May 19, 2008

Cultural warriors

Thanks to Gillian once again for sending along the following NPR article (that's the National Public Radio for those non-Americans).

Talk about a cross-cultural moment or two! This group of Maasai warriors from Tanzania, well-trained by chasing after cattle 14-15 hours a day, flew to London to run a marathon. Enjoy this account of their pre-departure cross-cultural training in British ways.

a domani,

May 14, 2008

Time for a trim

It is finally going to happen today, a haircut (and a few "sun hits" as they call them here to hide those occasional white squiggly things that are suddenly appearing). Even my friends at the pool were commenting on my shaggy look this morning -- time to take action.

While my American friend Rick of Noi Salon HATES clients just showing up at his door and NEEDS to have a clear schedule to his day, my Italian hairdresser, Osvaldo (a.k.a. Charlie) has a hard time giving me a time slot. I called around 1:00 and asked if I could come by, even this afternoon, or if not, tomorrow. When he said today would be fine, I asked what would be a good time for him. "Whenever," was the response, "just drop in and we will take care of you."

Its a time thing. Since most of his customers will just be stopping by,including a few members of the new Parliament, he really doesn't know what his afternoon will look like and I may even end up coming at a bad time -- which, of course, cannot be determined in advanced.

The funny part is that I am fine with this way of operating. He is a great hairdresser, actually an artist. We have a long-term relationship (stemming from my husband having taken care of his personal and business legal affairs for some time now...) and I have a book* to bring along in any case. I just have to meet Andi at 6:15 to talk about a cross-cultural training project we are working on together -- but she will understand if I am late. In any case, we are meeting at her local wine bar, so she will surely find a friend keep her busy.

And that is how it goes for those of us who have slipped off the linear time track to end up at an odd comfort level with "flexible" and relationship oriented time.

a domani (or whenever...),

* Cultural Intelligence: People skills for global business by David C. Thomas and Kerr Inkson. So far, quite an accessible book, clearly written and practical -- more on this book when I am finished. Which makes me almost hope that Charlie is running late...

May 11, 2008

East meets West

More on sports today.

As an anonymous reader commented yesterday, there are indeed quite a few non-Italians names on the Trentino Volley team -- six Italians and six non-Italians to be exact. This is pretty standard for teams in the professional Italian championship Volleyball league which is one of the top leagues to play for in the world. What is unusual is the Eastern European block -- three Bulgarians, two Poles and one Serbian. Add in the Bulgarian coach and an Italian national that comes from Slovenia and the team was heavily weighted to the East. In fact, the playoff finals were transmitted and followed by a large public in Bulgaria!

From a cross-cultural perspective what is interesting is how these two distinct groups managed to form a true team that went on to win the Italian title. At the beginning of the year, there were a few language issues, but the newly arrived coach and his 23 year old Bulgarian star learned Italian at an amazing speed and actually used the language gap to the team's advantage. The coach would give instructions to one of the Bulgarians, who would translate to the rest of the team in a huddle so that the opponent across the net would not hear.

Perhaps the secret to overcoming cultural differences is setting a clear goal that everyone supports 100% -- in Trentino Volley's case it was making the Champions League. Throw in a few strong leaders with force of character and job is done.

There is a lesson in this.

a domani,

May 10, 2008

Porta fortuna

Siamo i campioni d'Italia!

Itas Diatec Trentino Volley won the playoff finals and are the Italian Volleyball champions -- for the first time in its eight-year history. We were there at the PalaTrento along with another 4.500 fans and our son was on the floor, the second "libero" and youngest team member. The city went crazy and the festivities are just settling down three days later. Quite an emotional time and now some big decisions are on the plate as our son has been confirmed for next year.

During the three game finals against Piacenza, there was lots of talk about what would constitute a porta fortuna, versus a porta sfiga. Waiting for the first final match to begin on May 1, we opened up the local paper to an interview with the club president. The title read, "We will surely win." My husband and I exchanged glances, "He couldn't have possibly said that, it would portare sfiga." We decided that the journalist must have made it up, and relaxed. Then my husband did his usual counterclockwise walk to the other side to shake the president's hand while saying only, "Presidente"-- it is their porta fortuna ritual. We won 3-0.

Then there was the return game at Piacenza on May 4. We lost at the tie-break 16-14.

"la bella" or final match took place on Wednesday May 7 in Trento. It crossed my mind that I should wear the same shirt and necklace as I had at the first match, my husband did his counterclockwise / handshake routine and we won 3-0.

Coaches are beginning to notice that wherever our son goes, teams win -- even if he never even enters the court. Last year's Brazilian coach said he needed him on the bench as a porta fortuna. As the last playoff match started, I was sure they would win (although I would NEVER have said so out loud -- porta sfiga) -- Andrea was down there, and where he goes, teams win!

Or as we would say, "he is just always in the right place at the right time."

Two sides of the same coin, one emphasizes the role of the individual and the other the forces of destiny.

Congratulations to Trentino Volley! As the team captain, Nikola Grbic said, "Whatever the result, we knew that we gave it all that we could, 100%. But it is still better to win."

a domani back in Rome,

May 7, 2008

A haircut away

Busy days and lots of traveling about, but I will be back!
As I told a friend today, my big goal these days is to finally get my hair cut, something that has been on my mind since before my USA trip. I seem to keep finding Monday to be a good day -- only to remember that, of course, hairdressers (as museums) are closed on Mondays.

So, when I opened up today's "google alert" and found this piece on getting a haircut in Turkey, I had to laugh and pass it along to you.

Maybe I will have better luck when I get back from Trento next week.

a domani,