A Haze of Languages
Morning light struggles through a stubborn haze as the sun tries furtively to break the chill. Simply walking to the mess building tickles my toes with cold, as I pass by a few well-bundled people trying to keep the morning shivers at bay. Truly, the mess isn’t even open as the staff doesn’t think anyone would want to be out in this cold. So we surprise a worker who is still wrapped in sleep on top of one of the cafeteria tables.
Breakfast will not be soon in arriving, so my hosts take me for a walk about campus. Despite the growing traffic cruising the nearby road, there is a morning stillness about the yet to awake campus, the haze still burning away to reveal the world beyond our home for the next two weeks.
Breakfast finished (which I cannot describe as I am never quite sure what I am eating here), we head over to the lecture hall for our daily workshop. On the way, a bit of sun breaks through and momentarily warms our backs as we disappear into the imposing concrete building.
Our work starts with an activity led by the Sri Lankan theatre group, stirring our excitement through a simple chant full of determined foot – stamping. The next few hours are bundled with exercises, idea exploration and careful discussion. I say careful because our multi-nation group consists of several languages, with no one language an easy common ground. At any given time we have three translations working simultaneously and individuals seeking out others to help them make sense of the current topic.
Despite this, the assembled group decides to work in mixed language teams, and our early exercises are chock full of learning to communicate in multiple ways to find and achieve common goals. The participants point out that as our biggest challenge and greatest learning together.
As we work through the haze of multiple forms of communication, the mixed teams will soon each devise a small play. What will be the language of each? How will they penetrate the persistent challenge of verbal language to communicate with their eventual audience? That is the next bright step in our journey together.