Tag Archives: learning

Lost in Translation?

29 Jun


I was at a coaching workshop two weeks ago taught by two Harvard professors up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The goal was for participants to learn how to facilitate sessions using the material themselves, so the teachers would alternate between treating us as regular audience members experiencing the material for the first time and then as facilitators, learning how to use the material with other people.

As you’ve probably gathered, it can be confusing to try two different approaches to the material, so to simplify things, they asked us to pretend we were somewhere else (San Diego) when we were going through the program simply as learners, and then would ask us to, “Come back to Cambridge,” when they wanted to address us as teachers-in-training.

Our first day, we toggled between “San Diego” and “Cambridge” regularly. I found it to be a clever way to shift gears easily and know which role I was playing (student or teacher) during the program.

At the end of that first day, we were broken up into small groups to prepare our own presentations. While we were doing this, the instructor called out, “Think about what you experienced when you were in San Diego – that will help you with this!”

A woman from my group leaned over and said – in full seriousness, “Can you explain this whole San Diego thing to me? This seems like a smart group of people – how are they tricking themselves into believing that THIS is San Diego?”

I have no idea.

Where do white people, cheddar cheese, waxing and a noise machine meet? Milwaukee Airport.

16 Jan

I flew out of Milwaukee for the first time Friday morning, and do you know what I learned?

Where was THIS guy? Probably already in Florida.

First, I learned that the Milwaukee airport has a unique population of travelers.

I don’t think I’ve ever stood in line at 6:30am with a whiter, more senior,  more leisure-seeking crowd. And this is including the cruise docks in south Florida.

I wasn’t really paying attention until I noticed the number of people around me publicly clutching their boarding passes and photo IDs. There’s something about that move that smacks of novice. Business travelers have a routine and need their hands free to check email, so they can retrieve key documents in the nick of time, but they aren’t standing in line as if they’re about to undergo immigration.

Once I noticed that detail, I looked up at the faces and was surprised by how, um, WHITE they were. The line was ridiculously long (but fast moving, presumably because of everyone’s diligent preparedness?) so I had a fair population to sample. Using rudimentary physical characteristics, I was only able to easily identify 3 minorities in a line that included at least 100 travelers.

Coming from DC, which really is a melting pot, this struck me as odd. Then I dialed in and realized that most of those pasty faces were paired with white/blue/no hair. Snowbirds, indeed.

Second, I learned a few details about one specific passenger.

Behind me in line were three women in their early forties who were clearly getting away for a girl’s weekend, and they were beyond excited about it. Since they spoke loudly (at a fast clip with a midwestern accent that was more Fargo than Chicago), in the five minutes they were behind me, I learned a few more things.

For starters, one woman is apparently a real jokester. At least, she and her friends think so, but her husband apparently does not. In fact, there is speculation that he doesn’t “get” her sense of humor because he is “anal retentive” and a “real stick in the mud.” (Quotation marks are standing in for the air quotes they used when sharing this information.)

I also learned that someone in that group is hoping NOT for a spa treatment, but a bikini wax, because things have gotten, ahem, unruly. I’m curious to know if any other passengers in the line threw up a little bit of their Starbucks upon learning this detail. I might have, if I had been drinking anything.

I felt close to another discovery about this group, but they happened to look up and realize they were in the wrong line, so they peeled away and went cackling through the airport looking for the other terminal, presumably to bring joy and nausea into the lives of other passengers.

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