‘Hola’ Means Hello

“Everything here seems so different,” Martina thought. She had moved to a city far from the farm where she used to live. There were so many more people!

Martina missed her friends. Kids in school here did not speak Spanish. They looked surprised when she skipped from English to Spanish in the same sentence. She had to carefully explain each word.

It made her proud to know more languages than the other kids. But she also felt lonely. Sometimes she could not find the right word in English. No one understood what she was saying.

Every Sunday, Martina went to church. She would sit behind rows and rows of people. All she could see was the backs of their heads. At the church she used to go to, almost all the children had the same straight, dark brown hair as she did. It made her feel like they were all part of a big family.

Here, every head was different. Straight hair. Curly hair. Light hair. Dark hair. Sometimes she even saw purple or green hair! And all the faces were turned away, quiet as mice.

Then, one Sunday, a head turned around. It was a head with curly red hair, very different from Martina’s. It belonged to a boy around seven years old, just like Martina. He was smiling.

“Hello,” Martina said. Then she couldn’t think of another English word. She felt scared. She wanted to hide under the church pew. Instead, she took a deep breath and whispered, “Mi nombre es Martina.”

The little boy said nothing for a moment. Martina’s heart seemed to stop.

“My name is Ryan,” he whispered back. Then he smiled again, took a deep breath, and said: “Hola!”