Arriving on my second day to Buenos Aires, I encountered a group of Afro-Argentine students that changed my life forever. More importantly, they assisted in the process of removing me out of my comfort zone that I never knew existed. On the first day of the cultural exchange program in Buenos Aires, I met Patricio, a 10-year-old Afro-Argentine male that immediately felt that we were brothers. The funny thing was if you examined our facial features for a substantial amount of time you could definitely see the resemblance. However, our connection was deeper than that, because our verbal communication was hindered due to his lacking understanding English and my struggles with speaking in Spanish.
On the first day, we would attempt to have full conversations and we struggled, however, I found out that language as what bridges the gap between countries and the world. Essentially, there is beauty in the struggle. As Americans, we historically have felt that it is important for people to know our language, as we often times believe that English is the universally accepted language. This belief is problematic and hinders our possibility in seeing the beauty of language and how it connects people.
In a joking dialogue but yet a serious conversation with BBB co-founder and ambassador, Delonte, and Johnny both expressed their distaste with the English language and described it as a language that doesn't sound as great to other cultures and it is difficult for other cultures to adapt because English is always changing. However, I believe that bridging the gap falls on the shoulders of Americans. We must remove ourselves and our privilege from the equation and be open to expanding our knowledge base. It truly does begin with us.
Throughout the exchange program, I found myself frustrated due to not being able to fully convey my thoughts in Spanish and the need to have a translator. It was difficult to have to stop, allow for translation, then begin again. That's not dialogue. I felt enabled. I understood that it was a necessity. However, like the conversations had in the United States that are fluid and no gaps, I hope that I can reach that place with Spanish as well. This cultural exchange has shown me how beautiful this language is and how exciting it can be as well.
During our last meeting with the Xango Cultural Diversity Group, we were asked to describe this cultural exchange in three words. There were little slips of paper that were passed out, some slips were in English but the majority were written in Spanish. A young lady by the name of Sofia decided that we would switch our papers. I would take Spanish and she would take English. As she presented her three words in English, I was there the whole way to assist and ensure that she would not be embarrassed with the phonetic sounds of the English language. Also for her to know that she can trust me, as I have entrusted her to help me these past ten days.
Learning a new language requires trust. This is not trusting with only the Xango Cultural Diversity Group in Buenos Aires. I am ready to build that trust with the world and allow language to flow through me in hopes of continuing to make the world a better place. My dream is to speak with Patricio for hours and hours in Spanish, and simply for him to end the conversation with, " Well Done, My Brother". It starts with us. It starts with me. A dream realized.