Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Summer Connections

Originally Posted on the Common Threads Blog
Centre Daily Times, Sept 4, 2008

I have been away from State College for a little more than five weeks now.

My family and I travelled long distances physically and emotionally as we made our way to India, where we spent a few weeks. My husband and I met family, and also got some work done – our ten year old daughter however, was determined to exclusively make it a family oriented vacation.

She played with first and second cousins, and any other children she befriended in India. And I watched fascinated, as the kids made their connections with each other.

My daughter spoke Malayalam or English, and sometimes a little Tamil, with most of the children she met – they could be seen running around, reading, working on art projects, watching movies, playing computer games or engaged in pretend play.

And even when she met children with whom she did not share a common language, they resorted to universal games like catch or hide and seek, and had a delightful time.

Often, I heard them trading stories about their school experiences. They exchanged email addresses to keep in touch, and I am soon expecting emails to be flying across the oceans.

Then came our stay in the United Kingdom. At the international conference my husband was attending, attendees came from forty different countries, and my daughter met a few children of other attendees. Some spoke no English, or were shy to use it. And yet, during our days at the conference, the kids found ways to interact with each other.

My daughter made friends with a 12 year old from Korea, who initiated contact by asking for my daughter’s signature in an autograph book she was creating.

My daughter learnt how to ask her yes/no questions, and forged a working relationship with her. Then there was the 8 year old from Portugal, who used his camera to capture everything around him, and who promised to keep in touch by email.

And a ten year old from Japan who made origami creations for my daughter, who reciprocated by drawing pictures for her.

All these children were able to overcome linguistic and cultural barriers to find a way to connect. They used the common language of childhood, sometimes playing, building, and even simply smiling – managing to form bonds, in spite of being raised on different continents.

I wonder how their relationships will evolve, and whether they will manage to stay in touch.

All of us adults, who got to watch these children connect, shared a common language too - as we watched the children indulgently, and laughed at how easily they got along, and how similar they were in what they wanted to do with their time together. Children will be children, our laughter and smiles seemed to indicate… they are the same everywhere.

I wonder if the adults grasped how similar we were to each other, and how we too could easily find myriad ways to connect. As long as we are willing to acknowledge and understand the language of our common humanity.

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