WordFood - how we feed or starve our realtionships

- Julia Hubbel

Julia’s ability to get this group of type-A executives to engage in true networking was incredible. She is truly skilled at motivating the group to engage and interact with each other, and her openness and honesty really come through.

— Shelley Stewart, Jr.,
Senior Vice President of Operational Excellence and Chief Procurement Officer, Tyco

September 1, 2014

WordFood Verstatility in a Diverse Country

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 5:59 pm

In early August I found myself in the top bunk of a girls’ dorm at the Glenwood Springs Hostel, surrounded by a bevy of females from all over the world. They came from China, Japan, Russia, Croatia, Jamaica, far-flung countries. The hostel owner had actually shut down the place for the summer to board these girls so that they could work and go to school but my reservation had slipped in under the wire. Lucky me, I had a three day kayaking trip planned, and hostels are a lot cheaper than hotels. Besides, what a fascinating group of women.

The days were long and eventful, and as expected I would drag in late. Also as expected (and as warned) the girls were also up late, texting friends back home, and sometimes, as my Russian bunk mate and immediate neighbor would have it, time for loud music. As gently and as politely as I could I asked these women if they would kindly lower their music so that I could sleep as I had a 5 am wakeup call. Begrudgingly, they did. However, when I then thanked them in Russian, they not only burst out in glee, they responded very warmly- and that opened up a different door for us, which we continued the next day at breakfast.

I don’t speak fluent Russian. However I do know a few words. And over my various travels I’ve learned to say hello and thank you and a few other phrases, often complimentary, in a variety of languages ranging from Thai to Korean to Swahili to Vietnamese. As in the scenario at the hostel, I have found that knowing even just a few words  in someone else’s language is such a gift. Whenever I travel I buy a phrasebook, and where possible, I  hire a coach. It’s good to know “where’s the bathroom” to “your country is beautiful” to “I’m injured, I need help.”

For those who don’t travel, we are the host country to many, many immigrants. It behooves us to know Spanish, if nothing else. Mine is workable, as I travel to South America every year. But we also have Sudanese and Vietnamese tribal people and large numbers of others who have come here to make a life. They are part of our culture. Many struggle mightily to learn English.

Today I was standing behind an African woman who was buying a lottery ticket at my local gas station. She turned and looked at me, kindly, and I said to her “Jambo, Mama,” and tipped my head. She looked surprised, then enormously pleased. She spoke to me in her own language, which I did not understand, but the exchange was gracious nonetheless. She is here with her daughter, who does speak English.

It’s hard enough to come to a country and make a life, often having to give up your professional credentials to work at minimum wage to provide for your family. Learning English is tough enough. Many top doctors  make donuts rather than perform brain surgery because the English language is too much. We don’t always appreciate the sacrifices people have to make. A small gesture to learn a word in an immigrant’s language is such a small price to pay to help someone feel welcome in  their new home.

Every time I say kim sa ham ne dah, or “thank you” in Korean to the women who take care of my postal services and my dry cleaning, it is an acknowledgement. It reminds me that I, too have immigrant ancestors who may not have been welcomed. For my part, I’m going to do my best to open my heart and speak welcoming WordFood to the rich cultural gifts that have come and continue to bring variety and color to this great continent.  These wonderful people are constantly reminding me of what I have, and why I value it so much.

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