The announcements rang all over the city. I didn’t know what was said but they were about kankousai, the local river viewing festival. I knew that much. It wouldn’t do any good to be sitting around hiding on a day promising so much excitement and good weather. So I went out. I wandered my way along streets decorated with streamers and flags representing countries from all over the world to the main square near the train station. A stage had been erected where performers could exhibit their arts and booths ran up and down the streets; anything could be purchased from them, from trinkets to jewelry to food. So many colors and sounds and smells to take in. And music…
I browsed the booths and came across two fellows who had tie-dyed shirts hanging from a nearby bush. One of them was playing a didgeridoo. How could I walk away from that?
“Didgeridoo?” I pointed at the instrument.
“Hai!” Followed by a slew of words I don’t know.
“Um… sumimasen. Nihongo wa… a… eh… wakarimasen.”
Big smiles all around.
“Dozo.” One of them pointed to a bench.
“Arigatou gozaimasu,” I said as I bowed and took the offered seat. “I like the didgeridoo.”
He gestured towards the instrument and smiled, then began playing it. The other fellow grabbed a nearby djembe and patted out a tasteful accompaniment to the droning pulse of the didgeridoo. I couldn’t help but join in with my rhythm bones (which were stashed conveniently in my bag). We jammed for a little while and attracted a small crowd. It was fun. We exchanged instruments and played in a variety of configurations. The fellow playing didgeridoo, Ryoma, taught me how to play but I failed miserably (Sadly, I have no skill with instruments requiring air exhaled from my lungs; I laugh too much).
Afterwards, we tried to talk but the language hurdle was difficult to jump, but we did manage to learn more about each other through exaggerated body language and the little bit of language we shared. At the end we exchanged email addresses.
Music made the connection. We shared an experience and had fun. Reflecting, I can imagine that words could have gotten in the way, but instead we found common ground and drove full bore, destroying all those theoretical hurdles and boundaries. Don’t underestimate the power of art. Meaningful connections can be made with complete strangers without saying a word, and suddenly you aren’t strangers anymore. Communication is so much more than words. Go out and give it a try!