Monday, June 6, 2011

Toto, sometimes you know you're not...

Every city in the world has its little oddities. Even in Arkansas or Washington or Texas no one would say Little Rock and Newport are exactly alike, or Seattle and Spokane or Austin and...well, Austin is a special case. There is no place else that prides themselves on the city motto "Keep Austin Weird!" So for the sake of the argument, we'll leave Austin out of this one. 

Nevertheless, little idiosyncrasies exist within every city in the world. Even in a modern, western medium-sized city like Genève, some things just ain't right! 
Take, for example, gas stations. They are usually tucked under the eaves of a building, often in front of a parking garage (convenient) which is 1 to 3 stories UNDER the building. When I say parking places are a premium here, I'm not joking. 
And don't get excited about those posted gas prices, kiddies. That's 1.88 CHF (Swiss francs) which is about 2.25USD per liter. Remember you buy Coke in 2 liter bottles? If we were paying attention in math class when the teacher was working on meters/liters/kilometers (or if you have Google) you will see that a gallon of gasoline (or anything else liquid) equals 3.8 liters. That means that gas costs you a hefty $8.55 per gallon. Wonder why gas guzzlers are no where to be found?

Then there is the whole street parking thing. Notice anything interesting here, my dear readers? Yes, those cars are going both ways. Apparently when it comes to getting a parking place it is every man for himself. If you are traveling down a street and see a space opening on the opposite side, just dart in! Now getting back into the flow of traffic can be interesting but with those little toy cars, just make a u turn in the street.
"What about cooking your food or drying your clothes or washing your dishes," you ask? These are the dials on my oven. Anyone who can tell me what either of those is saying wins a free Swiss chocolate bar, hand-delivered.  

Drying clothes in my building...ahhh, "La Hurricane."

Folks, I couldn't make this up.

It took me longer than I care to admit to figure out what that long metal tube standing in my sink was supposed to do. That's right, boys and girls, sink stopper so you can fill the sink! 

I do have to concede here that there are a number of things the Swiss do exceptionally well...besides fondue and chocolate. For example, bike lanes. We have what we call bike lanes in the US. We mark them and everything. Here in Switzerland, the bike riders even have their own signals at stop lights. And this is a proper bike lane. 

Oh, I almost forgot these...clean side walks. We all have our streets swept but the Swiss have elevated clean sidewalks to an artform.

Then there are the small cars and the public transportation. No one does  efficient, on time, environmentally friendly transportation like the Swiss.

And everyone who knows me well knows I love to wear summer bonnets...colors, shapes, straw, rolled brim, wide-brimed...I love them. Well, the Swiss definitely have it over almost everyone else. These folks know how to wear a chapeau!
Vive La Différence!

Lost and found in Genève

There are a number of bad things about getting lost: you don't really know where you are, you can't speak the language well enough to find out where you are, everything...and I mean everything...closes at 7 pm., it could get dark and you would still be wandering the streets of Genève. Or some wonderful surprises could turn up when you're lost.
For could turn the corner and find a wonderful little farmers' market full of delicious fresh fruits, vegetables, breads, cheeses, even pit roasted poulet. Those treats and a nice chilled rosé could keep you going for days.   

Or you could end up in a beautiful park with fragrant rose bushes in full bloom, winding paths edged with lavendar and asitble and a wading pool with toddlers darting in and out of the cold water.


Or you might happen upon the best surprise of all. You could round the corner near where you think you live and see a golden-spired Russian Orthodox Church...nestled deep in the winding roads of the neighborhood. That's a real hidden treasure, and worth getting lost for again.

Last days in the Alps and situational leadership...

There is no doubt this is an absolutely beautiful part of the world. The people of Switzerland live surrounded by some of the most astounding vistas ever created.  The peaks rise out of the ground at every turn and the sky is a stunning backdrop.

                                                         The people are warm and welcoming and we had a very productive 10 days of meeting and training. Dr. Williams will be proud to know I even taught the part of the project management course on situational leadership. Maybe one of the best moments of the training came when we worked through a stakeholder analysis. When the groups started really listing everyone who could be considered a stakeholder in a global project, I could see all the pistons firing. It is one of those exciting moments teachers recognize as the real pay off for the hours in the classroom.

Our last afternoon before leaving, we drove up the Gasteretal Valley Pass to the base of one of the Alp's glaciers. We went until the road literally stopped and we could only go closer to the glacier on foot. 
As we travelled up the pass, the stream rushed by the road with incredible force far below us and the road hugged the rock of the mountain on the other side. The road is so narrow that there is a designated time at each end of the road for cars travelling up or down. No meeting oncoming traffic; there is no room for anything bigger than a small car. We were pretty sure that even a small truck couldn't make the turns under the rock outcroppings. One thing we did find at the last stop was cold coca-cola. Some things have made it to all parts of the world.

Our last night at Kandersteg my boss decided to host a real BBQ. We made the trip to the local market to get beef and chicken kabobs, fresh peppers and mushrooms, corn on the cob and cold soft drinks, beer and wine. We arranged to use the roof-top balcony and the gas grill. For our last night before we all went to the four corners of the globe, we shared stories about the week, good food, took turns cooking and even had a little free dance competition. 

Catch up day...

Sadly, the blog has taken a back seat to some of the other activities of the last couple of weeks so today is catch-up day. I guess I shouldn't feel too bad, many of my classmates have been in the same boat. So here goes:
The 10 days of meetings and training in Kandersteg were a wonderful time to get to know the staff of Scouting based all over the world. I will be working with all of these regional offices and many of these staff throughout the summer so it was great to put together faces and personalities with names and locations. With 60 participants for the first week, it was quite a job to keep everyone and their office straight, especially if they recently transferred from the Central Office to the Africa office or from the Cairo office to the Manila office. 
 These are the six directors of the world-wide regions of Scouting with Anne Whiteford, the director of Education, Research and Development, Jim Sharp, the Executive Director of the WSO and Luc Panissod, the Secretary General of World Scouting. 

Cub Scout from the USA Flat Stanley was honored to meet the Secretary General of World Scouting in person, and Luc was a good sport to have his picture taken with Stanley.

But the meetings were about learning...and everyone did a great deal of small groups trying to identify the characteristics of a strong project manager. 

And in large groups recognizing the importance of trust or learning about "feed forward" vs feedback communication.
But after meeetings from 9:30 am to 5:30pm every day, everyone was ready for some entertainment. That is John Lawlor, a proper red-headed (shout out to A, T, H and E) Irishman who, when he isn't managing Scouting World Events like Jamboree or the Moot, plays a mean guitar. All the Scouters taking part in the training and the younger staff working at Kandersteg (they are called Pinkies, as you might have guessed by the shirts) enjoyed his skill with the guitar and his enthusiasm for the tunes. It was a good way to spend the evening.