There was a boy, about 12 years old, traveling by himself on the scenic train ride we took in Switzerland. He was seated two seats away from me but the car was relatively empty so the few of us who were in there kept switching seats to get a better view of the beautiful landscape. There is so much natural beauty in the Swiss Alpine region it’s hard to choose which side of the the train to look out from. When there was a particularly awe-inspiring sight, we’d poked our heads out of the windows.
“Achtung!” the boy warned me. The train was going through a tunnel and, bewitched by the gorgeous vista, I didn’t realize it then. “Danke” I thanked him, effectively using 25% of my total German vocabulary. [The other 75% consisting of the words "bitte"- please; "auf wiedersehen"- goodbye (thanks to Heidi Klum and Project Runway) and "würste" - German sausage (which wasn't very useful since I don't eat sausages). I don't know even know if I can construct a coherent sentence with those words: "Please! Sausage? Goodbye." See what I mean?]
Anyway, language proved not a problem for us and the boy and I continued communicating throughout the journey using a series of gestures and sound effects.
At one point, the train stopped close to a herd of cowbell-wearing cows. Hearing the bells jingle softly as the cows lumbered across the field was a surreal experience. I knew what cowbells sounded like, but this was in real-life stereo. So authentic. And soothing. I pictured myself living in the mountains doing nothing but painting landscapes and eating fine Swiss Chocolates for breakfast when the kid gave a loud “Moo!”, interrupting my daydream. The train started moving again and the crowd continued their seat-shuffling routine. The boy did a little monkey dance and pointed at everyone, himself included, suggesting that we all looked like monkeys. I looked around and nodded in agreement. We both giggled quietly and put our fingers on our lips, not wanting to share this silly little observation with anyone else.
The boy suddenly turned to a man in front of him and with much excitement, pointed to something in the distance while saying something in German. The guy replied, “Sorry kid, I don’t speak your language,” unaware of the fact that for the past hour I had been talking to the boy without the need to utter a single word.