The Quiet Nicaraguan and La Lengua of Joy

La Rocha is a quiet man. Not quiet in how he held his tongue, rather quiet in his demeanor. How someone can speak openly and yet still carry such a reserved way baffles me. His words are quick and to the point, always thoughtful and insightful but rarely playful. That is until, he begins to speak in Spanish. Then his words are anything but reserved. 

The second he breaks in to Spanish, his visage transforms from quiet listener to mischievous and abundantly playful. His jokes are quick witted and numerous. It’s as if he was just waiting to strike. Like a verbal Spanish cobra. Except instead of venom, he infects with laughter. 

It’s delightful. 

And it’s all in Spanish. 

Lucky for me I know Spanish or I may have missed this complete change in personality. 

La Rocha is from Central America. Nicaragua to be exact. He is short. Central American kind of short. His underwhelming physical stature might be the reason why his demeanor seems so gentle and understated. I’ve seen small people with big personalities before. And I’ve seen big people with small personalities. What’s most surprising about La Rocha is that it shouldn’t surprise me at all. It shouldn’t surprise me that his most dynamic traits manifest themselves in his native tongue. We all do this. 

I’ve taught tons of students and met many adults who have showed similar traits. They are reserved at first, almost timid, but get them in their “zone” and it’s a new day. This was how it was for La Rocha. 

But why should I care about “zones”?

We are surrounded by people everyday. Many of them we know pretty well. But do we? We might know one side of them but do we know them in theirzone“? This isn’t the superficial rant about not judging a book by its cover. I think it’s an ok analogy but books are much simpler than people. People are complex. And complex systems perform uniquely in certain situations. 

We all have environments in which we are comfortable. What makes us really comfortable is when we can speak our native tongue. For some that might be another language altogether. Spanish. French. Philadelphian – it’s a language, trust me. 

For others their zone might be with a certain group of people – friends, family, teammates. Then there are those whose zone is in a certain place. This might be their home or even a bar or restaurant where “everyone knows their name”. 

If we want to understand others we can ask some questions and have some conversations and that’s all well and good. But if we want to make an impact on others and really see people at their truest then it  is important to find out and meet them in their zone. That is when authentic relationships are forged. And while we’re at it we might even find our own zone along the way. 

Over the past decade God has allowed me to travel the world – from Europe and Africa to Asia and the Middle East. I am extremely grateful. Having seen countless wonders, now that I’m home in Philadelphia, one thing stands true. 

None of those places mean anything, 

They were beautiful and stunning and sublime but they in the end the are here then they are not. As the writer in Ecclesiastes would say, they are a “chasing after the wind”. Pursuing such wonders will bring no lasting joy. 

What does bring joy? People. 

It is the relationships we form with people along the way that have had and will have the most eternal significance. 


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