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Building Partnerships - One Conversation at a Time

  • Published
  • By Capt. Martha L. Petersante
  • 376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Today, we interact in our virtual worlds, sometimes on a daily basis with peers, coworkers, friends, relatives and acquaintances. Numerous advances in technology have greatly influenced how the world conducts business, receives information and communicates.

We exist in our plugged-in, virtual worlds much more at times than we live in our "real" world; for some, the lines blur into a pseudo mix of virtual reality meets the real-world.

Ask yourself -- could you go a day or more without access to your e-mail, computer, or smart phone?

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with a small group of local ladies at an American Corner Women's Club, a U.S. Embassy sponsored initiative designed to facilitate a bilateral cultural exchange at the Bayalinov library in Bishkek, and talk (yes, face-to-face conversations) about technology and how they see it influencing their daily lives.

Not knowing what to expect when I took my seat at the table, and as I am by no means an expert on advances in technology, the conversation began. It was slow at first with the group looking for some common ground but soon topics were flying around the room at lightning speed.

As everyone settled into a conversational rhythm, you could see many of the ladies relax and begin to enjoy and become engaged in the conversation. A simple exchange of information and ideas around a table in a library - while taking a nice break from the virtual world we tend to inhabit.

Even though we were not texting or IMing but assisting these ladies to refine their English language skills, we discovered that conversation builds friendships and partnerships.

Words may not always translate effectively and may have multiple meanings, but when you put words and body language together where you can see the entire conversation, you've got it -- that concept of understanding. When I explained my job, how I utilize technology daily and then how I had to teach my parents how to Skype - there it was, that connection, saying "yes, I've been there too and know exactly what you are talking about."

Being able to take part in this event, this partnership of ideas, and contribute to the dialog was interesting and exciting, especially learning about our similarities and differences in viewpoints.

Take for example the search engine, Google (and yes, I have to admit I use this capability quite a lot -myself and probably a large portion of the world too). When asked about favorite websites, internet search engines kept surfacing, which I found to be quite interesting. Even though I am half-way around the world, thousands of miles from home, common "techie lingo" was just a few miles down the road.

One of the participants summed it up quiet effectively - "Mother Google" she said, "If I don't know, I usually start with Google," when talking about how technology helped in her studies and also allowed her to connect readily with her peers.

I'd like to think that for that short amount of time I spent with these ladies that I helped a few of them practice their English while learning about America's technological culture; I'll be looking for the Tweets and blogs talking about this event on Google tonight.

It's true -- one conversation can lead to a friendship and a cooperative partnership -- one blinking cursor at a time.