My body has – for better or for worse – been anchored (more or less) in Dubuque, Iowa (USA) since the beginning of the pandemic. 9,131 miles (and 14,695 kilometers) away from Dubuque is the city of Durban, in South Africa. Which is in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. I visited just once – in 2011. Unfortunately my stay there was curbed, as upon breaking up with my then-boyfriend – who had joined me on the trip – I felt it was necessary to not only hightail it out of the relationship but also hightail it out of the country…perhaps to be sure that I was giving him no mixed signals when it came to ‘the break-up message’. But, alas, that is a story for another day…
Back to Durban. Last week, starting on Monday, 11th April, the province of KwaZulu-Natal – in which Durban is located – was hit by terrible floods. I found out immediately when I woke up on Monday, because our kickass Marketing Operations Coordinator – Sarah Williams (who is based there) – had shared in our ‘Brand & Marketing Magic’ WhatsApp group the following: “Good morning ladies. It is pouring and flooding in certain areas here at the moment and it is affecting my electricity. I’m moving over to the farm home with the generator. Just an FYI. 💓💓💓”
On Tuesday morning, I woke up to some messages from our Head of Account Management – Lee Van Staden (also based in Durban) – that she had dropped in the ‘Global Emergencies’ hub that we have created in Basecamp (the project management software that we use at Growmotely). “Hey Team, we are experiencing massive floods – we’ve had power outages due to the flood water, they are advising us not to drive if possible as roads have been washed away. I’m fine, just updating in the event I lose connection.” Lee had dropped a one-minute video of a local news program – which was showing footage of a mudslide between the M7 Highway and Spaghetti Junction.
Around noon, I cruised over to my WhatsApp, and sent a quick text to my beloved friend-of-20-years, Jessie, who had been living in Durban since 2017, with her husband and two children, after a move from Cape Town. (We had met initially in California in 1999.) “Hi Jess. Just seeing the flooding and wanted to check in.” Jess responded shortly after, “Hi VK! Wow – you heard about it? Yes, we are all fine. But many are suffering.”
“Wow – you heard about it?” That stopped me in my tracks. Had this event not made the international news? Was this story not being covered in America? Many of Jessie’s family members and friends lived in the US; were they not checking in with her? Was I the only one? It had been top of mind for me over the last 24 hours because of my Growmotely team members, and the active channels via which we communicate.
I sat with this for a moment, and something sunk in. I had a moment. And the ‘moment’ I had was this: I was experiencing something – thanks to my work world at Growmotely. A ‘work benefit’ you could call it – that I realized was priceless. A benefit that money couldn’t buy. This ‘benefit’ was the same thing I suspected would be true when I found out back in October of last year – when I was interviewing for my job as Growmotely’s Creative Writer and your Remote Work Cupid – that all three of my future colleagues on the Brand & Marketing Team were based in Romania…a country I didn’t know very much about at the time. (Now it has become one of the centers of my world, mind you.)
This benefit is about learning about the world in a way that is organic, authentic and quite frankly, extraordinarily beautiful. It’s about learning about the world through real relationships with people who are based across different continents. It’s about hearing real stories about Ukrainian refugees from your team members in Romania – because they are hosting them in their homes. It’s about sending money directly to said people – instead of (or in addition to) donating to refugee organizations – because those people can give the money directly to the refugees who are travelling through Romania to get to their family members who live in Italy (for example).
This work lifestyle of being educated about the world – in real ways every single day – is absolutely priceless, and there is no gym membership or professional development stipend that could ever compete with this particular work ‘benefit’.
My now-boyfriend (he and I are much better suited than the one I broke up with in Durban BTW – good riddance!) once wrote to his good friend – the Abbot of our local Catholic monastery (!) – whilst I was away on a work trip in San Francisco: “It is risky to love and be loved by another. Part of me is walking – assuming she’s walking right now – in San Francisco.” The Abbot ended up using this passage for his homily the following Sunday, and I will invoke it once again here. “It is risky to love and be loved by another. Part of me is walking – assuming they are walking right now – in Durban, Bucharest, Austin, Hermosillo, Lagos, Glasgow, etc.”
Here at Growmotely, one of our values is ‘Stay curious, stay open’, and as such, we see the Future of Work as a global playground whereby we can all live out, embody and express this value freely. We envision a future whereby we all have parts of ourselves that are walking around in a variety of different regions of the world at any given time, and as a result we care deeply about what happens in these different regions.
We would love for you to join us…on this adventurous, beautiful playground…of global relationships and teams, where we learn new things about ourselves and the world every single day.
Written by: Vanessa Kettner (Growmotely’s Creative Writer and your Remote Work Cupid)
Dedicated to: Sarah Hawley and her co-founders --> Thank you for creating this playground for us. ❣️