Fellow Travellers in the World of Diversity… - [website] Email Print
Published: 15th of Nov 2017 by: Carolyn Kessler

It seems like ages since I last put fingers to my keyboard and produced a blog. In actual fact, it’s been about a month – and what a month it has been!

My husband and I spent the first two weeks of October visiting our daughters overseas – my first trip to that country. It was both exciting and bewildering.

Firstly, I didn’t speak the language and my husband was kind of rusty, not having spoken it for some time. This could have made things rather more complicated had we not had our kids to negotiate the intricacies of a very different culture.

Knowing my insecurities, my girls had sent numerous messages and voice notes explaining how we were to make our way from the airport and complete the hour long trip to their apartments.

I’m unable to sleep on a plane no matter how hard I try. Believe me, I wasn’t feeling at all sanguine when we arrived at 5 am with the prospect of navigating our way to them - on our own! I was a little disappointed, but understood they both had to work and leave was in short supply due to the demands of their respective jobs.

Being a number 6 on the Enneagram, I need everything to be well thought through and locked down tight in a detailed itinerary which covers absolutely everything from falling off the pavement to a nuclear holocaust!

We encountered our first hiccup when claiming our baggage. You had to have a credit card to insert and unlock the trolleys. Credit cards do not feature in my husband’s view of the world, so we were stuck with carrying our belongings – or would have been.

I had noticed a wonderfully dressed lady who was on the flight. She was wearing a bohemian type of outfit crafted out of a deep burgundy lace and carried herself with quiet poise, managing to look perfect even after a sleepless 8 hour flight! She asked me in Afrikaans if she could help and, hearing our home language coupled with the inherent kindness one comes to expect from many South Africans abroad, opened my flood gates. I could have kissed her, but settled for a hug. She explained she came from Stellenbosch and spent three weeks every year in the country on an artists’ retreat. She also used her credit card to liberate a trolley for us and in return, my hubby carried her cases to her trolley. She then vanished into the crowd after wishing us a wonderful stay.

I can’t describe my excitement when we entered the arrivals hall and, lo and behold, there were my two girls and my eldest daughter’s fiancée to meet us! (They’d fooled me beautifully – keeping secrets in our family is no small feat!)

If you’re still with me so far, you’re probably wondering at the point of this blog. Well this seemingly inconsequential little incident at the airport really brought home the value of having a sense of belonging and comfort in the familiar.

So the points I’d like to highlight are, firstly: I was able to draw on the insight into my own behaviour because I understood that my feelings of apprehension from being a 6 on the Enneagram. I didn’t dismiss my anxieties – I understood them. That’s a practical application of the insight gained once you’ve worked with this powerful tool in self-mastery.

Secondly, I train on Diversity often and, the interaction with the lovely lady from Stellenbosch, illustrated the value to be found in identifying ‘one of my own’ in an alien environment. It brought home, in a very real way, the importance of connection to that with which you are familiar. It’s not about being exclusive; it’s about belonging – something that’s essential for every one of us. I can’t speak Afrikaans very well at all, know very few people from Stellenbosch, and can’t paint to save my life – but we were fellow travellers.

Let’s bring this feeling of being fellow travellers home to South Africa – remembering that we are far more alike than we are different!

Staff Training is a soft skills training provider. Contact us at 0861 996 660.

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