Conversations That Matter

by | Jan 18, 2016 | Community Building, self-reflection

IMG_3475 (1)Recently, my wife and I spent a week in Lima, Peru. Arriving in a new country and city provided us many opportunities to explore, learn and compare our experiences with other travel and interactions.

Once we decided to visit Lima we contacted the hotel staff asking for suggestions and for things for us to do during our stay.  We received many great recommendations and also conducted the typical Google search to understand the variety of opportunities for us to explore Lima.

One day we joined a tour of Lima and became familiar with the history, culture, politics, collaborations and economy of the city and nation.  The other days, typical for us, we walked in various neighborhoods exploring parks, plazas, churches, markets and places to eat.

Our adventure provided us an opportunity to observe and interact with many individuals and small groups adding to our understanding of the local areas.  We encountered:

  • Children playing in the wonderful large neighborhood parks;
  • Dogs and their owners walking and enjoying the 80 degree weather;
  • Residents and tourists in the Parque of Amor (Love Park) sharing their feelings;
  • Local artists selling their wares around the Parque Kennedy (named after President John F. Kennedy);
  • Street vendors;
  • Local change vendors (at least four on every downtown street corner willing to change Peru Soles for U.S. dollars at favorable rates by the way);
  • Surfers taking advantage of moderate waves;
  • Para gliders in Miraflores soaring higher than the tall building;
  • Residents tightly packed in small public buses;
  • Tourists visiting the catacombs and local ruins; and
  • Hotel staff eager to respond to our questions and share their experiences.

Along with these activities, we also experienced four particular engaging conversations during our time in Lima that we found insightful.  We spend time on our Lima City Tour with a young lady from Switzerland who speaks seven languages and shared her experiences traveling throughout the world for business and pleasure.  She shared how beneficial she finds traveling alone and finding people along the way to share experiences.  In fact, during our walks through the Lima City Center we talked about our common and unique experiences traveling throughout the world and their implications for our lives.

Several times, at our hotel, we saw a family of four from Toronto, Canada and one evening we spent time with them as they had just returned from travels in the Peru jungle and to Machu Picchu.  They shared how their six and eight-year old daughters enjoyed many parts of the travels but also how they struggled with mosquitos in the jungle.  Each year the parents take their daughters on an adventure and are committed to continuing that tradition.  We talked about our experiences with our grandchildren on our international adventures and how much we all learn from youngsters’ enthusiasm and adventurous spirits.  We also learned about white truffles as the mother imports them from Croatia.

We spent part of an evening with a young couple from Singapore on their way to New York City after spending time in Mendoza and Patagonia, Argentina.  One is a teacher and the other a school athletic director and given their school schedules are able to travel internationally several times a year and they shared that they take full advantage of the opportunities.  We discussed their school experiences along with their travel leading to a conversation on how schools can be better organized and which countries offer the best surfing options.

We talked with a woman from the US who now manages a Peruvian nonprofit serving senior citizens in rural and jungle areas of Peru.  She shared that several years ago she was part of a group from the US volunteering in Peru and fell in love with the country and returned to co-found the agency.  With limited resources she and her colleagues provide needed health services to seniors who otherwise would not have access to such services.  We shared our service experiences and celebrated the ability of individuals to come together to meet community needs.

We found that while we all had unique travel and life experiences there was common ground created through genuine conversations.  In our case we found the following common characteristics prevalent in our interactions:

  1. We all have a passion for a cause and have been able to find jobs and positions that align with our passion.
  2. We all found that exploring other parts of the world contribute to our understanding of the need to focus locally and expect implications globally.
  3. We all enjoyed traveling throughout the world with a focus on seeing more than might be common of most tourist experiences.
  4. We all expressed greater aspirations for our own lives and the impact we have on others given our travel experiences.

However, for me the more important implication is that we do not need to travel to find opportunities for conversations that matter.  In our daily life we need to seek out individuals and groups to engage and learn from by sharing our experiences and together finding opportunities to learn, grow, develop and contribute.  Such journeys do not require travel beyond our local communities as we have daily experiences that are meaningful to us and others if we engage in conversations that matter.

Terry Pickeral
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Terry Pickeral

Terry Pickeral, has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations, evaluation and civic development. His commitment is to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens.
Terry Pickeral
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