I spent many, many, years, too many to bear thinking about, wandering the cologne-scented, suited hallways of the corporate world. My contact was limited to those who worked in the same field and very often to those who worked in the same town or city. Opportunities to travel on business were few and far between. Yes, I had the occasional conference but those were usually limited to company employees, mainly European and North American.
In recent years, the scope and variety of my work has changed and now more than compensates for the sizeable reduction in income experienced since starting to work for myself. I meet people from all walks of life, living in all corners of the world, doing all sorts of different things with their lives. And it’s an education.
This week, I had the good fortune to hear a presentation delivered partly in Xhosa, one of South Africa’s official languages spoken by nearly 8 million people, mainly in the Eastern Cape but also in Botswana and Lesotho. I’d heard tell of this clicking language but had never actually heard it before and, at the time, I couldn’t quite grasp the concept. Having now heard it for myself, in person, I’m suitably impressed.
Apparently, there are three types of clicks: dental clicks, alveolar clicks, and lateral clicks. Dental clicks are made touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth all along one side as when saying the l in ‘love’. I was very surprised to learn that I’ve used lateral clicks: that clicking noise I make to get a horse to trot (back in the day…). The alveolar clicks are made by touching the tip of the tongue to the centre of the roof of the mouth, as when saying the t in ‘tap’.
Through my involvement in the Gift of the Gab, Budapest Toastmasters, and TEDxDanubia, I’ve come across all sorts of speeches and speakers. Some leave their mark, some are filed away for future contemplation, some motivate and inspire, and some serve as a reminder of how not to do it. This speech though, was different, serving as it did as a trigger for reflection. It dawned on me that here I was, Irish, living in Budapest, working in Malta, listening to a South African, working in Geneva, giving a talk in Xhosa. How far have I come from the days when guacamole was the most exotic food I’d eaten, Edinburgh the most exotic place I’d visited, and a Lebanese neighbour of a mate in London, the most exotic foreigner I knew.
This week I am grateful for the choices I have made in my life and pray that I will continue to be able to afford to prioritise time and experience over the accumulation of wealth and money in the bank.