Can you have a conversation without words? “Certainly”, you say. With those you feel close to, most of your interaction is silent. However, I’m talking about entire conversations with a total stranger. Now imagine this stranger’s mother tongue is nothing like yours. The answer is still yes.
I was surrounded by a language far different from my own, French. Yet I found that much of what is gained from your interactions with others is found not in speech, but the gestures and smiles offered back and forth.
This weekend I was reunited with a dear friend who lives in Belgium. I was granted the most authentic of experiences. First we visited Brussels where I saw the EU headquarters and many beautiful monuments with a waffle in hand.
I was also featured on the radio show she works at where we discussed drinking ages in the USA vs the ages in Italy. Of course I had to be translated, but they didn’t seem to mind.
I want to save the best part for last so the following piece describes the end of my weekend.
Amsterdam is often regarded with either excitement or judgement, depending upon the generation you ask. Honestly, I find it to be an explicit city, filled with aspects of life that perhaps are often seen as sinful. However, I don’t find this to be negative. Amsterdam is what it is. It provides no misconceptions about what can be found there.
Being a fan of John Green, I of course found the most iconic location featured in The Fault in Our Stars movie adaptation. “I lit up like a Christmas tree”
To preface this bit, I’d like to say that this might have been the most memorable experience yet. So, in other words, keep reading.
My time there began with a brief tour of the city, fairly simple with the common charm of a European city. I met my friend’s family who conveniently did not speak much English. I was greeted with a kiss on the right cheek, the first of many. I traded my firm “American Business” handshake for this foreign gesture and ended up being a fairly convincing Belgian.
Chapi; noun; pronounced [chopee]- The single most interesting tradition within a university; similar to a “frat party” but far, far better
Each of these parties is organized by a specific part of the university. For example, this specific party was put on by my friend’s college, the translation and communication school. I was clearly in luck that a fair number of those present are earning a degree to translate.
The tradition is to decorate a white lab coat with (usually) cartoon characters of your choosing, along with the signatures of friends. It is NEVER to be washed, no matter how dirty.
I was introduced as “Romane’s friend from America” or so I think. It was all said in French so in truth I can’t be sure. This was met with cheek kisses, kindness and a specific cheers from Liege.
Here’s to you, Liege
A picture is worth a thousand words, regardless of the language it’s translated to.