After yoga class we're gathered under the gazebo eating a simple European buffet breakfast and drinking weak coffee. It's not yet too hot and a light breeze blows through. I'm the only non-German at the table though everyone speaks English. My companions although very contentious of my inability to speak German have fallen into their native tongue. Sitting at the table surrounded by at least 15 people all mostly speaking German I'm not uncomfortable in the least. Inwardly I curse our American school system for not doing a better job of teaching second languages while I settle into paying attention to the parts I understand, the facial expressions, the laughter, the eye contact, the feeling of being apart but not at all separate. I use this as an opportunity to look at the subtle things I might normally miss in conversation. I see squints of eyes when one person is trying to make another person feel comfortable, I see deep eye contact, hand gestures and laughter. Words are not the only language being spoken here, they never are.
My thoughts drift to something I remember my dad telling me about my paternal great grandmother. My fathers grandmother on his father's side. If I'm remembering correctly my dad said she couldn't speak English, she spoke only Flemish, but she understood English and could read it. I wonder about this women I'm related to but never knew. She lived in a country surrounded by people and grandchildren that she couldn't use words to communicate with. I feel lucky that these friendly people surrounding me can speak my language even if I can't speak theirs. All I have to do is ask them to repeat themselves in English and they'll unnecessarily apologize and start speaking in my language even though I'm the only one who can't speak German.
At the moment I don't want the English, I want the chance to observe to watch without the expectation of speaking. It's a luxury in it's self, a guilty pleasure. When I signed up for this yoga retreat I didn't realize that I would be one of only a few English speaking participants but looking back I realize there was a reason they said the yoga would be in English. I've flown all the the way to Greece to make friends with German and Swedish Yogi's. Sometimes we get the experiences we need and I needed to be emerged in a group of Germans whether I knew it or not.