Are you going to miss your train?

train 2

How do you know when it’s time to throw in the towel?  Do you stay with a project or endeavor too long? Or not long enough?

This week I was in Dublin – where a lot of the rest of the world was also gathered for the highly-touted Web Summit.  I had just finished giving a communications presentation and was in a taxi to Heuston train station.   What should’ve taken only a few minutes’ drive, was nearing an hour.  We sat unmoving.  Snarled and stuck in the jam-packed Temple Bar district.  I remarked aloud to my driver, “Well, I better look up the next train since we’re clearly going to miss the six o’clock.”

“Never say Never!” he quickly replied.  Gerald Murphy was his name and already from our conversation in the cab, he had demonstrated his indomitable Irish spirit.

I looked at my watch.  We had just ten minutes.  Even in regular traffic, we’d be unlikely to make it in my opinion.  I began to tap in Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) on my phone.  The next train didn’t leave until half-past nine. I wouldn’t get down to my home in Cork until almost midnight.  Ah well.  Some things you can’t control.  I’d call my husband later and let him know.  I wasn’t angry, mind you.  Simply resigned.  To my mind, missing my train was a done deal.

But not to Ger (as he had brightly told me to call him), “I’ll turn right here and zip past the lot of ‘em!”

As he zigged and zagged, I continued tapping and thought of an article about reining in one’s optimism recently featured in the New York Times.  The writer stated that “positive thinking often hinders us.”

Her point was that we shouldn’t be blindly optimistic, but rather strive for a more realistic, balanced approach.   I agree.

Then suddenly, as if an Irish fog had swiftly lifted, the train station was clearly in front of us.  Ger zoomed over to a side parking lane right next to track eight where my train was still waiting.   “You’re going to make that train, Love!”  he chirped.  He was already up and out of the car, opening the boot for my small suitcase.

I glanced down.  Two minutes to spare.   Ger may be right!

That NYT article also stated that “positive thinking fools our minds into perceiving that we’ve already attained our goal, slackening our readiness to pursue it.” For that,  I don’t agree.

Ger didn’t slack off. Instead, he pushed on.  Positive thinking didn’t trick him into believing he had something he didn’t  have.  Instead, in the face of difficulty, it may have been the very thing that kept him determined to keep going – to keep striving.  To NOT give up.

Simply THINKING positively and NOT DOING anything, is of course, not enough.   You’ve got to keep going. Keep driving to your goal.  Yes, the trick is not to only imagine smooth, open roads.  Picture the traffic jams, too.  And then strategize how you will  manoeuvre through different routes.

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I grabbed my suitcase from Ger and handed him the fare- plus a healthy tip.  Then, right before I started running, I made sure to express my sincere gratitude and wish him all the very best.

And after the kindly Irish train attendant had leaned out and signaled to me that he saw me and that I could stop my sprint, I did make that train.  With seconds to spare.

Thanks, Ger, for reminding me to never say never.

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Prairie Pride!

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?

A Day to Celebrate!

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.

PicMonkey Collage

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!”

wanted

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.

 

Countdown to Departure from Italy. 12 Days to Go!

La Nazione 5.25.14-page-001For those of you who read Italian, here’s the full-page of coverage the wonderful folks at La Nazione newspaper gave to me on Sunday.  And for those of you who don’t, below are my thoughts as a mother and a veteran journalist on our experience of living in the heart of Tuscany, Arezzo.

After nearly three years living in Arezzo, American Emmy-award winning veteran CNN correspondent and international communications trainer, Gina London, is preparing to leave her adopted hometown, for Ireland.

She took a minute to look back and ahead with La Nazione.

“Con Molti Ringraziamenti”

An American Journalist Reflects Upon Her Time in Arezzo

Here’s what brought us here in the first place:

My husband, Scotty Walsh, was enrolled in a two-and-one-half-year Masters in Fine Arts program at the Accademia dell’Arte, which is an American-affiliated school located here in Arezzo. (We arrived in July 2011.)

 What surprised me about Arezzo?

Everything!  The travel and guide books I consulted when I was still in the United States trying to research Arezzo, had very little to say about this town.  I was delighted to learn how important Arezzo had been during Etruscan and Roman times, and especially during the Renaissance.  From Vasari, to Piero della Francesca, there are many masterful works still here to enjoy.  I was also excited to learn about Arezzo’s incredible Joust of the Saracen festival – which we attended four times! To me, it provides much more skills and thrills than Siena’s Palio, but unfortunately is less well-known.

 Why do I think that is?

I don’t think Arezzo is actively engaged in reaching out to English speaking tourists.  For example, when I arrived, the English version of the Joust brochure was unintelligible.   I offered to re-write it – not only in proper English, but in an appealing marketing and conversational style – for free.   Then I volunteered to rewrite the English version for Benvenuti ad Arezzo’s updated website – also for free.  Unfortunately, for last year’s debut Icastica event, I learned its PR company based in Rome wasn’t planning to have any materials in English.   That is a pity.  Limited outreach, results in limited results.  I believe I wrote the only article about Icastica printed in an American travel magazine.   Arezzo is missing opportunities to reach out to a large group of tourists who already love Tuscany.  If these people discovered Arezzo, they would fall in love with it too.  To me, Arezzo is more authentic than many of Tuscany’s more-traveled spots.

 What can be done?

Tap known resources! As a communications consultant who managed multi-million dollar issue campaigns in the US, I would suggest Arezzo form a marketing-task-force that first identifies influential stakeholders and then targets them for their ideas and support. I have had dinner with Mayor Fanfani and coffee with the Press Officer for Arezzo Confcommercio, but unfortunately I was never been able to provide workshops or training sessions to provide strategies to key decision-makers. I wish I could have.

What else did we discover about Arezzo?

In spite of what some of them told me, I happily discovered that the Aretini are a warm and welcoming people.  While my daughter Lulu and I explored centro storico, we were surrounded by shop and restaurant owners who first, I think, were curious about the “crazy American woman who asked a lot of questions” (as a journalist, I am naturally curious about everything) and then, over time, have become friends and like family.  It would take too much time to name every person who positively impacted our lives, but needless to say, it is the Aretini spirit that prompted me to write the book published last year about our lovely adventures here, Because I’m Small Now and You Love Me. 

After three years, six-year-old Lulu is now fluent in the language but I am not.  However, I believe I became fluent in the Aretini soul.   I truly loved our time in Arezzo and I look forward to many happy returns!

From Garlic to Gaelic

Here ‘tis friends: another official announcement in the adventure-filled life of Family Walsh.   Next month, Scotty, Lulu and I will be trading in our pasta for potatoes, our Chianti for Guinness and our espresso for tea as we pack up and move to:  (how’d you guess?) Ireland!

PicMonkey Collage

Scotty has been welcomed into a PhD program with University College in the lovely town of Cork – just a couple of hours south of Dublin – where he’ll be researching mind control. Really.  I am married to one interesting guy.

University College Cork, on the Emerald Isle
University College Cork, on the Emerald Isle

From the moment we arrived back in July 2011, we knew our stay here in Tuscany wasn’t going to be forever (although I had my fingers crossed that it might).  I will miss terribly so many places, things and – especially people in our beloved adopted hometown of Arezzo.

We love you, Arezzo!!
We love you, Arezzo!!

I will soon write more and lament in detail about the wonderful sights and sounds I’ll be so sad to leave behind.

However, since we’re not moving far, far, far away back to the US, I’m going to do my best to keep my chin up and say, “ci vediamo dopo!” – see you later! – and not good bye!  We’ll just be a short direct Ryan Air flight from Cork to Pisa away.

Tuscany to Tipperary
Tuscany to Tipperary

Ci vediamo dopo!

Baci, and póga!

Gina

 P.S. How is your summer shaping up?  Any plans to travel? What was it like for you the last time you moved? Planning to move this summer?  Share, Share! We all benefits from shared experiences.  Ciao!

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

My Advent Calendar: Christmas ITALIAN Style!

Mariano's Ristorante - just off of Piazza Grande in Arezzo, Italy!  Tell them Gina sent you!
Mariano’s Ristorante – just off of Piazza Grande in Arezzo, Italy! Tell them Gina sent you!

Here is the rather unassuming entrance to Mariano’s Ristorante in our adopted hometown of Arezzo, Italy.  Walk toward Piazza Grande, turn right past the ancient – and still trickling – fountain, up the narrow cobbled street and it’s about half-way along the path on your right.  Voila! Er, I mean Ecco! 

The couple who owns this small eatery,  Gianfranco and Chef – and namesake – Mariano – go out of their way to make you feel more like you walked into a good friend’s home, rather than a formal dining room.

Just last week when I popped in with a couple of girlfriends for a quick holiday cocktail, Gianfranco set down an assortment of cute little appetizers with our bubbly prosecco flutes that were delicious, unexpected and – Merry Christmas! – FREE!

Have high ceilings you don't know what do do with? Hang a tree or six from them!
Have high ceilings you don’t know what do do with? Hang a tree or six from them!

Dinner here is always an original twist on traditional Tuscan.   And, like the upside- down decorated Christmas trees hanging now from the rafters, these pleasant surprises are what always make me want to come back!

Bravi, gentlemen, and see you again soon!

And for the rest of you out there – where’s your favorite holiday hang-out?

Baci, Gina

Daily Danger Zone – or another day, another walk to school.

[To better experience today’s essay, please fill your head with the loud sounds of honking cars…]

We live less than a block from Lulu’s elementary.   You might think that would make for a delightfully stress-free walk to school each morning.

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Lulu, standing just outside our palazzo – ready to run the gauntlet.

But we also live in Italy, where apparently it’s a good idea to create a chaotic intersection on a narrow hill street, just steps away from an entrance to a school.  So our walk is not so delightful.

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Cars converge from three directions at the base 17th century Roman Emperor, Ferdinand the Third.  Above him, it’s two-way traffic. Below him, just one-way.  There are no signal lights. No easy-to-read direction signs. And no sidewalks.

This is looking up the hill toward our house - the green shutters on the right.. yikes!
This is looking up the hill toward our house with the green shutters on the right.. yikes!

I tell Lulu to play “baby duck” – so she stays close to me in single duck-like-file. But many drivers still seem to close their eyes and put one hand on the horn and use the other to gesture for us to get out of their way.

Don't be fooled, this is not a sidewalk, just a little safety space next to the entrance of a lovely B&B. Lulu's school is the gate at the bottom of the hill.
Don’t be fooled, this is not a sidewalk, but it is the little safety space next to the entrance of our friend Barbara’s B&B – just below the intersection.  Lulu’s school is the gate at the bottom of this hill.

It’s nothing like the five-lanes of traffic I used to brave when I drove to work back in Washington, DC.  But this five-minute daily stroll with Death is heart pounding.  So far, we have cheated Him.

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Ferdinand getting his left traffic-waving hand repaired earlier this summer.

But our traffic monitor Ferdinand has not been so lucky.  When we first moved in, he only had a right hand.  And now, as he motionlessly waves us on with his newly attached left hand, I laugh to myself thinking he probably lost that hand…

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..by being hit by a car.

My hat is off to cross-walk guards everywhere! Salute!

Baci, Gina