What happens when you take 10 complete strangers from around the globe and drop them in a foreign country, where you know no one, you have no clue how to navigate the geography and none of you speak the local language? You get a little bit of chaos and a whole lot of fun! Welcome to Uberlandia and welcome to the Celanese International Impact Program – affectionately known as CIIP.
It’s quite difficult to describe in words what this experience has been like. It’s something you just have to experience yourself to truly understand the impact that something like this can have on you. You quickly realize how much knowledge and experience you have to draw from when you are at home, in your comfort zone, that you unconsciously draw from every day that guides you in everything you do – simple things like how to get to work, what to eat for lunch, going to the gym. At home these are simple things, things that you just do. But here in Brazil, to do those simple things, you really have to think through how to accomplish them.
Imagine getting in a taxi at the airport and trying to explain to him that you need to go to your hotel. But because of your accent he can’t understand you – in English or with the limited Portuguese you tried to learn before coming out to Brazil.
Imagine very strategically picking where to have dinner, based on how easy you think it will be to order food, hoping for a menu with pictures so that you can point to what you want, only to get there and find there are no pictures and it’s all in Portuguese; and your CIIP program guide, who up until now was the only person who spoke Portuguese, has just gone home and you are completely on your own for the next three weeks.
Imagine trying to explain to the front desk at the hotel, with a very limited Portuguese vocabulary, that you need to find a place to do laundry because it’s been two weeks and you are completely without any clean clothes; or that the key to your hotel room has suddenly stopped working and you need a new one.
Imagine being assigned to a project with three other Celanese employees here in Brazil. None of whom you have ever met, and each who have completely different professional skills than you, and you have all been placed on a project that none of you have experience in professionally. Oh, and by the way, you have only 4 weeks to figure out what you are doing to accomplish the deliverable at hand … no pressure!
Every day you encounter multiple experiences like this where you have no choice but to figure out a way to communicate and get through the day; and at the end of the day, you just find a way, and it all works out. After only being on the ground in Brazil for a day or two, struggling through some of the most basic activities of life together, this team of 10 total strangers who had nothing in common except for the fact they worked for Celanese and all spoke English, all came together and quickly formed a bond that is so special. There are really no words to describe it, but it’s such a beautiful thing. An experience like this makes you realize that when you all come together with an open mind, focused on a common vision, anything is possible. It doesn’t matter that you’ve never had any experience in a particular area, or that you don’t speak the local language. When you focus on what you have in common, rather than what sets you apart, anything is possible!
Partnering with the local NGOs to make positive impact on the communities here in Brazil, the new relationships I’ve formed and the special friendships that have resulted from this project is something so special that I will cherish always! I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to participate in unique opportunities like the CIIP program to do so with no regrets. Life is always busy and it’s easy to find the reasons why you can’t make something like this work. But if given the opportunity, just do it! Because this is one of those life changing moments, and these opportunities are often few and far between.
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of 10 blog posts by team members of the first Celanese International Impact Program to Uberlandia, Brazil.