Joy Has No Language- Matt Broeren

9-10 months ago, I was accepted to come onto this trip. As a non-spanish speaker, my first worry was communication. How do I communicate to someone over such a large language barrier. Since then, I had been using an app called Duolingo in a desparate attempt to learn enough Spanish before going. I thought I was going to be set. It’ll be okay. It’ll work out just fine.


We left on Sunday at 3:30 AM from Duquesne University to arrive here at about 6 PM. I was to be left without the help of Duolingo now to hopefully know enough Spanish to be able to do something. However, I was also in possession of a phrasebook. This phrasebook was going to be my crutch. My ability to speak would be based on this book and anything else I had learned from Duolingo. I can do this. I will speak Spanish. This will work out.


We arrived in the Capital at about 1 PM and were in a bus on our way to San Juan de la Maguana at 2:30 PM. I had been reading some of the signs and was picking up what some of them meant. I thought I may actually be in the clear. The guy who came to meet us at the airport from the Parish was named Yeuri. This is my test.


To be truly honest, I had no clue what he was saying. I could barely pick up when he was saying even the most basic of words. Obviously, I was stressed out. All that time of attempting to learn felt wasted. I attempted to pull out my phrasebook to ask a question about how much sugar the country made in a given year. It should be easy. All I needed was the words for “make” or “produce” and I can form the sentence. Opening the index of my phrasebook and continuing to search through my own learning, I felt my stomach drop. Oh no, I only know Spanish for tourists.


The stress I felt leading up to the first morning of camp was due to the fact that I did not know the Spanish necessary to communicate to the kids what the activity was. Thankfully, Emily, who was in the same group as me, gave me some words that would be important. This gave me some relief, but I had a feeling I would not be able to translate enough. Nonetheless, when I heard everyone talking in the meeting room this morning, I felt lost once again. Well here goes nothing.


I tried to see if I could see or explain anything, but it was to not avail. Yeuri invited me to join in to one of the games that was being played. The laughter and fun was relaxing, even if I didn’t know what anyone was saying. I could communicate joy, they could communicate joy back. This was the new language I am going to have to speak. I do not have to speak Spanish and I probably didn’t need to go through the time to learn it. The language I need to speak is joy.


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