We’ve recently returned from a family journey in Spain and spent most of the time in the city where many people of different nationalities live, who speak a multitude of languages. Lots of people there went out of their way to be helpful and seemed eager to share their culture with us. I do not speak Spanish but just a tiny bit, still we all managed to communicate effectively what with my well-meaning attempts at Buenos dias, Buenos tardes, a whole lot of Holas and of course, when it came to ordering food and wine, I just pointed and said “este!” The trip was a lot more spiritually enriching than I expected it to be, because the Spanish people were so kind and generous.
This is not to say that there were not moments of hopeless laughter like when I tried to order iced coffee, my daily habit. Apparently, iced coffee is more of a rare thing in Spain than here. It’s not like can drive in to any old Dunkin’ Donuts and choose from a myriad of flavored coffee concoctions. So, needing that daily caffeine buzz, I learned how to ask for it by ordering coffee with ice on the side. That seems simple, doesn’t it? However, at a café in Seville I cluelessly ordered a coffee with ice cream on the side. In Spanish ice is hielo, but instead I had asked for helado or ice cream! The woman who ran the café looked at me as if I was from Mars and I might as well have been. There’s really nothing bad about the idea of coffee and ice cream but it just isn’t a thing Spain, which is why it seemed so silly. Now, as some of you know, I can be pretty darn silly so I usually wouldn’t care about being perceived as such. However, I was embarrassed in that moment which made me feel uncomfortable, even though it was only me, my daughter and the cafe owner. It can be awkward to be in foreign, unfamiliar situations, right? It can be humiliating when you are not understood because of a language or cultural misunderstanding or you have a disability of some kind. That “out of your comfort zone” feeling is exactly why travel is so important. It disarms us and we