Chinese Banker Enjoys Speaking English to English Person - February 13th 2014

Yesterday I led the first day of course for a group of high ranking Chinese banking officials for my friends at Aspire Leadership. Day was going really well but, as I still have bronchitis I was quite glad of an extra afternoon break thanks to a fire alarm, just a drill of course. At least I thought it was a drill but when four fire engines arrived I began to worry - not for the Hilton Croydon but for my lovely new orange bag I had left inside the room… so shallow!

 

Something good did happen though (apart from the fact that the hotel was fine) while outside I got talking to one of delegates and he told me I was the first English person he had ever spoken English to and that he was very excited to do so. So today I suggested I accompany the group to lunch (Chinese restaurant) so he could practice more English. On our table for two (the rest of the group sat at one huge table) I asked Chen every possible question I could think of to engage him in conversation. I found out such a lot about his family and his daily life and work in China. Like me he had one son, unlike me his parents lived with him, like me he loved his work, unlike me he went home for two hours every day for lunch. During the afternoon I encouraged Chen to use his English (which was very good) and help the group’s translator, which he did. At the end of the day the group leader presented me with a gift, which was lovely, but seeing Chen enjoy using his English was the gift I will treasure most. 

With Chen, my English conversation partner.

With Chen, my English conversation partner.

My Chinese bankers with their certificates and sense of humour (well, certainly the guy standing behind me!) 

My Chinese bankers with their certificates and sense of humour (well, certainly the guy standing behind me!) 

Leadership Course for Chinese Government Delegation - November 17th 2013


I am running a leadership course for The Office of Scientific & Technological Industry of National Defence in Sichuan Province. The focus is on the differences in British and Chinese business leadership models and I also have to provide communication strategies to help enhance trade opportunities. The group has little English (and I have no Chinese) but the translator is brilliant and we are able to explore all topics are thoroughly. I discover that a side aim of everyone is to improve their English so I set them overnight tasks of saying hello to everyone they see in the hotel and making lots of small requests to the staff. Everyone does their homework diligently and tell me that they also stopped several people to ask for directions to the Chinese restaurant they were eating dinner at. I am delighted. We spend the last hour of day two with them practicing questions to ask in English at their upcoming visit to the National Science Institute. Having learnt that Chengdu is famous for both Giant Pandas and Shu Brocade I am glad at the end of the  course to be presented with an exquisitely embroidered panel of the latter, much easier to get home on the train.

 

Am pleased to tell BBC’s Head of Ethical Sourcing not one single text sent during the sessions. Thanks to my friends at Aspire Leadership for inviting me to lead the course for them. 

The delegates present me with a Shu Brocade panel from their home city of Chengdu

The delegates present me with a Shu Brocade panel from their home city of Chengdu

The CEO is Riveted and an Industrial Candy Floss Maker - September 2nd

Today is the first of two days that I am speaking at City Gateway’s conference to kick off their academic year. CEO Eddie Stride opens the day with a moving speech about his ten years with the company and announces, to loud cheers, he will become a Dad in the spring. Ahead of my ‘Building Effective Teams’ session Eddie tells me he will only be staying for five minutes but I’m delighted to notice at the end he has stayed throughout – ‘I was riveted he said and just couldn’t leave’. Job done! Thanks to Aspire Leadership for asking me to lead the day.

Popped into One Aldwych later to see the wonderful Mark Tucker (F&B Director) and was distracted from conversation by staff passing by with elaborate stepped arrangements full of the most delicious looking sweets and sherbets, topped by chocolate eggs and delicate candy floss on sticks. “It’s part of our Charlie & The Chocolate Factory inspired Afternoon Teas” Mark tells me “They’re a big hit”. I’ve just seen the piece de resistance arrive, served with tiny sandwiches and exquisite blueberry brioche. I find it impossible to match the five star One Aldwych with the mini Argos candy-floss maker Mark tells the chefs used to make these beautiful pastel clouds when they first launched the teas (sorry Argos). Now though, soaring demand for the Scrumdiddlyumptious teas has seen Mark have an industrial candy floss maker installed! Now I’ve seen the tea I must see the musical!

Leaving for West Africa - August 26th 2013

It’s arrived. Today I am heading to Sierra Leone to run Leadership & Management course for the country’s senior immigration officers, an ICMPD programme where experts are sent by the EU to build capacity in other countries. I am going in spite of the Foreign Office safety warnings that have been keeping me awake at night. The fact that I have had travel, health and repatriation insurance (the latter in case of death or kidnapping I presume) and a Foreign Office hotline number to call in case of emergencies (I have compiled an extensive list of possibilities) is all making me feel worse not better. I have been immunised against Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Diptheria, have started to take the malaria tablets – but found nothing to cure cowardice.  My BA flight leaves at 10.40pm and arrives in Freetown at 4am tomorrow. Except it doesn’t arrive in Freetown, rather like London Luton being nowhere near London the Freetown airport is in Lungi and the capital is across the bay. As most of the safety warnings are about travelling to Freetown,particualry at night, this was my biggest fear. I had rejected the original plan that I would travel alone to the hotel – either across the bay in a speedboat or in around the bay in a 4 hour drive. The boat was out because of the combination of ‘no sea rescue’, the journey would be in the pitch black and the fact that I don’t like boats much. (I did try a trip around Paxos last year and, despite the sunny day, turquoise water and English speaking captain, had a panic attack the moment we left the harbour and had to be put ashore). I also rejected the 4 hour drive around the bay in a government vehicle, pitch black again, rainforest this time – even the news that there are hardly ever hold ups at night now wouldn’t convince me. So – ICMPD Project Officer Alfred Woeger is meeting me at the airport. My friend Maureen comes with me to the airport and my friends at Aspire Leadership, who recommended me for the work, phone to wish me well. I don’t sleep on the plane.