Το ιστολόγιο του/της rolade

Coincidences? Globality!

What happened last October 30 overawed me. Was it a desirable coincidence? Was it pure luck? Was it the work of what my Polish student calls an “angel” (a word she uses when a fortunate situation passes my way)? Whereas, my French friend said: “C’est magique”. I have no way to test these suppositions, so I have decided to share this story with you; you might have ideas about it too.

I was scheduled to be interviewed by the co-founder of the podcast “Qui a peur du feminisme” (Who is scared of feminism) at 7 pm. At 6:25, I got a text from a former student’s daughter saying they had left something outside our apartment door. When I opened the door, they had gone.

I put the paper bag under my desk and resumed practising my pronunciation of French words that I was likely to use during the interview. (Though I live in France, I hardly use this tricky language). The interview was on Zoom; at 6:50, I started to have a mixed feeling of anxiousness and boredom. So, I opened the bag and was surprisingly glad to see a beautifully wrapped t-shirt with the phrase “Excuse my French”. I put this t-shirt on right away, just on time for the interview. How appropriate for the occasion!

My former student’s family saw this t-shirt while shopping in Metz and thought of me. They decided to go out of their way to drop it in my place. Only my husband knew that I would be interviewed that evening, and he didn’t tell them.

Kindness

Last month, I requested information from the Ministry of Higher Education and Research (known here as CEDIES). I was surprised to receive a response at 11 in the evening, just when I was about to switch off my phone. At first, I thought it was a scam or something, but it was the help I needed. Hence, I thanked the male sender and added, “I hope you’ll receive a trophy for working very late”. He answered, “Thank you for your kind words. We have been receiving many enquiries due to our move to online application and sometimes there’s a bug in the system, so I have to work longer”.

Was he only doing his job, or he is a naturally kind and helpful person? His kindness was evident in our email exchanges afterwards.

Two weeks later, I received an email from an EU public servant at 9:08 PM on a Sunday. I thanked him for the list I requested and said, “You deserve a gold medal for working on a Sunday evening?” He wrote back explaining that he would have meetings all day on Monday and didn’t want me to be inconvenienced for not having it.

Another kind and considerate public servant! Has work ethic, mentality, or behaviour been impacted by the COVID pandemic or teleworking? I hope this doesn’t jeopardise their personal relationships.

You are coaching or being coached

Two weeks ago, I received an email with this phrase: “If you’d like me to coach you to confidence and self-belief, reply to this email and let’s talk”. This had made me think about the essence of coaching and the talents of coaches. I don’t need coaching on confidence and self-belief; but, perhaps, in some areas. There is always room for improvement, and I’m perfectly imperfect.

What is coaching? Cambridge Dictionary defines coaching (UK – kəʊ.tʃɪŋ/ US -ˈkoʊ.tʃɪŋ) as

“the act of giving special classes in sports, a school subject, or a work-related activity, especially to one person or a small group” (Reference).

Collins English Dictionary’s definition of it includes

“training staff in business or office practice” and “giving a person special teaching in a particular subject” (HarperCollins Publishers (reference).

When I was young, I associated coaching only with sports. I have since changed my understanding of it. Coaching applies in every professional and personal area and in every aspect of one’s life.

Wise travelling, Dealing with the unexpected, and Making the most of it

You might have read, heard, or experienced the hustle and bustle of travelling abroad during this period of the pandemic. If you had an annual leave last summer, you probably checked every day where to go, which destinations were on the green and amber lists. In addition to being fully vaccinated, there were travel restrictions and sanitary “must do” things.

We were in England for a week for a family reason. From July 19, France has placed the UK on its amber list; the UK has ended its quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated travellers from amber countries, like France. However, there was more to comply with. We had to present our EU or French COVID certificate. Additionally, we had to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken a maximum of 72 hours before our departure. Then, we must complete a passenger locator form, which could only be done after purchasing a 1 x COVID-19 travel test that cost about 50 euros (PCR Test is free in France). Those from red countries and not fully vaccinated must book and pay for 2 x COVID-19 travel tests before arrival; once in the UK, they must quarantine for ten days and take a COVID-19 test on or before day two and on or after day eight.

Vanity or career necessity

Last month, during my Skype lesson, I noticed my student looked prettier than previously.

“You have got sparkling eyes; what’s the good news?”

She giggled and lowered her voice. “I don’t know the word in English; in French, it’s ‘rehaussement de cils’. With this, I don’t need a mascara; when I do, it takes only a second, unlike before”.

After researching on this “rehaussement de cils” (eyelash enhancement), I wanted to do mine too. The eyes are a focal point of anyone’s face. Women with long eyelashes and large eyes are often considered to be beautiful. Was I vane to wish for full and long lashes that would give me a youthful and healthy look without mascara or eyelash extensions?

I was only a few steps away from our local beautician to make an appointment when I turned around. Walking back home, I bumped into my Irish friend. I told her that I had intended to have an eyelash enhancement but didn’t have the guts to do it. Smiling, almost laughing, she said: “You don’t need it; you look much younger than your age.” *

It could have been you

Football mania, here we go again. My, my, how can I resist it?

Indeed, I can’t resist watching and talking about the 51 games of 24 national teams vying for the 2021 European Football Championship trophy (simply known as the UEFA Euro, scheduled initially in July last year but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

However, it is not the focus of this article. On 12 June 2021, Christian Eriksen collapsed during his Danish team’s match against Finland. According to media reports, the referee acted quickly by alerting medical staff, who administered promptly cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) treatment and took him to the nearest hospital in Copenhagen.

A CPR involves uninterrupted chest compressions of 100 to 120 a minute until paramedics arrive. It is a lifesaving technique necessary in emergencies, such as a heart attack or near-drowning experience. Although it can be done by untrained bystanders and first responders, I’m unsure of being able to do it.

What’s behind a name?

I facilitate an English roundtable in Luxembourg every Friday, and we discuss professional, social and personal-interest topics. Last month, it was about names; one of the participants mentioned a girl initially called Nutella, a popular hazelnut chocolate spread. I checked it out and came across a Guardian’s article about a couple from Valenciennes in northern France who registered their daughter Nutella (source seen on 04/052021). The registrar alerted the local prosecutor, who referred the case to a family court judge. The court ruled that Nutella is a commercial brand and such a name was against the girl’s interests as it would cause “mockery or disobliging remarks”. The couple had to rename her Ella, which means a pleasant young woman.

According to Ms Catharine Smith (source seen 04/05/21), an Egyptian father, Jamal Ibrahim, named his daughter “Facebook” to honour the social media site’s role in Egypt’s revolution. Ms Smith quoted this from TechCrunch newspaper: “A young man in his twenties wanted to express his gratitude about the victories the youth of 25th of January have achieved and chose to express it in the form of naming his firstborn girl “Facebook”.

In Marcio’s Italian family, all the children’s names start with the letter M. According to Marie-Pierre, her name’s male version is Pierre-Marie. The Arabic name Shadi means happiness. Do names reflect an individual’s personality? There are studies that show names make a difference in professional, social and financial standing.

Training and Learning at Home

“The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.” – B.B. King (1925-2015, American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and record producer)
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented teleworking, including banks that used to disallow this for security reasons. In-person staff development training programme came to a halt for a while, then picked up virtually.

Staff development training is still arguably necessary in today’s world because competitiveness and changes are our society’s norms. Therefore, employers should continue providing this even during a lockdown or when their employees work from home. Governments in developed nations subsidise and consider such expense tax-deductible, which is an additional enticement. Though online training may not be cheaper as companies expect and more manageable as learners or participants like it to be, it is worthwhile.

Online training requires at least as much effort and time, and sometimes even more. Trainers need to buy or update their equipment, adjust their practices and style, and deal with disturbances from students’ family situations and technological hiccups. I have heard stories of participants cooking, texting, and feeding cats while on language training. It’s not the moment to multitask! I must admit that I cut my nails and did aerobics during boring webinars that did not allow participants to ask questions (guilty as charged!).

Great satisfaction comes from sharing with others

AUTHOR INTERVIEWS

Author Spotlight - Interview with Rolade Berthier, PhD, and her book- The Whisper of Regrets

Tell us about yourself and how we can connect with you.

I live in France and am a freelance English language teacher in Luxembourg. I have worked in Asia, Australia, and Europe for universities, research institutions, government departments, and non-profit organizations.

My Doctor of Philosophy (Sociology) from The University of Queensland, Australia, was on Asian Immigration and the Criminal Justice System. I have a French Language Certificate from Sorbonne University in Paris and am currently learning Spanish.

I get a lot of pleasure writing fiction manuscripts (e.g. “Future Perfect” and “The Whisper of Regrets”) and non-fiction books (e.g. “Journey to the World of Public Service Employment,” “Cross-Cultural Liaison: An Inconvenient Love”, “Intelligence, Giftedness: Pre-cradle to Post-grave”, and “A Guide for Everyday Writing”). My fiction manuscripts are based on true stories.

I enjoy listening, reading and storytelling. Here’s my website www.roladesocietalblog.com.

Social Media: Facebook, Linkedin

My FB account was hacked; Not Linkedin

A fortnight ago, I received a message from an acquaintance saying he believed my Facebook account was hacked. There’s no compromising information in it, but I had to react quickly to make sure that this wouldn’t have consequences on my contacts. I changed my password right away and posted a warning.

It was one of the “why me” moments. I should have paid attention to the red flags. Last February, I tried to open the message sent via Messenger by an American writing pal. It looked encrypted/coded, similar to the one sent by someone pretending to be me. I did tell him that I couldn’t open it, but he didn’t reply. I should have changed my password right away.

I had the same password for many years – too lazy to change it and thought I was a small, non-attention grabbing fish.

If you notice that a message has been sent that you didn’t write, you have been hacked. I’ve heard stories of hackers changing people’s email addresses, passwords, or birthdays.

Multidisciplinary Workplace

My Aussie relative, a business and marketing professional by training and experience, asked recently my significant other how he could succeed in his new job working with engineers. As an engineer, he answered: “Those who have chosen technical studies/professions are more project/object-oriented than those who work in the arts/humanities/social/business fields. Often, but not always, technical people are not at ease communicating, are more or less introverted, and do not like human interaction too much. But, one should not generalise”. He advised him to “get quickly to speed on technical knowledge because “E/engineers” do not like to waste their time with those who are unfamiliar with what they do.

Is it true that engineers are experts in their field of interest, and that’s it? Articles on this subject agree with my significant other. They are good critical thinkers but often lack communication and interpersonal skills, which are generally possessed by those in the social sciences. It’s not their fault; it can be attributed to the lack of importance given to these soft skills during their engineering education. So, what will you do if you belong to the humanities/social science domain and have to work with th ose in the other group or vice versa?

Does the stereotyping of professions help?

Masks Mia, Here We Go Again! - Worse Before Better

In March 2020, I thought the pandemic would be less threatening by August; it wasn’t so, and we had to cancel our summer holiday. In November, I was sure we could spend Christmas with our sons in England; it did not happen. In December, I thought 2021 would be pandemic-free due to the rolling out of vaccines in Europe and some countries; wrong! Then, came the British, South African and Brazilian variants. Here in France, the 6 PM – 6 AM curfew was not adequate to stop the infection figures from climbing; so, the Government decided to close its borders for non-EU travellers. It’s impossible for my Aussie friends to visit me, and it’s unlikely that I’ll be Down Under for my sister’s 60th birthday.

I used to associate relaxation with watching TV and movies, reading and browsing online. Currently, these are not enough to chill me out. With limited human interaction, I have incorporated routines that make me jump and sweat in front of my screen (either TV or computer) alone. These passive and active activities disconnect me from my teaching (which has shrunk significantly since March 2020) and house chores, which is known as psychological detachment.

Giving and Receiving

How was your holiday? Ours what unusual and unexpected. We planned to spend Christmas in London, where our first son lives. In mid-December, London was on tier/level 4 lockdown (residents were strictly housebound); therefore, we thought of taking the train or bus to Oxford where it was level 2 (restaurants and shops were opened). We would then meet up with our second son, who lives in Canley in the southwest of Coventry near Warwick University. It was a blessing in disguise that our flight was cancelled the night before our scheduled departure because the next day the British Government included Oxford on its tier 4 list. We would have been stuck in London quarantined in a low-budget hotel without the certainty of returning to France by the first week of January 2021. Instead, we had a virtual family Christmas party on the 25th with carols and quizzes.

We’re still in the period of giving and receiving gifts. So far, what have you given and/or received?

My husband is a football enthusiast and enjoys watching the English Premier and European League; a ticket to one of their matches would have been an easy choice. As sports were televised only due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was more realistic to accompany him in our attic and watch from our bedroom’s skylight the pigeons compete over grains and worms.

Inaction is aiding and abetting society’s ills

It’s the second lockdown in some places. In my city in the north of France that shares borders with Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg, the streets are almost empty. Although the authorities allowed shops to reopen three days ago, local businesses find customers hard to come by. Residents who go out for work reasons are at home before dusk. Hence, I was not surprised when I read that the number of reported street crimes has declined.

Meanwhile, we know that every crisis provides an opportunity for people to be resourceful; as well, not all crimes happen in the streets. Since the first lockdown in March, there have been reports on the rise in domestic violence, sale of fake medicine and treatment, consumption of exorbitant coronavirus-recommended cleaning and health products, and solicitation of donations for charities that either do not exist or do not deliver what they promise.

Recently, I heard about the UK’s COVID Fraud Hotline (0800 587 5030) encouraging people to phone anonymously and free of charge any suspected fraudulent activity. If you knew someone who has been claiming support illegally or abusing government schemes, would you call the hotline? It takes a long time for fraud to be discovered, and governments need a helping hand. Should we extend this to them?

Meanings are in people, not in words?

With globalisation and digitalisation, employees of one organisation often come from many places and cultures. They can have the same mentality driven by their company’s goals and values; however, not all of them automatically think, communicate and behave in the same manner due to such diversity.

Culture is knowledge and characteristics of a particular group of people, encompassing language, religion, arts, music, cuisine, and social habits. Although language is often the least difficult issue to confront, it can be a source of misunderstanding and unpleasantness at work.

What and how we speak are developed through cultural values and norms we learn directly and indirectly, which is called socialisation. In my recent English language class, a Polish student mentioned that for them “collaboration” is a negative word, i.e. siding with the Nazis – “the collaborators”. So, I suggested the use of “cooperation” or “working with” to avoid offending them.

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