One of the biggest fears in travel is arriving in a place not speaking the local language. I think this fear often steers travelers in the direction of same language countries. After all, how much easier for it for an American to travel to Australia than Austria? Americans of course, tend to be among the worst offenders. Because so much of the world has at least a working knowledge of English, Americans tend not to make an attempt to learn other languages or even a few simple phrases in the host country’s dialect.
Have no fear, however, some of the best conversations I’ve ever had, have been “non” conversations. It’s amazing how easily we can communicate without the spoken word. Of course, as scuba divers, it is essential we have a basic form of non verbal communication, a global language of hand gestures to indicate basic commands and questions such as: go up, go down, stop, how much air do you have or look at the big shark!
Here in Indonesia, our dive guides have a smattering of English words and I have an even smaller smattering of Bahasa but I had a lengthy and hilarious conversation yesterday with Eddy, my guide, underwater. It went something like this:
Eddy found a scorpionfish and pointed it out to me. This is an extremely poisonous fish, well camouflaged within the reef and if you are not careful, you can fall victim to it’s excruciating sting as I did one day a year ago by stepping on one off the beach. Anyways, Eddy pointed out the fish. I returned his gesture with a pantomime motion of stabbing it to death. Since my unfortunate encounter, I wish them all ill fortune (in a simple joking manner!). Eddy agreed with me saying we should kill it and eat it. Not being one to indulge in seafood, I waved off his invitation to dine and pointed to my foot with a stamping motion indicating my past history with the fish.
Here we were at 70 feet under the water with schools of fish swirling around us, concentrating on telling stories!
Eddy wiped his brow in understanding and what I thought was sympathy and then a huge burst of bubble erupted from his regulator. He was laughing hysterically at me probably for doing something so dumb as stepping on the fish! He laughed so hard his mask flooded. I rubbed my eyes with closed fists to tell him that I was a cry baby from the pain of the sting which sent him into more peels of laughter. Of course, laughter being infectious, it send me into giggles as well.
So here we are the two of us, masks flooded, doubled over in fits of hilarity, bubbles bursting from our mouths over a simple story of the worst pain in my life as the current hurls us down the reef. We kind of slapped each other on the shoulder and then just continued with our dive. We didn’t talk about it after the dive, the whole story had been told and understood under the sea, conversation over.
Sometimes it’s the wordless conversations that are the best way to communicate and build a base for a friendship. I wonder what Eddy and I will “talk” about today in the blue?
To Your Adventures!