Archie's joie de vivre was infectious, and when our group gathered
at Hilton's El Conquistador in Tucson, Arizona, to have their
pictures taken, he kept us entertained for hours with his humorous,
insightful, and touching outlook on the world. Although business
travel is inevitable, Archie views it as an opportunity to learn
from and help people in other cultures and share his good fortune
wherever he goes - no matter if he's in Kuala Lumpur, Venice,
Tucson, or Dar Es Salaam.
I was in Dresden, Germany, teaching classes for two weeks. All of
the engineers in my classes understood and spoke English fluently,
but I rarely heard English on the streets or on TV. I was
craving conversation. It was Saturday night. I was alone and
feeling isolated due to my lack of conversational German skills, so
I chose an Italian restaurant - spaghetti is spaghetti in any
I sat down at my table for one and I heard English being spoken. I
focused all my energies on figuring out where it was coming from.
It was two tables over, so I craned my neck to see who it was.
There were two guys, and I could only hear snippets of the
conversation: "If she labors tonight
breeding for color ... ."
And then a bit later, a cheerful toast "... to Picasso!"
I must have been staring them down. I can be a crafty eavesdropper
when I try, but I wasn't trying. I wanted to talk to them. Finally,
one of them came over and said, "Does staring at us mean that you
would like to join us?" Trying to be cool, I replied, "Um, sure."
We sat in awkward silence for a couple seconds. I launched into,
"So, what do you do?" I was expecting answers like OB-GYN or
art-history major, but the response was, "We are alpaca farmers."
They were speaking English because that was the common language
between them. The West German guy, Hartwig, was starting an alpaca
farm a half-hour outside of Dresden. The Chilean guy, Louis, was
brought in to help and consult. They were expecting a baby alpaca
to be born that night. I was invited to the alpaca farm. It was an
offer I could not refuse.