“Oui!” I said, nodding my head enthusiastically to the cashier’s question. She looked at me with a puzzled look, and any small hopes I had of at least pretending to look like I knew what was happening were completely shattered. Realizing my mistake, I corrected myself and responded with “sim,” so flustered by this point I was unable to answer her next question. I just pointed and hoped she understood.
When it comes to learning languages, I am not exceptionally gifted, but I would say I am usually better than average. I took French for seven years, and I am not extraordinarily fluent, but I am reasonably proficient. Sometimes I translate things into French in my head or even use a few French words or phrases here or there without realizing it. And this, combined with the fact I am in a foreign country, is probably what led to this somewhat embarrassing and totally hilarious situation.
It seems like every time I try to learn this new language, the part of my brain responsible for foreign language activates and somehow French spills out—even when everyone else is speaking Portuguese. So, learning this new language has been quite the adventure. But, I am going to keep learning it—or at least trying to.
All throughout this trip, I’ve been making a point to write down, snap a photo of, and remember all the things that remind me of home. Except, recently, I’ve been feeling restless and my heart feels homeless yet also at home everywhere. So, whatever reminds me of Rochester, Kenya, Seattle, Togo, Brazil, and everywhere else– all the places I call home or feel I could someday call home. Sunday, it was the Tim Horton’s in the Toronto airport and the discomfort of a long plane ride. Yesterday, it was a coconut, the landscape, and the McDonald’s I passed on the road. Today, it was a Harry Potter mug, a Portuguese Bible, a beautiful Methodist chapel, and a French word spoken at the wrong time. It reminded me of my last experience in a foreign country, a country I someday hope to visit, my hometown, my school, and all the hilarious and awkward situations I always manage to get myself into.
So, as I struggle to learn this wonderful new language and grow to be more at home in this place that has already begun to steal a part of my homeless, wandering heart, I remind myself to find joy in the hardships, embarrassing situations, and happy moments alike. Because no matter where my home is or what language I’m speaking, those moments remain constant, and they are what make a place home.