by Joanne Olivieri

The air was dense, humid—a pungent aroma of diesel fuel, baked yams, and other harbor delicacies. I’d been sightseeing for hours, roaming the busy streets of Kowloon immersed in cultural flavor. It was time to navigate my way back to the hotel for some R and R before heading out to the waterfront InterContinental Hotel for a little sass-and-class jazz fever.

In an effort to replenish my dehydrated, overwhelmed body, I walked along the Star Ferry promenade—my favorite spot in Tsimshatsui—towards Canton Road, searching for something to quench my hot-flash-induced thirst. I spotted the Golden Arches along Salisbury Road and found my way to the dining area.

It was crowded and noisy, the familiar back-home scenario. I ordered my Diet Coke and sat down at a table with a family of four. Mom, dad, and a little brother and sister, aged about five and six. I greeted them with a hello, quickly realizing they did not speak English when they returned my salutation with nods and smiles.

Having forgotten a straw, I sipped my Coke from the cup. The children were adorable; I was mesmerized by the laughter and wonderment emanating from their sweet eyes.

I watched as the boy bit off the tips of a french fry, inserted it into his ice cream cone, and began sipping. I wondered whether his attempt at using the fry as a straw was indeed working. I’m sure the puzzled look on my face was apparent when out of nowhere he grabbed another fry from the pile and handed it to me. I instinctively knew his intention, bit off the tips…and into my Coke I inserted the fry. Wow! It did work. With a wink and a smile I nodded to the child. I will never forget the smile he returned.

This simple gesture by a young boy made me realize that communication comes from within and language barriers really do not exist as long as we listen with our hearts.

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Joanne Olivieri has been writing poetry for over thirty years. Her poetry has been published in various print and online publications, including The San Diego Arts and Poets Magazine, Cracked Lenses, and Emotions Literary Magazine. She publishes a quarterly, online poetry ezine called Ya’Sou!. Her first chapbook of poetry will be published by Shadows Ink Publications in the fall of 2005.