I’m often asked “what got you started in your interest in intercultural communications?” Sometimes I say it was born inside of me, referencing the names of my pet black and gold fish at age 10, Martin Luther Fish and Golda My-Fish respectively (what 10 year old names their fish that?).
Other times I refer to my first trip outside of the USA, on a three week exchange program at the Instituto de Filologia Hispanica in Saltillo, Mexico. (This picture, which surfaced on Facebook today via an old friend, shows me deep in study…See, I told you, mom and dad that’s ALL we DID–we did not go to discos, learn how to do Tequila shots, or hang out with cute boys!)
This picture seems so calm for a life changing moment. After 3 years of “levanta-te” (stand up), “pasa a la mesa” (go to the table), and “toma el lapiz” (pick up the pencil) I burst into Mexico like a “papagallo,” a parrot who could not stop talking.
That I could be speaking and communicating in another language was exhilarating. And, the night I separated from my USAmerican friends to go to a wedding reception with my Mexican tutor was pivotal in understanding the idea of multiple perspectives, as I found myself the sole anglo-USAmerican at a gathering of several hundred…for the first time I was the minority…I was “the other.”
I came back home to St. Louis and at 15 road my bike up and down Olive Blvd. and applied for jobs at every business along the way. I lied about my age (legally I was supposed to be 16) and started hostessing at Caleco’s after school. Anything to start saving money to travel again. I started studying French in fall, and the rest has grown from there.
Did you see all that in this picture? What are the cardinal moments that changed your life?