Meeting new people-make it a habit.
Missed opportunities can sometimes never be repeated
It drives some people crazy but I love meeting new people and finding out more about them. Every opportunity missed to introduce myself to someone and find out something about them is an opportunity missed. Sometimes I am thrown into a situation where because of circumstances I really have no choice in the matter. On other occasions it may be a chance meeting while waiting in a queue at a shop or airport. A smile and a friendly inquiry usually bring a positive response and often also a big surprise. There are so many interesting people in the world and missing opportunities to speak with them will never be repeated as they only come once and then slip away into the file of missed opportunities- “if only!”
Walking on the beach at Gonubie the other day my little Grandson showed that he has this same attitude. “My name is Luc” he called out with a big smile to a similar sized 3 year old also walking on the beach. Unfortunately the other boy did not have the same attitude and chose to hide behind his Dad, missing a great opportunity to make a new friend, even if just for a few hours.
Let me share with you a few of the interesting people I met:
- Robbie Green-The Game Ranger Lecturer/Trainer. While having a swim in the pool at Skukuza Camp in the Kruger National Park recently I challenged a young boy to an underwater swimming contest, which he won. This led to some friendly discussion with the family and a man also cooling down in the pool. As the family left to go on a game drive I struck up a discussion with Robbie Green who proved to be a very interesting character. Apart from the fact that he is the nephew of one of the all-time great South African authors, Lawrence Green, he is doing important work in the conservation area in South Africa. He lectures and trains Game Rangers at the South African Wild Life College in Orpen on the border of the Kruger National Park. His special interest and concern lies in preserving the endangered Rhino population. With an army background and a deep love for nature he seems to be ideally suited for this job. Even if our visit was brief I was impressed by his passion for what he is doing and learned a lot about what is so tragically happening not only in South Africa but in the rest of Africa to the Rhino population.
- Dr. Chris Chetsanga- The Micro Biologist. It is very unlikely that I would ever meet someone in this line of expertise. Both of us attending the graduation ceremony of the class of 2014 at the African Christian College in Manzini Swaziland. He was the guest of honor and I was a part time voluntary lecturer. We shared digs for two nights (my flat) as he flew and bussed in from Zimbabwe where he is the Vice-chancellor at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare. He is chairman of the Zimbabwean Council of Higher Education. Chris is a very humble and delightful gentleman who was educated at Berkeley and Pepperdine Universities in California and then the Universities of Toronto and Harvard. He did ground breaking work in the area of DNA research and specifically in the area of cell repair after cancer treatment. For this work he was nominated for a Nobel Biological and Medicine Prize some years ago. He received a UNESCO Gold Medal and was recognized as one of the great minds of the 21st Century by the American Biological Institute. His insight into what is happening in Zimbabwe and in Africa in general and also his understanding of the teachings of Christ led to some interesting discussion. In the area of micro-biology I could only listen with awe.
- Odile and Alain Feiver- French couple in Rheims area. Some years ago while standing in a queue at Gatwick Airport in London to board a plane to France on a 5 pound special offer I struck up a conversation with a young woman who was from Rheims in France. She was now working in London teaching French. She was seeing off her parents who were returning home after a visit. When she heard that my wife Audrey and I planned to hire a car and camp in the area her parents stayed she introduced us to them. “They will help you with hiring the car and finding a campground” she offered with a nodded agreement from her parents who spoke no English. So our relationship began. They were exceedingly helpful and we ended up enjoying a memorable lunch at their home near Rheims. Early one morning Alain dropped off a packed of apples at out tent on his way to deliver fruit to the various supermarkets in the area. They also provided an interesting tour of the area of France where important battles took place. Odile translated our conversations using an English/French dictionary and Alain confessed that for the first time in his life he wished he had learnt to speak English. We keep in touch by e-mail and I hope they will visit us in South Africa.
- Donna H Bowman-Author of children books. While waiting for Audrey at Atlanta Airport some year ago I struck up a conversation with a woman waiting for her husband to arrive on a different plane. We soon found out (amazingly) that we had mutual interest in the Eastern Cape in South Africa where I live. She was writing an adventure story about a little boy lost in Africa and had set it at the Darlington Dam in the Addo Elephant Park some 200 km from our home. To some extent I became her African “expert” and we have kept in contact by e-mail. I have been encouraging her to come on a safari in South Africa and at one stage she nearly did. Recently Donna sent me a great book she had published on Cats and it is a favorite when the grand kids come and visit. Her husband is the fire-chief in Atlanta and I need to visit them if I ever get to Atlanta again.
- Kakie Ferreira-Honorary Game Ranger, Berg en Dal, Kruger National Park. My East Cape number plate caught his eye and so we exchanged names.Found out that some 40 plus years ago we had briefly played for the same rugby team in Port Elizabeth. For 25 years he spent his annual leave as an Honorary Game Ranger. Since he retired he now occupies this voluntary position on a permanent basis. He played provincial rugby for 4 provincial teams in South Africa teams, a rare achievement in his time. We shared memories of times past and players we played with and against. He now buys Bibles every month to distribute to the game reserve staff that he supervises at Bergen Dal rest camp.
So over and over again I have met interesting people along the path of life. All it takes is a friendly smile and a greeting; “my name is Johan, where are you from?” to get a conversation going. Where could it lead to? You just never know!