Tuesday, June 10, 2008

These Javanese Eyes are A-Smilin'

As soon as we found our seats on the train, I noticed an adorable Javanese face smiling at me from across the aisle. This young boy (probably 7 or 8 years old) was just striking. He had mischievous, yet angelic eyes. I felt an immediate need to make an effort to communicate with him, and he must have received my telepathic request loud and clear. He seemed to me like an old soul. These types usually stand out to me for some reason. Within 5 minutes, he was sitting in the empty seat across from me watching our chess match intently.

I remembered that I had packed 5 English children's books, and reached into my backpack and pulled out what I thought to be the perfect book for my little friend "Peter Pan".

He accepted the book graciously, and, to my great surprise, began reading it aloud...in English! I smiled warmly at him and he looked up at me (numerous times) with this little eye-wink and spry as to say "yeah, that's right, I'm reading!"

After he had carefully studied each picture and read all the words on each page, he closed the book, and let out a very adult sigh of relief. Then, he picked it back up, and patiently thumbed thorough it again. What a great kid!

When he was satisfied with his reading time, he continued to watch our game closely. He pointed out to Mick that he could get me in "check mate" with one move, which Mick did, and won the fame. After this professional advice, we were certain that the kid was a child-chess prodigy, so I let him sit in to play my opponent. Turns out, (perfectly) that the kid actually had no idea how to play! He must have just been lucky?? Weird.

Since he chose to make a permanent seat in our row, we shared our snacks, and I pulled out all the non-English speaking games I could think of. I had to revert back to my time a the orphanage in Cambodia. We played Tic Tac Toe, some drawing games, and what appeared to be an Indonesian version of TTT...though we couldn't quite figure it out!

The boy rambled on the entire ride in Bahasa-Indonesia language, despite the fact that we told him we don't understand. I can only imagine the stories he was so vividly telling us! Complete with expression, and hand gestures galore! i just responded with a smile or a laugh when I thought appropriate, and he kept on going!

HE fell asleep for the last hour of the train ride, and his dad woke him up when we had reached our final destination so that he could say goodbye. He came over, tapped us on the shoulders and offered a firm handshake and thank you. He waved to us until we were out of sight, just like in the movies, and we watched his little face fade off into the distance. What a sweetheart. There's something so special about communication without words. In my Asian travels, I've learned so many times that words are not necessary to communicate. Kindness and open-mindedness, however, is.