Welcome to Ireland! Or, er, Failte!

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We’re one week into our new home here in Cork, Ireland and it’s funny how the more things are the same, the more they seem different.

We now live in Ireland!

We now live in Ireland!

It’s called the Emerald Island for a reason.   You might think a simple color would not be enough to market an entire country, but as Lulu and I looked out upon the landscape stretched out before us as the bus drove us to the coastal village of Crosshaven, the word “green” is what kept coming to mind.

Greetings from Crosshaven, Cork County, Ireland.

Greetings from Crosshaven, Cork County, Ireland.

“It’s like Indiana,” Lulu said, reminded of my rural home state where we spent much of this summer getting reacquainted with family.

What with its cows and farms and pastures, indeed it does.

And yet it doesn’t.

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The architecture is different.  You’ll see fewer wood frame homes here and most are slathered in a gravelly cement coating.  Grey seems to be the predominant color with neighborhoods accentuated by a few bright creamy yellows.

Unlike Paris with a patisserie on every corner or Tuscany with a trattoria or pizzeria on the same; here on every corner blooms a pub.

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Just a few of Ireland's assorted pubs

Just a few of Ireland’s assorted pubs

The interesting names painted on the signs outside may vary but the interiors are relatively the same. There are cozy, dark wood tables and chairs, and a collage of photos, paintings or other knickknacks covering the walls.  Menus so far seem heavy on things fried.   I haven’t had a salad in over a week but I have had plenty of cod and chips.

A sneak-peek inside this pub.

A sneak-peek inside this pub.

The "pickleback" is a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey with a shot of pickle juice.  They tell me it's terrific. I wouldn't know!

The “pickleback” is a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey with a shot of pickle juice. They tell me it’s terrific. I wouldn’t know!

As for the language: “Everyone speaks singy-English and says ‘Grand.’” Lulu has observed.

I can read every billboard and every newspaper. I can overhear conversations in the pub and understand them. The words don’t blur into a faint white noise like when we lived in Italy.

Our new apartment in Cork, Ireland! Failte

Our new apartment in Cork, Ireland! Failte

We moved into our new apartment a week ago today. It’s tiny but cozy and within easy walking distance to Lulu’s new school.  We had a nice visit the first evening from our landlord Liam, who, like every Irishman I have met so far, is a very easy-going and humorous person.  Having an enjoyable conversation – even when it is mainly about the heating, washing machine and other apartment things – is so much easier when you speak the same language.

In the short single school week Lulu has attended so far, she has already gone to a birthday party and had two separate play dates.  I have already been invited to go out with some of the moms this Friday to a chic trendy restaurant on the River Lee named Electric.

The people here are so kind and cheery, we make friends just by saying, “Hello.”

The friendly singer busker downtown in Cork.

The friendly singer busker downtown in Cork.

And yet, the ease with which it is all happening makes me pang a little for the rush of being in Italy.  There, I felt an extra sense of accomplishment after even the littlest exchange or transaction I managed successfully.  I sort of miss it.  There are no extra points for clearing the language barrier for me now. ;)

Hmm.  It has been unusually sunny every day since we have arrived.  I better wait until the legendary Irish rain arrives before I am convinced there will be no major challenges here.

Lulu asked why they sell sun screen in Ireland since it rains here all the time?

Lulu asked why they sell sun screen in Ireland since it rains here all the time?

As my lovely Italian friends would say, “Piano, piano” – take it slowly.   Or as my Irish friends might say, “Tis no bother at all.”

Lulu and the zip line at the park in Crosshaven, Ireland. Wheee!

Lulu and the zip line at the park in Crosshaven, Ireland. Wheee!

No matter where you are. Another day presents opportunity for another little adventure.

To adventures great and small.

Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

Prairie Pride!

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We made a trip this week to Conner Prairie and took an incredible adventure back in time.

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Lulu and her lamb Lili, both dressed in period clothing, prepare to travel back in time.

Affiliated with the Smithsonian, this museum-park leads you through a meandering journey of pioneer life in Indiana before and around the time it became a state in 1816.

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Lulu and I practiced tomahawk throwing with a real descendant from the Lenape, or Delaware, Indians who lived in this area before and during the fur-trading days of the early 1800s.

Cause every girl needs tomahawk lessons!

Cause every girl needs tomahawk lessons!

Down the lane, real-life historians, artisans and craftspeople recreate a pioneer village from  1836.   They never break character as they demonstrate their handiwork and weave delightful stories about the goings-on in the town.

Pioneer Wheel of Fortune

Pioneer Wheel of Fortune

Before entering “Prairietown, Lulu spun a wheel which determined she would be a local artist in the village. As such, she had certain tasks to perform and answers she needed to discover by asking questions of the other villagers.

We had to ask those questions in present tense and never let on that we were really visitors from the future.  (I asked “Mrs. Zimmerman” at the Golden Eagle Inn, for example, if I could take her picture with my “brand new camera contraption” and she pulled out a large wooden box with a lens on the front and a mirror inside that projected a reflected image on a piece of paper that could then be copied in pencil as the newest camera she had recently received from her brother in Europe. )

Lulu smiled with her from behind the Inn’s bar.

Would you like some Elderberry wine?

Would you like some Elderberry wine?

Lulu was given the chore to wash  some vegetables at the Inn.

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She also patiently learned how to hand-dip a beeswax candle.

Each beeswax candle takes dozens of dips in the hot wax to reach the right size.

Each beeswax candle takes dozens of dips in the hot wax to reach the right size.

She sang folk tunes with “Mrs. Campbell” and her “Sister Laura who is visiting from the big city of Lexington and doesn’t like this little town at all.”

Lulu sang songs with these lovely ladies

Lulu sang songs with these lovely ladies

She rolled dough and cut out noodles with the spinster lady (at the ripe old age of 27!) who lived at a cabin with a dozen or so real young turkeys wandering in the backyard.

This is a bit different than when Lulu helps Daddy make tortelli!

This is a bit different than when Lulu helps Daddy make tortelli!

And Lulu spent about 15 full minutes creating her own custom stencil designs.  I didn’t mind.  The magic wheel had designated her an Artist after all.

Artist at work. I think the pink boots add inspiration to her work.

Artist at work. I think the pink boots add inspiration to her work.

Although we lived for the past three years in Italy, that inspiring land of the Renaissance where history reaches out to you from every street in art and architecture, our experience exploring Conner Prairie was an exhilarating hands-on event.

Village carpenter Mr. McClure, Lulu and Lili.

Village carpenter Mr. McClure, Lulu and Lili.

The idea of role-playing with the pioneers obviously resonated with Lulu who didn’t want to leave the “land of the olden times.”

Grammie and Lulu at the Golden Eagle Inn.

Grammie and Lulu at the Golden Eagle Inn.

And for me, it was an important opportunity to be reminded how proud I am of something I never earned.  It was simply bestowed upon me the day I was born.  Something that could too easily be taken for granted while I was encompassed by the grand history of Italy.  Something that my forefathers worked hard to create and died to protect:  My Hoosier and American heritage.

Thank you, Mom, for taking Lulu and me to Conner Prairie.

Gina

P.S. What’s your heritage? What makes you proud? What makes you appreciate other cultures?

You CAN go back home. But you won’t have enough time to do everything you want….

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I can’t believe it.  After living in Italy for three years, my first visit to the United States is drawing to a close.  This trip back home again to Indiana: the state where I was born, grew up and where my mom and step-dad still live has just one full day left.

My parents' Indiana lakeside home

My parents’ Indiana lakeside home

I landed on American soil on July 18.  With more than a month ahead, in addition to feting with my family, I thought I had plenty of time to reconnect with everyone.   I had so many plans!

Scotty, Lulu and I drove up to northwest Indiana to visit my college-buddy-like-a-brother Sam Wakim and his family for a combined dentist and friendly visit.

Sam and the fams!

Sam and the fams!

I zipped over to La Porte, the town where I was born, and toured Pine Lake where I spent  happy summers with family, and peeked at the house Grandpa and Grannie Raven had built and lived in forever.

Pine Lake in La Porte, Indiana

Pine Lake in La Porte, Indiana

If you look closely, you can see "Gina Andrea Brad" written in this bit of sidewalk that is still at my old grandparents' house - commemorating the births of me, my sister and my brother!

If you look closely, you can see “Gina Andrea Brad” written in this bit of sidewalk that is still at my old grandparents’ house – commemorating the births of me, my sister and my brother!

I had dinner with my fire-chief cousin and his family.

Cousins! Cousins!

I met again with Eric Schneller, the first friend I ever made at Indiana University when I first sat next to him in my freshman biology class.  I had dinner with ADPi sorority sisters Beth, Dottie and Elizabeth.  We moved beyond the shallow ties of youthful sisterhood to wiser bonds forged through surviving the unexpected twists and painful turns real life often deals. We are still hanging in there, but I am not kidding when I say we laughed and we cried.

Sorority Sisters then and real-life sisters now.

Sorority Sisters then and real-life sisters now.

I had dinner with a couple of close youth group friends, Anita and Curt, who got married shortly after high school.  They openly shared the incredible ups and downs that tried and ultimately strengthened their enduring union.

Curt, Anita and me

Curt, Anita and me

And speaking of my school days, I had dearly hoped to travel to Randolph County to the tiny town of Farmland to visit with the friends who were instrumental in creating the many colorful memories I have of my childhood.  We’ve kept up virtually on Facebook, and I wanted to reunite with them in person.

But the weeks flew by and I didn’t make it happen.

I also didn’t get a chance to reconnect with my cousin Debbie and some other people I had envisioned seeing.

But I did get to hug a lot of my immediate family including Mom, Jerry, Andrea, Tony, Sophia, Brad, Jayson, Patience, Helena, Sam, Celeste and my ninety-nine-and-a-half-year-young Aunt Anita aka “Neatie.”

Many of the awesome members of my family!

Many of the awesome members of my family!

We have had boat trips on the lake.

Boat trips, yey!

Boat trips, yey!

C'mon in- the (green lake) water's fine!

C’mon in- the (green lake) water’s fine!

 

We have had bonfires.  We have had dinner parties. We have had cake, cookies and Mom’s famous chocolate chip coffeecake.  Have I mentioned the mountains of ice cream?

Lulu LOOOVES ice cream.

Lulu LOOOVES ice cream.

Did I mention that even though Lulu has already eaten her weight in delectable Italian gelato, one of her new favorite places in the world is Dairy Queen?  Okay, we have had too much eating, I must say.

But we simply have not had enough time to do everything I hoped.

To everyone I saw, I love you and am so glad we were able to see each other again.   To everyone I didn’t get a chance to see.  I am sorry I missed you.  I do miss you.   Please come to see us in Ireland.

Tonight, as Lulu and I looked out across my parents’ backyard on Morse Lake, the setting sun was shimmering on the water.

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“It looks like diamonds. Real ones,” Lulu said.

“Yes, Lulu,” I replied,  reflecting on the memories of the past four weeks.  Although I didn’t get to see and do every single thing I had hoped to when I first arrived, the glow of my time back here in Indiana has been shiny and priceless just the same. Like diamonds. Real ones.

Morse Lake and the things that memories are made of.

Morse Lake and the things that memories are made of.

Love to you, no matter where you are!

Gina

P.S.  How was your summer?  Did you spend it with family? Friends? What’s in store for September?  Let me know!

 

 

 

 

A Day to Celebrate!

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Have you ever tried a red velvet deep fried Oreo cookie?  Neither have I.  But I could have!

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That’s because we traveled to the heart of the heartland.  The apex of all-you-can-eat hearty-heart-attack fantastic funnel cakes, elephant ears, corn dogs and cotton candy:  The Indiana State Fair!

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At first I happily thought I had found the Wine barn.  Then I realized an important letter was obscured by a tree.

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Today was Pork Day.

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And so naturally I had to have a Bar-B-Que Pulled Pork Sandwich.

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Thank you Dwayne, the kind representative from the pork stand.

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And thank you, Carla Comer Peacock, an honest-to-God girlfriend of mine from Monroe Central High School I ran into (we’re friends on Facebook so we recognized each other!!) who helped me get the pink pork-chop T-shirt Lulu is sporting (and the AWESOME pink Indiana Pork hat she isn’t wearing).

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Yes, we went to the livestock barns.   I pet a giant turkey.

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Lulu and her cousin Sophia were a cute little chick and bunny.

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We awed at World’s Largest Hog.

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And hammed it up at the “Make Your Own Post-card Booth” at the Soybean Barn.

state fair fun!

Since state fairs revolve around agriculture and celebrate the livelihood of farming,  indeed, there was a soybean barn… and a corn barn… and a completely recreated pioneer-era working farm.  It was a great fun and learning experience.   For example, the tractor-driven trailers that transported the too-tired-to-walk are fueled by those ubiquitous Hoosier soy legumes.   Cool-beans!

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The Department of Natural Resources sponsored a Catch-and-Release pond and a Butterfly Pavilion.

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We had no takers at our kissing booth.

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But Lulu and Sophia were both very much “Wanted!”

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In the afternoon, as we were ready to go, I saw my friend Carla again. She asked my husband whether we enjoyed Indiana – since we have lived in Europe for so long.    Of course we enjoyed ourselves.  We’re constant tourists.

We revel in all things terrific.

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Who wouldn’t enjoy a lemonade made from inside a giant plastic lemon!

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With love from the Indiana State Fair!

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Baci, Gina! 

Copyright 2014 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.

 

The I’s have it!  Italy, Indiana and Ireland 

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Yesterday, the family gathered at my parents’ house here in Arcadia, Indiana.

My parents' home in Arcadia, Indiana!

My parents’ home in Arcadia, Indiana!

I chose a simple red dress and came upstairs to greet everyone.  My sister Andrea, her husband Tony and their daughter Sophia were to drive over from near Cincinnati, Ohio.  My brother Brad was flying in from Florida and coming here with his girlfriend Leah and her daughter Kyra.  Friends-like-Family, Eric, Linda and their kids Maddie and Max were driving from over a nearby Hoosier town. My niece Patience and her mom Celeste were driving over from near Cleveland.  Even my 99-and-a-half-year-old Aunt Anita, aka Neatie, was here.  Party!

Lulu made the colored water

Lulu added the food coloring for the little centerpieces

My mom was already up in the kitchen wearing a bright lime green shirt and mixing up some home-made potato soup.   I said, “Potato soup! That’s perfect since we’ll be leaving later this month for Ireland.”  She just looked up at me and smiled.

It was right about then that my sister, in a green sparkly shirt, remarked that she and I were like Christmas since I was in red.

Right about then, Brad and Leah arrived, wearing bright green wigs and sunglasses.

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Brad and Leah!

Brad and Leah!

It finally dawned on me.  EVERYONE was wearing green.

The green gang!

The green gang!

And then I saw the cake in Brad and Leah’s hands.

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The potato soup was on purpose. This was not just a simple family gathering at my parent’s lake house on a sunny summer day.

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This was an Irish celebration for Scotty, Lulu and me as we prepare for our next adventure in Ireland.

Here's we are! (and yes, I have changed into something green!)

Here’s we are! (and yes, I have changed into something green!)

Here in  Arcadia, Indiana named after the Greek philosophy of living in harmony with nature and family – it’s certainly something I am drawn to no matter where I travel.

Andrea and Jerry unfurl the flag!

Andrea and Jerry unfurl the flag!

Warm hearts and loving families. In Indiana.  In Italy where we lived for three years.  In Nigeria where I spent the past month.  And yes,  I do so look forward to experiencing it in the verdant rolling hills of Ireland.

Thank you, family, for throwing us such a heart-warming party this weekend.

The ladies and the cake!

The ladies and the cake!

I cherish these moments.

Baci! Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

Nigerian Diary: Leaving Lagos!

I sit in my hotel room with my bags all packed.  This improbable trip to Nigeria, born two years ago through a Tweet and a big dream from a remarkable Nigerian businessman named Ayo Owodunni, has come to a successful close.

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The Find Your Edge Dream Team!

He and fellow visionary businessman, Ayoola Jolayemi, their wives, the amazing support team of Ayoola’s company, SwiftThink, the indomitable Richmond Dayo Johnson, and many others all helped to make this project such a resounding success.

We all believe that Mastering our ABC’s (Appearance, Behavior and Communication)  goes a long way to making a difference in our personal and professional lives  – and the world around us.

The Corporate Affairs team at Nigerian Breweries after our day-long Crisis Communications session.  A+ !!

The Corporate Affairs team at Nigerian Breweries after our day-long Crisis Communications session. A+ !!

Over the past six weeks, our Find Your Edge programs have brought communications training sessions and workshops to businesses, organizations and students.

Me giving it my all at the Find Your Edge STUDENT SUMMIT on Wednesday.

Me giving it my all at the Find Your Edge STUDENT SUMMIT on Wednesday.

And last night, two of SwiftThink’s best and brightest, Tope and Ibukun, treated me to a special night out on the town.

All work and no play...

All work and no play…

Without any instructional slide shows, white boards or case studies, we danced, laughed and sang at Isaac Geralds’s birthday party.

Happy birthday, Isaac! from the ladies.

Happy birthday, Isaac! from the ladies.

An incredible evening of good fun held at “Freedom Park” in Lagos.  It used to be a prison during British colonial times, but now is a gathering place for freedom of expression.  And fun.

No, Isaac did not bring me up on stage. Oh, yes he did!

No, Isaac did not bring me up on stage. Oh, yes he did!

Thank you, gentlemen, for all your hard work during our Find Your Edge project, and for taking care of me last night.

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Thanks, gents!

Thanks, gents!

And thank you Isaac, for your incredible voice that you so freely gave last night AND at the Student Summit on Wednesday.

Check him singing live my favorite song: “Ijebu Girl!” below!

Thank you again, Ayo, for dreaming such BIG dreams. And thank you, Ayoola for putting the business wheels into high gear.  Thank you, Folake and Seyi for being so supportive, sharp and caring. Thanks to everyone of you dear hard workers at SwiftThink.  This is only the beginning!

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Ayoola and me before the start of the Student Summit. Dream BIG people!

As I prepare to get on the plane this evening that will take me back to the United States – which I haven’t visited in three years –  I’ll be remembering all the inspirational experiences and new friends I had and met here in Nigeria.

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Faces of inspiration at our Student Summit this week!

I’ll be looking forward to seeing my husband and daughter whom I haven’t seen since I came here, 34 days ago.  I’ll be thinking of my dear mommy whom I haven’t seen during the whole time I lived in Tuscany.  And I also can’t help thinking about the people who yesterday boarded Malaysian Flight 17 only to meet with unexpected and preventable tragedy.

Nigerians often tell me how much they love life.  Last night’s birthday party certainly demonstrated it in a most joyful way.

Party! :)

Party! :)

I love life too – and want to savor and embrace every second of it because as we all know, life is fleeting.

Let’s encourage one another and unapologetically dance, sing, laugh and celebrate every moment that we can.

I love you, Lagos.  See you soon.

Baci!

Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All rights reserved.

 

Nigeria Diary: The questions I am getting

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Besides the ubiquitous, “How do you find your time here in Nigeria?” which I answer at least half a dozen times each day, some probing souls are asking me more pointed questions.

Questions like, “How can you relate to us as a white?”

I believe there are always ways to find common ground.

I believe there are always ways to find common ground.

“Don’t you think policies in the West will not work here?”

Sharing ideas and experiences .. can be fun!

Sharing ideas and experiences .. can be fun!

As someone who has worked and trained –and even lived – in a variety of places like Indonesia, Cambodia, Tunisia and Egypt, I welcome each and every question from each and every person.   I am never offended when someone is straightforward and honest.  It’s through the questions, that I can learn more about the person and find ways to overcome his or her concerns.

So, for the record, here are some of the questions and my answers I am receiving here in Nigeria.

  1. How can you relate to us as a white?   It’s more than obvious that my skin color is lighter than most everyone I meet here in Lagos. For example, I sat in service yesterday at a parish of Africa’s fastest growing church, The Redeemed Christian Church of Christ.  Did I say “sat?!

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I meant to say, I “stood, danced, sang and shimmied” for four hours! The meeting was a party. An encouraging celebration of each other and God.  I loved all of it.  And yes, I was the only pinky-skinned lady in the hall.  After the service, a young man interviewed me for his blog – asking how I got started with my career.  I offered some relationship and networking strategies – telling him to make sure to keep in close contact with his favorite professors after he graduates. He hadn’t thought of them as possible relationships, only teachers.  We connected on that point.  He is young. I am not as young. He is male. I am not. Yes, he has dark skin. I do not.  Years ago, when I trained an incredible group of Iraqi women running for office, their country was (as is still now) in the midst of chaos and fear.  I couldn’t relate on that level, but I could understand their desires to balance family and career.  We were able to find common ground.  And that’s the trick. Searching for those common hopes, dreams and fears that link us all together as human beings on the planet, regardless of our different cultures, traditions, backgrounds and even skin tones.

2. Don’t you think policies in the West won’t work here in Africa?  Let’s break that down.  Which policies? The policy of being thoughtful to your customers, employees or citizens?  To considering and providing for their well-being?  To holding peaceful, free and fair elections if you call yourself a democracy? Injustices happen everywhere, not just in Africa, and the only way to affect change, is to constantly and consistently expose and push against those injustices.  Observers sometimes complain there is not enough investigative journalism here.  But as I work with journalists and civil rights organizations in places where there is less than free expression due to a variety of real or perceived dire consequences, I am often impressed there is any level of investigative journalism. I try to encourage the increase, not carp about the short-comings.

3. Can you really teach journalists, you seem very motivational?  This was probably my most surprising question, as it didn’t come from a Nigerian at all, but rather from an American who seemed more than skeptical; she seemed down right cynical.  Whew!

Journalism training session

Journalism training session

Of course I try to be motivational. Encouraging.  Supportive. Inspirational.  Call it what you what.  To me,  it’s part of what you do as a trainer, as a coach.  First, you must try to establish a connection or a relationship.  I would NEVER come into a newsroom or any training room for that matter, and immediately launch into how to write better, or how to manage better, or how to stay on message better. What’s the incentive to change, aka work harder, from that approach?

Having once been a working journalist myself, I know that most journalists everywhere are not paid well.  We likely got into the field because we liked telling stories.  Stories that might make a difference.   The way I try to connect with journalists is to re-ignite that flame still burning inside them.  To inspire them that their writing – if credible and accurate – might make those differences over time.

I have read in diplomacy circles that relationships are, for some reason, labeled with the jargony impersonal word, “architecture.”  As in, “how strong is your architecture with journalists??”  Whatever the word, the point remains the same.  If you don’t first connect with your audience on some level, they are never going to care about what you say.  It’s basic 101 in presentation training lessons for anyone, regardless of your audience’s ethnicity or country-origin.

 First you connect. Then you can teach, or inform or persuade.  It seems obvious and yet it is too seldom done. Perhaps the obstacles seem too high.  But if we spend time building the architecture, the relationship bridges, to get over them,  I think the outcomes will be worth the effort.

Joseph, just one of the inspiring people I met at church on Sunday who asked me some thought provoking questions.

Joseph, just one of the inspiring people I met at church on Sunday who asked me some thought provoking questions.

Yours from Lagos,

Gina

 

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

 

Nigeria Diary: Meet the Press

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Journalism can impact the course of world history in a myriad of ways.  And here in Lagos, I am meeting dozens of journalists who are committed to changing the course of their nation – for the better.

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In the past week, as part of our Find Your Edge Leadership and Communication program, I have had the privilege of conducting journalist training sessions at The Nation, the number two newspaper in all of Nigeria, and at TVC News, the first 24-hour news network covering the continent and emphasizes its news-gathering distinction with the tag-line, “Through African Eyes.”

The participant journalists from TVC News Africa

The participant journalists from TVC News Africa

My hands-on training takes real stories in the headlines and calls on journalists to completely re-think them.  We analyze sourcing methods and verification.  We examine how to report from breaking news scenes. We consider ways to add context and perspective.  We drill on honing writing skills to become precise and powerful.

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Overall, the standard of journalism I have seen so far, has a way to go.  Many print articles I read meander and don’t ask officials the obvious follow-up questions.   I’ve watched lack-luster reporters and anchors who appear only blandly interested in the stories they are covering.

But these groups I have worked with are different. They are eager to sharpen their skills and push themselves and frankly, in this environment, assume the possible risks.

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Like Evelyn, one reporter I worked with – who has been doggedly uncovering injustices for years – which have now evoked enough awareness and outcry that she tells me some officials want to meet with her to talk about ways to craft policy change.

And Mark, the radio broadcaster who shared with me at the end of our session how he is now inspired to not only read the news, but to consider the hopes, dreams and fears of his listeners and to seek ways to provide context around stories to help them better understand ramifications.

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Journalism isn’t a career you enter thinking you’re going to make a lot of money.  Our wealth comes from telling real stories that make a difference.

In every society it’s the same. For journalists to build credibility and deliver value, they have to learn to be watchdogs, not lapdogs.

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The people I have met appear earnest and eager.  They are authorities in their business; the people who can influence others to join the cause. To become leaders, not just writers and readers.

Reporting live from Lagos, Nigeria. I’m Gina London. Now back to you.

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

Nigeria Diary: Eko Atlantic, a new development envisioning a new future

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We are in the normal bumper to bumper traffic along the busy streets of Lagos.  Ayo expertly steers our black KIA around the yellow painted vans crammed with passengers known as Danfo buses.  He zips past some equally bright three-wheeled Tuk-Tuks and then outmaneuvers the myriad of mopeds and other assorted cars and SUVs which manage to spread out across every inch of asphalt – all at the same time.

This is Lagos traffic

This is Lagos traffic

We reach our destination and Ayo turns the KIA off of the clogged street, past a few bored security guards and onto an unpaved road devoid of traffic.   Before us: a vast expanse of white sand stretches to the Atlantic coast.

Eko Atlantic

Eko Atlantic

This is not a public beach. It’s a working construction site for a daunting planned development known as Eko Atlantic.  Dredgers are working around the clock to fill the area with sand and create a brand new island that – according to its website – will be home and workplace to more than 250,000 people.

This sign of the future is on the construction site

This sign of the future is on the construction site

The project began in earnest in 2005 and the managing director of South Energyx Nigeria Limited, the firm responsible for the project , predicts the “The first residential tower will open in 2016.”

Eko Pearl Tower

Eko Pearl Tower

Design renderings for the completed ten-square kilometer (3.86 sq mi) mixed use development showcase tony waterfronts, leisure facilities, retail shops, upscale offices and “tree-lined streets with efficient transport systems.”

Artist's rendition of Lagos's Eko Atlantic

Artist’s rendition of Lagos’s Eko Atlantic

Today in 2014,  Ayo and I see signs of underground surface drainage pipes and the beginnings of roadway infrastructure.

The Eko Atlantic  construction site yesterday

The Eko Atlantic construction site yesterday

We watch a few minutes while gigantic dump trucks move mountains of sand.   Then Ayo slowly merges back into the busy streets.  These are not lined with trees, but rather teeming with vehicles and people of all shapes and sizes.

Satellite view of Eko Atlantic island so far. How will it look in the future?

Satellite view of Eko Atlantic island so far. How will it look in the future?

I look out of the window as we leave Eko Atlantic.  In spite of its present problems, Nigeria is clearly envisioning  – and working toward – an improved tomorrow.

And speaking of tomorrow- tomorrow I will present as part of a panel at a Nigeria Infrastructure Building Conference.  I look forward to hearing the other participants’ visions and plans.

In gratitude for this experience here in Lagos,

Gina

P.S. Do you know about Nigeria’s Eko Atlantic project?  What do you think?  Look forward to hearing from you!

 

Nigeria Diary – The key to success in communication is: Preparation

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Today, after I finished swimming my laps in the hotel’s lovely pool here in Lagos, I relaxed by flipping through the pages of this month’s Harvard Business Review.  (What’s your relaxation magazine of choice?)

The pool at my hotel here in Lagos

The pool at my hotel here in Lagos

I usually find all the articles so relevant, but one in particular leaped out of the pages to me.

A great call for communications training in this month's HBR!

A great call for communications training in this month’s HBR!

The CEO of Zoetis (which is a recent spin-off of Pfizer, and now the world’s largest animal health company) gives a compelling first-person account of the two-year preparation and intensive training he undertook before he embarked on his top management role.  He paid for a former CEO of a big European company to aggressively mentor him and he paid for two years of communications training.

TWO YEARS OF COMMUNICATIONS TRAINING? Wow. That is real dedication and commitment.  I read further.

Juan Ramòn Alaix was already a successful general manager with Pfizer before being tapped to head the animal health business.  But he was also self-aware enough to recognize that as CEO, he would have even greater responsibility to communicate strategy to the outside world, “including the media, analysts, and investors.”

The many places where strong communications make the difference

Alaix writes that he had to learn to be comfortable and engaging:

  • Giving TV interviews
  • Speaking with the print press
  • Delivering keynote addresses
  • Talking with small groups
  • Meeting one-on-one with key investors
  • Handling earnings calls
  • Responding to key stakeholders Q&A

Getting expert feedback is critical

The communications expert Alaix hired sat in on both smaller meetings and larger town hall meetings – and”provided a lot of feedback.”  Feedback that Alaix was eager to accept and apply writing that he was “challenged to think differently.”

Don’t forget Non-Verbal

Alaix also applauded the work the trainer providing by focusing on non-verbal communications, speaking simply about complicated uses and paying attention to pacing while speaking.  All critically important.

Dedicate time to properly prepare

Not only did Alaix spend two years of his life – on top of his regular Pfizer duties – preparing for his upcoming role as the Zoetis CEO, he also testifies to the amount of time he dedicates to prepare for any significant speaking opportunity:

“Before I did my first TV interview.. I spent more than eight hours doing mock interviews… by the time I gave the first road-show pitch to investors, I’d rehearsed it at least 40 times.”

Incredible.  But not surprising.  In today’s global marketplace, where almost anything you say can be instantly online and rewatched a thousand times, to NOT be able to communicate engagingly and effectively is a true liability.

This CEO’s embrace of improving communications makes for a terrific lesson.  No matter where you are in your career, a commitment to improving and polishing your communication skills is key to you and your organization’s continued success.

On Saturday, when I met a group of impressive ladies from Nigeria’s WISCAR organization (Women In Successful Careers), I spoke that it is never too soon – or too late – to refine these skills.

 

WISCAR

So, what are you waiting for?  There is no time to lose.

I am in Lagos, Nigeria with my local partners Amplio Consulting and SwiftThink Limited for the next three weeks – conducting a series of communications training sessions for leading businesses and other organizations.  It is not too late to meet me for a consultation.  Please reach out!

In gratitude,

Gina

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