A business development colleague of mine once advised me that its hard to say no to someone that you’ve had a cup of coffee with. I am often reminded of that bit of sage advice here in Vietnam when business appointments usually start with a smile and polite offer of a steaming cup of tea. The acceptance of that simple act and the ritual of a shared pot always seems to accelerate meetings past the introductory stage to one where friendships start to take root.

This morning, I enjoyed some tea with the Dean of Special Education at Ho Chi Minh City University. I first met her several months ago in a much more formal encounter when she was new to the position. She had asked Thuy and I to brief her on our Deaf Education Program which has the endorsement of her department. She was enthusiastic to learn about our work. Vietnam does not presently offer Master’s degrees in deaf education. Students earn undergraduate degrees in special education, leaving them with just topical knowledge about deaf education. We started to explore ideas in which we could extend more advanced education to university students who expressed interested in pursuing teaching careers with children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

In today’s conversation, we worked out a preliminary plan for the Global Foundation to support a brand new course offered by the university. The focus of the course is on listening and spoken language, audiology, and early intervention for children with hearing loss. Students will spend their practicum working at Thuan An Center’s new early intervention center. It is exciting to have the opportunity to support the development of future teachers in this area of deaf education as part of the strong relationships we have developed with the university and Thuan An Center.

Later in the day, I enjoyed a tea break with the new public affairs officer at the US Consulate. The US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City has been a supporter of our efforts from the start. They added some pomp to our opening ceremonies in 2010, pulling up to Thuan An Center in diplomat cars to help us celebrate the launch of our Deaf Education program. We’ve been honored to receive funding support from their grant program and had the opportunity to present our work at the Consulate headquarters last summer. We’ve enjoyed many cups of tea together along the way. Today was my first opportunity to meet Tom and I look forward to continued collaboration starting with some media exposure for our Mobile Mission next week.

My former colleague was right. There is something magical about a cup of steaming beverage and face to face conversation that makes it a whole lot easier to forge meaningful relationships and get to yes, whatever your aspirations may be.