Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gorgeous Latin Men in Argentina

Now that I have your attention, we have found none:-) However, they have the greatest ice cream and shoes so we are happy campers. The dollar and Chris's pound are so strong that everything from food to clothes are ridiculously cheap, for lack of a better word.

Today was very full and believe it or not, we started at the cemetery, a place everyone tells you that you must visit when coming here. It defies description, (and I'm too tired to post all my photo's) it was amazing. We turned left at Christ (sorry, did not mean to be sacrilegious, but that's exactly what we were told) to go and see Evita Peron's family vault, the Duarte family.

We then walked around Plaza Francia in the Recoleta district, the most upscale area in Buenos Aires and enjoyed tea at the famous leading hotel of the world, Alvealor Palace. We continued to walk (six miles today, I've been tracking with my pedometer) and with the gorgeous hot weather, we take the occasional outdoor cafe break. Chris with her agua con gas, me with my agua sin gas.

Tried to lunch at Gran Bar Danzon which was on my recommended list but it was closed for lunch as many are and a lot of restaurants don't even open till 8:30. From there we went to the most respected tango store, Comme il Faut and when the door opened it was packed with people and shoes everywhere. We didn't understand how to know what they were selling as there were no displays of shoes. What they do, is ask your size, then bring all they have in your size. I must have had 20 pair surrounding me. I couldn't decide between two so of course, I bought them both.

We dashed back to our hotel to change for our private tango lessons with Maricel and Aliel. After our first milonga, we found it so intimidating, we decided to take some privates at each of our own levels. It was fabulous and we should have done it everyday so we will now till we leave. We came back to the room in time to change for our nightly sessions at La Viruta and off we went. Had another two hours of tango lessons and practica then salsa. Ah, I was now in my element. Chris had never done it so she tried and loved it and I went right to the advanced class and was oh so happy. We danced till there wasn't a dry spot on our bodies then left to grab a bite to eat at Bar 6. A very long, very physical day, we are exhausted but exhilarated.

We laugh and laugh between her British words and my English ones. Here's a typical Chris sentence. It's cold in the room and I didn't bring my woolly jumper and I was running around in my knickers before. That tango show absolutely gobsmacked me but now I am knackered and must take a kip as your rabbiting has worn me out. You figure it out:-)

Lazy in Argentina

Today was a national holiday, (I have no clue how to write it) so everything was closed, forcing us to exhale and take our own holiday from running all over like the crazy tourista's that we are. So...we did our 6 mile walk or rather hike to the mall (no, not to shop) but it is the only place to exchange money and we seem to have to go there rather often:-) Not much to do so we were relegated to lie in the sun and oh, how I hate that. And if you believe that, than I have a piece of land to sell you on the water in Kansas:-)

After our sunbathing, we ventured into our neighborhood, which we love. Palermo Soho (and yes, the Soho is patterned after NY Soho) is filled with outdoor cafes, boutiques and people and more people wandering the streets. We thought the shops might open at 2PM as they do on Sunday and we were right so we got in about an hour of our mutually favorite shopping time.

At night, we were picked up by the Carlos Gardel Dinner Theatre where we enjoyed one of Buenos Aires' most famous tango shows, just google Carlos Gordel to watch.

We were going to the milonga at Ricoleta but the show lasted till midnight when the milonga was over so alas alack, a day without tango is a day without sunshine for me, oh how cliche!

As my favorite woman, Scarlett O'Hara says "tomorrow is another day".

Avere un giorno meraviglioso, i miei amici!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Milonga in Argentina

Tonight we dared..we went to our first authentic milonga in a 100 year old rotunda (for lack of a better word) People of all ages, shapes and sizes doing the most incredible tango's I have ever seen, Chris and I were awestruck and more than slightly intimidated. Women and men stand around the perimeter of the space and women wait for a man to nod to them. Complete strangers dance intimately with fluidity and grace that is difficult to put into words. I was almost afraid to have someone ask me to dance not only due to the language barrier but for the intricacy of the steps. I danced! It was not easy, he is still alive and I too survived my first milonga. It is the most soulful, beautiful, artistic dance one can ever watch. I am in awe of the technique that takes years to master, I am more in love with it then when I came.

It was a fabulous and busy day. We went right to Plaza Dorrigo for the outside markets, tango dancers, gaucho's (that would be Argentinian cowboys:-) and a day of shopping, watching, listening to tango music everywhere, crafts, handmade leather, soft alpaca, it's a shoppers' paradise. We lunched at La Brigada, one of the most famous of all the steakhouses. Walked to Mansion Dandi Royal, a 100 year Art Nouveau restored mansion, now a hotel with a tango palace within it for guests.

Returned to our 'hood, which we love the most for a dinner at Mott at 10PM (OY these late night dinners) and yes, more Freddo ice cream..., irresistible.

MIdnight in Argentina

Sorry I am late with this but late was the order of the evening. I don't think I've seen 1 AM since I was a teenager, let alone dance till then. The days seem to be filling up faster maybe because we kinda sorta lost a week with all that airplane hoopla. Anyway, Saturday started with our usual leisurely breakfast in the garden. Interesting buffet if I haven't shared earlier. Fruits...mango, kiwi, honeydew, pineapple. Swiss cheese platter with almonds sprinkled over it. Muesli, cocoa powder, corn flakes. Croissants, brownies and pound cake with nuts, all of which is expected to be spread with dulce de leche...caramel the equal to butter here. A platter of ham or prosciutto and the best damn yogurt I have ever had.

Running out of money, we had to walk to the only place to exchange, the mall, a good 6 mile walk. The dollar is 1 to 4+ here so everything is beyond cheap, from restaurants, to clubs to shopping, oh yes, shopping. Never have Chris and I so enhanced an economy:-)
The weather is perfect, hot during the day (we stole two hours at our rooftop pool) and balmy at night. Our neighborhood is fabulous for strolling, safe, hip with outdoor cafes, music coming from all of them, shops open late, people everywhere, friendly, warm people. Our area is clean as opposed to everywhere else which has broken streets, garbage and graffiti.

We had lunch at our hotel as we have an award winning chef so the food is wonderful then walked to the famous Freddo for the even more famous ice cream, the lines are always a block long. Alejo, the owner of Vistage Argentina has challenged us to a taste test at three of the most famous ice cream places and the ice cream here is extraordinary, we are up for the challenge...and happy about it too:-)

Time to dance, back to La Viruta for our class then took a break during the practica and went to a recommended restaurant, Olsen, yes, Scandanavian and it was beautiful and tasty, OK, interesting! Then back to La Viruta for milonga (which is where they dance). Men nod at you, you go to them, you dance. Yes, again, I reiterate a very
male dominant dance but more fabulous than I can write about, it takes my breath away to watch and to do, challenges and excites me. Latin dance has always been my talent, my passion, my interest so this whole experience takes me to to a new level.

Adios muchacha's...Time to go to our first public milonga in the park, slightly nervous but up for the challenge. Buenos Noches...my Spanish is more like Spamish:-)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Miracle in Argentina!!!

My luggage was found and arrived in one piece, there is a God:-) I felt bad for my friend, Chris to have to spend one more miserable day with me sans clothes, it was beyond challenging. I started the day early, a car picked me up to go to Vistage Argentina and train 20 Chairs, that is not furniture, they are group leaders as I am in Chicago with two executive advisory boards.

I need to say this...Buenos Aires is a dirty city with more graffiti then NY ever had BUT the people are extraordinary, kind, fun loving and warm. Our neighborhood Palermo Soho is very hip and chic as is Recoletta and I'm sure others we haven't seen yet but overall..., dirty. When I got to the meeting, they all welcomed me joyously and so appreciative in having me there. I remembered how much I loved my first three years which was all international speaking. I worked with two wonderful simultaneous interpreters today, Juan and Drizella and they were just fabulous. It took awhile for me to get back in the groove of knowing when to slow down, when to put on the headset, when to hand the mike to someone. I guess those are the pieces that made me nostalgic about all my past international speaking engagements, their challenges and the fun of it all.

Most of my audience were 60 year old men, one woman, they soaked up everything I taught, participated fully in my games and asked a myriad of questions. It was a perfect event. The car took me back and Chris and I walked to a bank or so we thought. We walked miles, way beyond the directions, we are finding out they are not very good at giving them. The language is a huge barrier with hardly anyone speaking English. By the time we found a bank, we were told they only work with customers. We bagged the bank idea for now and headed for lunch at Cluny's, an absolutely fabulous restaurant, named after a convent in the South of France.

We were on Armenia Street, a mecca of shopping especially for these two shopaholics. Yes, we enhanced the Argentinian economy:-) It is a beautiful cobblestone street and the weather is picture perfect day and night. Back to the hotel in time to change for tango and off to our classes at La Viruta where they are starting to know us. We tango for a few hours then head off to a late dinner at Nectarine and a must stop for the famous dulce de leche ice cream on the way home.

Chris is exhausted, I wear her out with my turbo walking and distances and she is already sound asleep and I could go clubbing. As I sit here writing this blog, I am facing my suitcase and a little smile has crossed my face. Buenos Noches!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Scarlett O'Hara in Argentina

And so she said, "tomorrow is another day". Well and so it was. The day started off great with plans galore but you know what they say,"when we make plans, God laughs".
Being the optimist I usually am, I was anxiously awaiting my luggage while Chris and I enjoyed a wonderful breakfast in the outdoor garden, the weather is magnificent.

At noon, my friend, Alejo Canton who owns Vistage Argentina came to pick me up for lunch as I am training all the Argentinian Chairs tomorrow. I was told the number 1 restaurant we had to go to was La Cabrera, so I made reservations for it tomorrow night as soon as I got here. Much to my surprise, Alejo takes me there for lunch as it is owned by a Vistage member. I told Alejo to order for me as I wanted to taste what is most indicative of the area. We start with empanadas and three sauces which I cannot begin to describe. Then the grilled provolone cheese covered with a sun dried tomato sauce...amazing. We are then treated to a Kobe steak, a rib eye steak and a sirloin steak (if you haven't figured it out yet, the Argentinians are famous for meat), hence all the Argentinean steak houses now proliferating the US. With that comes a myriad of sauces, bowls full of pumpkin, applesauce, potatoes and more than I have room to write about. We sample everything.

The owner, Gaston Riveira come over to welcome Alejo and proudly shows me an article that appeared in the NY Times about his restaurant. We take a photo which I'd love to show you along with all the others, but more about that later. He tells us he wants to open an ice cream store (the second thing they are famous for) and brings out a platter of eight different scoops of ice cream with waffle cone cookies all around it. Of course we must sample all to give our opinion. Yes, I am known to love superlatives but this was by far the best ice cream I have EVER tasted and trust me, I've tasted many:-)

The flavors...dulce de leche, of course and THE best, sabayon, almond brickle, strawberry, vanilla, American cream, lemon, chocolate, oh yes, chocolate. Then Gaston comes over and gives me an authentic native steak knife in a leather pouch and they bring out a lollipop tree to end the meal. Specatcular!

I come back to the hotel to meet Chris who opted for a pedicure and was quite upset to hear what she missed. The hotel told me my luggage arrived and I was ecstatic only to find out they delivered my small bag of toiletries and soneone else's suitcase of clothes. They were told it was a set so hard to believe what they brought.

At this point, I lost it, I'll let you figure out how. I spent the next hour or so on the phone with LAN and American Air to no avail. I am now five days with nothing to wear and they simply don't care, couldn't resist the rhyme. So instead of tango'ing, I had to go shopping. Now I know you're all thinking what a joy that is for me and normally so but not this type. I simply had to find a mall where I could get basics from a hair dryer to a nightgown, shoes, shirts, etc... at the very least something to wear to my speech tomorrow.

We just got back at 11PM, my leg has ice on it as my ankle is aching for walking miles in improper shoes while I try to prepare for tomorrow. I wish I was reporting how exciting my trip to Argentina is going and how I am loving all the tango classes and milongas and things we had planned but so far, alas, alack I cannot. So as Scarlett said, "tomorrow is another day". Pray for me, Argentina!

Oh yes, Happy Thanksgiving all!

I Cry for Me, Argentina!

OK, OK, Evita might have sung it differently but then again she probably had all her clothes. Yes, alas, alack, still no luggage, however the good news is that my friend, Chris from Wales who was diverted to Rio finally arrived today or was it
yesterday...FYI, this is Wednesday's blog.

Soooooo...I got up at my leisure (or as Chris would say, Lezure) After vacationing with her, I usually come back with a British accent:-) Walked over to the fitness centre, coveted the machines I could not use (did I mention that I had no luggage...translation... no workout clothes), came back to hotel for my first Argentinian breakfast. I would be sharing photos at this point, but my plug is in my...you guessed it...my luggage. They serve Dulce de Leche with everything which is basically caramel with the consistency of butter. You put it on brownies, yes, for breakfast, croissants, bread, etc. In the spirit of full disclosure, I HAD to immerse myself in Argentinian culture and try it. It was fabulous but if I did that everyday the fact is that I came over as a passenger but would be going home as cargo.

Our fabulous hotel has a lovely garden eating area so I stayed out there and read my book, "Great by Choice". Went up to rooftop pool to read and sun in the same outfit I traveled in (did I mention I had no clothes?) I took a walk through our very hip neighborhood, Palermo Soho, were you expecting anything else (yes, like NY Soho) and tried to pass the time till Chris arrived. I made list upon list of all the things we would do and see. I love doing that...researching restaurants, bars, shops, tourist attractions, etc.

Chris arrives at 3PM, hooray. we giggle like two schoolgirls at a dance, make fun of each other's words, ie, she's absolutely knackered, translated means tired. We grab a bite to eat then plot and plan our days. Chris loves all that I chose as she hates to do that. it's wonderful to have a friend that you are so compatible with in travel. I'm blessed with many.

We decide to check out one of the many recommended tango places Il Vitra then go to the famous Tango store, Comme de Faux for the shoes and clothes we will need. did I mention that not many speak English here, quite challenging as neither Chris nor I speak Spanish...but I'm learning fast. We arrived too early so we walked, talked and window shopped.

When we got to Il Vitra people were lining up to pay to get in to this massive ballroom. Spanish speaking all around us till I spotted a guy wearing a Nevada T shirt and asked my usual...English??? He was from Spain but yes, spoke "American". Why are we the only ones who speak one language? I digress. He explained the process and before you know it Chris and I were in our respective tango classes, beginner for her, intermediate for me. I am a dancer but I can confirm that this is THE most challenging dance ever. Let me affirm the definition of the Argentinian tango..it's a vertical expression of a horizontal desire:-) Sam, are you lovin' all my smileys?...she hates them, LOL (that would be "my Samantha, my Director of Everything)

Oops, gotta run, time for Dulce de Leche, I mean breakfast. So let me sum up last night, we danced for hours, 1 1/2 hour lesson 1 hour practice with men who could not speak a word of English then line dancing, then rock and roll as they call it (was really east coast swing) which I know very well then Chris's jet lag hit and we walked back to hotel at 10PM. Guess what I asked when we arrived back...oh you're so smart and yes...no luggage!!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tango in Argentina...almost

I have had an experience list long before someone came up with a bucket list. Which btw, I don't like the idea of things to do before you die, I like the idea of expriences while being fully alive. My experience list has had tango'ing in Argentina on it for awhile and yesterday, I moved it to the top of the list to be able to check it off.

Ah, "the best laid plans of mice and men"! Boarded my flight to Miami at 3PM yesterday to catch my 8PM flight to Buenos Aires. A big, beautiful American Airlines 777, first class, life is good:-) I was scheduled to arrive the next morning at 8AM and meet my friend, Chris who would be arriving at the same time from London. Chris and I have been friends for decades when we met in the Israeli desert while speaking for life insurance agents. We take many international trips together, our last one to Prague.

Well, at 2am, our plane was diverted to Santiago, due to volcanic ash from a rumbling volcano in Chile. I found that out when I awoke at 4am from my ambien stupor. The American Airlines flight attendant told me that ash destroys planes and their first concern was safety, who am I to argue with that?

We deplaned in Santiago and I found myself in a throng of people, none speaking English, nor did any of the airline personnel. Hey, I got to see the Andes, my glass is still half full. I overheard a young gal speaking English (there is a God:-) She was Argentinian but lives and works in the Cayman Islands and was coming home to visit family. Laura became my saviour and I became her shadow. We found ourselves in the line of Chile's airline, LAN and it seemed they were booking all of us to fly to BA. Of course, I was wondering why they could but AA couldn't but followed like sheep till we were re-booked.

The good news, yes, finally there was some, was getting on the next flight out at 10am whereas all others had to wait till 10PM. The bad news ... especially when going international. I had no phone, Chris had no wi-fi so we could not connect. Laura tried to call and email her as we had a driver waiting for both of us at the BA airport and were trying to reach them and the hotel without much luck. Until..., Horatio appeared, a friend of Laura's from days gone by and he used Skype to contact the hotel who had still not heard from Chris.

I finally arrive in BA at 1PM, I have had three flights and flown 14 hours. I'm tired and cranky (yes, even inspirational speakers get cranky) and find out that with any luck I might get my luggage TOMORROW and I have nothing with me, nada!! When I arrive, my driver tells me he hasn't heard from Chris so we have no idea where she is. He takes me to my hotel, an hour away from the airport and when I arrive they have not heard from Chris either. I check in, email Chris (with what little battery power I have left, yes, my plug is with my luggage) whose assistant, Judith informs me that Chris was diverted to Rio,has to stay overnight and will get here sometime tomorrow.

I decide to take a walk to check out the nearby fitness center as my hotel does not have one. Walk a few more blocks through the Palermo Soho area where our hotel is and then decide to stop for a late lunch at a little cafe which was delightful. I made many networking connections before I left and so I have an email from Dante inviting me to my first milonga tonight. I am tired, dirty and have no clothes to change into so I opt out of that wonderful opportunity to hit the sack, slept for hours, watched Law and Order in my room and will probably fall asleep again.

All in all, not an auspicious start to what I know will be a great trip and on the bright side, a whole lot of new material for my speeches:-) Buenos Noches!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A whale of a story! | Video

A Whale of a story, enjoy!

Most of you know that I am an experience junkie with an experience list not a bucket list. This wasn't on my list, so I added it then checked it off. Last week I had the pleasure of speaking for Kurt Harrington's Something Fishy company, out of Providence, RI. Kurt has become a dear friend over the years so unbeknownst to me, he wanted to give me a special surprise after my presentation. And so, I had private time with Juno, a 1300 lb. Beluga Whale who may grow to 2000 lbs (and no, has nothing to do with caviar as I thought:-)
Not only did I get to pet Juno on his blubbery head to feel it jiggle, I got to pat Juno's tongue (which he loves) after his trainer threw a fish in. He is the youngest whale at Mystic Aquarium in CT, about 12 Feet long and light gray in color and just adorable. So smart as I watched him move to just the hand signals of his trainer, listen to the many sounds he can make and take many pics, which I'll share in next month's ezine. Juno was born at Marineland of Canada in Niagara Falls, Ontario then transferred to SeaWorld in 2006 and is currently on a breeding loan (I won't go there:-)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rick Perry's Speaking Gaffe

Rick Perry's Speaking Gaffe
Dear Rick Perry,
Come to my Speakers School (as my guest) and I'll teach you techniques that'll help you remember your speaking points.

The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the political views of the author.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Rick Perry Needs Speakers School with Mikki Williams, CSP

Right? Then he'd have had the tap-dancing skills to cover his gaffe. Yes, I teach tap-dancing too! So to speak.
Speakers School is for people at all levels; novices, wannabes, CEOs, professionals or anyone...who wants TO BE PRESIDENT!
I'm sure you read my blog, Rick Perry...the next Speakers School is in February. There's still plenty of time to hone those skills. SIGN UP NOW!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Who Says You Can’t Wear Purple Shoes?

Is creativity something we're born with or is it learned?

When I ask my audience how many people think that creativity is learned or something you are born with, I am always amazed at the response. Most think it is something you are born with. I guess in some respects that is true, certainly if you look at the artists in music, theatre, dance, art and all the other areas we consider creative arenas. In the movie Father of the Bride 2 Steve Martin’s character, having just been told that he is about to become a father again in midlife, screams at the doctor that men his age don’t become fathers. When the doctor informs him that Picasso fathered a child in his seventies he screams: “But he’s an artist! Artists can do whatever they want to do!”
We are all artists of our own lives. We are all blessed with a creative spirit and that gift can be used to paint the creative life we want to enjoy. I also believe that we all have untapped potential and the ability to unleash our creativity if we have the desire to do so. Creativity is like a muscle and must be used or it will atrophy. Most people don’t know how to tap that creative spout. Sometimes just trusting your intuition serves to empower your creative side.
We could virtually do away with problem-solving and conflict resolution if we just developed our creativity. Whether in the classroom, the boardroom or even the bedroom for that matter, creativity wins. Joseph Chilton Pierce once said, "To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong."
Of course there are the obvious ways to develop it such as reading books on the subject, listening to tapes, attending seminars and all the other standard ways. Then again, that wouldn't be very creative would it? I think that everyday we have opportunities to test, to challenge, to grow and to build our creative muscle if we just open our mind to what Zig Ziglar coined as "possibility thinking."
Sometimes we need to look at life from a “what if” standpoint and act accordingly. Our best solutions come from our ability to stretch the parameters of our comfort zone and live or else at least “visit” outside the box. I remember a creativity program I was doing at a hospital in Canada; one of the participants named Mary was having a great deal of difficulty in exercising her creativity. She shared the following story with the group:
When Mary was in elementary school the teacher asked the class to draw a picture of a house during a blizzard. When the teacher was correcting the papers she gave Mary an F on her paper. When Mary questioned the teacher she replied that the paper was blank and therefore she got an F for not participating. However, in Mary's young creative mind, she had done exactly as she was instructed. Mary was not trying to be a wise guy or avoid the assignment. In Mary's eyes the blank page was her way of seeing the blizzard, that everything was covered by the white snow. From that day on Mary never tried to see things as she saw them but always as she was supposed to see them. What a shame.
We often take an uninhibited child and tell them to stay off the grass, color between the lines, paint by numbers and then we wonder why we have so many creatively constipated adults. My favorite teachers were the ones who inspired me with the opportunities to work outside the lines. The ones themselves who deviated from the curriculum far enough to keep the students engaged and challenged and close enough to keep the powers that be satisfied.
Here are some ways to foster your closet creativity:
  • Think like a child
  • Travel – experience new culture, languages, people, food, arts
  • Analyze your dreams
  • Try new things - hobbies, movies, sports, books
  • Expose yourself to diverse cultural interestS - opera, ballet, theatre
  • Listen to different types of music - classical, country, soul
  • Visit museums, aquariums, exhibits, country fairs
  • Read about famous characters, people who inspire you
  • Hand out with eccentric people (yes, that would be me!)
After a defining moment in my life I decided to live as fully and as creatively as I possibly could. Yes, even wearing purple shoes. I am Grey Poupon in a yellow mustard world! I believe it has afforded me opportunities far beyond those who always play it safe and by the rules. To me, life's only rule is that there are no rules. Perhaps that's why I am a serial entrepreneur. My mantra is “Be outrageous, it’s the only place that isn’t crowded."
My son Jason has grown to be a creative person in life and in spirit. Even as a young child it is a trait to be nurtured. Sometimes it is frustrating for those who must bear the brunt of our curiosity. His teachers always found him "challenging." I believe it is a great strength to be curious, to be searching for the less obvious as long as it provides us with a basis for growth and does not stifle. To be creative, to take risks, to challenge the mundane, to me is to have a sense of self. To not do what is always done, to not follow the pack, to be curious is in itself the essence of creativity. Be a maverick.Mikki Williams purple shoes
I believe words are a stepping stone to the “whys” of life. I like to think of myself as a wordsmith. I went from dance choreographer to word choreographer. Jason has taken it one step further, he memorizes his word a day calendar and uses them, as he is a proponent of continuous learning. Creativity takes effort.
Be the salmon…swim upstream. Be the contrarian.
Creativity is, can be and should be fun. Use your “what if” mentality, challenge the status quo. Be observant and use every opportunity to break the rules. Alright, alright...start by just bending a few.
Wear purple shoes!