Archive for August 9, 2010

Slow by slow.

August 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Connections with people take time.

Recall the last time you went on a road trip with a good friend. You know, the kind of trip where you have been travelling for what seems like days. The remnants of at least three snack stops are scattered at your feet, all the water in the bottles is too hot to drink, and you know every song on the playlist.

Remember the smell of stale chips and dirty feet.

The past two days have been spent in the car, a purple RAV 4 with no shocks and a finicky blinker. I consider those hours to be productive because I am travelling with Chiko–my friend, boss, business master and of course expert at all things Zambia.

I haven’t been here long, but yesterday, on the first leg of the journey back to Northwest province, I was able to look back and remember my first trip to Mwinilunga. We were in the forest fruits van, Chiko and I.

I was new, exhausted. For Chiko this set the “travelling with Ann” standard which to him, means that I sleep pretty much the whole way. Chiko always reminds me of the first trip whenever we travel, he recalls me trying to ask questions, but not really sure what to say. We were trying to get to know each other. Like any relationship, the first part is always the most awkward–both unsure of each other. Conversation seemed forced, uncomfortable. The trip was noticeably long, all I could think about was why on earth someone one place me two days away from the capital city, or that it had been over 500 kilometers since the last proper filling station. The trees were big and there were hills, this was not the Zambia I had expected.

Three months later… I am on the same road with the same person. Yet, things are different, the conversation is unstoppable. We are both bursting with things to say, with ideas, with excitement. We stop only to sing at the top of our lungs when our favorite song comes around again. Naturally we put it on repeat at least two more times. We sing, and we laugh. We give each other a hard time about one thing or another. We remember those times when our texting or phone conversations get a little crass because we are both a bit stubborn. We laugh again, and of course apologize again.

The trip seems short, the roads less bumpy. I feel comfortable in Northwestern province and struggle to imagine living anywhere else. I recognize stops along the way, I am familiar with the route.

Chiko and I are both happy to be out of Lusaka—too much traffic, too many people, one might even say too much anonymity.

I wish I could bring everyone reading this into that RAV 4 with me. I want everyone to be in the backseat, watching as Chiko and I stop mid sentence—we know the song playing and we have to focus on being backup singers 🙂 .

It was one of those moments in my life where I realized the value of time; I realized that Chiko and I have become friends. I don’t know when it happened. Maybe the first time we disagreed, or maybe the first time I brought up a good point and he realized I wasn’t completely useless :), maybe it was when we both discovered similar interests in economics and development, maybe when we started talking about each other’s families.

We didn’t know all of this stuff about each other the first time we met; we didn’t know three months later we would be having an insightful conversation on different business cultures across the world– while eating chicken and chips for the third time that day…

It is the time we spend with people that makes these connections. It isn’t coming into a situation, isolating yourself so you can get the most work done. It isn’t sacrificing human interaction to stare at a computer screen to finish one more report. It isn’t shying away from tough conversations. Agreed, there is a time and a place for all of these things as well, but that’s not the point of this post.

The important thing to me it is treating everyone like your family. It is people buying you food just because “you are there”. It is getting frustrated with someone and both of you laughing about it ten minutes later.

It is about realize that to have the most impact you have treat this like life in Canada, you have to go out and find friends. It is like the first day of university all over again. Thrown into a situation where everyone you meet is new to you, and you know that at the end of it all, some of the people you meet the first day will be your friends, they will be your brothers and your sisters.

So it is about the work, about the reports and the meetings and all the other stuff. But it is also about being happy, being happy with the people you are traveling, hanging out, and working with.

It is making mistakes but not regretting them.

Thanks for reading!!

A work related post is coming soon! Stay tuned!

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