Memories of Asheville

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I’m sitting in a local coffee shop drinking local coffee. I recently moved to a millennial neighborhood which is considered the trendiest neighborhood in Indianapolis.

Wouldn’t say I’m proud of this.

The coffee is okay, I guess. It’s the sort of coffee I’m willing to pay for not because it tastes good but because the atmosphere here is lively. It smells nice. There’s always nice people and the music evokes a comforting nostalgia.

It sort of reminds me of High Five Coffee in Asheville, a cafe just a few doors down from my hostel. The guy behind the counter didn’t seem to mind when I came up short with my change one morning. “I got you,” he said with one of those knowing looks, that either means, I think you’re cute, or ugh, another penniless student.

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The window of the shop looks out into the streets of Asheville where the most interesting people pass by. They are artists or hobos, or a little bit of both. But not the type of street sleepers you see in Indianapolis. Mostly white twenty-somethings, they are the type you might see living under a bridge by choice rather than because of an addiction.

My time in Asheville was brief but incredibly rich. I still recall the day our internship supervisor sent us out into the city to report on how the public was responding to HB2 (better known as the North Carolina Bathroom Bill). Only now that I work in state government do I even know what HB stands for. True confessions of an unqualified journalist.

I was surprised how many people opposed the bathroom bill, a law that enforced that individuals use the bathroom of their birth gender.  After interviewing some blue-collar workers, I went on a quest to find a new demographic only to find myself all too nervous to approach the upper class. When I circled back I came upon an old white man smoking a cigarette outside a restaurant.

He blew smoke in my face as I began the interview. We talked for a while and he said it was ridiculous that there was so much fuss.

“What we need is a separate bathroom entirely,” he said in a slow Carolina accent, allowing the cigarette to dangle from his lower lip. “One for the girls, one for the boys, and one for the transgenders.”

“Do you think it will cause tension like it did before the civil rights movement when separate bathrooms were enforced?” I asked. He laughed and said, “No that was about the blacks. Well back then we called them niggers.” He chuckled to himself as the words left his mouth, causing me to wonder if he used this insult conventionally back when racism in America was more of a rising crisis than a looming issue.

Then, my legs took me through the streets for a little longer until I passed a man who asked where I was from.

“I promise I’m not hitting on you, I just want to know your ethnicity,” he stammered when I turned to look at him.

“I’ll tell you what,” I said. “I’m a student reporter. If you give me an interview I’ll tell you what my ethnicity is.” He agreed and I suddenly noticed we had a few onlookers. The man appeared to be mentally handicapped and I realized we were sort of standing near where the crazy people resided.

Brilliant.

He said he had a daughter who resembled me and I forced a smile. The interview went on for some time, consisting of him deeming the House Bill a decent piece of legislation and that he didn’t want perverts entering a bathroom to harm someone like his little girl.

Cars zoomed by on the busy street and the onlookers sort of drifted away until we were done. I told him I was half white and half black, and he had this sort of dazed look people get when they hear something amazing, but hard to fathom. He summed up his feelings by saying, “Wow, that’s so cool,” and I left him, making my way down the street until I heard shouts from behind me.

He was a shirtless man with a body that looked like it was once very muscular but had begun to sag with the aging of time.  I stood my ground as he ran towards me even though everything in me said run from this half naked man. But he just wanted to have an interview as well.

“Just so you know,” he said after explaining why he supported the bill, “People in Asheville are cr-a-zy. I’m from New York and people are not as crazy there as they are here.” I stifled a laugh thinking yes people here are crazy, like you. To my dismay his language was so filthy I didn’t incorporate him into any of my quotes.

Most of my time in Asheville found me in the walls of the World Magazine headquarters. But in the evening, after lectures, we would go out and practice street photography.

I love street photography. Taking candid photos, unplanned and unadulterated. One night my fellow reporters and I went out into the warm streets and snapped photos in the lamp light.

We came across this guy sitting on the doorstep of a furniture shop with star lamps hanging in the windows. He was reading a book with his back pressed against a fading brick wall. I asked if we could photograph him and he said yes. Then we tested our interview skills and asked where he was from. Apparently he was from nowhere, really. He’d been wandering the country after college and lived on the streets. His gentle face seemed like it hadn’t a care in the world. “I like sitting here because the stars above me are nice to look at,” he murmured.

“What’s your favorite memory in Asheville?” I asked.

“One time, about two years ago, I was sitting on these steps with my friends. We were playing music and people came around to listen, and we play on into the night. It was pretty amazing.”

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Encounters like this were ones I never expect to have again. Asheville was a time of being the Julia who was a curious journalist. When I returned home and eventually got a job, I lost this element of me, the desire to be a news reporter. Now I work a desk job and drink local coffee on the weekends, writing blog posts when inspiration hits, all the while wondering if a career in journalism will find me later in life.

 

Friday Frustrations

Man at Starbucks: Are you from Eritrea?
Me: Where?
Man: Eritrea?
Me: no
Man: Are you sure?
Me: Yes I’m from here.
Man: But you look like you’re from Eritrea.
Me: No I’m not. My father is from East Africa.
Man: Eritrea?
Me: sigh . . . Maybe I should have just said yes.

How to survive an anxiety attack

I’m sipping a coke through a red straw in the outside corridor of my office building. It’s quiet out here. I listen to the roar of cars on West Street and the bubbling fountain down by the canal. I remember three things I’ve done today: Meeting with IT, emailing our Marketing Vendor, finding a coke in the break room.  I count the bushes in front of me: One . . Two . . Three . . Four . . Five. I smell the corn chips from my lunch box and the cigarette smoke from somewhere else.

Inhale.

Exhale.

It’s a new technique my aunt showed me to get through an anxiety attack. Count something you can see. Count something you can smell. Remember something that has happened today.

Anxiety is exhausting. At first it’s scary. But days of feeling this fight or flight sensation simply drain me. Trying to focus my eyes and keep fear from blurring my vision. Trying to calm my heightened senses that distract me. Trying to steady my breath when my heart begins to race.

Eventually I just want to shut down. My eyes droop, my mind goes blank, and I feel nothing.

Scripture is what really works against anxiety. Truth conquers fear. The other night I slept at my parents home, beneath the covers of my old bed. My sister slept in her bed across from me, the box fan blowing loudly. I felt the release of a panicking chemical in my brain making me feel like I should run out of the room and find safety.

It’s the feeling you get when you’ve woken from a nightmare and cannot go back to sleep. Even though I wanted to run and find safety, in reality I was in the safest place I could be. So I told myself this very truth and then I began to rehearse truth through scripture.

“Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8

“‘For I know the plans  I have for you,’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 29

“Don’t worry about anything, instead, pray about everything.”  Philippians 4:6

I suddenly remembered something my friend Esther told me to do when I feel afraid. She said to speak these words out loud: “Jesus Christ is Lord of my life.” I rehearsed this truth three times and as the words slipped from my lips I suddenly smiled. This was real, my fears were just imagination. Fear had no power over me.

As I thought about all of my fears from experiencing death to facing life I considered the sovereignty of God and how Jesus Christ is really Lord of all these things. I’m facing a lot right now, starting graduate school, moving to a new place. Realizing that God is in control allowed me to feel more than the nothing that usually hits me after a panic attack. I felt peace in the midst of my circumstances.

Peace is not the absence of fear but the presence of faith.

 

A Phone Call to Taipei

pexels-photo-488464I step outside my office and inhale the damp air. It’s Friday morning in Indianapolis and the sleepy citizens of this city are starting their day. I’ve already started mine, downed a cup of coffee, checked my email, and even bought a bag of chips for today’s office barbecue.

Now it’s time to make a phone call across the world.

My sister lives in Taiwan and it’s never been easy to keep up with her. When she moved to Taipei to teach English I was of course very excited but I never realized how hard it would be to keep in touch. How do you convey your life to someone who is thousands of miles away? Better yet, how do you follow their’s?

“Hello?” I breath into my cell phone when someone answers. Her voice is faint and sounds as far away as she is. I sigh and pull the phone from my face. A single bar of wifi smiles up at me. “Shoot!” I step inside to regain connection. The halls of my building are crowded with people heading to their offices. Some are stopping at the concession room to buy coffee and snacks for the day.

The faint voice of my sister dies as the call abruptly ends. Ugh. I call back several times before we stabilize a connection. Despite the awkwardness of trying to hear each other, I feel a sudden calmness at the sound of her familiar voice. My sister. My big sister. She asks all the right questions and I don’t even have to tell I’m still battling depression and anxiety. What’s important to her is how I’m doing now.

Siblings are the best.

We talk about travel, of course, and language. Her Chinese is getting better, so she says. And 7,602 miles doesn’t seem so far when I realize she’s the same Kate who I use to share a bed with when I was three. Who taught me not to be afraid of taking showers instead of baths, who told me curly hair was socially acceptable as long as you used conditioner.

It’s time to hang up and as I say goodbye I look out the office window as the sun peeks through the stormy clouds on the East horizon. It’s weird to think this same sun is setting in Taiwan behind the muggy mountains of Taipei.

Life is strange.

The world is enormous.

People are lovely.

Finding my long lost Rwandan family

I recently discovered that my extended family survived the Rwandan genocide. We assumed they were all massacred in the brutal killing of 1994, but it seems that a surprising 60% of them are still alive.

A few weeks ago my father connected with a Rwandan man who was in Indianapolis for a conference. The man took it upon himself to find my father’s long lost family, and find them he did.

My father was brought to America at a young age by his mother and father along with his two brothers. They were all the family he knew. But with this recent discovery, we learned there are more of his family in Rwanda and even in Belgium. You can imagine my shock to realize I’d been living in England for five months back in 2015, so close to our family yet without realizing it. This revealing knowledge has made me want to return to Europe all the more and meet these cousins I have, even great aunts and uncles that all speak French. This is somehow confirming my life long interest in French language and Africa as a whole. I can’t help but wonder if God has a plan for my life that involves international development.

I hope so.

I sat on my bed last night munching pretzels and chocolate chips staring blankly at a photo of my great aunt who resembles my Grandmother. My Dad had posted it on our icloud family sharing. Her sons look like my father and their children, I suppose my third cousins, look somewhat like me. Couleur Metisse is what the French call it. Light colored skin. Not black, not white, but a confusing mixture of both. Oh how I long to meet these unknown family members and discover what life is like for them in Belgium. I suppose I should brush up on my French.

 

Another Sleepless Night

It’s almost 2 am and I turn over my tear-soaked pillow to find a more comfortable position.

It’s been a long time since I cried myself to sleep. Well, only if a long time means a few months.

I just can’t believe I still struggle with chronic pain.

I’ve suffered from joint inflammation since the winter of 2013 when a technical injury cost me my musical career. The pain has never subsided and sometimes when I haven’t diligently taken care of my body, the pain progresses.

Yeah, it sucks.

So last night as the clock neared the wee hours of the night, I was lying in a mess of tangled blankets wondering if I should get surgery.  I spoke to a surgeon at one point who discouraged me from doing it.

“Once you cut, there’s no going back,” he said. And I don’t know if it was the wrinkles on his face or the fear of cutting opened my swollen wrists, but I decided not to get surgery.

My bed is cool. I begin wondering if insomnia is triggered by hyperactive nerves. No, I don’t have a sleeping disorder. I just allow anxiety, stress, and the results of a prolonged injury, to withhold my precious hours of sleep.

There came a point when I accepted this outcome of my life and I was okay with the circumstances. It just meant occasionally icing my aching joints, taking some pain relief when it was bad, and not doing anything that was too strenuous.

But sometimes I don’t have the strength to keep telling myself “I’ll be okay.” I try to say it  in different languages as if somehow using someone else’s native tongue will ease the horrifying thought that I will live with chronic pain for the rest of my life.

Tu vas bien

Estas bien

괜찮아 Gwaenchanh-a

And this is when the tears come.

I cry to feel something other than my aching joints. The tears spill down my face unlocking the chains that bind my mind with fear.

Stress relief comes from a good long cry. A cry that says, I can’t do this anymore.My lungs expand and I try once again, after a dozen times, to draw myself into sleep.But sleep has abandoned me.

“I hate you. . .” I say it to no one in particular.

And suddenly I regret this subtle remark I’ve directed toward my body. I try to make up for it with something that is true. “I love you. . .”  I say in defense to my body. But do I really?

I suppose in reality I do love my body yet as soon as it becomes uncomfortable to live in, I don’t. My body is the one that carries me everywhere I need to go. My hands are the ones that type these very words. My arms lift, and drive, and hold, and comfort. My neck holds the eight pound head that sits above it.

I turn over my pillow again and shove my head into the moist, cotton fabric. The clock reads ten ’till two. Will I sleep or will this be another sleepless night?

What does one do when one painful night turns into dozens?

One cries.

One sighs.

One waits.

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” Psalm 37:7

I hate waiting.  Someone shared in church on Sunday about waiting. He said that sometimes in life, waiting is God’s greatest gift to us. Without waiting we would have everything we needed all at once and would never learn to trust in God or rely on his providence. Isn’t it through the waiting that we develop character and grow spiritually?

Hours later I wake to another day of sunshine and I hit the snooze button a few times before I rise. “Thank you father, for another day of life.” I say the words with sincerity because although my joints ache and I feel incredibly tired, God has a purpose for my pain and a reason for my existence.

 

 

How a friend going to Brazil reignited my passion for international development

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My friend Joel is going to Brazil for two years. He committed to teaching English through Campus Outreach in one of the world’s most diverse countries. Since Joel hasn’t left for Brazil yet, I often pick his brain about the preparation process.

“Where are you going to live?

Are you learning Portuguese?

Will you play soccer when you get there?

Are you ready for the culture shock?

Do you think it will be dangerous?”

What can I say I have an untamed interest in far away places.

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My fascination with Brazil began during my internship with Sagamore, a policy research institute. We were lucky interns with scheduled lunch and learns every week.

One day our supervisor ordered Jimmy Johns and had us watch Waste Land, a documentary about a Brazilian artist who returns to his home and photographs the poverty-stricken areas. The story not only exposes the situation of the poor, but also shows the power of inspiring the underprivileged.

Yeah it’s worth watching.

We sat in the conference room eating sandwiches and watched the documentary in utter silence. I felt as if I had left the safety of my hometown and traveled to the outskirts of Rio where some of the poorest people live.

After the film, we brought a TV to the intern loft and watched France beat England during the 2014 World Cup. I know, best internship ever. However in that moment I was troubled by what was happening in Brazil and what was not.

Same country, vastly different perspectives. On one hand you had the wealthy and elite enjoying the world’s game in the world’s soccer capital. Yeah, pretty awesome. But in the back of my mind remained images of the poor and deprived from the documentary. They lived just miles outside of that massive stadium.

Two years later I was reporting for my university newspaper. My editor asked me to cover the Zika outbreak in Brazil, a petrifying virus that was crawling across South America. As I researched the outcomes of Zika, I remembered the families from the documentary. The World Cup was over and Brazil was looking toward the Olympic Games in the coming year.

Why was such a country struggling to help its people? With the international recognition shouldn’t Brazil be doing better?

I banged on my computer keys, typing out an article for the students of my campus. Would their eyes even pass over the words I’d been crafting to capture the severity of Zika? Would they even care if they did read it?

And then it came, a sudden thought that wrecked me. There’s got to be more to life than reporting the bad things that happen in the world.

When I finished college a year ago, reporting the news was all I wanted to do.  But my life took an unexpected turn, prompting me to take a job in the public sector.  Working in state government allowed me to see that the media will give a voice to the voiceless but the government, when in good standing, can respond to those voices with conducive answers.

What I’ve since learned is that policymakers live to provide solutions. They see a problem and research how to resolve it.

This realization helped me accept the fact that I’m not a journalist right now.

I’m niether saying corruption within government doesn’t exist, in fact corruption is probably the primary reason countries decline economically, nor am I harping on the media. I guess I’m saying that when carefully conducted, policies can provide the means for underdeveloped countries to advance.

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When I first met Joel, I was probably more excited about his Brazilian venture than he was. To hear that missionaries exist in Brazil, revived my interest in this country. My fascination reminds me that not everyone has a passion for foreign affairs and international development. Although I may never go to Brazil or even South America my drive to be a part of something international is gaining momentum.

 

 

 

 

 

A Reoccurring Interest in African Development

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After a lengthy blog post on how I’m done exploring my racial identity, the subject has reemerged.

The plight of a biracial individual.

It began with me waking up at 5:00 AM in a South Korean hostel. My friend and I were catching a bus to the Incheon airport for a flight back to the States. Five days in Korea left me ready to go home. One can only use chopsticks for so long before their hands cramp up and the urge to shovel the food down overtakes them.

Side note, I love Korean food, however, my stomach didn’t always agree with my mouth.

I stepped over my suitcase, neatly packed the night before, and headed for the shower. Water covered the entire bathroom, fogging up the mirror, and draining into the floor. Asian bathrooms are oddly designed, no shower curtains, just a corner of the bathroom where the spout comes out of the wall. But I was too sleepy to think about how my towel was getting damp.

We dragged our suitcases down sloping roads and across empty streets. As we waited for the bus, I munched a green tea pancake and peered at a cafe across from me. The day before, I sat inside this very cafe, with an iced latte and a muffin. I watched the Korean people pass the window and go about their lives.

Koreans: a people of their own kind, who look, sound and behave much the same as each other. During our week in Seoul, my travel buddy and I seemed to stick out like sailboats in an airplane hanger: we were always talking too loud on the subway, laughing hysterically in public, and using the wrong form of honorifics.

Culture clash.

It didn’t take long before I realized Korea was not for me. I loved the city of Seoul and the food, when my stomach was ready for it, and some of my best friends lived in this thriving country. But the longer I spent touring the streets of Seoul the more I wanted to be among people who looked like me.  And I don’t mean Americans, because it wasn’t the new culture and language that turned me off, rather it was the knowledge that some people live in societies where everyone looks like them. Not just the people passing by the cafe windows, but even the billboards, the magazines, the news anchors.

Imagine cohabitation with people who share your skin color, hair texture and physical appearance?

The ever-present wonder of a biracial individual.

“I want to visit Ethiopia,” I said to my friend, who was falling asleep at the bus station. The sun was just peering over the buildings. “Ethiopia, or India,” I continued.

She asked why and I said because I wanted to experience a society where I could blend in. As our plane took off from the coast of South East Asia I thought about what my next international adventure would be.

Europe?

Africa?

South America?

It’s been two months since I took that turn around the world. My options for the next venture are so far and wide that I decided to focus on one place where I want to explore. As I’ve said before, Africa interests me, specifically the French speaking areas. So I began doing some research on developmental needs in French-speaking African countries. Burundi came up as such.

Hmm, Burundi and I have crossed paths before.

When I was a student in England I signed up for a language exchange program. Twice a month I met with a girl from Glasgow, Scotland and we practiced French together. She was originally from Burundi and I learned that our families were actually from the same tribe! She told me all about Burundi from the shining lakes, to the hilly countryside. Unfortunately, other than her, I don’t know anyone from Burundi. But because of my Rwandan heritage , I’m drawn to both of these countries and I want to be a part of an organization that works to help the economic development of this area.

I look at countries like South Korea that have boomed economically in amazing ways. Why is this so difficult for African countries? Rwanda, has been doing well considering the genocide in 1994. But still, I would love to see this same growth happen in Burundi as well. And I want to be a part of that growth.

 

Singleness: Thursday Thoughts

Okay, put down your Grande, no-foam, coconut milk Cappuccino and listen to me for a minute. Yes I’m talking to you, millennials and recent college grads who feel you’ve missed the marriage boat and are now spending your Thursdays scrolling through social media.

Let me tell you about my morning commute.

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I spend every morning driving to work, balancing a mug of coffee on my knee, and listening to podcasts. I recently heard a powerful podcast on being single as a Christian.

One morning as the first rays of summer sun were blinding me on the way to work, I thought that maybe I should share what I’m learning.

Singleness seems like a time of waiting. Waiting to move out. Waiting to buy furniture. Waiting to meet the right person. Let me guess, you’re probably hoping that maybe this summer you’ll meet that person you’ve been waiting for. Here’s my response.

Stop waiting.

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned about being single in the last few months it’s this:

The season of singleness is intended for undivided devotion to God. 

As I pressed a steaming cup of coffee to my lips and listened to this recorded talk, I began to see that my desire to be married could hinder my ability to live life. Furthermore, I saw that waiting for life to begin could prevent me from fully devoting my life to God.

What? I thought waiting was playing it safe. You know, so I don’t make any wrong decisions before meeting the right guy.

Let me be honest, going to all those post-college weddings makes me want to be married too. But I need to stop putting the status of marriage on a pedestal, and realize marriage too is sometimes a barrier to living a life devoted to God.

Singleness is a time for single-minded devotion to God. Whereas in marriage, a wife or husband has to devote their attention to their spouse, their kids and their growing household, the single person has more time than he/she knows what to do with.

So, single post-college Millennials, where are you spending your free time?

This is a difficult question even for me. I, who have abundance of free time usually spend it watching TV and Netflix? I am vicariously living someone else’s life when my own is waiting to begin. It’s not that entertainment is a waste of time. In fact we all know it’s nice to watch a few episodes of Parks and Rec and just wind down.

But I’ve been recently convicted about the way I spend the free time I’ve been granted. I often feel like my friends and I, in high school and college, would zone out through TV and video games. For some reason, watching the conflict and resolution of someone else’s life was easier than dealing with my own.

I use to consider singleness as a plague that I didn’t want to catch. What kind of gift prohibits you from community?

But getting involved with my church, I saw that being single really is a gift. It doesn’t mean I spend life alone, rather I spend it in community with other believers and we are able to identify issues and talk about solutions.

When it comes to the four stages of romantic relationships (Singleness, dating, engaged, married), singleness is the first. So if you’re single, don’t constantly worry about who you will marry.

Being single for you could be a season of life. How will you answer the questions of what you did with your single years? Did you zone out and watch Netflix, or did you engage with the world because you had the time and ability to?

I’m challenging you and myself to not be afraid of having a single status. Understand that singleness is a gift, and learn to unpack that gift with gratitude. Use your time for undivided devotion to God, and encourage others to do the same.

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Revive the art of conversation

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In school I studied a vital key to communication: Writing. But as adulthood has forced me out of my shell of adolescence and I’m no longer able to hide the fact that I’m actually a really shy person, the oral elements of communication have become more important. By oral elements I mean conversation.

Conversation: Oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas. 

With the use of texting, messaging, snapping, and social media comments, conversation has evolved radically since the days before the age of technology.

I’ve noticed that people are more likely to text or message me than to strike up a conversation in person. Quite honestly, I hate having conversations through instant messages, because there is such a loss of clarity in the mix. No facial expressions. No body language. No personality traits. And let’s face the truth, emojis hardly do the job.

I recently had a very good conversation with someone and it caused me to wonder how I learned to get over the fear of talking to new people. When did I begin using my words instead of my keyboard? I once was shy and quiet, but somewhere between high school and now, I learned the great joy and satisfaction that comes with in-person conversation.

So I want to encourage my reader to consider this post as a challenge for you to be more intentional with your communication and to seek those in-person conversations, where both individuals are entirely present.

Observe the following seven steps to good conversation.

 

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  1. Begin by asking questions. I recently met a guy at a laser tag outing among friends. Although we had not previously been introduced, we shared a similar social circle. I asked him how to read the score  after the game and he explained that if you are at the bottom of the screen, which I was, you probably came in last, which I did.
  2. Introduce yourself. After a few moments I introduced myself saying, “I don’t know you. What’s your name?” Yeah, I’m pretty forward with introductions, but not everyone has to be. Right away I learned his name and he learned mine which unfolded a conversation of why we hadn’t met before. I explained I was in Korea the week before when our friends met up. He explained he was out of town the week before that.
  3. Ask general questions that pertain to what you know about the person. His name was Joel and after another few moments he asked what I was doing in Korea. Keeping it simple, because most people don’t want to hear about your fantastic trip in South East Asia, I said I was visiting friends. Apparently Joel had been to China  and we made light conversation about the 13 hour flight  across the world.
  4. Try to find common ground. Joel asked what I did that allowed me a vacation to Korea, and I told him. In exchange, I asked what he did. When he said he was an ESL teacher, my mind immediately thought of my brother and sister who are both international ESL teachers. This note of information spurred him to tell me about his upcoming venture to Brazil, where he’d signed a two-year contract to teach English.
  5. Discover what they are passionate about.  I began to ask Joel what drew him to Brazil. In college his roommate was Brazilian, or from Brazil, sometimes details get lost in the art of conversation because you are trying to connect the dots and keep momentum going. I gathered that Joel was interested in teaching overseas, curious about Brazil, and really liked soccer.  I pocketed this information because I also liked soccer, but it didn’t seem like the right time to say it.
  6. Allow time for thought. In conversation the person you’re talking to is going to know if you are really interested or if you are just being polite. By now our chat had turned into an extended talk, as Joel expounded on the process of raising money for his trip to Brazil. His travel dates were unsure because his support had only covered 90% of the costs. So I decided to indulge my curiosity and ask Joel what he’d been doing up ’till now.
  7. Don’t change the subject too often. This was a natural turn in the conversation where we left the thought of Brazil and the money to be raised, and focused on the now. Joel had just finished teaching at an ESL school in Indianapolis. I was familiar with the school because my parents are International Home Stay hosts, and they hosted a student from his school. We talked about the Japanese student who lived with my family for the passed eight months. The commonalities we shared seemed to be more than we could count but the richness of our simple conversation diverged from the fact that we were both entirely present.

So what did I learn from talking with Joel?

Approach every conversation expecting to learn something new. Be curious because you may never know when your path will cross with this person again. You also don’t know what this person is going through. Maybe shifting the focus from you to them will open opportunities you never imagined. Conversation is a lost art. Let’s learn to revive it.