Beyond Words

MC40_ViaRail_20090717_I think my first “multicultural” experience was as a young child, many years ago, riding the train from Vancouver to Winnipeg. I remember that I played with several other children — none of whom spoke English. Somehow, we managed to communicate and it was a fun, enjoyable experience.

It wasn’t until I was much older that I started to wonder how we could possibly have managed to communicate without a common language.

Then, in 2008 I travelled to Romania with one of my cousins. We wanted to see where our grandparents and great grandparents had come from. Neither of us spoke a word of Romanian.

Yet, one day when we were visiting Lasi in north-eastern Romania, I spent about half an hour in “conversation” with a Romanian man who spoke no English. Somehow we managed to communicate and I learned that he had a wife and two children (he showed me their photos) and that he now worked as a security guard.

On another day while we were at an art gallery, I had a conversation with a man who did not speak English but understood it to some degree. He not only spoke Romanian, he also spoke Yiddish — and it just so happens that Yiddish was my first language and I still understand it if it is spoken slowly.

So he spoke in Yiddish and I spoke in English and we learned that his family and mine had come from the same shtetl (small town) north of Iasi.

These experiences have taught me that communication is so much more than having a common language. By being open to using all our senses we can communicate beyond language and in doing so, even a brief encounter can be deeply moving.

- Sara in Powell River, BC