These are some of my favorite communication/language moments:
- RTC is a very international community. Students come from a number of different countries: Rwanda, Uganda, Congo, Sudan, etc. The staff also come from a lot of countries and many of them are from Korea. Last week I was eating lunch with a number of African staff when one of them looked at me and said, "Your English is very good. Are you Korean?" Another lecturer looked at him and said, "English is her native language. She should be telling you if your English is good or not." We all laughed a lot; I am rediscovering that laughter builds relationships and overcomes language barriers. And even though it was funny there is also a certain reality about it because, let's face it, they can't tell the difference between Korean and American and I can't tell the difference between Sudanese and Kenyan (although, I am getting a bit better).
- As I am learning to speak the local language, Luganda, I am well aware that I sound like a child most of the time. I can greet people and say a few simple phrases, including 'My name is Rachel. I want to learn Luganda' (in Luganda, of course). A few weeks ago a student came in to get his textbooks and he said 'I am here to study English'. I responded with, 'That's great! And, how are you today?'. To which he replied, 'I am here to study English'. I found his response so endearing. I hope the Ugandans find me endearing when I keep saying the same thing over and over again.
- One of my favorite non-verbal responses here is a simple eyebrow raise to answer 'yes'. It took me a while to figure this out but now I love it. I even find myself using it to answer 'yes'. Much easier than having to speak. Of course, it also means I have to be careful about when I raise my eyebrows so as not to flirt with any men or summon a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) unknowingly.
- Spelling and letters are different here; many Ugandans think my name is spelled 'Recho'. And when students try to spell their names for me...eek! I am terrible. They say 'a' and I write 'e' or vice versa. I am learning a lot about listening carefully!