Last week I should have been in Aberdeen working with lawyers from across the world, teaching them sophisticated presentation skills as part of a degree offered by Aberdeen University. When the virus hit the world I was asked if I could adapt my physical interactive training and join the rest of the faculty in presenting on line. I hesitated but only for a moment. We all had to adapt so I felt I had to do my bit. Several weeks later I was able to run a newly designed and adapted way of passing on my knowledge and the feedback was positive.
However on the last day at 4.30pm I informed my final group of 7 lawyers and environmentalists that I was going to pour myself a drink. Mindful of how early it was in the day I asked if anyone was on a time zone a few hours ahead so that I could imagine I was with him or her and ease my guilt.
The virtual hands went up and I connected to Fadi in Beirut who told me he was a couple of hours ahead. I suggested we could imagine that we could enjoy a meal together as I’d heard that Beirut had an eclectic cuisine. ‘What would you suggest I choose which would represent the best of the Lebanon?’ I asked. His reply was enthusiastic and he took me through some tasty dishes, hummus and pitta bread, tabouleh and lamb.
By this point the whole group had their virtual hands up wanting to share the best that their countries could offer.
Fadi asked me, when I’d unmuted him, whether I was a vegetarian as he could only offer me porridge and meat, meat and meat. I replied that I liked meat and that I’d heard that the cattle of Namibia were lean so I looked forward to a healthy meal.
Ksenia wanted to turn her camera around to show us her view, a forest in Russia at the bottom of her garden, while tempting me to try Russian dumplings.
Maria asked if I’d ever been to Greece and I was able to tell her that I’d cooked Moussaka that very week and I shared with her my student travels to the Greek Islands. She suggested I tried dried octopus.
Finally I unmuted Shafi who invited me to visit his country one day when it was safe to travel once again, so that I could climb his wonderful mountain – Mount Kiliminjaro.
Although I’d designed and executed an interactive and interesting series of workshops there was one thing I had not been able to do for them all, and that was to sit with them and chat. They had missed getting to know their fellow students and share experiences, but just for a moment the human element came into our lives, all the sweeter for it being unexpected and I was deeply moved by their passion and love of their own countries.