The vessel called The Flying Dutchman has been described as a “ghost ship” that is relentlessly blown about by the winds and kept away from every port. In the Wagner opera, the Dutchman takes on a human form and is redeemed by a maiden named Senta, who throws herself into the sea.

I sometimes wonder if I will meet the fate of the Flying Dutchman, whether it be the ship or the wanderer. Then I remember what a business contact told me about another Dutchman who impressed him while he was on an assignment in Germany.

The Dutchman of the non-flying variety is swift of tongue and can change linguistic registers as if a spell has been cast. He can carry on a conversation in Portuguese with the owner of a Brazilian restaurant, then turn to his German counterpart and perform the instant feat of code-switching. Finally, he addresses my acquaintance in flawless English, leaving him baffled and just the slightest bit envious.

Spanish, French and Italian are my languages of preference. Whenever I begin to think that this blessing can also be a curse, I remember the non-flying Dutchman who is a successful businessman overseas. One day I will find an employer who, like Senta, will brave the perilous waters of the unknown and give my unusual skill set a safe harbor.

Advertisements