In life we can often feel as though we’re trapped in a revolving door. Where you could once keep moving, something happens and you’re stuck, unable to go either forward or back, trapped. Ever experienced this? If not, and you’re wondering how it feels, then let me enlighten you. I’m not talking metaphorically here, I’m speaking literally. Yes, trapped in a revolving door, of a bank, with alarm bells rings and security guards shouting at you in Portuguese, not able to understand a word, and unable to move forward or back. It’s actually quite scary, in fact very scary, but once freed from my glass prison and escorted from the premises, it caused much hilarity among my team mates. Seems that I had tried to enter via the wrong door, unable to read the signs, and that had triggered the major alert.
This is just one example of where my lack of Portuguese is proving a problem. I’ve never travelled anywhere before where I have felt quite so helpless in terms of understanding or making myself understood. I honesty thought that more people in Rio would be able to speak English but I am finding that it’s really is not the case. Apart from the obvious difficulties of shopping and getting around, I was beginning to wonder how on earth I’d be able to do my mentoring if I could not communicate with my client.
Enter our interpreters, an enthusiastic group of young students from the Rio business school who are keen to engage with the social entrepreneurs and practice their already excellent English. Today was the day when we all got together and what a fantastic experience it was. My client, Elisa, turned out to be the most delightful young lady who is extremely passionate about her project of bringing urban gardens into junior schools to encourage young kids to eat healthily. Together with our interpreter Guido, we joined the rest of the group in a workshop to explore ideas and best practices on how we might take each of the client projects forward. It was a lively and expressive meeting with everyone managing to get their thoughts and ideas across with lots of laughter, nodding in agreement and excellent discussions, all of it being interpreted by our willing team. We all made out points succinctly, we paused for interpretation and comments, gave everyone time to get their views across, and kept to time. If only every business meeting could be conducted like this, I think we’d all get a lot more done!
I ended the day feeling less concerned about my lack of Portuguese and in fact thinking how fortunate we were to need interpreters, as one of them turned out to be a qualified beer sommelier and has offered to lead us all on a beer tasting tour of the city. Sometimes I just love the way things turn out! My Rio experience keeps getting better and better!