Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Moments That Excite Me

People who know me also know that  I am somewhat reserved and introverted in person, (ok, i heard that!) BUT I do have a tendency to get excited about making new friends online. At times I like to think of myself as the Queen of Social Networking because I enjoy using social media so much.  Recently, I have begun to use social media tools to enable me to travel, explore, and learn about people in other countries and I have found it to be a rewarding pasttime as well as helping me to practice my people-helping skills.

A month or so ago someone crossed my path who spoke very little English.  Having had 3 years of Spanish in high school and having visited Mexico City over 30 years ago, I immediately rose to the challenge of trying to communicate with this person.  I discovered very quickly that this person lived in Spain (yes, the country .... not another little town somewhere in Texas).  So from that point, my interest piqued in trying to communicate with this person. 

In the beginning, our conversation pretty much consisted of "hola, muy bien, gracias, and no lo se" (hello, very good, thank you, and I don't know).  In an attempt to alleviate the frustration we both were feeling from our mutual inability to understand each other, I initially tried to find a Web 2.0 tool to allow us to communicate through the use of a translator.  I discovered that Google has a translator application and helped my friend to learn to use this tool as well.  The application allowed me to type in English and it would translate my words immediately into Spanish for my friend.  Eureka!  We are now understanding each other !

From this point I easily discovered that my friend's name was Javier and his wife's name was Eugenia and works as a carpenter.  Javier asked whether I used Facebook, or CaraLibro in Spanish, which of course I do.  We agreed to become Facebook friends and from there we were able to share photos of our homes, families, cultures and lifestyles. Javier has posted some wonderful photos of the coast of Spain and of the work he has done as a hobby building and restoring boats. We then found that Facebook will allow you to add the Google Translator application which will enable the user to copy and paste translated text into the chat window.  Another new discovery to enable us to better communicate !

I learned that Javier had a strong desire to learn to speak English.  Eugenia speaks a little English from her years in Mexico City, but Javier's English was minimal at best. Communicating in text only was not helping Javier improve his English skills.  He needed to be able to hear and repeat the English words he was reading and studying in his English textbook. Now Google Translator will also enable you to hear the words in the new language, but what we discovered was that sometimes phrases do not translate into another language in a way that makes clear sense.  Example:  When I would say the word "blessings" to Jaiver, it would come out "benedictions", which of course does not have the same connotation in English at all. So it is better to have a person who speaks English who can deliever and facilitate the instruction.

Next, I asked Javier if he had ever tried using Skype.  He had not but was willing to try and mentioned that he had a webcam on his computer.  Javier was able to quickly set up a Skype account and in no time he and Eugenia and I were looking at each other face to face and hearing each other's voice.  This was the very first time Javier and Eugenia had ever Skyped with someone outside their country, so needless to say we were all very excited.  From my end, it was like watching two children on Christmas morning !  We were all so happy to be able to communicate with each other and to meet each other face to face and we found ourselves laughing out loud.  Javier and Eugenia were holding up their family dog Xana (Shana) which is like a child to them.  Sadly, Xana did not seem too excited to meet me. (haha)

I gathered that Javier and Eugenia live a very simple life with few material possessions and yet they appear to be extremely happy with their lives.  Javier has plans to continue working hard to perfect his English skills and I have already found that my Spanish is coming back to me in increasing measure just from talking to my friends from Spain.  What a delight it was to help someone find the tools to expand their world and to better communicate with the world around them!!! 

These are the moments that excite me!   Technology tools have the ability to change lives and benefit people in incredible ways.  We take so many of the powerful tools we have at our disposal for granted.  Seeing somone be able to broaden their horizons and achieve their goals inspires me to go out there and make more new friends and venture into the unexplored worlds around me.

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