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Opportunity Lost March 2, 2007

Posted by casualadventurer in Cultural Understanding.
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Today I sit at my desk and observe a small ceramic ornament (A little turtle with moveable legs) . It is an unexpected gift from a friend. However it makes me feel a little sad, because it represents lost opportunity. But it also makes me feel optimistic because it teaches me a valuable lesson about confidence.

You see the gift is from a lady; A young lady who joined the technical team in our office several months ago. When she first came to our office I was captivated by her shy but friendly smile. She could speak Vietnamese, very basic French and almost no English.

This caused me a problem. Being a person who is quite shy at making new acquaintances, I found the language barrier to be intimidating. This was made worse by the fact that I am also shy around ladies and this particular lady was attractive to me to the point I became speechless in her presence. The final problem was that due to her own lack of confidence in English, she only ever spoke to me in French.

So the stage was set for our working relationship for the next few months. I was too shy to communicate with her, she was scared to communicate with me, and I was speechless in her company. However, I always try to treat my work mates with kindness and I am sure she noticed this part of my personality.

Now over this period of time I have had the opportunity to develop my Vietnamese language skill and I feel less shy about initiating a full conversation. My standard is still very basic, but if the person has the patience for me to reference a dictionary occasionally, I can manage a full conversation.

Last Friday I finally gained the courage To initiate a proper conversation with her. It went surprisingly well. It was a very companionable conversation about nothing in particular. We talked about the weather, living in Ha Noi, sport and the general things about family and life. I think she was surprised at being able to speak with me, and I went home with a sense of achievement at managing the conversation well…… And a knowledge that I should have been more bold to test my language skills. (and real anticipation for seeing her again)

What I didn’t know at the time was that the Monday was to be her last day working for our organization. But before she left she came to my office to say goodbye, and gave me the ceramic ornament as a gift. It was such a small gesture that touched me very deeply. To the best of my knowledge she didn’t give anyone else a gift before leaving. Maybe she was just surprised to meet a friendly foreigner…… I don’t know , but I do know I am sorry that I didn’t take the opportunity to find out more about her while I could.

So for me it is not just a small desk toy, but a lesson in grasping opportunities with confidence.

I hope this small story encourages you to meet todays challenges boldly!