Te iubesc. I love you.
I didn’t even see the small white van arrive, or the 10 kids that scrambled out of it. Their plastic bags filled with all their belongings looked miniscule compared to our 30 pound suitcases. Shy faces barely moving muscles as they glanced at us in wonder, one little girl lagged behind the rest. Her shining green eyes smiled the way her mouth didn’t know how to. Her skin was darker than mine, but it was washed out and sick looking. Entering the bunkroom after her, I went to her and said in the best Romanian I could, “Cum te numeşti?” Laughing at my accent, and most likely incorrect word usage, a small but powerful voice replied to me, “Daniella.” She smiled. The rest of the week she wouldn’t leave my side, well only to sleep. We had, maybe, two coherent conversations. We didn’t even need translators to talk. I believe in the value of being lost in translation.
Not being able to communicate with someone is one of the hardest things a human can experience. We were made to be together and understand one another. From Daniella I learned that no words are needed to get your point across. A hug can be translated into any language. A smile is known as happiness by anyone. Eyes can speak things the mouth can’t. Daniella pulled me around all over the compound and I learned the true art of communication. She would talk and talk and I would smile and listen, not knowing a thing that she said to me. But in those moments with her I could understand. I still remember her shouting every night as she left my side, “Noapte buna, te iubesc, Cori.” And I would reply with, “Goodnight Daniella, I love you too.” Even though I did not know one bit of Romanian, I knew that little girl had one big heart.
Five days after the white van had arrived, it pulled up the mountain drive way once again. Daniella clung to me and cried as she realized she would have to go home. Tears are another thing that can be translated into any other language. She cried as she packed her plastic bag and as I brushed her hair. Bringing her out to the van with the other children was unlike anything I’ve ever done. Daniella began singing me a song that I think she made up her self. “I love you, I love you, I love you, te iubesc…” She knew, every night that I shouted after her, she knew that I was telling her I loved her. I took that little face in my hands, stained with hot tears, and said, “Te iubesc, Daniella, nu uitaţi că. I love you, Daniella, never forget that.” I said those words for her, but also for my self. I would never forget this little girl who taught me how to love, when it feels impossible. I believe in the value of being lost in translation.