Postcards from the US: Do the Irish toss rocks and roll cheese?

“I know the Irish toss rocks, right?”


Cesar put this question to me yesterday when I mentioned I lived in Ireland. “That’s like one of their big sports.”

“What?!” I replied, shaking my head and laughing.

“I saw it on TV. A bunch of guys with red beards so I figured they must have been Irish,” the 27-year-old explained.  “And cheese rolling too. Great big flat wheels of cheese. But then again, maybe they were Swiss. The cheese and the people. I don’t know. I saw it on ESPN.  So it has to be something.”

“Listen,” I was practically rolling and gasping at this point, “I don’t know where to begin. I know a bit about the GAA (Ireland’s sports league, the Gaelic Athletic Association) but outside of hurling I haven’t heard of rock tossing as an Irish national sport. And you’re on your own on the cheese bit.”

Cultural exchange

For me, the best part of traveling is not the new architecture, foods or landscapes, but meeting new people.

Anyone. My Haitian-born taxi driver, Louis, who is now an American citizen but reached Miami on a boat in 1997 with 146 other people fleeing the chaos of their country.

Luciana, my Diplomat Resort Hotel concierge who upgraded me to a suite and whose father was an Argentine diamond miner. Before he died, he made an exquisite ring embedded with six pea-sized diamonds that she proudly wore and that I admired.  I also commented on her name and she shared that her mother was from Italy. Since I lived in Tuscany for three years, we enjoyed a quick chat in Italiano.

Luciana’s incredible kindness radiated in such a way you hardly noticed the six-inch scar winding along the left side of her neck from the cancer surgery she endured last year. She teaches grade school children how to recycle and take better care of the environment in her spare time and was recently named one of her county’s 100 “Outstanding Women” for her work with the schools and with the Boys and Girls Club.

When you ask new people about themselves, you get a chance to be informed andinspired.

And, in the case of Cesar, you sometimes get a chance to have a cultural exchange.

As my audio technician, this guy was already more familiar with me than many people – since the lavaliere microphone I wore for the global tech conference I was hosting – had its cord connected to a receiver attached to a black Velcro garter that Cesar fastened high around my right thigh.

I thought it only fair that I get to know him a bit better too.

First off, when I asked how he preferred to have his name pronounced, he said he didn’t mind.  He gets it both ways.  His mother, who is from the Dominican Republic, calls him “Say-zar” while his American father calls him “See-zir.”

He spent the first 17 years of his life in the D.R., and moved over to South Florida to go to college and to live near his dad who came back to the US after he split with Cesar’s mom.

With three brothers and a sister, Cesar is the baby.  Teasing, I asked him which sibling is his least favourite.  At first he smiled as if he might divulge a story, but after the momentary hesitation he diplomatically declared he liked them all equally.

Who will he vote for?

He also declared he had a great interest in the upcoming presidential election. Yes, he’s registered.  He is planning to vote.

He and a lot of his young male friends were Bernie Sanders supporters during the primaries.  They especially liked Sanders’ pledge to tackle college debt.

Now he’s not sure what he’ll do.  He said he can’t believe the things that keep coming out of Donald Trump’s mouth. But he doesn’t trust Hillary Clinton.

I asked him to tell me one thing he really liked to do – besides watching rock tossing on ESPN – and he revealed he shared my passion for travel.

Cesar was curious to learn more about Ireland.

“The Irish drink a lot, don't they?" he fired off. 

"Many enjoy the odd pint,” I demurred.

“Can you do an Irish accent?!”

He really pressured me on this one, cajoling me with a string of “C’mon’s!” and “Just try’s”. But even after living for nearly two years in my adopted country, the fact that there are so many variations of dialects combined with the other fact that I’m just no good at imitations helped me manage to duck his repeated request.

He also asked me about the weather in Ireland.  In South Florida, we were coming off of a couple of pounding thunderstorms.  I told him it rains like that a lot in Ireland.

“That’s okay,” he brightly replied. “I like the rain.”

“It also averages about 15-17 degrees Celsius which is about 60 Fahrenheit.”

“Oh,” said my new Dominican Republic-American friend,” That’s too cold.”

So for now, anyway, Cesar may continue to learn about Ireland through TV. But perhaps I can recommend the National Geographic Channel in place of ESPN.

P.S. Should I tell him about Irish road bowling??

Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. Throughout August while I'm back in the USA, I'll be writing postcard portraits of people I meet.  Their perspectives on life, Ireland and the US Presidential election.

Please Follow me and reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and at


Postcard from the US: Election 2016. Stormy Weather.

After a year away in Ireland, I’m back home in the US for two full days now.  Today I’m in Miami hosting a tech conference. Inside it's the bright lights of the studio.

Outside it’s hot. It’s muggy.  Thunderstorms are darkening the beach. The rough weather seems to reflect the mood of the latest presidential election news reports.

At the moment, CNN is interviewing Florida Governor Rick Scott about the state’s efforts to contain the Zika virus with 15 confirmed cases in a single neighbourhood. Scott, a Navy veteran, also happens to be a Donald Trump supporter, and as such is also being asked how he feels about the Republican candidate’s escalating feud with the family of slain US Muslim soldier, Humayun Kahn.

Scott tries at first to avoid answering the question by bringing up Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and the economy. When pressed, he reaffirms his support and adds that Donald Trump is a friend to those in the military.

This, as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and a group of families who also had service members killed in action are blasting Trump on another channel and demanding he apologize for his remarks.

Next, the topic around the candidate in question shifts as this breaking news comes across: Trump is refusing to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator John McCain in their re-election campaigns.

During the primaries, Ryan and McCain have had their share of disagreements with Trump and now, analysts say on air that Trump is getting his retribution. According to them it’s personal.

And it’s this string of behaviour that has turned Sam off from the presidential candidate for whom he was once planning to vote.

Meet Sam from Minnesota.

Sam is from Minneapolis but he’s here with me in Miami as the director of the on-line conference I am hosting.  He heads up his own event production business with ten employees.  He considers himself socially progressive and fiscally conservative.

He voted Republican in the past two elections and was preparing to vote the same way in November.

“I was impressed with Trump’s speech at the Republican convention,” Sam told me today.  “He talked calmly. Slowly. He seemed to be reading the teleprompter.  I listened to it on the radio and I thought he did a good job.”

Then came Trump’s string of polemical comments. The Khan controversy plus Donald Trump’s answer on Monday to a USA Today newspaper reporter that he would like to think his daughter Ivanka would find another career or find another company if she encountered sexual harassment on the job.

Sam has an eight-year-old daughter.

Trump’s verbal thunder has destroyed the calmer presidential image Sam thought he heard portrayed during the Republican nomination acceptance speech.

“Now I have no time for him,” Sam told me.

He wouldn’t say whether he would vote for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton instead.  Only that he, unlike Florida Governor Scott, would no longer support Trump.

It’s been a stormy couple of days in South Florida -  and for Donald Trump.

Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. In August I'll be writing about my experiences back in the US during the US presidential election. Please reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and at


Postcards from the US. Election 2016.

As an American now living in Ireland, it’s been a year since I last stepped foot on native soil.  In that year, Donald Trump emerged from the field of 17 as the first Republican presidential candidate since Dwight Eisenhower to not have previously served as an elected official. And since Eisenhower was a general in WW II, Trump notably is the first GOP candidate to not have had any form of prior government experience since lawyer Wendell Willkie in 1940.

Over on the Democratic side, another first is that Hillary Clinton’s name will forever be highlighted in the record books as the first female candidate (from a major political party) for US President.

With the primaries and both the Republican and Democratic conventions behind us, the heat is really on. Not only because temperatures in the States are record setting this August – but because now with the General Election upon us, America is truly in a first-of-its-kind race for the White House. 

 I won’t try to demonstrate any broad science that political polls may offer, but during my time back in the States, I’ll try to interview people from as many different walks of life as I can find – to give you who may be living abroad and watching with interest and perhaps trepidation a little insight into the minds of some of the Americans who will be casting a ballot in this historic election.

 Jim from New Jersey

 I landed yesterday. Sunday.  In Philadelphia. Host to the just-ended Democratic Convention, the city’s airport was still brilliant in red, white and blue. Shops were still stocked with convention paraphernalia like glasses, corkscrews and T-shirts sporting Hillary Clinton’s face onto Rosie the Riveter’s muscle-pumping likeness with the straightforward words, “HILLARY 2016.” Or the other T-shirt with Donald Trump’s image and the more snarky slogan, “WE SHALL OVERCOMB.”

I posted a photo of my eight-year-old daughter, Lulu, on Facebook as she held up the Hillary cork screw. It elicited a slew of quips from my Stateside friends: “She should be locked up.” “She sells favors to foreign governments.” Trump didn’t escape either as one friend blasted him for his recent comments that he wanted to “hit DNC speakers.”

The political battle-lines were clear. And I thought I’d landed in the City of Brotherly Love.

Earlier, my American Airlines flight had lifted-off quietly enough from Shannon, Ireland.  It didn’t take long, however, to notice that the plane was old and outdated. Among other things, it was lacking, as Lulu quickly pointed out, her expected modern convenience of individual video screens in the seats.

According to our flight attendant, the plane was 35 years old.  She apologized in one frustrated breath that the movie projector to the single overhead screen was broken so my daughter couldn’t watch Pan as advertised in the seat-back magazine, that the bathrooms weren’t equipped to handle the er, “needs” of the passengers on a long overseas flight and that there wasn’t even enough trash bin space to hold the used cups and sandwich boxes and other garbage. Instead, the excess refuse was piled high on top of the metal aisle carts.

My seat-mate on the flight from Shannon to Phily was named Jim.  He and I agreed that many of the flight attendants’ grumpy demeanors likely stemmed from the expressed consternation they were feeling with the conditions of the aged plane.

Jim was returning to the US after a vacation in Ireland with his wife of almost 50 years and their children and grandchildren.

A New Jersey resident, Jim was a retired operations manager from Wawa, an East Coast convenience store chain. He told me he’d worked his whole life for Wawa.

"It’s named after the wild geese or “wawa” that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow described in the poem Hiawatha,” Jim explained.

He also confided to me that the company had left him with a healthy 401K plan and retirement package. He and his wife were considering taking a National Geographic sponsored world tour for their upcoming 50th anniversary  - at 75 thousand dollars a person.

While in Ireland, Jim’s family had toured the Dingle Peninsula, the Jameson whiskey plant and played a lot of golf.  They had also stayed at “Donald Trump’s golf course” as Jim described it in Doonbeg, County Clare.

“I noticed the Irish really don’t care for Trump,” Jim said. “Especially in Doonbeg.”

In many ways, as a retired professional who isn't disenfranchised about losing a manufacturing job, Jim doesn’t fit the easy profile of a Trump supporter.  But Jim told me he is planning to vote for Donald Trump as the next American president.

He voted for Trump earlier in the New Jersey primary too.

When I asked him why he chose the Republican candidate over the Democrat, he immediately blamed Hillary Clinton for “messing up Benghazi.”

“She got those soldiers killed,” he flatly stated.

(In fact, none of the four men killed in 2012 in Benghazi were active soldiers.  Ambassador Chris Stevens, his information officer and two former CIA operatives died in the attack.)

Jim added that he’s not one to defend Donald on his comments against women, or Muslims like Khizr Khan, the father of the fallen US Army Captain or about calling on Russia to find Clinton’s missing emails.

“I’m just ready to see him shake things up,” he told me simply, when I asked him to give me one reason why he was going to vote for Trump.

He said he doesn't trust politicians and he’s tired of things as they are.

Like that aged plane with the piled up garbage,  Jim is frustrated with what he sees as American problems that are chronic and not getting fixed.

Copyright 2016 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved. 

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. During August, I'll be writing about my return to the US and the Presidential Elections.  Please click ‘Follow’ (at the top of the page) and reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and at