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(Photo taken by Connor Reppuhn from the top of Alicante Castle)

Traveling is the greatest source of education. The only way to learn a new culture and a new language is by immersing yourself in that environment. My friends and I traveled to Alicante, Spain for four days. Right off the bat, we had to find a taxi to take us to our hostel; understandably, our taxi driver spoke Spanish. We managed by pulling up a picture of our hostel, but this example is the premise of our trip. Everywhere we went and everything we did was a challenge because of the language barrier.

However, this was not a bad thing. Spoken language is just one part to many in the ideas of communication. For example, I went to St. Mary’s Cathedral a few weeks ago only to find out it was entirely in Polish. I stayed the entire time not only because all Catholic masses have a similar structure, but because I could actually feel and understand their praises in another language. The passion was there and I embraced it. 

My friends and I trotted up the coast of Alicante one day and came across a man in the middle of a park. He appeared homeless, with many layers, pockets upon pockets, and a scruffy beard. He jokingly said something about the three of us at a park, but none of us understood what he said because it was Spanish. We told him we didn’t understand, but he seemed to be in the mood to chat regardless. One of my friends took a few years of Spanish in high school, so he was able to pick apart a few words here and there to translate for us, but most of what was said was jibberish. Nonetheless, my friends and I stood in a park for an hour with a man we knew not.

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(Photo taken by Connor Reppuhn of Paco and his crucifix)

We learned that his name was Paco; he had several sons that were involved in science professions as well as the military, and we asked if we could pray with him when we discovered he was a fellow Christian. The man wanted nothing but a conversation and the barrier of us speaking a different language did nothing to hinder him from doing so. I am very grateful to have met Paco and I hope he is doing well. 

We met all sorts of folk in Alicante. On this four-day trip alone, we met someone from France, Germany, China, Russia, Netherlands, Poland, Italy, Norway, South Africa, and Spain. I’ve never met that many different people in the 18 years I have lived in the United States. We were acquainted with a few particular friends; one was a Polish man named Maciek, another was a French woman named Mathilde, and the third was a French man named Axel. Maciek was incredibly friendly, and talked about how he wanted to visit the States, but mentioned how it wasn’t quite plausible to get a visa because he was Polish. Mathilde on the other hand said she was very eager to visit us in Scotland, but not so much the United States. Axel said he would try to visit, but he is currently studying at a technology university in France. We spent every night with Mathilde and Axel in the common room of the Hostel to get to know them more. We learned that Mathilde spoke French, English, and Spanish and that she worked at the hostel in exchange for free room and board. She plans to travel around the world as a photographer and I hope she finds her way to the U.S. someday. 

Axel was able to join us for our day trip to Benidorm. He was also a photographer, and the two of us stopped frequently to capture Benidorm and all of it’s beauty. He is a great character, even better company, and I hope to see him again in the future.

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(Photo taken by Connor Reppuhn of Axel in Benidorm)

Everyone we met with spoke at least two languages; I’m truly perplexed. Nonverbal communication was helpful in every sense, but language is beautiful. I feel inspired to learn a new language, or many languages, for it will connect me to people I might never have known before. I wish I could have fully understood Paco’s stories. Maybe in a few years time, I will have deja vu, but will be able to communicate within their language. 

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