Friday, June 19, 2009
Jacob from IESE picked me up from the airport in SF and showed me around his city a bit. The next day I stayed with the friend of another person who went to IESE and by the third day I found a place to sublet in an area of town called the Mission. Its a very cool place to live; gritty but with a lot of character. During the almost two weeks since I've been here I've been applying to jobs and spending time almost every day attending events and networking with people. Today I had lunch with an LBS alum and as their alumni are much more numerous, I feel very lucky that I did an exchange in London. The job search is going as expected. I figure it will take 2-3 months to find the right role. I passed on an opportunity to do data analysis for a 1 year contract as that would be mind-numbingly boring. I had an interview yesterday with a startup but the company seems a bit too early stage, at this point its still in the idea phase. I'm looking for a startup or small business that already has some traction. Its enough of a risk to move all the way over here with no job and hardly any contacts, its something entirely different to take a low paying or possibly non paying role at a startup that has a very low chance of success. Does this mean I have job clarity??? Not quite, but I'm getting there.
Meanwhile, the city is absolutely awesome! The people are way nicer than I expected. I really forgot how friendly people on the west coast (except for LA) are and especially after living in Barcelona where people never talk with you, SF is a really great change of pace.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Okay this is getting too detailed and I am getting too tired to continue writing. This is the superabbreviated version of the remainder of the trip. I took a public bus to a place called Aswan where one of the coolest temples ever built is located. Its the closest I saw to the mythical nature of machu pichu. I stayed the night in Aswan at an amazing Nubian hotel made in the traditional style of mud brick and high windows and with the relaxing sounds of Nubian music always floating around the great opens spaces of the hotel. After Aswan I returned to Luxor then jumped on a 2 night cruise up the Nile on a Felucca which is a traditional sail boat like they've used on the Nile for thousands of years. Two days were spent with a group of 10 sailing back and forth across the Nile as we made out way north. The group was very fun.
From where the Felucca landed I caught an overnight train to Cairo where I spent a few fantastic days and was put up by Aileen who proved to be a great tour guide and a very nice host. She had a killer pad close to the US Embassy and very close to everything a tourist would like to see. I spent one whole day at the Egyptian Museum which is easily the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts anywhere. Any item would be a prized possession in a different museum and this place was literally overflowing with amazing items. I met up with Yasser from IESE who took me for a great dinner and drove like a maniac (which is the only way to drive in Cairo if you want to live) all over town including to an On The Go gas station that was the only place in Egypt where prices were actually listed on items and no negotiation was needed. One day Aileen showed me many of the cool spots around the city and with some of her friends we watched from a park overlooking the city as the sun set and the call to prayer from dozens of mosques drifted across the city. My final day was spent in a fast paced viewing of the Pyramids where I hired a horse and rode in from the desert. My guide was crazy as hell and liked to get the horses running while he screamed at the top of his lungs..."Hababe Hababe, I love you, YIIIIIEEEEEEEEY! That was a good way to end the trip and a great way to see the Pyramids.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
I came across a very funny show featuring a former LBS graduate. The links are below and show what happens when you mix the sophisticates of the west coast with the patriots of middle america. If you have some time to kill and you're not too busy paintballing, give a watch.
I'm living in one of the most famous buildings in Spain by possibly the most famous Spanish architect. His name is Antoni Gaudi. My building is called La Pedrera. Do a Google search to see some photos. I walk through the tourists each day as I go in and out of the front door.
In the beginning of April, 30 of us from IESE are heading to Japan for a two week trip which coincides with the blooming of the cherry blossoms. Its supposed to be fantastic. Afterwards I will meet with Chad in Germany for two days of the Spring Beer Fest then we'll come back to Barcelona for a few days before he departs and my mom arrives. She's leaving north America for the first time. I'm very excited to show her a bit of Spain and to have her see IESE during our graduation. Tessa is supposed to come also but hasn't yet booked a ticket.
A few words about London Business School vs IESE: LBS had fantastic professionals come to campus all the time giving presentations and recruiting. Their career services was more organized and helpful. Their classes were well structured and they had a good balance between academic professors and very experienced practitioner professors. Their entrepreneurship classes were excellent. However, the people were nowhere near as friendly as those at IESE and the relationships created were much less strong. Also, whereas IESE has a huge focus on academics, the feeling at LBS was that academics were secondary to finding a job. Each school is excellent in many areas and each offers a different value to potential students. If I had to make the choice between the two, I would still choose IESE but I absolutely wouldn't change my decision to go to LBS on exchange as the school was excellent and a great place to spend a term.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Above is a photo taken by Felix of our initial arrival to London Business School. LBS is an old school on beautiful grounds. The location is just across the street from Regent’s Park and the area is surrounded by mansions. They say LBS is more diverse than IESE with 60 backgrounds represented but I would argue that the classes are much less diverse. LBS has around 1,000 students in total whereas IESE has closer to 400 students with over 50 backgrounds. Many of the LBS students are British or American. Its also harder to meet people at LBS as people are not as friendly as IESE. The professors are excellent and the guest speakers far surpass what we get at IESE. CEOs of huge firms drop by regularly as their offices are located somewhere in London. Things are also much more organized in London as compared with Spain. Which is to be expected but I’ve also heard that many people who come to LBS from the States do not think things are very efficient. After arriving from Spain, I would argue that things are unbelievably efficient but maybe that also has to do with my ability to ask questions and understand answers here whereas in Spain I’m typically in a state of communication confusion.
Below is a photo of Felix and I standing on the great lawn in front of the school.
Because I only have class Monday-Wednesday, I spent about a week sleeping at my friend Nani’s place while looking for a great place to live. Thanks again Nani! The new flat is in a suburb-feeling area of town called Hampstead Heath. Close to everything but outside of the crazy and crowded city center, Hampstead Heath is filled with Yuppies, dogs, babies, bikes and nice shops and restaurants. There is also a huge natural area which my flat borders. The Heath, as its known, is what London looked like before it was developed. Similar to the Squaw Peak area in Phoenix, The Heath sits in the middle of this area and has ponds, old growth trees, grassy areas, views over the city, and trails for walking and biking. Below is a photo of some Londonites enjoying a sunny day in the grassy hill area of the Heath which overlooks the city.
I live with two Irish people, Padraic and Maurie who are in their 20s. They are both extremely nice and friendly. Almost every time we speak I ask them to explain the significance of words or things. For instance, last night Padraic came home with a steak pie. It looked like a regular pie but apparently it was filled with steak, gravy, and other items. He then explained that pies are a regular meal here. Half a pie is below.
The photo makes the pie look a lot less edible than it does in person. But before you go thinking that the Brits have disgusting eating habits, I would like to draw your attention to an amazing display of Americana: https://webmail.london.edu/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_V-2NKUlzns You probably missed this event in the Olympics but I’m sure it will be right after the floor exercises in 2012.
Below are some photos of my flat.
The red brick building was built in the late 1800s or early 1900s and has a nice garden out front with roses, benches and trees. My room has a super comf bed and plenty of space for the 50 pounds of stuff the airline allowed me to bring.
The flat was redone recently and has a large kitchen which overlooks the front yard and is where I check my email and enjoy coffee and tea every day.
The living room has a couch bed, overlooks part of the Heath and doubles as a private room for any guests who might come to town. Hint hint.Our flat is located two floors above the book store you see below. The restaurant to the left has some fantastic indian food and behind the tree on the right is the cafe where I sometimes grab a coffee to go and a muffin.
Finally, below is a typical lane on the outside of the Heath. This gives you an idea of what the trees look like within the Heath but of course, there is also plenty of overgrowth everywhere.
Overall, the first two weeks here have been better than expected. There have been a few very cold days and its rained for part of three days but I've been told this is some of the best weather they've had in months. Mostly its been sunny but a little chilly. Would I live here? Not sure yet, if it was always like it is now, I would have no problem but the real test will be Nov & Dec when its freezing and rainy. Luckily I have already figured out how to cope with the loads of crap weather: I will simply wear my jumper, trousers and long pants, eat a meat pie, wash it down with afternoon tea and hope for the upcoming happy days.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
For those who don't know, Andorra is a tinny country squished between Spain and France. It has skiing in the winter, great hiking in the summer and is historically insignificant. We decided to use our four day holiday to drive the 3 hours up to Andorra and explore some of its surroundings.
Above you see the 16 of us who decided to hike for one of our days. There are 5 1/2 Americans, 5 Germans, 3 1/2 Indians, 1 Bulgarian and 1 Moroccan. There is also one Hungarian midget but he is hiding in the back. You will find out why very soon...
Our trek was to peak the highest moutain in Andorra. Not very high at just under 10,000 feet but if you consider we came from sea level in Barcelona to 6,000 feet elevation at the trail head and gained 4,000 feet in the 5 mile ascent to the peak, you realize, this was not an easy hike. In fact, the hike was so difficult, the midget didn't make it. Below you see Velio after finishing off the last of the midget. Lucky for him we came prepared with dental floss. Fact: Bulgarians love eating midgets. Its true, look it up on Wikipedia.
There were small lakes all over the mountain range. They are fed by the snow and rain that occur quite frequently in dem der hills. The day before our hike it was raining and lightning so we were quite lucky with the weather...or were we???
Party on the peak. Who brought the strobe light?
I guess no strobe light is needed when you have millions of pieces of hail coming down. In case you are wondering, this photo was taken with my new Canon 40D SLR camera using a Sigma 18-200mm lens. I bought the camera while in the states and couldn't be happier with the quality of the photos.
After enjoying the hail turned slush turned rain storm for about 2 hours of total awesomeness, the guys who finished the hike earlier (Zach, Gurveer, Steve, and Naresh) greeted us with cold beers. I mean, really, is there any better way to finish an 8 hour hike to the highest peak in the country after being pelted with hail, sleet and rain for hours??? Actually, yes there is, about an hour later we were all relaxing in the thermal pools located in the center of the city. Its not easy to be an MBA, but we do the best we can.
This final photo shows the hail/snow that was happening in the mountains while we were making our way down. This is the view from our chalet.
10 more days until I leave for London for the big exchange. Until then tengo mucho espanol. I also need to finish off a technical note on Social Entrepreneurship in Health Care that I'm doing for my internship.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
I will fill in some more details about the last few months in a future post but for now, I will discuss some good news and some bads news. The bad news first, yesterday I had my first real accident on my moto. I was driving to school as calmly as I have ever driven. I entered a roundabout with cars all around me. I needed to get over to the right so I was looking in my mirror and for no reason whatsoever, the car in front of me stopped. I noticed too late and although I hit my brakes, that didn't prevent me from smashing into the back of their SUV with my poor little blue moto. The noise was terrible. I was convinced my whole front end was destroyed. My initial reaction was shock, followed by, "oh crap, now I'm going to get run over." But the little moto that could didn't even stall. The SUV started to move and I noticed a great big dent in their back bumper. I followed the person as they moved out of the rotunda. Now I thought about dealing with the police and insurance, tickets, all the other crap that happens after an accident. I continued following the SUV until we hit a stop light. I noticed they didn't really seem like they intended to pull over. After the light, we drove as normal and next thing I knew, the SUV was passing another car. My insurance worries drove off into the distance with a dented bumper and I made my way to IESE. The good news is that I just scratched my knees a bit and basically broke the front of my moto but apart from that, this accident has a happy ending (remind you of anyone?). Hopefully that will be my one and only accident story while in Barcelona.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
The food was a huge highlight. I had no idea that Turkish food would be so good. It helped that Ece took us to great places but I was amazed at the quality and quantity of food. A normal meal consisted of cold appetizers, hot appetizers, several main dishes followed by desert. The best thing about it was even our most expensive meal cost less than an average meal in Spain. How much did we enjoy the food? Our average dinner was almost 3 hours. How can that be you ask? I'm happy to say that the scales were tipped by what is certainly my all time record for a dinner: 4 hours! No joke. We were really in a restaurant for 4 hours. Sure we were the last to leave and enjoyed a few drinks but believe me we were eating for a ridiculously large portion of the time. I suppose the view from our table helped. We dined while the sun set as you can see below.
What do Turks do for fun you may wonder? Well Turkey is a Muslim country. But in contrast to all the countries you associate with the Muslim religion, Turkey is modern and they separate religion from politics. Sure many of the people are religious but that doesn't mean they don't know how to have fun. This is where many people go in the evening and where we went after our 4 hour dinner; a Backgammon & hooka bar. For the record I was going to win the second game against Ewa. What happened during the first game was lost in a cloud of apple flavored tobacco smoke.
There are many landmarks that define a city. In most Islamic countries you will see Mosques everywhere. Just like there is a church every 5 inches in the states, Istanbul has Mosques. The difference is that many of the most spectacular Mosques in Istanbul were created during the Ottoman Empire from the 14th-17th century. During this time the Ottoman Empire encompassed not just Turkey but many of the surrounding countries. You may remember hearing the name Constantinople during your history classes, Istanbul used to be Constantinople. It was incredibly rich and powerful and as you can see they found no better way to spend their money than on creating spectacular Mosques.
Below you can see Hagia Sofia in the background. It may be hard to tell but the statue of liberty could fit inside. So could Notre Dame. The place is friggin huge. What's really cool about this mosque is that it was actually a church built in 532. It stayed a church until the Ottomans took over Constantinople in 1453 then was converted into a mosque. All the crosses, jesuses, marys, madonna's with child, etc. were painted over. In a Mosque's its not allowed to have depictions of people. However, it was converted to a museum in the 1930s and over the years the paint has faded and now some of the Christian symbols show through the paint and some of the mosaics of Jesus and others have been uncovered. Its the only mosque in the world where Christian and Muslim symbols and art is presented.
The photo above gives you an idea of how large this place is and the photo below shows the 20 story tower inside which they are using to make restorations.
Next on the agenda was the Blue Mosque. Why is it call the Blue Mosque you may wonder? Well because its blue and its a mosque. Actually its named for the "brightly colored tiles that line the interior" that's how Rick Steves describes it in his guide book and if you don't know Rick Steves yet, you don't know Jack! Throw away your piece of crap Lonely Planets and buy Rick Steves' guides for whichever countries they are available. You won't believe how good they are. Anyway enough ranting, here is the interior. Its mandatory that shoes are taken off and all women must cover their hair. Kind of how all men must take off hats in churches or all men must wear yamuka's in temple. Does anyone know how to spell yamuka?
If you can just look at the photo above for one more second you will notice that someone brought his own book of a higher power to the mosque. Assalamu 'Alaikum Rick.
Below is the rather borringly named New Mosque which sits in the perfect position to watch the Bosphorous flow by. The Bosphorous Straight cuts Istanbul in half which puts half in Europe and the other half in Asia.
Aside from 4 hour dinners, we took in some of the entertainment. The guys below have an amazing capacity to spin in circles without falling over. The Turkish band plays, these guys start spinning and some crazy trance takes hold. Seriously, your 5 year old would fall over 100 times trying to keep up with these guys. I forget their name so I will just bastardize their skill and significance by dubbing them, "the spinning fools."
With all the money and power you may wonder what an emperor does in his free time. Simple, he builds a ridiculously humongously gigantic palace. Named Tokapl Palace, Mehmet the Conquerer had this place built during the 1470s and a century later Suleyman the Magnificent made it his home and it remained the home of sultans for over 400 years. Below you see Jared the Fourhourdinneriffic wondering how to retrofit the Sultan's bedroom with a cactus garden. Shout out to AZ! And finally, what self respecting Sultan would build a palace without also erecting a vast living area for his "friends."
But unlike Barcelona where no one wants to talk to you...ever, the people in Istanbul spoke to us wherever we went. Almost always while they spoke there was a smile on their face and they were genuinley friendly. But what was most unexpected and wonderful was the fine man you see in the photo below. What makes this person so dang wonderful? Well take a close look, he's pouring delicious cherry juice for all the passers by. For reasons unknown the juice was free but even more surprising, it was made with 100% pure deliciousness.
I would love to continue this tour of Istanbul but I leave for Kenya in the morning. And by morning I mean the god forsaken hour of 5:30am. Really, no one should have to get up that early ever! When I am Sultan, no one will be allowed to wake up before 7:30. The punishment with be death or cherry juice to the Sultan. Am I not merciful?
Thanks to Ewa for being a great travel companion and to Ece for being a fantastic guide and a wonderful host. This was an awesome trip!