Back to the Future!

I arrived this week back to my adopted home country of Ireland.

In August, after I hosted a tech conference in Florida, I enjoyed most of the remainder of the month with my family.  (In the photo below I am with my sister, nieces and yes, my 8-year-old daughter Lulu was also happily in tow.)

edit family

So we were back in the US. In the heartland of Indiana. My birth state.  And, incidentally, the home state of Governor Mike Pence, the running mate of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

It’s probably no surprise then, that I was surrounded by a forest of Trump/Pence 2016 yard signs.  The only Hillary Clinton sign I saw was in the form of an “I’m with Her” bumper sticker on the back window of a Ford that also had an “IRELAND” emblem on the bumper. Go figure.

Other American things of note I witnessed during our month-long stay at my parents’ peaceful lake-front home were:

1. Whopperrito: Since I’ve lived overseas almost a decade now, I am constantly teased about America’s obesity problem and many restaurants’ large portion persistence.  Enter this summer’s new offering from Burger King. It’s part Whopper, part burrito. Get it?  I swear I only saw the commercial. I have not sampled one. I promise!

2. No gun signs: Although tragic school shootings occurred when I lived in the US, (I covered Columbine for CNN, for example), the frequency and numbers have increased since I have been gone.  For the first time, this summer, I noticed signs prohibiting guns had gone up.  On grocery stores, restaurants, and here at the doctor’s office where I was visiting an ENT to examine my vocal chords (which are fine, by the way).  When I previously posted this photo on Facebook, an Italian friend asked, “Do they really think this sign would stop someone?”

3. Software for Marching Bands:  If you don’t know about summer band camp, you’re probably not an American! I once played clarinet and then was part of the flag troupe. Now, my high school-aged cousin, Meghan, who came to visit, is an awesome trumpet player in LaPorte, Indiana.  But the routines she has been practicing with her band, look NOTHING like the lame marching around we used to do.  Bands these days are highly choreographed affairs looking more like Cirque du Soleil interpretive dance! And, guess, what? There’s 3D software to help the directors guide the band members in formation.  Of course there is.  Take a look at this and I bet you’ll marvel the same way I did when Meghan showed me.

4. English usage tweaks: Here in Ireland, we put our groceries in “trolleys.” In the US, we pop things in a “cart.” We ask the waiter for directions to the “restroom” at an American café, but we’re more direct here in Ireland asking plainly for the “toilet.”  For back to school supplies, your American child may want a few new “erasers” while here in Ireland, I find myself giggling like a teenager when my daughter says she needs new er, “rubbers.” That’s right. That’s what the kids call erasers here. No, I don’t know if it’s the same usage for condoms. Let’s move on.

5. Tesla: I am thrilled to say I drove my first Tesla this summer.  A top-of-the-line “Model X” that my brother-in-law ordered three years ago.  It was amazing. So amazing, in fact, I’ll write more about that experience later. Stay tuned.

6. Songbirds.  Here in Ireland, I always smile when I see the cheery flicker of a Pied Wagtail. In Indiana as my mom and daughter sprinkled seeds on the deck even in summer, I welcomed being reminded of the cute chickadees, soft-grey tufted titmice and upside-down nuthatches that I had enjoyed as a child.

7. Tornadoes.  On Wednesday, August 24, Lulu and I were shopping at Hamilton County Town Center when the area’s tornado sirens went off – which mean a funnel cloud has been spotted. I grew up in Indiana so I’m used to these.  Lulu was frightened to tears.  A record-setting EIGHT tornadoes touched down that day. Many buildings were destroyed, but Governor Mike Pence (him again!) said it was a miracle that no one was killed or badly hurt. The power of nature always awes me. (This photo was taken by a family friend on that record-setting day.)

8. Lake swimming.  Here in Ireland, we’re surrounded by the bracing, icy waters of the sea.  It was a pleasure to relax and float in the much warmer water of Morse Reservoir after my brother, Brad, (who is a real-life yacht captain based in Florida, joined us the first week and took the helm of my step-dad’s speedboat) finished whipping Lulu and her cousin, my sister’s young daughter, around on the raft.

9. Family.  The hardest part about living overseas is that we’re far away from family. Thankfully we all gathered together.  Mom, step-dad, my sister and brothers and their partners. Cousins. Nieces and even my 101-year-old incredibly independent Aunt Neatie.  We talked, ate, drank, and laughed. Like family should.

(Grammie, Lulu, Grampa – on the lake, of course!)

And now, we’re back in our adopted home of Cork, Ireland.  And it’s back to work for me.

Back to meetings: I had a great one Tuesday with the head of finance of a major multi-national.

Back to news analysis:  I was on air Wednesday on national radio discussing Donald Trump’s surprising visit with Mexico’s president.

Back to speaking engagements: Next week, I’ll be part of a Dublin photo shoot to promote the national Network Ireland Awards event I’m excited to be a part of.

And today, my 8-year-old daughter, Lulu, goes back to school.  As she’s starting third grade,

it’s a “back” that’s actually a “forward.”

And that’s how I like to look at my own life.  Yes, holidays are over and it’s “back to work” but it’s also an opportunity to “move things forward!”

So, I’ll fondly remember the songbirds, boating on the lake and my family. And embrace the fun I’m embarking on now.  Hope you do too!

Now, get back to work!

Kindly, Gina

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. Please reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and at


How to be Determinedly Optimistic!

Lulu's first day back to school and yes, she needed a scarf! We're in Ireland!
Lulu’s first day back to school and yes, she needed a scarf! We’re in Ireland!

“How was your summer?” The friendly barista at my gym here in Ireland asked me.

“Good really, I certainly can’t complain,” I replied.

“No one would listen anyway,” he added chuckling.

I thought about that.  It’s true. We really don’t want to listen to people who complain.  Yet, why do so many of us continue to keep up the constant drum-beat of negativity.

You know the types.  Every business project is overwhelming. Every boss doesn’t understand them.  Their aches and pains. The traffic. The weather.

Ah, the weather.  That’s an especially good subject being the transplanted American living here in Ireland now.   Just over a week ago, I was wrapping up a wonderful month in the US – speaking and training at conferences and then spending time with family and friends in the hot and humid Midwest.   We wore sleeveless shirts and sandals.

Now, I’m back in Cork, Ireland where the clouds are almost always moving.  I wake up and there’s sun and by the time I make the bed, the wind and rain have swept in.  Then five more minutes and the sun breaks out again –complete with rainbow.  Last week, I saw three rainbows in one day. No kidding.

The Irish are what I like to describe as “determinedly optimistic” about weather.  They make up funny sayings about it like,

We have four seasons in one day.


 What are an Irish person’s two favorite days? Christmas and summer.

When our plane landed, my daughter, Lulu, and I quickly put on the sweaters we had brought with us for our walk across the brisk and breezy tarmac to the customs and baggage claim terminals.

Yesterday was her first day back to school.  She wore her school’s “summer uniform” which, naturally, comes complete with matching cardigan.  Lulu also reached for a white scarf with dragonflies on it. She wrapped three times around her neck.  She was ready to go and she was happy – no matter what the weather.

After I dropped her off, I zipped over to the shopping center for a few items before getting to work. I noticed other ladies at the shops were also wearing brightly colored scarves.  And sleeveless shirts. And sandals.

It was if they were proclaiming, “The calendar still says it’s summer, no matter what the weather may feel like.”

This week Time magazine is listing 13 ways to be a better human being.  It starts from within. From our attitude to our work, our family, even the weather.

What are we proclaiming every day?  Are we being determinedly optimistic or are we constantly complaining?

Who is listening to us?  What opinions are they forming?

It’s up to you, isn’t it? I say,

Grab a proverbial scarf and keep going!

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

You CAN Go Back.

After a year of living in Ireland, we have returned to our beloved former home of Arezzo, Italy.

Bentornati ad Arezzo!
Bentornati ad Arezzo!

Don’t get me wrong, we are LOVING life in Ireland.  The people and adventures there are more than terrific.  But we longed to walk the cobbled streets of Arezzo’s medieval “Centro Storico” again.

In the historic center of Arezzo
A piazzetta in the historic center of Arezzo.

How would it feel to be back for just a two-week vacation? The town and its wonderful residents would have spent a full year working, playing, dining and simply going on. Without us.

Lulu and Vincent and La Chiesa di San Domenico.
Lulu and Vincent and La Chiesa di San Domenico.

So, with fingers crossed, we called out to our former neighbors, schoolmates and pals. Would they make a little time for us? —- Guess what!?

We went to this marvelous
We went to this marvelous “Cena di Colcitrone” dinner with our old friends in Arezzo! Evviva!
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Lulu together again with her girl friends from her former primary school in Arezzo, Aliotti.
Eating “pici con cinghiale’ at one of our favorite restaurants – where they remembered us and gave us our “usual” table!
It tasted as good as I had remembered. Che buona!
It tasted as good as I had remembered. Che buona!

Lulu has gone to camp with a former buddy. She has played with her old girlfriends. We have had our nails done at our former salon. We have visited with Lulu’s Italian “nonno” Mario. We attended a great big feast in our old “quartiere.”  In short, we are happily being reunited with our favorite people and places!

Yes, life does go on.  Some shops have closed while a couple new ones have opened their doors.  Kids have grown taller. One dear friend, sadly, has passed away.  Yes, the seasons continue to change and the rain does fall – even on our Tuscan retreat.

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But no matter if you change towns, jobs or in our case, countries, you can and should stay in contact with your former friends and colleagues as best you can.

Lulu and Arezzo's Duomo bell tower in the background.
Lulu and Arezzo’s Duomo bell tower in the background.
Reunited with my dear friend Carla Veneri.
Reunited with my dear friend Carla Veneri.

Social media is terrific for doing just that.

In fact, last summer, I went to Ghana through the US State Department to train the country’s 60 spokespeople.  My co-trainer was Jeff Eller, a wonderful inspiration to me when I was fresh from college and worked under him at the Democratic Party in Washington, DC – some, er, twenty years ago.  We were friends on Facebook. And there we were together again last August in Accra!

Jeff and I together again in Accra last August.
Jeff and I together again in Accra last August.

So, keep in touch.  You never know what fun you’ll have in the future.

Looking forward to our next adventure...
Looking forward to our next adventure…

As the saying goes: Make new friends, but keep the old.

Baci, Gina

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

Nigeria’s Election: Why It Matters


Tomorrow, Nigerians head to the polls.    I recently spoke on Nigerian Radio Continental with popular host “Citizen Jones”   about the importance of this election – not only for selecting the nation’s president –  but for why it matters to the rest of the world.

Radio Continental’s Citizen Jones

As a veteran CNN journalist and current business consultant who has spent months working with hundreds of students and professionals in Nigeria, much is at stake.

Incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan is squaring off again against former military leader  Mohammadu  Buhari.  It’s the fourth time Buhari has tried for the highest office since he took charge after a coup back in the 80s and it’s the second time he’ll face Jonathan.   Latest polls show the race is a tight one. But this contest is more than betting on the long-running horse race of Buhari’s persistence.

From my perch, the top issues facing Nigeria are:

  1. Maintaining and improving the country’s economy
  2. Curbing widespread corruption
  3. Eradicating Boko Haram

Economy.  Nigeria is proudly Africa’s number one economy – taking the title away from South Africa for nearly a year now.   Its vast oil riches support its base and analysts say it is bolstered by strong agriculture, information and communications technology.

But the chasm between the haves and the have-nots is evident the moment you arrive.  Tin-topped shanty neighborhoods mushroom under the shade of sprawling gold-encrusted McMansions.  Customized Range Rovers share the road with dilapidated, exhaust- spewing  yellow “danfo” vans dangerously filled with poor commuters.

Corruption.  Everybody knows it goes on.  And everybody has a story.  Like last September when I was  touring the country on a training circuit and kept  reading headlines about the private plane that left the capital city of Abuja for South Africa.  When it landed, officials discovered it was carrying 10 MILLION dollars in cash.  There was plenty of speculation about who had chartered the plane and what the money was planned for but I never heard any real answers.

One step toward righting this ongoing wrong would be for peace and fairness to be found at all Nigeria’s polls tomorrow.  In 2007, antics during the elections prompted the US State Department to describe them as “Flawed.” There was substantial improvement in 2011’s election, but observers still claimed there was widespread fraud and voter rigging.

A smooth and peaceful election this weekend could  set a standard and example for other developing democracies across the globe.  Both candidates publically signed an agreement this week promising to respect the election’s outcome and urging their supporters to refrain from violence.

Boko Haram.  This month’s announced alliance between Boko Haram and ISIS dramatically illustrates that  rooting out terrorism is the world’s problem, not simply the country in which the terrorists are residing and fighting.

Whoever wins Nigeria’s election must seek out and forge strong alliances with partner countries to put an end to the madness – for everyone.

As I discussed with the other panelists on Radio Continental,  journalists have a responsibility to accurately – and independently –  cover and report tomorrow’s elections.  Together, Nigerian journalists and its government can work together to build a better nation – and a better world.

I’ll be back on Radio Continental on Monday and I hope we’ll be talking how it was an unprecedented peaceful weekend of hope and fulfilled promises by both political parties.

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 


The unlikeliest place to find Customer Service

I’ve been sick all this week with what appear to be flu-like symptoms and a lung-wrenching cough that is erasing almost all of my usual good humor along with my voice.


I went to the doctor’s office and he wanted to run some tests. However, Irish labs will not conduct an analysis if the patient’s submittal form doesn’t have a PPS Number. Being an American citizen recently relocated to Ireland, I still don’t have a PPSN (much like a Social Security Number). The only way to get the desired digits is to pay a visit to a government office.

So, today in addition to feeling dreadful, I felt an additional sense of dread about going to the PPS processing office.

Pick any country and any bureaucratic agency, they all seem to be filled with endless lists of indecipherable requirements, endless lines of people and an endless supply of mirthless clerks who are just waiting for the moment they can pounce on you and deny your request – no matter what it is.

In spite of my sub-par well-being, I dress in regular street clothes, not some slouchy track-suit or jammy-pants that I see way too many grown adults wearing these days. I also daub on a bit of make-up to offset my pale pallor. The PPS room is packed with a mix of people speaking a myriad of different languages. Most look, to my overly critical eye, as if they are here to obtain a PPS number for some kind of menial employment. Indeed, I overhear a man speaking with his friend that he is going to be a dishwasher at a local restaurant. I glance down. He holds a passport from a small eastern European country. I take a little morale boost thinking that my American passport will give me some leverage.

I then tried to strategize about which of the clerks seated behind protective Plexiglas exhibited any sign of humaneness.

Wait a minute! The curly haired guy appears to be smiling at his “customers” on the other side. That portly red-haired lady appears to be nodding, not shaking, her head to the couple speaking with her. And then there’s the middle guy. He is leaning back on his chair, nodding toward his clients with what appears to be a friendly laugh. Not stereotypical drones, instead, theses clerks all seem to be taking an interest in their clients and enjoying what they do. In turn, the “customers” all appear to be leaving the office happily.

Our number is called and we get the “middle guy.” His name is Peter and he has kind blue eyes that crinkle up when he smiles, which he does a lot. We’re here in Ireland because my husband is getting his PhD at a local university. Do we have a letter from the university stating that? No, we do not. My husband offers his university ID card and Peter doesn’t shut us down. Instead, he announces he’ll take the card. How surprising! How refreshing! We produce our passports, marriage certificate and Irish residence cards (click here for the tale of that immigration labyrinth) and Peter pronounces us PPS Number worthy. He patiently answered the questions we had about getting our daughter signed up later and gave us his phone number for further assistance.

Hats off to Peter and the other clerks working at today’s PPS office in Cork, Ireland. I don’t know whether there is an incredible customer service environment created by management there or whether I witnessed a rare moment. But today those clerks demonstrated that true customer service is blind to attire, to station, and yes, certainly to the country of one’s passport. It is open to the unique needs of the individual who is seeking a service or a product. It looks to provide solutions, not barriers. And it works to encourage, not discourage the customer.

We look for good customer service in hotels, restaurants and shops, why not too in government bureaucratic offices? It can be done. And done well.

Till next time, when I hope I can speak and have a hack-free night, 


Copyright Gina London 2015.  All Rights Reserved.

Proof you CAN reinvent yourself on a trip to Ireland’s famous Cliffs of Moher

One of the most breathtaking experiences in Ireland occurs when you stand upon the Cliffs of Moher looking out over the Atlantic while the 702 foot (214 m) stone walls are rhythmically and dramatically battered by waves and wind.

cliffs ws
The Cliffs of Moher the day we visited them

Powerful and moving as it is, as I recently trekked them with my seven-year-old daughter, the cliffs would have been mere rocks if not for the rockin’ tour provided by our local Paddywagon guide, Michael.

Michael and another happy Paddywagon guest
Michael and another happy Paddywagon guest

Paddywagon runs a fleet of tour buses –departing daily from towns around Ireland like Dublin and our home here in Cork. I had been meaning to book an excursion for months but was afraid it might be a boring waste of money. Drive you to the sights with a few monotonous “on your left blah-blahs”along the way and that’s it. But no! Our driver Michael was an absolute raconteur. He regaled us with colorful tales of Irish history, sprinkled with juicy gossip, charming jokes and kindly folksiness throughout. He even sang us a few ditties that were high in personality even if they were a bit low on songmanship!

We, along with everyone else on the bus, were absolutely enchanted.

We had a terrific time, thank you, Michael!
We had a terrific time, thank you, Michael!

At the end of the day, before stepping down from the bus, I had to learn a bit more about Michael. We chatted and he told me he’s from Tipperary and worked as a professional engineer for years before he was suddenly laid off during Ireland’s (and many other countries’ ) recession in 2010. Michael described his life afterward:

I tried everything and then a friend encouraged me to get my bus drivers permit and I never looked back,

I logged onto Trip Advisor after we got home to tell everyone about Michael. What I found was that “Bus driver Michael” was already a Paddywagon celebrity. My review joined dozens of previous brightly glowing posts about him. While Michael may no longer be building roads and bridges, now, as he drives over them and tells his stories and sings his funny songs, he is building different kinds of bridges – those of warm memories and experiences – for tourists from all over the world.

Life is not about discovering yourself, it’s about creating yourself.

Coco Chanel once said that and I think life is a combination of the both. As you go through your life and your career, things will happen that you’re not prepared for; maybe you are unexpectedly laid off or fired.

And as you force yourself to update your CV and get back into the job market:

  1. You will discover you have a fortitude and determination you didn’t think was in you.
  2. Your discovery will give you the extra-strength and confidence to adapt and reinvent yourself in ways you may not have imagined.
  3. Stretch yourself. Maybe you won’t be in the same field as you were in before, but:
  4. You can create yourself anew.
  5. You CAN do it.

You are ready for the next chapter of your life. Life is certainly a journey, and if your journey takes you to Cork, Ireland – do yourself a favor and take a Paddywagon Tour.

lulu running

Ask for Michael, the engineer-turned-singing-tour-guide. Tell him Gina sent you. You’ll be glad you did.

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

Happy New Year – and Happy Women’s Christmas Tonight!

Happy New Year! But wait, there’s one more Christmas celebration tonight:  Here in Ireland it’s “Nollaig na mBan” or “Women’s Christmas!”

Happy Women's Christmas!
Happy Women’s Christmas!

As the Ireland Fun Facts website explains it’s a time for tired Irish women, who cooked and washed dishes all alone for their large families during the holidays, to finally get a break –  for one day at least.

It’s a time for women to finally get a break

Yes, this one’s just for the ladies, gents. It’s one of the lovely traditions I will be experiencing for the first time since we moved here to Ireland.  A night for the women to celebrate surviving another holiday break with the children, the husband and their extended family all at home. Together. For several days. In a row.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the holidays.  I start cranking up Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” immediately while I clear the Thanksgiving plates.  And this year was no different.

During the holidays. I cooked. A lot. Family cookie favourites. Ham with maple bourbon sauce. Mountains of mashed potatoes and now that I have discovered the glories of goose fat, truck- loads of roast potatoes too. (We’re in Ireland after all.) Mince pies with brandy butter.  Boiled puddings with brandy sauce.  Just plain brandy sauce and feck it, just plain brandy!  Needless to say that with all that cooking comes all that eating.  Too much.  I loved the holidays with gusto and now I’m glad to add them to my ever-growing memory box.

Not our house after Christmas - but you get the idea
Not our house after Christmas – but you get the idea

So! Here we are in the first week back at it.


Did you skip while you took your children back to school yesterday?  Did you attack your first gym/pool/pilates/yoga class of the new year with a vengeance? Have you already vacuumed up the last of the dead pine needles and packed the stockings/baubles/Christmas village buildings and figurines tidily away? Did you possibly even kiss your desk and/or co-workers back at the office?

I did. Except for the desk and co-worker part.  I am simply delighted to be facing a fresh new year square in its little hopeful pink face.  A new year with new possibilities.  I, like you, have plenty of work goals.  I want to consult on more projects in more countries with more clients.  I am excited about new prospects and opportunities.

But first, tonight, one more fest.  I’ll be meeting some girl friends here in Cork at a restaurant downtown.  It’s a French place I haven’t tried yet called Star Anise.  That likely means small delicate portions. That’s a good thing. It’s a new year after all.

Cheers and here’s to a productive, but still festive, new year!



Copyright 2015 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.