Monday, December 12, 2011

Fish on a Bike

This weekend I had the privilege of meeting Au Pairs from all over Europe and South America. It all started Friday night when I visited their classroom as an American panelist for them to ask questions of us about what it's like to grow up and be an American. Questions were asked about holidays, dating, homosexuality, religion and things we like to do. After spending an hour of answering questions about America, we played a rousing game of American Jeopardy. My team consisted of loud and proud Germans so we named our team Germany. While we may have been the loudest, we were not the fastest and lost the game but had a great time doing so.

Saturday was a big day for me. A dream of mine was starting to take fruitation. I have had this desire to be a registered tour guide and today was my day to test this out. I met up with the group at Union Station for lunch before boarding a bus that would take us all around the city and I was the one leading the way. AH!!!!!! I was so scared because some of the places that they wanted us to drive through I had never been to before so I had no idea what to expect.

Well let me just say, it didn't go so well. The girls were sleeping or talking to each other and really had no desire to engage in conversation with me at all. The places we went to, while fun to walk around to eat and shop, are relatively boring to see from a bus. I mean really who wants to just look at RFK stadium or drive through Eastern Market, Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, U Street and Columbia Heights? These were mostly neighborhoods and lets face it one row of houses pretty much looks like the next so I really didn't have much to work with here. Because we were going to so many places we ran out of time to even see the monuments which are my most comfortable area as I have given tours here many times before.

But have no fear, tour number 2 was a night tour of the monuments and I knew how to control a crowd here. This time I took over planning where we were going to go and how things were going to work and it went so much better. We stopped at the Korean and Lincoln memorials first before heading over to walk through MLK and FDR before finishing off at Jefferson. I was on top of my A game here and while the students were not as prepared for the cold, I felt that I had really shown myself as a guide here. It was comfortable.

The goal of the Au Pair weekend for the Au Pairs was to see themselves as fish. When they are in their native land they are like fishing swimming in water. It's natural, easy and comfortable for them to go about and be with other fish. When they came to America it was like they became fish out of water as they were thrown into a new environment with different surroundings. They have to learn to breathe differently on land and the view is only what they make of it. They then have the choice of either being fish on a beach or fish on a bicycle. If they choose to become fish on a beach they will only see what is directly around them but they will not be able to participate in anything that is going on around them. Instead they must choose to become fish on a bicycle. Fish of bicycles must learn to get up and explore what is around them in a whole new way of life that is unnatural for fish to do.

I know for me that first tour and the whole experience of being a guide like this was a new experience for me and it was completely uncomfortable. I felt like a fish out of water going to some of those places where I had never been before. But as I sit back and reflect on it, that is how new experiences are started. We must learn to do things that are uncomfortable or not natural to us until they do become easier. I'm sure the fish did not just jump on the bike and take off right away. He had to first have the courage to get up on the bike, learn to balance on it, figure out how to pedal and steer. Learning new things is not easy but they can be some of the most rewarding experiences if you will first have the courage to get up on the bike and go.

So while this was not my most glorified experiences, I did learn what it feels like to be a fish out of water on a bike. And I can't wait to try it again.

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