Put A Label On It

Put a label on it 4

Putting a label on things used to be bad. The 90s were interesting that way. We wanted to have a DTR, “Defining the Relationship Talk”, but because we thought labels were so bad we made fun of the fact we had a label for it. . Then we got into slogans, mantras and mottos for people, products and places. Now it seems like everything has a label on it. I hadn’t even noticed, but then the other day I was out shopping and bought instant soup. There were two kinds of powdered instant soup and one kind said, “Made with responsibly grown New Zealand pumpkins.” Can you guess which soup packets I bought? Yes, I bought the reconstituted pumpkin with maltodexin thickener, sugar, creamer, glucose syrup and hydrolyzed corn protein. I felt good too, until I realized how ridiculous that was. I mean what does responsibly grown even mean? On top of that, it is powdered soup so does that even make it taste better? Does anything make powdered soup taste better? I guess in the end I am really happy for those pumpkins because they were raised well. The label did make me feel better though. It made me feel better long enough to pick up two packets of that soup and bring it home.
After I thought about how silly my responsibly grown pumpkin soup was, I started to wonder how many labels were on things in my house. I found quite a few. My lotion says, “Gentle formula for sensitive skin.” Our peanut butter said, “Never oily, always smooth.” I am not sure how on earth peanut butter is ever not oily. My tomato sauce says, “No artificial colours, flavours or preservatives”, but it lists sugar and food acid as main ingredients. My brownie mix says, “premium brownie mix.” Any time you put premium on a mix I PUT A LABEL ON IT 2think a chuckle is deserved. My coffee has a fair trade logo on it but I will be honest and say that I don’t know exactly what the details are of why one product is allowed to put fair trade on it and another product isn’t. Is it actually a fair product which helps people in need or does it just make me feel less guilty? Does it make me feel like I have done my part without actually researching what I am putting in my pantry? I found a drink mix online and its slogan was, “There is love in every cup.” It also said, “Australian Brand.” I am not sure that love is something I can taste, contrary to what pop culture might tell me. Also, being an Australian brand doesn’t actually guarantee that the product is made, packaged or grown here.
Now if you think I am getting snarky, well maybe I am, but my point is not that the products may be misleading us, but that we like to read those things on our products. We buy those things for our house and feel just a put a label on it 3little better, maybe we even feel a little healthier because someone wrote five words on a plastic bottle.  Maybe you don’t, maybe it is just me and my premium brownie mix but I felt good about that too. I may buy brownie mix instead of making brownies from scratch but gosh darn it is premium brownie mix. It says so right there on the box. My zip lock bags have, “Secure lock guaranteed”, printed on the front. I don’t know for sure that they work better than the other brand but I sure do like it when someone prints guaranteed on the front of something. My dishwashing liquid is apparently, “safe for hands and for the environment.”  I am not a scientist, so I have to trust that the label on that dishwashing liquid actually means what it seems to say.
Some of those labels mean something so I don’t think we should do away with labels all together, no matter what the 90s taught me. I just think we have to be really careful about letting the labels make us feel better about the kind of person we are. Do I feel like I am a better person because I have a label on the soup in my pantry which says the pumpkins are responsibly grown? Does the fair trade label on my coffee encourage me to feel superior?  Sometimes we just let it makePut a label on it 1 us feel healthier. My soup must be healthier because it says the pumpkins are responsibly grown. I let that label make me think that, even if only for a short while. I think marketing companies are talented and I think sometimes I am silly. I do not think you will see me reading the back of every product in the grocery store, but if you have time to do that then more power to you.  I don’t think you should put the fair trade coffee back and go home and research the fair trade stipulations on the internet before you purchase coffee again. I would be in real trouble if I suggested that, because I can’t make sense out of the written word until I have had my coffee in the morning. I just think we need to buy what we buy without thinking it changes the person we actually are. No matter what those labels say it does not make me healthier. I am an exercise-hating, chocolate eating and coffee-drinking booklover and no amount of responsibly grown pumpkins is going to change that.

Down the Rabbit Hole-Stuck in Zhengzhou Part 1

I am writing this blog sitting in a hotel in the middle of a dark hotel room in Zhengzhou, China. Zhengzhou is meant to be a stopover between many larger cities. Zhengzhou is a middle point between two places and Zhengzhou5not often a destination, even though it is a capital city. The fact that I am writing this from a hotel in this city says a lot about how my day has gone. First of all let me say that it is no surprise to anyone that I have a love affair with China. I adore this country. I fly, and to say I hate flying is an understatement, so that I can come to this country.  Having said that, there are days when it throws me for a loop and today was one of those days.
I lost my patience today with several people. I will no doubt be referred to as tiny crazy lady, or dragon lady, in this city for a long time because I got a little peeved. I did not yell, but most people who speak Chinese as a second language will say there are some times when it would be better for everyone around them if they couldn’t speak the language. For me today was one of those times. I checked into my flight at Shenyang airport and the flight was supposed to go to Kunming. At check in I was  informed that I would be changing flights in Zhengzhou and it was not just a stopover. I would actually have to get a new ticket and change planes. “OK” I said politely, “Would I have enough time?” The lady at Zhengzhou8the check in counter replied, “Oh certainly, more than enough.” I had my doubts so I later asked at the gate and found that this person thought I would definitely not have enough time if without someone to help me. “Tell the flight attendant,” she said, “she will arrange for someone to meet you and transfer you.” I then asked, “OK, well I have an international flight leaving from Beijing the next day, I am meant to fly to Kunming for a meeting then immediately after, fly to Beijing, so are there many daily flights from Zhengzhou to Beijing?” She replied, “Oh yes naturally!” Newton’s law went into effect here. A little voice said, “Switch airlines or flights now!” But I ignored the voice, I was already checked in and, I thought,I am not that person that screams about broken phalanges and gets off the plane. (Watch Friends the TV show.) So I took the flight, which arrive a half an hour late, and no one met me to help transfer me so, no, I didn’t make my flight to Kunming.



I finally found the domestic ticket desk at Zhengzhou airport, (see picture of airport above to the right), and some people who were reluctantly willing to help me. (At this point I had already gotten put out with the people at the transfer desk who couldn’t help and now was actually power walking mad so their reluctance was very understandable). There was not much they could do though. There were no more flights to Kunming today. The flights the next day were too late to arrive in time for my meeting. Surprise, surprise there were also no more flights to Beijing because there are not, as I had previously been told, many daily flights from Zhengzhou to Beijing. So I cancelled my meetings in Kunming with embarrassment and as much grace as I could manage and moved on to booking a ticket for Beijing tomorrow.
20507975064be68c6999116This sounds easy and it would have been but I am in a city where people are not supposed to stop or do things like buy brand new tickets so I could not pay with foreign currency or used my MasterCard to pay for the ticket. The banks were closed so I couldn’t exchange any of the three other types of foreign currency I had. So, I had to call my husband, have him purchase the ticket online and send me the confirmation while also looking up hotels. Then I had to confirm the flight with the airline which I had been told to do. Shoot to a picture of me still in the airport four hours later.
You may think my story is  finally over, I have a plane ticket for Beijing and a reservation at a trusted hotel chain. “It wasn’t so bad after all”, you might be thinking. You would be wrong because as of this moment the electricity has gone off in the entire hotel and here I sit in the dark writing a blog because that is all there is left to do. You can read about how I ended up in a dark hotel room writing a blog in part 2, coming soon!

Travel Agent Partnership

Studentunitravel_logoStacey College is pleased to announce that we have entered into a partnership with Student Uni Travel and Backpackers World Travel. This partnership allows us to offer our students a dedicated travel agency to look after all their travel needs.

Whether it is day tours from Perth or seeing more of Australia or the world. Student Uni Travel has offices all over Australia with staff that speak a number of languages. They are here to help you and make your travelling experience exceptional! Stay tuned for some great study tour packages as we work together with our new partners to come up with some exciting offers!

Backpackers world travel_logo

So drop in the local branch at 236 William St, Northbridge and say hi to Carla and the gang.

Pretty Pinterest

If you haven’t discovered  yet, you are in for a treat! It is a virtual pinboard where you can organise and share beautiful things you find on the web. People use it for all sorts of reasons. Here at Stacey College we are collecting images of every country in the world. So far we have a board for 60 countries… only about 133 to go!

We also have boards for collecting language learning resources for English, Mandarin, Malaya and Indonesian.

Then just for fun we have “Christmas around the world” and “Weddings around the world”.

Check us out at– but be careful, you might just get hooked on pinning too!

Mandarin for Business

Stacey College is now offering tutoring and group classes to better prepare you for your next business trip to China.

See how impressed your Chinese clients are when you show off your new skill in Mandarin!

Seriously though – it takes a long time to become proficient in a new language. What is 5 hours of training going to get you?

It will give you a couple of words in Mandarin to demonstrate to the people you are doing business with that you are interested in their country and culture, and you value their language.

It will improve your understanding of the Chinese culture, attitudes and values.

See our website for details.

Confessions from Switzerland

I’ve been so busy since I got back from Switzerland that I have not had a chance to blog about my trip. What a crime!

Three fun-filled days in Switzerland. Two trips from Zurich to Lugano, through unbelievably beautiful scenery! Driving alongside Lake Lucerne was a highlight.

I even saw the Matterhorn without knowing it until I came home and a friend pointed it out in my photographs. I really must do more research before next trip! A few meetings and even some time for a shopping trip through Zurich.

Reflecting on the trip:

(1) Overseas travel increases the chances of making a mistake.

(2) Overseas travel, to a country where they speak a different language to you, increases EXPONENTIALLY the chances of making a mistake.

(3) Overseas travel to a country where they speak a different language to you, and drive on the other side of the road, increases EXPONENTIALLY the chances of making a mistake, and the implications of making a mistake.

So I guess I am going to have to fess up to my mistake then… They say transparency is the new black. But THEY probably didn’t travel  about 14000kms only to get lost and miss an appointment.

Well, here’s how the story goes. I arrived in Zurich about 10pm Sunday night and got to my hotel no problems. The next morning I was up bright and early for my appointment in Baden. I was so diligent and organised that I arrived about an hour early, leaving time to wander around the town and take some photos.

After my appointment I had a 2.5 hour drive to Lugano, near Italy. I set off straight away with about 4 hours until the next appointment. Driving through the alps the scenery was incredible, and I did stop once to take some photos. Another stop for lunch and to use the toilets. (HINT #1: Always take a spare franc to pay for the use of the toilet, otherwise desperation kicks in when looking for an ATM!) By now I was starting to be aware of the time and began to focus solely on getting to Lugano. Things were going well and I arrived in the town by 2:30pm. The GPS got me to my destination by 2:45pm. A little close for comfort, but still respectable. The only trouble was, it wasn’t my destination! The GPS had played a trick on me and led me to the wrong place. I couldn’t access WiFi to email the person I was meeting. I tried the phone but the number I had wouldn’t connect. In desperation I began asking people for directions. I don’t speak Italian, and most people I approached didn’t speak English. I finally managed to get some directions out of a kind elderly gentleman, and set off with renewed hope. It was already after 3pm. I clung to the idea that if I eventually found the place I would have the opportunity to apologize profusely.

But it was not to be. 4pm came and I was still driving around the narrow, winding streets of Lugano. I had to accept defeat. I had missed my appointment! One that I had travelled 14000km to be at! I was struggling to believe I could have made such a stupid mistake. A long walk around Lake Lugano helped reality set in.

There was nothing else to do that day, so I turned around and went back to Zurich. On the way back I came up with an idea. Even with my limited time I could possibly squeeze in another trip to Lugano the next afternoon. Maybe I could reschedule (if they didn’t hate me by now!) Buoyed by this thought, I couldn’t help but enjoy the drive back.

At the hotel I received the dreaded email, “Where are you? I am waiting. I hope you arrive soon…” I answered very contritely, and went to bed hoping for another chance the next day. More appointments meant that I couldn’t sit around and wait to hear about the possibility of another meeting. I had to leave and hope it could happen. Again I struggled to find an internet connection. (HINT #2: Be better technologically prepared for travel.) But I did manage to find my destination – following instructions, not the GPS! I also managed to find a cafe with free WiFi. That allowed me to get the message that my appointment could not be rescheduled and I would have to wait until my next Switzerland trip to follow up.

It was a funny sensation; the absoluteness of defeat. It felt better the second day because I knew that I had thrown absolutely everything I could think of at the problem.  I was so tempted to drop my bundle and retreat into self pity and depression. I am pleased to say that I resisted the urge. The resultant confidence was palpable. I had failed and I had survived. My plans had not worked out the way I wanted, but even at the point of failure I could recognise the many positive results.

(1) I had furthered my relationship with the person I was trying to meet, and confirmed a future meeting.

(2) I had demonstrated my commitment to trying to make the appointment by coming back the following day.

(3) I got not 1, but 2 drives back and forth through some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen.

(4) I developed my determination to persist even in the face of minor setbacks.

(5) I now have a very important reason to return to Switzerland!

So there you have it – my longest blog so far, about the longest trip to an appointment I didn’t make!

Anyone got another interesting story from an overseas trip to share?

Stacey College – the first year

This is a presentation I prepared for our Stacey College Opening last week. I will blog more about the opening when I have photos to share.

This summarises the process we have been through from initial question to one year on.

Click on the link to see the fully interactive presentation.


Australia in the Asian Century

It has been a pleasure reading the newspaper this morning with all the discussions arising from the Asia White Paper released by the government yesterday.

For Stacey College it is encouraging to hear the call for “deeper and broader people-to-people links with Asia nations across the entire community”. As an organisation promoting language learning, we recognize that languages cannot be learnt in a vacuum, but involve an understanding of the cultures and traditions behind the spoken word. While we see vast numbers of our Asian community coming to Australia to learn English, it is widely recognised that Australians do not have the same passion for embracing the languages of our neighbours. The Asia White Paper has identified  Mandarin, Hindi, Japanese and Indonesian as the priority Asian languages. “The broad thrust of the white paper is to seek educational and cultural awareness and integration at all levels of training and schooling so that business, trade and cultural pursuits all benefit from a systemic increase in knowledge and understanding of Asia.” (Denis Shanahan, The Australian.)

Previously in this blog we have discussed the dismal facts about Asian language learning in Australian high schools (Value in Second Language.) This is not the first time the Australian government has declared that we must be more engaged with Asia, and that Asian languages must become a priority in our schools. Clearly Greg Sheridan from the Australian thinks that this is just another of those times. He describes the white paper among other things as “pure spin. It is an emperor whose nakedness is epic.” Though I thoroughly enjoyed reading his passionately written criticism, I will hold out hope that eventually Australians will get on board with the idea that learning a second language is both fundamentally advantageous and essential to being a player in the global community. Once parents recognise the enormous advantage their children will have by being proficient in more than one language the changes will really start to take place.

On my recent trip to Switzerland the thing that most struck me was the constant hubub of multiple languages around me. In Perth it is easy to go a lot of your time without hearing another language. In the airport, and in Switzerland I was reminded what a big world we live in, and what an advantage it is to know other languages. Flying on Emirates they had staff who between them spoke about 10 languages. The hotel I stayed at had multilingual staff which was fortunate for me because I don’t speak German (yet!).


So as you hear all the talk about The Asian Century I hope that you will see it as an opportunity to learn more about our neighbours and perhaps take the opportunity to learn one of their languages.

If you want to check out the White Paper for yourself you can download it here. I found the slideshow particularly helpful as a summary. There are also fact sheets that can be downloaded separately so you can read about areas that are of particular interest to you.



Digital Natives & Dinosaurs

Whether we are in the digital age or the post digital age makes no difference if you are a dinosaur. What you need to do is find yourself a native who can show you around the new land.

If you have children you’ll know how intuitively they seem to interact with technology. Not only do they know how to work all your current technology, but the minute you bring home something new they will be able to figure out how to use it. A little humility goes a long way for the dinosaur who, with a younger mentor, can soon adapt and learn the digital ways.

So why even bother with the whole social media thing? A few stats to persuade you…(from Deloitte Social Media Report 2012)

Australian social media users:

13 Million Facebook (who spend approx. 8.8 hours per week)

11 Million You Tube

3.8 Million Blogspot

1.6 Million WordPress

2 Million LinkedIn

1.8 Million Twitter

13 Million facebook users in a population of 22 million is rather a significant number.

And that is why Deloitte says “YOU CAN’T IGNORE IT. JOIN IN.”

You don’t have to look far to see the effects of DIGITAL DISRUPTION in the marketplace. Industries to be disrupted include music, entertainment, retail, advertising, education…

The more you get on board the digital revolution the less likely you are going to be left behind, or wake up to your methods or product suddenly obsolete.

So where do you start?

Start with something fun! Do you like talking – try twitter. Do you like keeping in touch with people – try facebook. Photos – Instagram. Learning – blogs or check out TED talks. Organising (or looking at pretty things) – Pinterest Presentations – prezi Making movies – You Tube 

Once you start learning how to use one thing, it makes it easier to learn the next. Before you know it you’ll be helping other dinosaurs adapt to the digital age.


Andy Murray impressed me today. He won a Grand Slam, the US Open. This in itself is an achievement. But what impressed me most was knowing that he has been in 4 previous Grand Slam finals and lost them all. If you are a tennis fan then you know that the Grand Slams have so much more honour and glory than all the other tournaments. Even though he is number 3 in the world, and won countless titles, he could not break through to win a Grand Slam. He made a decisive move in December 2011 by appointing past great Ivan Lendl as his coach. It turns out that Lendl also lost his first 4 Grand Slam titles before going on to be a dominant force in tennis for many years. With Lendl on his side he went on to loose the Wimbledon Final in front of his ever so hopeful home crowd. But now, on his 5th attempt, he has broken through! Faced with failure he did not back down, but armed himself with more support, persevered, and now has achieved victory. It’s inspiring!

What do you do when faced with failure? “Continuous effort-not strength or intelligence- is the key to unlocking our potential,” said Winston Churchill . We’re not all Andy Murrays and we are definitely not all going to win Grand Slam tennis matches. But we do all have strengths and gifts. Failure in these areas does not have to be the end. As we face inevitable obstacles let’s arm ourselves with more support, a better team, and prepare for the fight!

Learning a new language definitely takes perseverance. If you’ve been struggling with a new language for a while why not get Stacey College on your team and see if we can help you to victory!