Friday, August 17

Where do I begin?

I hear people say "Where do I begin" all the time, but right now, I really mean it. I can't begin to accurately describe the week I've had. Only the 40 or so people who went through it with me understand. Still, I'll try to explain some of it.

The days were divided between two excellent instructors with polar opposite teaching styles and emphasis. We learned that they went to college together. One is a successful Professor at USC's Business School while the other is a successful consultant for large and small corporations. There was a wonderful consultant with a PhD in Psychology and some others but mostly it was a perfect balance between head and heart.

The days were so packed that I'd get to my room at the end of the day and barely remember how the day began. One fellow student said "Sunday night feels like 100 years ago." and that's exactly how it felt.

Yesterday, we went through a type of gradation ceremony full of symbolism, reflection and some meditation. I'm sure it all sounds strange but it was nothing but wonderful. I don't know of any other companies doing anything like this. They paid to have 40 of us get together to bond and grow and learn together. The assumption is that we will be with the company a while and that this investment in our bonding with each other will make the company even more successful down the road.

Last night we had a celebration dinner and I chose to sit with several of those from our overseas offices. I figured I wouldn't be seeing them for a while and I wanted to spend time with them. There were several highlights to the evening but one of my favorites came when I, a fellow American, a lovely Italian woman, a nice Polish Man and a reserved Japanese man started talking about favorite music and films. I hadn't had a lot of time to get to know the Japanese man and asked what his favorite movie was, then quickly added "an American film that I'd know." Without hesitation, he answered 12 Angry Men. The smile on his face told me he was thrilled with my response. Let's just say I was surprised and amazed by his response. I then asked "Who is your favorite band or music?" He said "Rah-mins". Ra-mins? Yes, The Ra-mins." He then started playing air guitar and said "You know Joy Ra-min?" OH!! Joey Ramone? The Ramones?! "YES! Yes," he said, "The Ramones! Oooooh, I love the Ramones!!!" I tried to high five him but a high five isn't a very Japanese habit so it sort of fell flat but he was happy none the less. He went on to name a few more bands then I said "Cheap Trick?" The man about lost his marbles. "Yes!!! Cheap Trick!" Then began singing "Surrender, Surrender..." We both sang some of the song. Music truly is a universal language. The Italian woman had mentioned her love of Grease so some of us kept bursting out in songs from the movie.

Later, we laughed so hard our heads hurt because the Polish man and the Japanese man confessed to being confused on a ride they enjoyed in the park the day before. The Polish man hates roller coasters but was a gamer and decided to give a Buzz Lightyear ride a try with the Japanese man. The Japanese man, on the other hand, loves roller coasters and thought it would be a thrill-a- second ride. They apparently rode through half the ride before they realized it was a kiddie ride and that they were supposed to be shooting targets for points. For some reason the thought of the security guys watching those two grown men just sitting bewildered in their Buzz car cracked us up. The Polish man said "I know, it's sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, no? A Pollock and a Jap get in a car..." . They must have looked so funny.

I spoke about travel with my Italian friend. She wants to visit Texas. I told her I wanted to visit Florence. (I think I'm getting the better bargain in terms of my travel wish list.) She agreed that it would be a good choice but that I couldn't miss Rome. She asked what I like to do for fun. I mentioned movies, going out with friends, BBQs with family, reading, crochet and then road trips. I mentioned the Diners and Disasters road trip. I may have scared her with the whole Donner Party story but how else could I explain my road trip obsession without mentioning that trip?

Later, my new Japanese friend showed me how the Japanese exchange business cards. He carefully extracted a card from his case, held it on the corners with both hands, bowed and said something in Japanese while handing it to me. I accepted his card with both hands an a little bow. I then handed him my card the same way. He took my card with both hands by the opposite corners and held to up towards his forehead and made another small bow. It was incredible. We're so damn rude in comparison! I can't tell you how many times I've seen someone hand a business card to another offhandedly with one hand while looking in another direction. I can see why cultural differences bite us in the butt.

I'm now exhausted. All I wanted to do is sit and reflect on the past week. Unfortunately, my boss really wanted me to come in for a meeting. I did, and was glad I believe my time would have been better spent alone.

Getting to my desk was weird this morning. Typically, the first thing I do it turn on my lamp and flip on the radio to keep my energy up. Today, turn on the lamp and radio and it was overwhelmingly distracting. The usually office noises were ok, but I just couldn't stand the extra stimulation. It was like walking out of a dark theater after seeing a profound film and the light hitting my eyes. It was all too much. Even on the drive home, I couldn't listen to NPR as I usually do. Voices were too much. I had to switch to a Classical that was, mercifully, playing Vivaldi. I guess I'm feeling more tranquil. A few friends commented how relaxed I seemed. I only stayed for a couple of hours.

I'm so afraid this optimism and happiness will drift away the second I dive back into the work on Monday. I've got a mini-vacation coming up next weekend as well as more travel in the beginning of September. Maybe I can spend some of that time absorbing all that's happened this week.

I wish I could bottle the thoughts swirling through my head and bottle them so I could take a sip every now and then.

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