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

“You are Welcome” – My diary of Lagos, Nigeria

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“You are welcome.”  “You are welcome.”  In the three days since I landed in Lagos, this is the phrase I have heard most.

From the gracious team at the luxurious Wheatbaker Hotel where I am fortunate enough to be staying -

Willie, who said he watched all my shows.

Willie, who said he watches all my shows. ;)

Cynthia cooked an amazing omelette!

Cynthia cooked an amazing omelette!

More the the impeccable team at The Wheatbaker Hotel in Lagos

More of the impeccable team at The Wheatbaker Hotel in Lagos

- to the esteemed journalists and managers of various media outlets including The Nation and Business Day newspapers and TVC and The Channels radio and television networks.

The editorial staff at Nations - One of Nigeria's top newspapers!

The editorial staff at Nations, one of Nigeria’s top newspapers.

Meeting with the Kayode Akintemi, the GM of Channels TV

Meeting with the GM of Channels TV

After being interviewed by Business Day's Kemi Ajumobi

After being interviewed by Business Day’s Kemi Ajumobi

I am visiting Lagos for the first time.  Working with my local strategic partners, Amplio Consulting and SwiftThink Limited, I’ll be conducting a series of strategic communications training sessions and workshops between now and July 18.  We kick-off activities tomorrow with the Find Your Edge Summit here at the Wheatbaker.

My incredible partners - Ayo and Folake Owodunni  from Amplio Consulting and Ayoola Jolayemi of SwiftThink Limited. Go, Team, Go!

My incredible partners – Ayo and Folake Owodunni from Amplio Consulting and Ayoola Jolayemi of SwiftThink Limited. Go, Team, Go!

On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday between 9AM-5PM participants will have an opportunity to practice real hands-on techniques and develop new skills from me, veteran CNN correspondent and international communications consultant, and my new friend and colleague Richie Dayo Johnson, a local and proven leader in communications training, etiquette and business savvy.  The Summit is open to the general public and registration is ongoing.  Click here to learn more!

http://findyouredge.com.ng

This morning, I spoke on Radio Continental to explain why communication counts – especially in the digital age where you can be instantly judged by a global standard.  And later, I met the talented hosts of “Your View,” on TVC to share some secrets of better communications to get results. At every place, the people have been warm-hearted and congenial. These first three days have been very rewarding.

Your views

Yes, it’s true we have driven through scenes of poverty. And yes, it’s true I have a machine-gun toting federal police officer riding at all times in the front seat of my car to stem off unwarranted stops.

Meet Abdul, my bodyguard, my friend.

Meet Abdul, my bodyguard, my friend.

But one by one, individual by individual, I am meeting an incredible number of accomplished people.  Nigerians who are proud of their country and are committed to making it a better place.

folake and me

I feel very welcomed indeed.

Chukwugozie onyeobula nilee (Thank you all!)  

In gratitude, Gina

P.S.  Are you Nigerian? What are you most proud of?  Are you not Nigerian? What do you think? Looking forward to hearing from you! Ciao -

 

 

Bends in the Road: From Arezzo, Italy to Cork, Ireland to Lagos, Nigeria in less than a week!

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It’s almost too easy.

For the last five days, since we first landed in Cork, Ireland, from our former adopted home-town of Arezzo, Italy – we have been greeted by helpful, warm and chatty people.  It was much the same way with the terrific people in Tuscany, but the language hurdles naturally made our adjustment into that region more complicated.

Our first neighbors in Arezzo when we moved there 3 years ago - and who drove us to the Pisa Airport this weekend! Grazie Famiglia Tanci!!

Our first neighbors in Arezzo when we moved there 3 years ago – and who drove us to the Pisa Airport this weekend! Grazie Famiglia Tanci!!

This week we arrived in Cork, Ireland.

This week we arrived in Cork, Ireland.

Here, if I soften my “a” when I ask for “to-mah-toes” or bring the American silent “h” to life in “herbs,” I’m pretty much all set.  Oh, and they take out the “h” all together and say “tank-you” instead of “thank you.”  “Tank you very much.”  But, really, it is almost strange to be hearing English everywhere again.   I miss Italian with its bright “Buongiorno’s” and “Ciao’s.”

Last night, Lulu turned to me and agreed.  “I miss speaking Italian,” she said.

“Well, you can speak to me if you’d like,” I responded in what I thought was a helpful way.

“I miss speaking  to my friends who can speak back to me properly,” she countered.

Of course Lulu,  after three years in Italian schools, has a point.  She and all of her friends spoke Italian every single day fluently.  Not the stammering version I utter.  It must be hardest on her.

That said, we enjoyed our week here in Ireland.  It was surprisingly quite sunny as we toured Scotty’s new university, Lulu’s new elementary school, and strolled along the Lee River that splits in two and runs through Cork.

University College of  Cork

University College of Cork

Cork and the River Lee and sun so bright Lulu could only squint!

Cork and the River Lee and sun so bright Lulu could only squint!

Cork’s residents are charming and rightfully proud of their heritage.   Lulu and I were even given a tour of the city by our new friend Fionnuala Mac Curtain.  Her grandfather, Tomás MacCurtain, was Lord Mayor of Cork in 1920, who was horribly killed by the British Army in front of his pregnant wife and their young son who later grew to become Fionnuala’s father.   She gave me a copy of the book she wrote about her grandfather. I am honored to receive it and plan to read it on the plane tomorrow to Nigeria.

A poignant book I am sure.

A poignant book I am sure.

Yes, Nigeria.  I am flying to Lagos tomorrow to conduct a series of communications sessions and seminars for the next six weeks (For more information, check out the Find Your Edge website!).

Many friends have urged me to keep safe as I travel to Africa.  I certainly hope to! I’ll be staying at the best hotel in Nigeria: The Wheatbaker (thanks Find Your Edge team!); All vaccinations are in order (thanks Scotty Walsh); and I am registered with the State Department (thanks US Embassy in Nigeria). I hope it will be a valuable experience for the participants, the team and myself!

These banners proclaiming my conference are now outside the Wheatbaker Hotel in Lagos!  Cool and humbling.

These banners proclaiming my conference are now outside the Wheatbaker Hotel in Lagos! Cool and humbling.

I said goodbye to Lulu and Scotty earlier today as they flew back to the US to be with his family in Washington State.  It will be the longest time I have been away from our daughter since she was born.

As we trekked to our hotel near the airport yesterday, Lulu stopped to pick a few little flowers growing along the sidewalk.

“These are for you so you won’t forget me while we’re apart.”

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I won’t forget you my angel.  I also won’t forget all the incredible people we met in Italy – and are now meeting here in Ireland.  I look forward to the people I will have the privilege of meeting in Nigeria, too.

Around every bend, and in spite of the differences, the world is filled with promise and adventure.

A warm embrace to you all!

Gina

 

Arrivederci, Arezzo!

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It doesn’t seem like nearly three years ago, when I, my husband Scotty Walsh, and our then-three-year old daughter, Lulu,stepped off the train for the first time in Arezzo.  Sometimes it seems like only yesterday – when I discover something new in Centro  Storico I never noticed before.  And sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago  – as so many places have become more than familiar and so many warm-hearted Aretini have become dear friends.

From Italy to Ireland.

From Italy to Ireland.

Piazza Grande, for example, is not only where we have watched the Giostra del Saracino four times sitting in the stands – once as guests of Mayor Giuseppe Fanfani himself. It is also where Lulu plays, where we sip coffee, enjoy aperitivi, where we climb up to the top of the Fraternita dei Laici bell-tower to enjoy the view, and it is what we admire every day as I walk Lulu from our house on Via Fra Le Torri to her elementary school, Aliotti.

Piazza San Francesco is not only famous for the fresco series, The Legend of the True Cross, it is also a vibrant center of night-life as friends spill out from haunts like Caffè dei Costanti  – where the proprietors were kind enough to let me rent a table for free where I wrote my book, Because I’m Small Now and You Love Me, about the adventures Lulu and I have had here in Tuscany.  They also graciously provided the room for my book-launch party last year.

Piazza San’Agostino is not only where InformaGiovani helps us find fun things to do over the weekend. It is also now where we meet friends and where, like last year, Lulu is a regular patron of the carousel above the fountain.

We have had dinner at the Mayor’s house, aka, “Zio Beppe” as Lulu calls him. (Honestly, he made the best fritelli de fiore zucchini I have ever tasted.)

I have toured the house of Giorgio Vasari with Aretino journalist, photographer, historian and friend, Gianni Brunacci ,as my very informative guide.  Lulu and I were asked to model in last year’s La Notte Rosa by our lovely estetician Simona Giusti, from Estetica Simona.  Lulu only has to pop in and say, “Ciao” to Alfredo at Macelleria Gastronomia Bassi Alfredo and she is handed a delicious slice of mortadella.

Lulu and Alfredo - and the mortadella!

Lulu and Alfredo – and the mortadella!

 

Massimo over at Bar Stefano gave me eight extra little chocolate eggs to put in her Easter basket.  Elena, Nicola and Michele at the personal training gym Moving, have worked hard to help me keep off the kilos I should be putting on because of all the great Tuscan food I keep eating.

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We have eaten everything at practically every restaurant in town; there are too many memories to list here. But I can tell you that Mario di Filippo, from one of our favorite places, Buca di San Francesco, has become much more than a friend. He is now Lulu’s official Nonno Italiano.

By the way, for those of you restaurateurs with signs in English declaring, “Typical Tuscan food” – change that to “Authentic Tuscan food.”  I promise it is the translation you’re going for.

I can thank Paola di Juliis for helping us find each of the three beautiful apartments we have lived in. She also coordinated my book launch to great success.  I also want to thank Francesca Cappelletti for introducing me to Arezzo’s Tourism Department. It was through her that I volunteered to rewrite the English versions of the Giostra brochure and the Benvenuti ad Arezzo website.

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I am proud to say they both read so much better than they had before. I only wish I had been asked to do more.  I cringe every time I read the new signs around Centro Storico describing the various palazzi and places of interest. They should have at least been better translated and they could have been so much more interesting and compelling.  A missed opportunity.  I also wrote what I believe is the only article published in an American magazine about last year’s Icastica contemporary art installation.  I wish I could have done more.

But, heck, we’re not moving back to the United States.  We’re only moving “down the street” to Ireland.  Not so far away at all.  If anyone would like me to help out with some marketing copy or a communications outreach strategy, I will still be close by.

I only recently discovered that the break-down of the word “Arrivederci” means to “re-see one another.”  I had mistakenly thought it was simply the same as the English word, “Goodbye.”  But, in what I believe is the more friendly Italian way, the word implies a desire to see each other again.  And that is truly my hope.  This summer, Ryan Air begins direct flights between Cork and Arezzo, so I plan to “re-see” you all again soon.

Thank you, Arezzo.  You have made my life, and the lives of my husband and our daughter, so much richer.

La Nazione 5.25.14-page-001

“Arrivederci!”

http://www.arezzonotizie.it/blog_redazione/arrivederci-arezzo-gina-london-lascia-citta-ci-saluta/

Countdown to departure. 2 Days to Go. Like Family.

When you first walk into a crowded coffee shop, or “bar” as they are referred to here in Italy – you are likely to be overwhelmed.  They’re often packed with people crowding around the “bar” – hence the name, ma certo – loudly calling out for their pastry or espresso “caffe normale.”  Many of these hang-outs are so small and busy – you may be tempted to turn and leave before bellying up to the bar to select an item for yourself from behind the glass.

That’s how it first seemed for me at Arezzo’s Bar il Duomo.  As its name implies, the bar is located just steps away from Arezzo’s cathedral, or duomo, along Via Ricasoli.  It is a very popular place – especially in the mornings when locals jam in to slam a coffee and a pastry, or pasta, which makes for the standard breakfast, or colazione, for most Italians.

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Lulu ordering from Andrea – and beating the rush!

But the 500-year-old building Bar il Duomo is nestled in is so charming with its high arches and stone cornices, that Lulu and I braved the crowds and fell in love.  Not only with the pastries – (and for Lulu, the ice cream) but also because Bar il Duomo doesn’t only open its imposing wooden doors each morning, the Rossi family that runs it: (Giancarlo, wife Lucia and their grown-son Andrea -along with his girlfriend Franci) – also open their hearts.

When you see the doors open and the sign placed outside, Bar il Duomo in Arezzo is ready for you!

When you see the doors open and the sign placed outside, Bar il Duomo in Arezzo is ready for you!

While we lived next door to the bar, at Via Ricasoli 2, we were more than neighbors, we became like family.  Lulu and I popped in practically every morning before school for a small pastry (order a little sacchetino and you won’t be disappointed).  And after school for an ice cream.  They kindly lent Scotty a gigantic wrench when the ancient radiators at our palazzo were leaking last winter.

And I couldn’t let Christmas-time go by without snapping a photo of their awesome Nativity-Scene-in-a-Wine-Cask that Lucia proudly displayed on the bar.  Baby Gesu in a wine bottle.  Now, that’s Italian!

Lucia, and the Nativity Scene in a wine cask!

Lucia, and the Nativity Scene in a wine cask!

Their tremendous kindness, the great coffee and snacks, plus the extra bonus of a splendid open-air courtyard in the back, made for another home-away-from-home for us during out stay here in Arezzo.

As I type this, I have just dropped Lulu off at her last day of school at Aliotti.  We stopped in (as usual) for a “treccia di cioccolato” – Lulu’s favorite- and Arezzo’s mayor, Giuseppe Fanfani, who was in the bar at the time, hugged Lulu and wouldn’t let me pay for the treat.  Now I am back in the back on my computer – looking out at the bright red geraniums that Lucia lovingly cared for all winter and are now filling the courtyard with happy color.

The splendid courtyard at Bar il Duomo in Arezzo!

The splendid courtyard at Bar il Duomo in Arezzo!

I am filled with happiness too, as I look back on the many Aretini who welcomed us into our lives during our three years in Arezzo.  To them, like the family at Bar il Duomo, thank you for making us feel like family.

Baci ad Andrea e tutti!

Baci ad Andrea e tutti!

Un abbraccio!

Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

Countdown to Departure from Italy. 6 Days to go…Arezzo’s Antique Fair!

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This weekend marked another of Arezzo’s awesome attractions: the monthly Fiera Antiquaria.  It is Italy’s oldest and largest antiques fair with the entire center of town – like here in Piazza Grande  – transformed into a gigantic open air market.

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Merchants sell everything from vintage jewelry, books, paintings, furniture and linens.

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We have never bought anything of substance really.  A Pinocchio wood-block print here, an antique toy there, a vintage deck of playing cards for Scotty. The giant armoires, tables and bronze statues will have to wait.

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Although yesterday, Lulu really thought she needed a spare part for a chandelier.  You never know.

???????????????????????????????So, while we leave for Ireland just six short days from today, perhaps this fall, we will come back to Arezzo during the first weekend of the month. And pick up something old for our new place.

Maybe an antique mirror.  To reflect our new adventures.

Notice whose lower half is also reflected..? ;)

Notice whose lower half is also reflected..? ;)

Because, in life, as with chandelier bobbles, you just never know.

We love you, Arezzo.

Baci, Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.

 

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