Whenever I travel, my favorite memories are always the unplanned hicups and mixing with the locals. Rewind to VALOR session 1.0 to understand our personality types, and how deviation from the plan = BIG fun for me. The absolute best stories usually involve some sort of chaos – those are the ones I remember at least. You never know who you are going to meet or get to experience some local culture; so it’s best to just keep your plans open – especially in a developing country.
Besides, when reading the itenerary you can often be deceived by little code words that I find important such as “a short bike ride” that end up being opening leg of the tour de France. This of course is unless you exceed “2 METERS” and you are told “no Big guy you not ride bike” (I’m still hoping he was referring to our height and not Cliff and my weight). Then instead you get to ride (insert word) on a Moped with a guy that is literally 1/2 of you, and participate in a medium speed game of chicken except without the conviences of a roll cage or seat belt offerred to you by a car. This is even more exciting when you see this happening
Now while I may have been initially offended by the bicycle/size descrimination, after the first 150Km leg of the Tour Cliff and I realized that someone up above was looking out for us. Prayers answered.
Keeping yourself aware of your surroundings is recommended, especially as you participate in the HUMAN version of Frogger. When playing Frogger, fear is not recommended though. Rather, you should simply throw out any learning of order we were taught as children and just go play in traffic. No need to waste your time looking both directions because as soon as you look again your opportunity has passed. Rather, it is customary to simply step into the path of endless Mopeds, taxis, and buses.
Part of leadership development is to be aware of your environment, and I guess do as the Vietmanese would do in this case. So as customary for a VALOR trip, we were challenged a bit to move outside our comfort zone for lunch with a local family. Now this comfort zone was warmer for some than others. The host family was most gracious, serving a grand feast of pork, rice, and spring rolls. Now, here is where the comfort zone deal became a little more relative to location and gender. As we men were seated at our tables, the women were seated a theirs.
We men dined without a care in the world (except the occassional hand cramp from chop sticks). Glorious living. People bringing you drinks, food, and a gentile breeze. Meanwhile, our fellow VALOR members of the fairer sex were obviously were enjoying the same luxery, or so we assummed as we were drunken by the wonderfulness it is to be a MAN in Vietnam. Abrubtly, however, our comfort level dropped signficantly as our gentile breeze was blocked – evidently, the host family “forgot” the fan for the ladies. Suddenly, the glutenous hogging of our gentile breeze began as glistening red faced women raced to our fan to enjoy the cooling benefits of evaporation.
Now here is where perspective comes in to play. Some could have simply felt slighted that they were not treated as equals. Rather, I think it was a good opportunity to recognize that while things may be wonderful over in our world, we should try to be aware that some may be stretching a little bit to far outside their comfort zone. An effective leader recognizes the stress, implements the changes needed, and brings the group back into harmony. If you simply just work off the average, you could have a couple of people standing in freezing water and the others in boiling water – on average its a comfortable temperature, but it hurts like hell on both sides. Stress can initiated change for the good, its up to us Leaders to be aware of the situation and initiate the changes to keep our people from burning up in the stress.
As for the lessons learned in pedestrian law and traffic rules (there seem to be none), I’ll probably leave those here in Vietnam.