When you say nothing at all

By Beth Pollak

Today was supposed to be a day for third-party interviews through an interpreter.

Ten students plus one interpreter equals no one-on-one interaction. Or so we thought.

At one house in the rural village we visited, we stopped for fresh coconut juice. “Fresh”means someone literally climbed a tree to get us each a fruit, which we sipped from with a straw.

While we waited for our host to return with our treat, a huge entourage of village children sat underneath the house with us. Fifteen or so flowed in and out while we waited, but all were interested in getting a picture taken, then seeing the resulting image. These kids melted my heart.

One kid in particular kept smiling and waving at me. She looked to be around four years old and had two bandages taped under her chin. She wore only a blue and yellow plaid skirt.

If I could have gotten the interpreter to myself and talked to her, I would have asked her what had happened, and how old she was, and if she went to school. Since I could do none of those things – the interpreter was busy cutting the coconut for us – I had to improvise.

“Hello,” I said.

No response.

I motioned with my camera, indicating I wanted to take her picture, and she bashfully obliged. Afterwards, as I do with all children I photograph, I turned the camera around so she could see herself on the screen. She giggled.

I pulled my sunglasses from my neck and animatedly put them on my face. I then pulled them off and gestured for her to do the same. She grabbed them from me slowly and placed them on her face. I snapped another picture to show her what she looked like – really, the picture was for me – and she giggled again and covered her face.

With no words at all, we both got a few laughs and a memory.

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2 comments so far

  1. Cody Thompson on

    So I am a little sappy lately but this made my emotions get stuck in my throat–you know the feeling right before your tears well up?

    I can’t wait to see all of you pictures, Frances!

  2. Cody Thompson on

    Or I supposed I should say Beth! This was really sweet.


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