The past two weeks have been unexpectedly fulfilling and momentous, even if it had just been a speck in the time that is my life so far. I experienced so many firsts, one of which is using my laptop on a plane which I am doing at this moment. I do realize that the frantic pace of life (part trying to juggle work, training and the networking events in the evenings) in the past two weeks had given me little time to reflect deeper than I would have liked and I do want to pen down my feelings now before work starts again.
So I had the opportunity to fly down to Chicago for corporate training for 2 weeks in a conference/training center at St Charles. Real charming place, St Charles is. The past 2 weeks felt like we were enclosed in a self-sustaining bubble with a facility that offered hotel-style lodging, gym and recreational activities and buffet style dining options. It really felt like a second home after 2 weeks and I’ll definitely miss some parts of the place.
Firstly, the firsts. It’s easy to go through things and take the experiences as they are, but personally the virgin experiences are of importance to me. One of my goals in life is to experience all the experiences in life and I am quite glad that some of the experiences I had were profoundly novel and memorable.
It was definitely great to be stepping onto American soil for the first time in my life. I have had past inhibitions about going to the States due to bad experiences I hear from the people around me revolving around racism and discrimination etc. It wasn’t bad at all. I had no such encounters and the service in general was really good. It was also a first to be travelling and staying and eating on someone else’s expense. From a material point of view, it was awesome. It was weird realizing that at some point of time, we would all have to go back home and start bringing along our wallets for meals and such.
It was my first time being part of such an international group of individuals. I’ve had many groups of strangers coming together before but this felt really different. It was (and still is) fascinating to stick a bunch of people from all around the world and see how they work in groups. It is even more fascinating to observe how we reacted under pressure. It made me realize that cultural norms and work ethics are entirely different concepts and yet easily confused for the other. What I thought to be cultural differences previously perceived turned out to be just an individual’s work ethic problem.
2 weeks of interaction turned out to be too short, at least for me, as I realized that we were just starting to be comfortable and opening up to each other towards the end. I reckon its just me though, having to connect with the rest more on an individual basis rather than as a group. It felt vastly different from the international friends you make from travelling or even work. As we bid our final farewells to our new friends, I saw in their faces the realization that we connected on a deeper level. The realization that yes, what we have had here is indeed special and precious (also because it is the last run of the training class) but also with a realization that we may not see each other again. I am fairly certain that I will be thinking of the myriad of interesting personalities I have interacted with even in the days to come. And maybe, just maybe, our paths might cross again.
For 2 weeks we started classes at 8am, finished the day at around 6 and either attended networking events or went out to the malls to shop in the evening. The concept of working beyond hours was a damn well foreign one to the foreigners and I found myself struggling with the fact that I actually wanted and felt obliged to catch up with work back home after hours. Some colleagues pointed out that it may very well be a problem with ourselves (our office) and I didn’t know what to do if that is true anyway. I came across colleagues who were uncomfortable with working beyond bedtime hours and for the most parts of my life I had lived in an environment where pulling all-nighters to finish up a project is commonplace. Then again – hard work is a differentiator. Its hard to deny that for the most parts, putting in the hours and going beyond can reap results. Is it an Asian thing? We played a game called 2 truths 1 lie where everyone had to write 2 truths and 1 lie about themselves on a piece of paper and everyone had to guess which was the lie. There were a few times where among the Indian counterparts, we had people saying that “the longest that have not had slept was 40 hours” or something along that line. Nothing wrong with that but its like we Asians value hard work as a badge of honor. Cultural difference maybe?
And of course, there were many other pictures which I am too tired to post and would probably leave it to the next few days 🙂