The drizzle of the cold rain accompanied me as I walked, umbrella in hand, to the brick building located in the far corner of the alley. Pulling the open side door open, I stepped inside the warm building.
People from various backgrounds loitered in the hallway, eyeing each other awkwardly. Chairs were neatly lined in a circle, and the scent of freshly made coffee wafted through the spacious room.
Finding a spot, I slide into a chair, fiddling with my hands as strangers intermingled around me. I wanted to put myself out there more and try new things, but maybe I was in over my head. Not a single person resembled me, and the small chatter scattered through the room was foreign to me. Did I make a mistake?
A tall woman, warmly dressed, called our attention to the front. The time had come for us to do what we aimed to exchange our native language for growth and bonding. We all slid into the chairs spreading out to retain a safe distance from one another, and awkwardly avoided one another’s gaze. The silence needed to be broken to begin, and since I was closest to the moderator, I was chosen. Inhaling deeply, I willed my pounding heart to slow down. I could do this. I could speak Korean in front of these strangers.
However, when my lips parted, all basic understanding of Korean left and English, the language most familiar to my tongue, came tumbling out. The rest of the exchange went similarly. For two hours, we chatted about our different cultures and countries. We tried to better understand each other as individuals and how our environments shaped our views on the world.
The language exchange ended with a fun game in English and Korean before we went our separate ways. Even though I failed to speak my target language well, and the challenge was a bit nerve-wracking, the others’ kindness around me encouraged me to keep trying.
I am looking forward to next week when we will gather again~