I have been asked to teach a class to a room full of women. I sit on a chair and smile at them, and they sit around me on chairs and wooden benches, and smile, too.
English? I say.
They look at each other and look at me and we smile at each other some more.
I am teaching a class to women in Lalmati, in the province of Assam, in India, and I do not have a translator.
I tell a small story. I act it out with flapping hands and waving arms and pointing, using all my limited acting skills, and they watch, intense and focused. I know they are not understanding but we try, together.
I pass around pictures of my family and my town. We manage to learn a little about each other, mainly the number of children we each have.
I give each woman a snowflake Christmas ornament. One woman who can speak a tiny bit of English, says, “Flower?”
“Snow,” I say, and I spend fifteen giggling minutes trying to explain snow to women who have never seen it.
Wendy and I bring out plastic beads and gold elastic, and they jump up, eager to each make a bracelet. It seems a cheap thing next to their beautiful saris, but they are excited to make and wear a pretty thing.
I am tired, walking down the mountain at the end of the day. It seems, perhaps, a silly thing, trying to share stories with people to whom I can’t talk. I don’t know their thoughts or impressions or ideas of what we did together. I don’t quite know my own.
We sat in a circle and smiled and struggled to know each other a little and, common language or not, maybe now we do.