It was my first overseas trip on official duty. I had been called up at the last minute to act as the Prime Minister’s key adviser in Western Africa. In Senegal, after a warm welcome and sightseeing tour, things cooled at the negotiating table. Both leaders, usually calm under pressure, began shouting and slamming their fists on the table. A nervous-looking translator informed us the President of the host nation had just threatened to bomb New Zealand into oblivion, as soon as he had enough bombs.
“I’d like to see him try it!” yelled the Prime Minister, who, in fairness, was at least partly responsible for the tension, having made some indelicate remarks about the President’s sister.
Here I interjected and asked the translator not to relay the Prime Minister’s last statement. My Senegalese counterpart suggested we take a break and return in fifteen minutes to see if a compromise could be reached. After an uneasy silence, both the President and the Prime Minister agreed.
The President, his adviser and the translator left the room. The Prime Minister turned to me and sighed.
“Well done, Kyle,” he said, putting his hand on my shoulder. “Way to keep a cool head. I’m afraid I let things get the better of me there. His sister is very tall though. You understood what I was getting at, didn’t you?”
“Being that tall, she would have to—”
“Yes Sir, I got the joke.”
“They didn’t seem to.”
“Perhaps just not the time or the place, Sir.”
“Hmm. Right. Maybe a cultural difference too—different sense of humour?”
“Possibly,” I said. “Should we remind the President we are from Australia and not New Zealand?”
“Ah, no… no. Let’s just see how that plays out. We don’t want to be too hasty. But it is a tricky one. I could really use Phil here right now. He’s always good in these situations, knows what to say. Hell, he even speaks the language. They love him over here.”
“Well Phil’s not going to be flying out here,” I said. “You know he has his indoor cricket grand final this week.”
The Prime Minister nodded. “Yes, I know. Well, that’s what you’re here for. What’s your take on all this?”
“Well Sir, bear in mind you hired me as a Feng Shui adviser…”
“Yes, yes, I realise that. But this is high-stakes and I need your input.”
“Very well. Then I suggest, Sir, that you move this meeting to a different venue.”
The Prime Minister stepped back. “What? Move the negotiations?”
I nodded. “It’s imperative Sir.”
The Prime Minister stared at me.
“Here, look,” I said, motioning to the door. “This door here, and the one on the other side of the room—see how they are in direct opposition to each other. It brings an aggressive, unyielding energy to the room.”
“Oh yes. And look at the table. It’s angular and harsh—disruptive.”
“I had no idea.”
“Even that lamp there, with the greenish-yellow shade—”
“An unlucky colour?”
“No, it’s just tacky.”
The Prime Minister nodded.
“Sir, if these negotiations are to succeed then I insist we move.”
“Where do you suggest?” he asked.
“At the end of the hall there’s a room with just the kind of energy flow we need.”
“The end of the hall?”
“Yes Sir. I saw a meeting room there—door facing east, oval conference table, pensive lighting—”
“Yes Sir. Good energy flow, positive aura. It’s perfect.”
“And just at the end of the hall—what a stroke of luck.”
“Lucky indeed Sir. The only other place I’ve seen here so far with that kind of energy is the exotic birds enclosure at the zoo we visited yesterday.”
“Ha!” laughed the Prime Minister, and slapped me on the back.
Half an hour later we were at the exotic birds enclosure at the zoo negotiating a trade deal. The Prime Minister apologised for the offence he earlier caused, and the President of Senegal vowed to never bomb New Zealand. The press photographed the two great leaders shaking hands, and then the two great leaders photographed each other feeding a macaw. On the flight back home the Prime Minister thanked me for my efforts.
“Great job Kyle,” he said. “Your Feng Shui really saved the day. And now New Zealand owes us one too.”
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