Day 8: Overcoming Challenges

*We had no cell service for a large portion of our trip, so I’m uploading all of these in chronological order from the US now that we’re back home! They’re all dated by the day they happened.*

Us in the Waorani village!

Day 8: 

Hello hello!

We’re mid-way through our stay with the Waorani in the Amazon! It is the most amazing experience I’ve had in my entire life. We’ve been playing with the children whenever possible, and they’re all adorably shy but very curious. Because they all speak Wao as their first language and sometimes Spanish as a second, it has been nearly impossible to communicate verbally with them. So, I’ve had to resort to gestures, facial expressions, and mimicking. I was scared to try that out at first because we’re spending two and a half days out of reach of cell service. What if I couldn’t figure out how to ask a question? What if I had no idea at all what was going on the entire time and couldn’t figure out how to truly immerse myself in the culture? I was truly worried about all of these things. However, it’s turned out to be, as I said, one of the coolest experiences of my life. Despite being two languages removed from understanding at times, I still have a pretty accurate grasp of what’s happening at any given moment by reading body language, tone, and facial expressions. I’ve never had to rely so heavily on secondary forms of communication, and it’s stretched my mind and perception more than I thought possible.

Language and communication has been my biggest challenge so far. In those moments, I’ve been fairly determined to try to find a solution myself. That means either picking and choosing from my extremely limited vocabulary of Spanish words or trying to communicate through non-verbal cues. If that fails, I try to ask someone else in my study abroad group who knows more Spanish than I do. There have been many times on the trip that I’ve asked “what does that mean” or “how do you say this”, and each time I try to remember the phrase I’ve learned so I can ask one less question next time.

I’ve yet to run into any situations where I flat out cannot communicate and run into a dead end. Worst case scenario, there are non-verbal signals to at least show people I mean well like smiling, waving, or gesturing at what I mean to say. It feels more like a puzzle than a conflict because I know there’s a solution every time (and I’m extremely thankful for those in my group who are fluent in Spanish). 

Until next time,

Katie Gallo

Leave a Reply