Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"A Michigan Lifestyle"

"Dear all,

This week we have invited our last special guest of the year, Mrs. Carol Johnson, wife of Gordon Johnson from Purchasing, to speak about life in Michigan. We believe Carol will help us understand more about the hobbies and habits of our North American colleagues.

This could be quite useful for building relationships with US colleagues or helping us to understand more about US culture. Hope we can see you there!!"

The preceding blurb was sent out to the FORD employees in the Big Guy's office building the day before my December 2 presentation.  The English Zone (EZ) occurs every Friday from 12 noon-1:00 pm presented by Morgan. She invites a roomful of Chinese nationals to attend an hour of  USA cultural awareness and an opportunity to speak "English only" to each other on that weeks presentation.

Morgan suggested I enlighten the class on topics that they have expressed a curiosity about or haven't experienced.  So I put together a Power Point presentation highlighting my favorite people (family and friends) with photos through the years on the following topics:



Team Pride

Home Ownership

Seasons of Michigan

Ford Pride - Dearborn

I presented 36 Power Point slides embedded with many photos.  I prefaced it all by letting my audience know that this was "OUR Michigan Lifestyle" and just a slice of America.  It is really hard to generalize for all of the USA or Michigan, of course. We think we're pretty average.  We aren't movie stars, we don't carry guns, have relatives in the mob or wear designer clothes like the USA television shows they see. It was important to me to dispel those rumors.

About fifty people streamed into the room which I had bedecked with several seasonal decorative flags. I'm all about color and the flags livened the white boards.  There was an "M" Go Blue" flag, a half Michigan (blue) and half Michigan State University (green) flag, Carolers, Snoopy in a Rain puddle, Colorful leaves and acorns, Daffodils, just to name a few.  With the Big Guy nearby, I presented the above topics in full Johnson Family Photo Fun and described how we live(d) in Michigan.
Chatting about Home Ownership

During the Presentation I was asked: 

How much land is your house on?
Who owns the land?
How much did you pay for your house?
What do the numbers mean on the lamp post?
Where are ALL the people?
Do people in the US drive differently than in Nanjing?
How long will you be in Nanjing?
Will your family come to visit?
How many children can you have in the USA?
Do you have a gardener?
Do you have an Ayi?

I answered all the questions I could and deferred to Gordon when a topic would better be answered from his perspective. 
Once finished the audience 'broke into groups' to review the topics and discuss (in English only) their answers.  It was fun bouncing from group to group and hearing their responses and questions.
Morgan guiding a group through the questions in English

Three meguo-ren (USA people), my ex-pat friends, attended for welcome support and to interact with the groups.  (I'm indebted to "G,"  "K," and "M" for their smiles and participation.)

For one hour, 50 Chinese nationals were exposed to our little Michigan Lifestyle and ALL it's privileges and benefits. When asked if they'd like to visit the USA and Dearborn/Detroit many of them smiled affirmatively and two had been there already. They readily shared their observations.
Julia has been to Dearborn, Michigan

I emphasized some of the values that the Big Guy and I hold dear - friends, family & the importance of 'giving back' to the community through volunteering and church work. 

I lavished them with the telling of our hometown pride and loyalty to All Things FORD. They smiled  when I recalled looking out the window of Edsel FORD High School as a teenager and watching the Mustang prototypes zoom up and down Rotunda Drive. Surely it was driven by a FORD engineer who no doubt was the father of a high school classmate. 

They learned that our first 1929 FORD Model "A" was named "Henry" by it's former owner, but that the Big Guy determined that 'he' was a 'she' and so I named her "Clara," after Henry FORD'S wife.

Each of us learned something that afternoon.

My preparation and presentation underscored a personal commitment:

Being an expatriate on this side of the world, I vow to be a more engaged USA host to ex-pats when we return in 2014.

I know what it feels like to be out of my element and venture into making life work outside of my comfort zone.

Eight months into our three year assignment I have adopted this mantra:

 "Open your Eyes, Open your Mind and Open your Heart" 

 You just never know whom you will meet and what you will learn.

Thank-you, Morgan and the English Zone, for affording me the opportunity to compress and present our Michigan Lifestyle on Friday.  I was honored to be asked to speak to 50 Chinese nationals, increasing their understanding of what it might be like to be part of a FORD family in the USA.

We will venture to "the Mitten" in a few short days and share in all that is Michigan and can barely wait to "hug your necks," dear ones!

Here come the Holidays!

Thanks for Reading,

P.S.. Several of you have asked about our recent travels within China. I promise to share photos and observations in the New Year!