Today I am writing about language, and how although most of the time very important to me as a person and poet, is also not very important. I am back in the community I have been staying for the past two months. There are two tourists staying with the community who are from France, and this morning sitting around the breakfast table there were four languages: Kichwa, Spanish, French, and English. After we ate we thanked the cook in all four; Pagarachu, Gracias, Merci, Thank you.
We had a guayusa ceremony this morning, and Frederico said that an example of why guayusa was so important was because we were all here together, even though we are from three different countries, three different continents, to learn from each other. I realized that despite language barriers I was learning so much simply by observing.
Waiting for the bus today to town, the eldest woman of the community, who is 100 years old, came to sit next to me. She is monolingual, and speaks only Kichwa. When she has spoken with me in the past I have had a difficult time, because she reminds me a lot of my grandmother, and because I desperately want to speak with her and learn from her I usually end up getting upset that we can´t communicate. Today, however, I thought about my grandmother and how now we don´t communicate though language anymore anyway. She had a stroke a few years ago, and now we have to communicate mostly through body language. When I considered this, I began studying this woman´s face instead of turning away in embarrassment as I usually do. She kept talking, and from studying her expressions I found out so much.
The turning of the stiff hands and the expression of pain, the same expression while rubbing the stomach and pointing down the road to the nearest medical office. The upturning of the pockets of her dress. The tears in her eyes. The glance down at the hand, the turning of the wedding ring. The distant expression of loss and remembrance. These are the things that are important, and these are the things we should pay attention to when communicating with one another, because a lot of people, especially in my generation, don´t really listen to one another. We are more interested in talking about ourselves. If we would simply look at each other, we could be listening much more clearly, and learning a lot more about one another, and about the world around us.