Christopher Ward is quite an extraordinary whom I had the pleasure of interviewing this afternoon. Due to different schedules, I never got the opportunity to get to know Christopher before today. I was urged by multiple coworkers to choose him for my next blog profile- and rightly so.
Christopher has travelled to what seems like everywhere in this world. He is cultured, knowledgeable and an expert on endless subjects. A couple times during the interview we got off topic and I became completely memorized by his stories and experiences. He has been to so many diverse places in the world that he says it’s become impossible for him to think inside the box- those walls have been broken down.
When it comes to his role at the Lord Elgin Hotel, he is highly respected by both guests and colleagues. He has won more “Stars of the City” than anyone else in the hotel. He is great at his job because he genuinely loves people. Christopher goes above and beyond for our guests on a daily basis. He will even come in on his day off to show visitors around the city and has kept in touch with many of them over the years.
Overall, he is a remarkable asset to the Lord Elgin team with his kindness, fearlessness and “no regrets” attitude.
Thank you, Christopher, for the interview.
1. Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Brockville. I grew up in Crystal Rock, which is a junction of about 12 houses just south of Spencerville.
2. What is your favourite thing about your job at The Lord Elgin Hotel?
My favourite thing is interacting with international people and different cultures on a daily basis.
3. What is the most difficult situation you’ve been involved in while working here?
There was a difficult situation when I was approached by a guest who was not able to communicate in English. They spoke a language that we couldn’t find anyone who understood. They were distraught and clearly upset about something. I had been in their situation while travelling where I really needed to communicate with someone but couldn’t because of a language barrier, so it was frustrating not being able to help. Eventually, we did find someone who could translate. They just needed to get in touch with someone back home and didn’t know how to use our phone.
4. What is your favourite thing about Ottawa?
The multiculturalism, the greenness and the friendliness.
5. Where are the three most recent places you have travelled to? Which one did you enjoy the most?
I just came back from a month long tour through six countries in Southern Africa. The ones that stand out those most are South Africa, Malawi and Botswana. I enjoyed South Africa the most because I used to live there. It’s like finding an old, favourite pair of jeans after three years and having that comfortable fit and feel.
6. Where are three places you have never been but would love to go?
Nepal is one, Ethiopia and Uzbekistan. I like the off-the-wall stuff.
7. I hear you make fantastic biscotti, where did you learn to cook?
Through travelling I have tried so many different foods and I try to emulate them here. There’s a lot of trial and error, and I have very patient and understanding friends and family who are willing taste testers. I’ve also learned that anything with chocolate is never a failure.
8. I’ve also learned that you are a great photographer, what do you like to photograph the most?
I think I always try and find that “wow factor” photo. One that amazes even me when I see it afterwards. I am so lucky to be able to travel and see and experience cool places. I try to capture the essence and feeling of wherever I am to bring back [to Canada] and share that moment with others. I do it not only to show people, but to transport me back to that moment.
I don’t buy mugs or t-shirts anymore for souvenirs. My souvenirs are the memories of going through a local craft market. So, I try through one image, to capture the sights, smells and feelings of that moment. It allows for people to see part of the world that I’m seeing that they may not be familiar with. I try to be as creative as I can. The benefit of digital photography is there are no mistakes. I like to photograph the essence of where I am and create the “wow factor”.
9. What are three things you could not live without?
Music, chocolate and my passport.
10. What is your fondest memory from travelling abroad?
First thing that comes to mind is when I met a man who was carving a piece of art in Zanzibar. I sat and spoke with him for about half an hour. We had a dialog about how long it took him to make the piece and where he found inspiration. I’m sitting talking with this guy and I’m learning about his family, how his daily life is, and all while watching him carve this piece of art, which was sort of like a tree of life.
There were three pieces and I bought one of them. The biggest regret that I have is that I didn’t buy another one. At the time, I felt I didn’t have enough money. He was selling them for $25.00 which was nothing at the time, but to him it was a fair price. It took him two whole weeks to make and it was so beautiful. I have a hard time bargaining overseas. If it is something an artist puts his blood, sweat and tears into, to bargain would be to belittle his artistic creativity. I know bargaining is part of the culture in some countries, but I asked how long it took him to create and I used my consensus conscience as a guide and bargained to $24.00 and we were both happy. I felt that because I had watched him carve the tree of life, I was setting up a relationship, not just a buyer.
At the time I was working on a cruise ship and thought I would be back in 10 days. I told him I would return and buy another then. I realize now- Murphy’s Law- that when you have an opportunity, you seize it. We ended up having to sail by Zanzibar because of a storm. Of course, by the time I eventually got to go back, I couldn’t find him. Every time I returned I looked, but never found him. In a way the art is even more special now because I only have the one beautiful carving and because I was there with him while he was making it.
What is the scariest thing you have seen abroad?
I was once in a scary situation where I got in a taxi in St Petersburg, Russia- by myself and very late at night. I don’t speak Russian and so I had the bartender explain to the taxi driver where I was going.
When I took the taxi there, it was a left and a right and I was there in maybe five minutes. To get home, the taxi driver took a long detour and it took 25 minutes. I couldn’t communicate with him to say “What are you doing?” We were driving through a very rough part of town and it was really terrifying. I started to get giddy, but- maybe that was the vodka too… thinking I was being kidnapped! I was sitting in the back seat, and could only see the man’s eyes in the mirror watching me sweat. All I could hear in my mind was the little voice of my mother saying I should never get in a taxi, alone, late at night in a foreign country!
Finally, I started to recognize my surroundings. I later found out that in St Petersburg there are many bridges and locks that close during different hours. The bridge for the short route home had closed and that’s why we took the detour. By the time I got back I was shaking badly. I paid the cab driver, who was chuckling, as I’m sure he could sense my fear, the only $10.00 I had and felt very glad to be back in my destination!
11. Can you tell me about your years working on a cruise ship, what did you do and for how long?
I worked for Princess Cruises for four and a half years. I started as a Junior Assistant Purser on the Front Desk and then moved into the Shore Excursions department and worked up to Assistant Purser level. After Princess, I work as Shore Excursions Manager on a private ship for a year.
12. Describe yourself in one word.
13. What is something that makes your angry?
14. If you had the chance to go back in time one full day, where and when would you go?
I would go back in time to ancient Egypt to see how they really built the pyramids.
15. What is your guiltiest pleasure?
It would probably be to have a raspberry pie all to myself and not share.
16. What is something you are really good at and something you are really bad at?
I’d say something I’m good at is cooking. Something I’m bad at is effectively packing for a long trip.
17. If you could be any fictional character who would you be?
The invisible man.
18. What is your favourite quote or saying?
“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world” By Mary Anne Radmacher – Hershey. I heard this saying once and it really stayed with me.