Teambuilding: 5 ways to make it more #squadgoals

Teambuilding: it’s a tricky one, what on paper seems like a fun day out, could turn into a disaster that leave the introverted vowing to never attend another event with the team and the extroverted finding new friends somewhere else, I’ve witnessed one particular train wreck a few years ago, while volunteering with an NGO in Nigeria.

While staying in Lagos, we could have sunned ourselves while listening to pumping Naija’ music. We could have sought out the nearest chain supermarket and bought our own weight in cheese.

But no: we went to the Zoo:  There’s truly nothing sadder than a cage containing an emaciated lion, adjacent to a cage featuring such exotic animals as the common wood pigeon. What was worse is that instead of merely damning the zoo, it turned into an issue about zoos in general and everyone left feeling a bit sheepish:

Are zoos by their nature terrible? or are they providing a haven for say; animals such as Pandas who maybe haven’t got much an instinct to survive in a sensible manner?…I mean: look at a Panda: They get flown all around the world: yet they still won’t do the decent thing (Netflix and Chill) they simply eat toxic bamboo and loll around…

Anyway, Zoo meanderings aside: what we are really here to talk about is how to build a good team and how to maintain that team making sure everyone leaves with gurning photos hashtagged: #squadgoals. Below, I’ve compiled a brief run through from asking around my workplacee and my own experiences:

 1) Put up an Appreciation Wall 

People like to be reminded they did a good job and sometimes, saying it in person is a little forced; like you are praising them the same way you would a student. All you need for this is a wall in the office staff room, post-its and a pen. So that next time someone does something that you like, you can share it with the group, rather than a casual ‘Good job’ in the hallway.  (Thank you Taylor for this idea!)

th-3 When you are too busy in work to even photograph your own wall…

2) Make an effort after work.

There’s nothing worse than being the one that always goes home, while your co-workers go out for a nice meal or a casual pint among other expats. I’ve known teachers who instead of appearing ‘unprofessional’ in-front of their peers; would rather go home and watch Netflix each and every night. Sure, we don’t all drink: but there is a plethora of things you can do that don’t have an ABV rating. For instance, last night: we visited the local Japanese Izakaya to try chicken hearts, which tasted exactly like steak…it was a revelation!

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Wonderful, Oily…Hearts…

3) Share food

Sharing is caring, food brings people together. ‘There’s no love more sincere than a love of food’ as they say: in this case: I’d say that chocolate is always a good food, everybody likes chocolate: so this Easter: I had my mum send out a heap of Easter chocolate which kept the team going.  Look at the culture of China: nobody is left out and nobody is really allowed to keep all that stinky tofu to themselves: I can’t wait to visit Chengdu for a hotpot and fight the people I meet over a bowl of numbing hotpot for the last piece of meat.

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Delicious…stock images…

 

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Easter…Pass the Sichuan rabbit head…

4) Don’t gossip

We are all different, we may not speak the same language, you might walk around on all fours and sleep in a capsule for all I know…but what you need to survive in a foreign country is to understand that you may have difficulty with your workmates: but taking it personally is not the way forward. Some people are like the super SUPER numbing hotpot and some people are a more mild fish stew…to use a long-winded…rambling…analogy…We all have different strengths and weaknesses…let’s celebrate them! rather than point them out.

5)Keep it simple! 

I’ve seen plenty of team buildings, which simply didn’t work because they involved too much of a commitment or threw people into uncomfortable situations, that had the opposite effect on bonding as a group.

I recall one particular NGO that tasked us with pairing up to either be on cooking or cleaning duty: something that certainly wasn’t in the on-boarding training! I make a great crocodile curry, but at the same time…have you ever tried to cook/clean for 10 people?

So what inspired this post? Well my great and supportive team at Kangwang of course…and the fact our upcoming team building is on my weekend…Lets hope it’s hot enough for the hot spring.

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Memes and a monkey picture…the Chinese says: “Forward Prawn!’

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A Flaky Murder Story.

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I am: Still working on this...

I want to turn it into a musical, I've always had a desire to make a musical about pastries...with murder...feedback most welcome...

She always walked the long way around the block, sometimes with the hope that it would shrink her dinner lady body: though there wasn’t much to shrink: speaking of shrinks, she had one that she’d see every week. But today was going to be a good day, a good day she thought, where she’d finally tell him to clear off…She knew his eyes wouldn’t hold the same power over her again.


Placing her face in the hot oven, she pulled out the tray of pasties with a smile on her face. Outside, the newspaper headlines in the agents’ kept changing, but in here; the order of things was always the same: the bags brushed with grease as each roll slid inside.

Except the last thing to leave in a bag that day was something altogether heavier and soon, her smile would vanish: as she felt the dull metal of the oven and a gloved hand squeezing her, squeezing her into oblivion. He couldn’t help think of an eclair, bursting with cream as kept squeezing her. It was almost as if he didn’t really enjoy it. but he kept on squeezing and then he ran away.

‘Service has fallen out of step!’ a customer complained, a crowd built and then when she was found, laid down beside an overturned tray of hot cross buns; it was too late. She was declared dead at the scene.

If the ambulance parked just a street away, its middle-class and student citizens would have just assumed another resident of the old folks home had popped it: but this is where they got their bread: so after the body was taken out, the headline that evening, outside of the local newsagents proved a problem for Inspector Malsworth:

Custard Sliced: Terror descends on small crescent

A friendly face, a purveyor of baked good and a local icon: these are just some of the things, said about local icon Patti Stewart, 50 of Hedgeware Crescent. Patti was found brutally murdered at the scene of Brett’s Bakery,  police have failed to issue a warning, which local residents is desperately needed…

You knew you were somewhere with no news, when a local rag has the audacity to call out the police force and feature a recipe for an ‘in-memoriam’ custard slice on the same day.  Malsworth puffed on another cigarette and waited, waited until he was simply calm enough to examine the scene that lay inside.

Forensics had taken away (presumably for examination and not consumption) most of the baked goods inside, but what lay inside was now just crumbs and a dark stain slicked the oven, almost like cooked, burnt, bread. That’s what it likely was thought Malsworth, these forensic lads were very particular, still…he clicked his fingers three times as force of habit and bent down: to find what looked like a small piece of plastic, which Malsworth quickly recognized as a tooth. Aha…Jigsaw…

It must take a real sicko to have the feeling, he kept thinking, to grab at this woman’s curly long hair and get a real thrill of pushing her head deep onto the hot metal of a oven, blood mixing pointlessly, fruitlessly with sugar to make a whole load of shit for family, friends and the community….

Malsworth was drunk again, for five years, he had come home from every murder case, every suicide and a whole family sized tin of Roses worth of tragic stories and poured himself an almost mandatory Gin and Tonic. Glugging it down so quickly, while still ruminating on the day he’d had.

This he realized,was an unhealthy way to deal with his problems, but at the same time; there was something rather dramatic about it for himself.  Something quite pleasing in realizing that there was a way out that wasn’t a rom-com with the wife…or anything featuring that annoying twat Adam Sandler.

He burst into song…

Wandering, Meandering Thoughts.

What is it about wandering the streets that makes it so appealing? How can we pickle its appeal?  Let it ferment and grow. Nourish it and nurture it?

The answer is of-course naturally to begin spying on people; for some kind of agency dedicated not to a government or to a god: but to the spirit of the people; I believe everyone is capable of having an Anthony Bourdain-style trip in any given country; Finding where to locals go is easy enough,  but capturing it is so much more difficult as an outsider.

I have tried to be the outsider. Even in my own nation, I was the Welshman who drank lemonade in the local pub, just to try and get some essence of the local people and try to craft out a narrative; carve out a beginning…

Its not just painting with light, for me it documents my own journey into finding a purpose; a reason to do things; things that wouldn’t be immediately understood or even appreciated. Below are some of the things: from early work to China now…

Some of it is taken on a smartphone, which I don’t always approve of and will try to move away from…I’m walking in the past and to be honest, I don’t really have much to say; I just want to make more images.

Next stop Chengdu, Sichuan on the 19th of this month, I plan to see more; capture it; See things in a different way, simply by waiting around long enough; I don’t wanna just go home with Instagram memories…

 

Down and Out in H.K

 

IMG_3822The thundering of trains is a great sound, each thunder clap sounding like another stamp on your passport: there you are; standing on H.K harbour…

Boat journeys make you feel seasick: excited for another time: a time of pirates and…uh…UK Governor Fat Patten…Hong Kong is a melting pot of a city: that’s the laziest way to describe it,  It’s got all the melting pot credit of big cities like New York and if you stay too long it could perhaps burn you out.

It’s gone from powdered wigs to being the inspiration behind the landscape of cartoons like Ghost in the Shell: its a Xiao Long Bao, with layers upon layers or a Xianggang Long Bao. An island of difficult transitions, that can’t find its true place in the gullet of the world.

I visited a rough Karaoke bar; where a sad buffet and an even sadder selection of clients sat in garish; red light disco style surroundings; ironic given that the amount of crime going on among the ‘singing’ was probably high…their songbook tells me that they had Tom Jones and David Bowie tracks on their obviously pirated karaoke machine.

Time is a jet plane in these kind of places: hours seemed to pass so quickly or sometimes it seems that they never get off the runway; there was a few knowing looks, it was either pay HKD and get laid or leave: What happened next was not exactly the easiest part of the trip.

Time for bed… …At 2am I was faced with a metal door…Wiggle it a few times… It’s shut shit…

I was greeted with a metal door, with nowhere to stay; I tried to hustle people in the street who thought I was crazy; I visited countless hotels…no luck for under a few thousand HKD…I walked until I could walk no more, I tried to find shelter in McDonalds: no luck; Central was surprisingly lacking the usual drunks…I should have buried myself in KTV and never left its neon confines until the sun came up…

So instead of an Airbnb, I laid down beside St. John’s Cathedral, my possessions in a rucksack; now acting as a pillow; on the lookout for  drunks; keen on the cheap thrill of stealing a passport or worse: I was shaken by a security guard and waiting for the sky to brighten up; eventually: I remember what felt like 10 seconds, but was likely 10 minutes of sunrise over my concrete, admittedly beery hell:

I thought of Oscar Wilde, shivering in a cell; babbling to himself; ‘What an ending!’ as recalled in De Profundis…though this was just a sickening fever of pretentiousness left over from the arts fair…It was really a glimpse, albeit superficially into the life of the poor of Hong Kong .

I’d been out for a full day; taking selfies with artworks at Art Central and taking pictures of great food which cost around $78 HKD per dish: we must not forget; that while we live fairly materialistic lives; plastering our pleasures all over our social media: there are people who live in much harsher conditions; it sometimes feels like we should be doing more to help. Raising awareness and being a little more proactive in how we help those people.

 

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I’ve read about the ‘insults to human dignity’ that many Hong Kong people go through in ‘coffin homes’ and now I’d spent the night lying on the dark side of the property boom: Where there’s no cheap hotel  or as for the locals; no cheap property to get a decent night’s sleep in a stressful, frenetic and hungry city.

 

It seems I’ll have to read this out loud next week…Here’s the flyer: 

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What to do on a Sunday ? (when you don’t have Yorkshire pudding)

 

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The idea started with an ice-cream as many good ideas do, this wasn’t a particularly good ice-cream; it was more like a ‘I have 70p on me and I’m up a mountain’ Ice-Cream. Think of it as the milk-based equivalent to a Soho peep show, a little unsatisfying compared to a hazelnut Magnum or Cornetto: I was on this mountain and I started to wonder:

What kind of person am I?

How do I want to be remembered?

Do I really want to be remembered as someone who merely spends a day off…on a mountain; eliminating the exercise with cheap, sugary goodness or do I want to look in the mirror and be able to say something like:

I’m the kind of man who wears white socks…

Wait hang on…

I mean I’m the kind of man who wears white socks while Bungee Jumping…

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Sadly looking back; I resemble a baby in one of those bouncy seats; all bandy legs; although I screamed my head off like Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet at the time…

Baiyun Mountain which resembles more of a hill has Bungee Jumping…because this is China and having a bench to sit on would be too mild: through the clearing: I could hear the latest dance music and assumed I may stumble upon a party and maybe a sympathy shot of Tequila for coming up a mountain with about a quid to my name…Instead…I discovered a bungee jumping range; a gaggle of selfie hunters and my ragged self…What choice did I have?

The instructors looked scary…

The drop looked scary…

So…I had an Ice-Cream…

 It took me longer to decide to do it than it did to do it; I’ve slept on the streets of Hong Kong, I’ve shot guns in Vietnam and I’ve done things that I can’t even mention in print for fear of reprisal; But show me a sheer drop and I get seasick; If anyone is going to end up with the cord snapping; dying in some unintentionally hilarious bungee mishap; it’s probably me.

 But up the platform I eventually went, had my blood pressure taking; while the instructor smoked a fag with his broken tombstone teeth: fortunately up on the platform; beyond the other dodgy instructor you get a real view of the city and a brief few minutes to exchange some knowing glances with fellow divers: the drop down lasts a second; but, as they say glory is forever; while Ice-Cream just melts…

 This week: 

I…visited… Baiyun Mountain itself was also cool; it resembles more of a hill and Nengren Temple feels like a glimpse of old China: I was unfortunately out of charge for a lot of this adventure and in fact ended up on a bus that seemed to head out of Guangzhou and into some pretty scary; unfamiliar places; shout out to the paper businessmen who rescued me by getting me to a metro station.

 Ate out…a little bored of a bowl of decidedly ill-advised wonton; the Sunday I went for eggs benedict at Dimcube…Please note; do NOT go for eggs benedict at Dimcube; the eggs were cold; but still…it beat wonton…mildly…though we did have some good sushi over a rip roaring night trying some craft beer.

 Became slightly obsessed with… the return of ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ and ‘Wild Wild Country’ which is the story of the Rajneeshpuram cult: It’s always fascinating how people are drawn into a community; whether it be an acting troupe or an esoteric cult that wear all red.

Also...Street Photography is in and polaroids are currently out! just kidding; I think this is the most evocative photo I’ve produced lately; but it’s all just done digitally with a phone;

 

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What are we living for?                   What are we waiting for? (2018)

Hong Kong: Down and Out in the Big Wonton…

From afar, it looks like a queen. But from closer you see that the old empress’s make-up is smudged and flaking, and that the ornaments fluttering in the wind are not lace, but someone’s laundry drying at the windows. But she’s still is a real beauty.”-  Dejan Tiago-Stanković on Lisbon…

The thundering of trains is a great sound, it represents hope opportunities: boat journeys make you feel seasick and excited for another time: a time of pirates and…uh…silver eye patches:  Hong Kong is a melting pot of a city: that’s the laziest way to describe it I suppose: it’s got all the melting pot credit and if you stay too long it would likely burn you out.  

 It’s gone from powdered wigs to being the inspiration behind the landscape of cartoons like Ghost in the Shell: its a Xiao Long Bao, with layers upon layers or a Xianggang Long Bao. An island of difficult transitions that can’t find its true place in the gullet of the world:  

 

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Ghost in the Shell; Ghost City

Who is it owned by? 

Are the people free?

What’s the big obsession with milk tea?

 I grew up idolising no-good stars like Lou Reed, Andy Warhol and the whole New York set: I’d say Hong Kong has the same type of Street cred, full of characters: morphed from grit to glamour to ‘glamoury grit’ in the space of a decade.  Think Siouxie and the Banshees: ‘Hong Kong Garden’ and you aren’t far off.  

At the moment it’s being reshaped by local and foreign artists in the moneyed Central, while the rest of it possibly dies on its arse outside: Nothing is more jarring than the first visit to deepest, darkest Kowloon where only small pockets of fashionable spaces exist, next to the iconic signs for delicacies such as the ethically questionable shark fin soup and Kodak film cameras; you can get anything in Kowloon.

I’ve heard stories that behind all the lucky fish; lurks an even more unsavory trade in rare turtles and animals which definitely don’t want to try the famous Hong Kong fish balls and would frankly rather go back to their jungles and forests.

 

During our trip, we visited Art Central, a sort of collection of international galleries:   Mostly it helped me to think about what I get out of an art piece and is art really just about contextualising/interpreting thoughts and emotions or simply visual? Lots of lofty ideas come forth here; but Art Central is definitely aimed at the moneyed set as well as the average loving pond scum like myself;

 

There was also a series of talks by artists such as a Vietnamese intellectual chap who spoke about turning the object of war (the helicopter) into an object of hope and how Vietnam is trying to move on from the trauma which has scarred their country; The Vietnamese in Western media are often portrayed as frankly poor and feckless; with movies historically centering around heroic G.I’s while the Vietnamese hide as a sinister force in the jungle.

 

So all in all, Art Central is worth it, just to see something different: We may have been in Hong Kong partly to pick up Percy Pigs and a variety of excellent Easter Peanut Butter M and M’s; but seeing the arts is usually a thrill; even if it’s just to take the piss out of something somebody has taken time and effort to make…

Later, after my friend left; drinks consumed and dinners eaten; I visited a rough Karaoke bar; where a sad buffet and an even sadder selection of clients sat in garish; red light disco style surroundings; ironic given that the amount of crime going on among the ‘singing’ was probably high. I was a few sheets in by this point, but their songbook tells me that they had Tom Jones and David Bowie tracks on their obviously pirated karaoke machine.  I left pretty late; what happened next was not exactly the easiest part of the trip;

Time for bed…Drinks and bodies drained…

 

At 2am  I was faced with a metal door…

 

Wiggle it a few times…

 

It’s shut…

 

Shit…

 

Shit is the only way to describe the events that followed; I had neglected to book into my Airbnb on time, therefore I was greeted with a metal door, with nowhere to stay; I tried all the old tricks; I asked people in the street who thought I was crazy; I visited countless hotels…no luck for under 150 quid…

So, I walked, I walked until I could walk no more, I tried to doss in McDonalds, even hustle some night clubbers;  then I collapsed in a heap in a public park; woken by a security guard and waiting for the sky to brighten up; eventually; I remember what felt like 10 seconds, but was likely 10 minutes of the sunrise over my concrete hell: I thought of Oscar Wilde, shivering in a shell; babbling to himself; ‘What an ending!’ as recalled in De Profundis…though maybe this was just a sickening fever of pretentiousness left over from the arts fair…

 Okay, I was free; but dossing with little energy; ruined by drink; it was really a glimpse into the life of the poor of Hong Kong: If anything it made me wish to start some kind of infustructure; but I can’t even spell the damn word; I think the homeless should always be given something to do; somewhere to go; Society literally as a whole forgets about these people; through art or even just giving them an odd job; we can make a difference; food and kip is a universal right…

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Is this my hippie phase? 

Don’t focus on the hole, focus on the bagel (or better yet, don’t just order a cheese bagel after a night on the streets)

 Anyway, finally after walking around, taking early morning polaroids; a disappointing cheese bagel; recovering in a café; nobody could tell I’d slept in a park; I was able to get enough energy to visit The Peak; which I don’t recommend for polaroid photos; but recommend for its stunning glimpse that the grass is greener on the other side; look out for the eagles! It made me want to day trip to Kongers to see more of the peaceful side.

 Each city has its flavor I suppose…Back on the train; armed with snacks; I was filled with the same feeling that I still have; the world is a big place; I need to meet more people and need to expand my horizons both literally and figuratively; I’ve been here 9 months…and there are so many places to visit…. I’m now seeing the need to go somewhere else rather than the big wonton of HK… somewhere equally as frenetic or maybe just somewhere where money is not the focus…lets see…

 

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Still now I discover little pockets of old and new life mixing in Canton (Guangzhou)

We drank at: Club 71: Artsy little cavern down a side street in Central; decent wine from a bottle and apparently named after the protest movement which swept Hong Kong a few years ago (where’s that gone again?)  I met an architect here; a real Tom Hanks type character drinking wine who declared me to be a work of art…a pretty good compliment from someone who must think in such a visual, as well as practical manner…

 We ate at: Classified; think $30 for a glass of pretty okay wine, then respectively $60 for a bit of hummus, bread and cheese; little luxuries that any expat can appreciate; in a quiet area of Central;’ it’s next to Man Mo Temple; which is also worth a gander; Staff can be a bit churlish; but fresh food and drinks so hey ho… I have fond memories there…

 I also visited Little Bao for Szechuan Chicken Bao and their fries; sadly getting a table next to a wall, but getting to chat with a Glaswegian film producer who’s name escapes me; he who is tired of Bao is tired of life; must try other places or just eat 7/11 snacks as the small space demands a bit of conviviality: But often; while Hong Kong has a great restaurant scene; exploring it on your own can sometimes be a burden onto itself; though Little Bao is always a winner! See below a photo by thatfoodcray; (http://www.thatfoodcray.com/hong-kong-cray-little-bao/

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We let out our arts side by…Okay, it wasn’t exactly anything other than placing a picture of myself in an envelope at a public place;  I tried to capture this in a photograph; some kind of character portrait: I want to leave gifts in the street for people: like your aunt Nora to find some photograph of the decayed and depraved “Mr.Trotman’ on the side of the road: I don’t know it gives me a curious thrill to make things and put them into public spaces. Even if it does seem like an extreme pretention; I like the idea of a collectors series; but I need more of a powerful subject than just myself; I need to make a new series; though I have some stuff in the pipeline: I just want to tell stories; that’s really it,

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Street Photography in Guangzhou, China.

What is it about photography and art in general that makes it so worth getting out of bed? For me, it’s all about contextualizing an experience or even transforming what could either be a meandering wandering, fleeting moment passing thoughtlessly in the 24, not always excellent hours of our days. Sometimes, the ability to wander is a blessing in itself; in a world dictated by schedules both seen and unseen.

Anyway, enough with the semi-literate ‘gallery wall’ meandering above; the fact is; there’s nothing more raw and visceral than street photograph, I started out by taking photos with a cumbersome, high tech little device down in Northampton, England of all armpits or arseholes of Britain: the clientele were a mix of dire warnings, people passing through and the funny failures that congregate in the great British Pub.

So why turn from a fairly decent camera to using an iphone? Maybe it was partly out of laziness from the beginning, but then also its ability to capture people at their ‘decisive moment’ as Cartier Bresson would say is probably one of the advantages of modern day; we are all in some way recording everything these days; for better or worse: we are obsessed with our surroundings and ironically totally blinded by them and need our phone than say; we need the ability to walk without bumping into someone.

China is one of the greatest countries in all the world for street photography, despite all the young people chained to their phones: there’s still a wealth to be gained from exploring the little side streets, poking your head into other people’s lives and emerging with even the most minute insight into daily Cantonese life.

What you may notice is that I’ve mainly focused on the older generation of Guangzhou…which begs the question: Who has more fun in China? Who is actually more refined? The hip new young people or the ones requiring a hip replacement?  Let the photographs I have taken below stand to record what might be the last breaths of street culture in Guangzhou, China.