Wednesday, August 27, 2008

summer school + relational trade [part 1]

If you read our blog, you could get the impression that all Jess and I do is spend time in places like Hawaii, the Rockies & the vineyards of South Australia – it isn’t true… so here is a post that branches out from one of my Summer School courses a few weeks ago.

The one-week course was called The Christian Leader in the Secular World of Work, which I took for my marketplace concentration. Peter Shaw, a former senior British public servant who is now an executive coach, ran the course. Peter has written extensively to both Christian and secular audiences looking at the life of Jesus to see what we can learn about how Jesus lead (as a visionary, servant, teacher, coach, radical and healer), made difficult decisions, used conversation as a tool, and made the most of each moment. While enjoying the discussion, at times the approach was perhaps a bit too reductionist and had the danger of straying into ‘eisegesis’, or reading stuff into the text.

The highlight of the course, however, was the discussions that Peter facilitated, which formed a solid chunk of our time together. The group consisted of about 25 people including a former big business CEO, a CFO, a high profile Vancouver lawyer, several management consultants, senior pastors and a teacher. This mix of people brought wonderful insights from the range of experience people had, which was truly valuable. Each day we sat in a different seat and in pairs got to share parts of our leadership and workplace journeys. By the end of the week, I got to know five people well.

One of the guys I got to pair up with was a CEO, this time of a smaller business. Hugo was part of four families who formed Level Ground Trading, a fair trade company, established in what seems to be the pioneer-days of the fair trade movement, in 1997. Hugo was a fascinating guy, and it was great to hear about his experience as well as his values for operating in the marketplace. Hugo’s business really impresses me too, and not just because he’s buying coffee beans at a price that is fairer to the farmers who work hard to produce them. In my next post, I’ll explain why I am so impressed with Level Ground Trading.

This morning, our coffee beans had run out, so I went to our cupboard and reached for the new two-pound bag that we bought last week. I got a pleasant surprise when I realised that we have been drinking Level Ground’s CafĂ© Mbeya since March. We were astounded to come across Fair Trade Coffee at Costco (a large wholesale chain in North America) and we were even more surprised at how good this organic dark blend from Tanzania tasted, and at the great price of $15. When I first came across the coffee’s packaging, it was the big bright pictures of the local communities, their stories, and a map showing where the beans were from that stood out to me, and not the Level Ground Trading logo. As a marketer, I could critique this as a mistake, but after learning more about Hugo and his company, I think the packaging’s emphasis is just right.

More about Hugo and Level Ground Trading next time… but in the meantime, I invite you to check out, which is a beautifully presented website and really informative too.

[part 1] / [part 2] / [part 3] / [part 4]

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Road-trip through the Rockies

After putting my mum to work for a week painting our unit in Vancouver, we figured it would be good to go and do something fun together. So, a couple of days after my dad arrived (yes, we put him to work during those two days too!) we took off for the Canadian Rockies. Now, I was the only one of the group who had never been through the Rockies here in Canada, so I had no real idea what to expect. After a long day of driving, we arrived at the edge of Jasper national park, where we spent the night. The highlight of that evening was certainly the surprise waterslide at the hotel pool. At three stories high and far faster than I imagined, the slide was good fun and Andrew, dad and I queued up with the 10 or so kids to make use of it.

While many visitors to the Rockies never get to see Mt. Robson, which is just outside of Jasper, we were blessed with a spectacular blue sky and sunshine to see Robson in all its glory. In many ways, this set the tone for the rest of the trip, in which our timing seemed to be right for viewing just about everything, from the kamikaze kayakers who took on a waterfall to our 8 bear sightings in two days.

Perhaps the highlight of the trip, though, was in the realisation of my father’s dream to spend the night at the Chateau Lake Louise. Andrew and I volunteered to camp so that my parents could enjoy the 7th floor suite and full-lake view on their own, but (fortunately for us) they wouldn’t hear of it! In classic student fashion, Andrew and I made a dinner on the ‘free’ hors d’oeuvres and tried to use every single available amenity, even taking quite a few of their signature teas as a souvenir. After High Tea in Banff Springs Hotel the following day and a “shortcut” through the BC backcountry where we found wild raspberries and more bears, we returned to Vancouver and our freshly painted walls, new light fixtures, and heaps of other decorating touches thanks to my mum’s hard work. Now, Andrew and I are enjoying being at home, just the two of us, for the first time since April 21st (that’s 4 whole months!). Needless to say, there’s no place like home...

On YouTube: Kayakers on Overlander Falls & Grouse Mountain Grizzlies

serious about food

If you spend anytime with Jessica’s family, you will quickly come to see that they are serious about their food! You will often hear certain dishes reminisced about as “the best I have ever had,” where the particular ingredients in a sauce were brought back to the taste-buds years later. When planning a road-trip, you are almost certain to be told of great places to eat along the journey (and encouraged to plan your trip around these stops). The Boyles have also been known to drive 2 hours one-way to eat at a particular restaurant – now that’s commitment!

So in a week of culinary road-tripping with Steve and Linda through the Rockies, I was privileged to sample: caribou steak, bison burgers, venison hors d’oeuvres and a saddle of rabbit. Not bad for a ‘practical vegetarian’ like myself who rarely gets to eat meat.

While there is much eating-out to embrace this culinary passion, the Boyles don’t sit back and let others prepare all the food. Rather, at the sight of wild berries off a dirt-road, they are likely to screech the car to a halt, jump out and start picking wild raspberries for the next mornings muffins (they were incredible!).

It’s not all about fine-dining either… without a doubt, if were an In-N-Out Burger in Canada, we would have stopped for the customary animal-style burger, fries and chocolate shake.

It’s safe to say… I always enjoy eating with the Boyles!