people would approach us no matter the situation to find out what we were doing.When there were more curious people than translators, some people would try talking to rest of the group.
Maybe they thought we knew more Spanish than we were letting on, or maybe they just wanted to hear our hilariously bad attempts at small talk. I’m not sure.Everyone was so interested that our group visited seven schools even though we had only made arrangements to visit four.
In a way, we were experiencing a missionary’s dream: a bunch of people interested in anything we had to say.
Unfortunately, most of us could barely make small talk. We did our best, handed out tracts, played games with the kids and talked as much as we could.
A few members of our group were able to communicate fairly well even though they weren’t fluent, to the point that with some patience, they could hold full conversations. They attributed this to putting a lot of effort into Spanish class.
My friends’ knowledge of the language combined with the frustration of being unable to really talk with many of the people I met, inspired me to take Spanish classes in college.
My goal is that, someday, I would be able to communicate with more people, both here and abroad.