Sunday, January 18, 2009

“W”anity speaks “W”olumme


I will be starting an 8-week training workshop on effective writing for all the staffs at this NGO I am volunteering for. The whole idea came about when the country representative feels that the staff’s writing and reporting skills need to be improved. Since I have done training before and have a law degree, she thought that I would be able to manage this task. I was happy to do it, although not without some apprehension of my own since the last time I carried out a training was probably four years ago.

I had my first introduction last Friday and for those who have been following my blog, you would know that my main concern was figuring out a way to control my urge to laugh impulsively when something tickles me. You will be happy to learn that I managed to stifle the giggles although there were potential moments which called for such threats. Perhaps, I was nervous, meeting most of the staffs for the first time and being given the centre stage. That helped a lot in suppressing my generous appetite for laughing.

Many people who know me would never assume that I am the shy type but I am. I think it’s mainly because I’m afraid of embarrassing myself and pay too much attention on what others think about me. So, I understand very well when I was told that I shouldn’t expect all the staffs to participate willingly during the workshop, for very similar reasons. As Asians, we have a strong dislike towards losing face. Sure, everyone doesn’t like to lose face but Asians do take it a notch higher.

Anyway, I tried to figure out a way to encourage the staffs to speak and tried to make them understand that there are worse repercussions than just losing face. I have learned this myself over the years and therefore, I am able to stand up today in front of a bunch of strangers and talk. I wanted to share that anecdote with them.


When I was in secondary school, I forced myself to be a member of the debating team. Note the word “force” because every time it was my turn to speak, I would shit in my pants, figuratively of course. This wasn’t the worse part because the night before, I would literally sweat while tossing and turning in bed, picturing the scene which were to take place the next day. That was the extent of my glossophobia (fear of public speaking).

In college, I made the effort to join the Toastmaster International, again in an attempt to “cure” my phobia. It didn’t really help.

Then, came university. I used to have a problem pronouncing the letter “V”, as in I would pronounce it as “W” instead. So, I would say something like, “I am wying for a Wolwo or Wolskwagen”. I never really realise this problem until my two closest friends at that time pointed it out to me by laughing hysterically, in my face. It was embarrassing and annoying but instead of awoiding (oops! I mean, avoiding) using words that begin with “V”, I started practising hard and I am cured now (although it comes back and bites me occasionally but what the heck, at least I can pronounce my private part correctly whenever I want to).

Well, this taught me a lesson. I am thankful for these two friends who made fun of me mercilessly. If not for them, I would never know my own weakness as most people will be too polite to say anything.

So, now I tried to share this with my colleagues. We can try to use our distaste for losing face either to our advantage or disadvantage. You can either stay quiet and die of ignorance or you can learn to improve yourself so that you won’t be laughed at again.

As to how I have come to change myself, I have perhaps two persons to be grateful for; my trainer in Timor Leste who had taught me that training can be fun and filled with laughter and hence was also the person who helped develop my interest in using unconventional methods for adult learning.

The other person is myself. It may sound arrogant but in the end, it is really up to you to make that change because what people say about you being your own worst enemy, it is all true.

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