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Broodings on Britannia

This weekend, Team France had the opportunity to travel to Great Britain to interface with the British unit of our client company.  After our work was completed on Friday, we spent the rest of the weekend enjoying the sounds and sights of London.

Whenever I travel to a new location, there is a tendency to slip into tourist-type attractions.  However, I find myself wanting to resist these places.  While popular for one reason or another, I feel that only seeing these sites does not enable me to gain an authentic experience of the city.  I don’t feel that I am integrating into the culture; I am only an observer of the culture.

In one sense then, London, a city filled with tourist attractions, is a city putting on a performance.  A performance of characters, scenes, acts, etc. that are designed to appeal to the masses and draw them.  (I am not giving a value judgment of this fact; I am merely just starting an observation).  To some extent, I hope that my London travels were able to get a little beyond this performance, “break the fourth wall,” and find authentic English culture.

This begs the question of authenticity.  What is truly authentic? Is the performance, the façade, the inauthentic side?  I would postulate that it might not be.  Initially, the performance may not be an authentic expression.  It takes work to put on a costume, to memorize your lines, etc.  These behaviors are not natural expressions of yourself.  However, if these behaviors are repeated enough to the point of habituation, then it is entirely plausible that the performance becomes the authentic reality of the innate personality and character of a person.

Referring back to London (or any one city with tourist attractions), perhaps the city’s authentic nature can and does include all the tourist attractions that I naturally resist.

However, this question of authenticity is not restricted to international cities.  Rather this question really cuts at the core of human behavior.   There are many situations in which we as humans are putting on a performance in order to appeal to many people.  In our attempts to receive acceptance and approbation, we modify our attitudes, values, and behaviors.  A great example of this would be socialization.  As a young child, we learn different social behaviors that are expected and accepted in our culture.

Another area that we put on performances is the MBA program.  In one sense, we are trying to learn knowledge and techniques in order for us to be successful (attractive) to companies.  The amount of practice that we put into interviews (which are truly performances) exemplifies this concept.

While initially we may have to put on the performance, I believe that the goal of the MBA program is that certain techniques, skills, and behaviors will be so inculcated into our psyches that eventually, they become who we are authentically are.  And this performance-based learning style is not a bad thing.   Our faculty and staff have experienced the world and know what will make us the most successful (i.e. what performance will create the best mass appeal).

As a parting thought, it is important every once in a while to have some introspection.  International travel is a fantastic opportunity since it pushes us into unfamiliar areas that test and push us.  So, I invite everyone on the GAP program and all the other readers to think about authenticity and the performances that we put on.  And finally, make sure that the performances you put on are the ones that you eventually want to become the authentic you.

– Oracle Andy

“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts,”

– William Shakespeare

London Calling

VENI. VIDI. VICI. We came. We saw. We conquered!

Like Vladimir Putin standing shirtless atop a BM Oplot tank as it rolls its way through Crimea, Team France has officially unofficially invaded and subsequently annexed southern England as part of their rapidly expanding GAP empire.

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From Parliament to Buckingham Palace, to the Tower of London to Picadilly Circus, no British landmark was left unclaimed – a sight that would surely move both Napoleon and President Alutto to each shed a single, glistening crimson and grey French tear.

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Despite potentially reigniting centuries of Anglo/Franco conflict that had previously lain dormant for decades, they celebrated their conquests in the most fittingly French way possible: taking in a showing of Les Miserables with a glass of Bordeaux.

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A salute to our London GAP compatriots, whom we shared a fantastic evening with along the Thames – we had a wonderful time with you, and regret being forced to make you the latest victims of the GAP Hunger Games!

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– Commandant Dickson

 

Hamburg Day Two: Das Boot

After experiencing Hamburg’s nightlife (the Reeperbahn is out of control) it took us a while to get out of bed. By early afternoon we were able to recover enough to head down to Hamburg’s 825th anniversary port festival. Basically, it is a carnival that stretches along the harbor (hello fried foods and carnival games) with tours of battleships and a 4-floor disco ship called the San Disco!

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We toured a German frigate, the FMS Hamburg. It’s not everyday you get to drink beers on the deck of a German battleship and take an obligatory O-H-I-O picture:

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We also toured the HMS Lancaster where they had a mounted machine gun you could stand at. While I think Sruti may be moonlighting as a sniper, it’s clear Natalie doesn’t have much training in this area:

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We came back later in the evening for round two. Mark and Tim enjoyed some carnival games (naturals!)

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A little drinking ensued:

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…and Natalie found her future husband (Note: That is NOT Natalie’s thong):

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It may have been a cold and rainy day in Hamburg, but that didn’t deter us!

Elephants and more

Elephants

On Saturday we rode elephants!!! Alina and Ashley were washed by an elephant! I think they thought they were going to be ones doing the washing, but boy did they get surprised. We ended by giving the elephants a snack immediately prior to pictures of O-H-I-O elephant style!

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Spice plantation

After riding elephants we headed for a very interesting tour of the spice plantation where we leaned how spices are harvested, which are the most expensive on the market and that Coca-Cola buys 30% of the world production of vanilla. Who new there is something non-chemical in there?  We chew cloves, bought Indian hand made cigarettes (bidi), drank lemongrass tea and a couple of shots of caju moonshine (feni). We also took pictures of the monkey man picking up fruit off tall palm trees.

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Waterfall

With 3 hours in the SUV and 2 hours in the Jeep going and back, we finally arrived at the water fall. The beautiful scene made everyone forget the tiredness. Everyone was looking forward to jump into the water.  While we swam, Ean put his feet in the water and said he felt something moving under his feet. After everyone got back to the land, Bliss saw a snake in the water near us. “Time to go”,  Ean  said withdrawing  his feet in a beat from the water and we all fled the site. On our way back we had the pleasure of encountering a family of monkeys.

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Radio producers and Jewish blacksmiths

Thursday our group split up to divide and conquer our list of target people to interview, in the interest of time, since Friday was our last work day in Gondar. We have three functional sub-groups: marketing, supply chain/ops, and data collection/reporting. As part of the marketing sub-group, I really wanted to meet with local radio producers while in Gondar. I read this great book called “Influencers” that talks about how people can create change and influence people in many different ways. The book mentions several social and health campaigns in the developing world that use radio dramas and popular soap operas to get their ideas across. For example, they would have characters go to the library to get adult literacy materials, or have a “bad” character drink too much and abuse his wife (a “good” character who viewers empathized with), and seeing how these popular characters acted has actually influenced people’s behavior in positive ways. I want to see if we can use radio in similar ways here in Ethiopia with the rabies campaign.

People listen to the radio here as a popular media form, since many don’t have TV or internet.  In the morning we met with an FM technician at the top of a hill where his satellite is, and asked him questions about coverage and size of their reach. We also learned about the popular shows that people listen to, peak listening times and when they have time for ads.

Afterwards, since we were on top of a hill with such a beautiful view of the city, the whole team stopped at the Goha Hotel to look at the view, and then had lunch.

O-H-I-O

University of Gondar
University of Gondar

In the afternoon we split up again, Alejandra and Carla joining me to talk with FM station marketing managers (Danny was unfortunately down for the count today with a bad stomach virus) while the rest of the team drove a bit out of the city center to speak with a kebele leader. The FM marketing managers answered more of our questions about programming, specifically existing health programming that they already offer, and costs. We actually learned that it’s possible to have your own program on a regular basis within one of the popular news/information shows, as long as you pay for it. That could be a great opportunity for the rabies project going forward.

We went back to the hotel in the afternoon for some personal time. Some team members needed a nap, but others were itching to explore. Javed called John of Gondar to see about exploring the part of the Arada market where Jewish blacksmiths work. We asked our driver Amara to take us there. Alejandra, Javed and I noticed on the ride to the market that, despite the rain, many people were walking in quite nice clothing, while others were washing themselves and even others were herding lots of goats. We wondered why there was so much activity this afternoon, and Amara said that tomorrow was a holiday, the festival of Saint Mary. Apparently they will eat goat meat during this festival (other days, Wednesday and Fridays until 3pm, Ethiopians fast and only have one meal until 3pm).

We arrived at the Arada market to meet John. The pathways around the market were muddy and slippery due to the rain, and because they don’t have paved roads in that area. The mud was mixed with garbage and probably animal feces, and it smelled quite strongly. We tried our best not to slip and fall into the muck, and John was quite a gentleman, offering to hold our hands on the most slippery parts, but our shoes and feet were covered in gunk.

John leading us to the blacksmiths
John leading us to the blacksmiths

John took us to the back of the market, where children played a game, trying to hit a bottle placed on a pile of rocks with their own little stones. We finally encountered the section where Jewish blacksmiths worked, an area covered by tarps. They had coal-lit fires where they forged their metal axes and shovels. A few of them sat on leather bags that they moved back and forth, the air in the leather bag blowing onto the coals, feeding the fire. Little bits of metal material and ash flew around in the air. The blacksmiths looked at us curiously (probably the same that we looked at them), and John explained to them that we wanted to see how they worked. I had him translate to them that I am Jewish too. They said a joke, If I am Jewish, why can’t I make a ring? We all laughed at that. Then they started pounding the hot metal together, to straighten and shape it. It looked like very hard work.

leather marketWe walked around the Jewish quarter where women often sell things. A lot of their wares were leather, like leather pouches, wallets, and a sack for carrying a baby, and items made out of horse hair. I bought two horse-related items for Danny at his request; he was very sad to miss out on meeting his Jewish brethren. We had John and his friend Teddy negotiate for us, the vendors wanted to charge almost 300 Ethopian birr ($15) for a horse hair fly swatter, but we knew it was right to negotiate first. We told them that I am Jewish and a student, to have them empathize with me more, and they knocked the price down a bit.

spicesWe walked back through the area of the market where there are spices, and bought some tea, turmeric and incense. We said goodbye to John and Teddy and thanked them for their help, offering a tip for their tour guide services.

Javed, Teddy, me and AlejandraThen it was back to the hotel for a team meeting, goal-setting and debrief of the day before dinner. But first Alejandra and I took a photo opportunity at a truck parked near the hotel, which the locals thought was quite funny. We did too.

Hello, truck!We wiped our filthy shoes off in the grass to get the muck off, but some of it will remain.shoes

 

 

Hidden Talents . . . Day 9

I would not say that waterparks are generally my cup of tea, but at the advice of my friend I decided we should check out the Atlantis Waterpark. Likewise, most of the teammates were interested as well . . .so we packed up our things and headed for the Palm. For those of you who are not familiar with Dubai . . . it’s time for a geography lesson by yours truly. . .

As oil supplies dwindle, Dubai turns towards global business and tourism for continued rapid growth of the UAE Emirate. Dubai is located on only 37 miles of coastline and knew that in order to increase tourism to the desert state they would need to continue coastal expansion. So what do you do when you run out of room? Well, you simply build more. . .and that’s what Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the Nakheel Properties did.

the palm

 

Building three separate, artificial islands in the shape of a palm tree and topped with a crescent. The islands boast both residential and leisure activities, including the Atlantis Waterpark which is located on the farthest tip of the Palm Jumeirah, the smallest of the three islands. In total, they add 520 km to the Dubai coastland. The Palm Jebel Ali is the middle-sized Dubai island. This is the island of entertainment which offers a wide variety of tourism, including a water theme park, water homes and six marinas and a Sea Village. The Palm Deira (recently renamed Deira Island) is set to be the largest and anticipated to be done in 2014. These are the only manmade structures you can from space.

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Due to engineering challenges, this effort was highly criticized and believe to be impossible, but I have come to learn. . . in Dubai. . . anything is possible

So the RISE team arrives at the Aquaventure Waterpark. . . and everyone decided to not waste any time. . . first stop: The Tower of Neptune. If you have ever seen their commercials, you are probably familiar with this image.

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Great! We conquered the park and it was only around 11am. We spent the rest of the morning on the same side of the park and then headed for lunch. Venturing into the other side of the park, we realized that the morning had only served as training wheels. While we were standing in-line for a particular slide we saw this

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What could they possibly be sending through here, certainly it was too steep for human bodies to gracefully slide down.

Poseidon’s Revenge. Of course they are, only you don’t sit down and build up courage until you push yourself along. They’ve taken away the option of changing your mind. . . first you load into this spaceship contraption

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“3. . . 2. . . 1” echoes from inside your pod, and. . .

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The floor drops out below you, as you can see, the normal reactions . . . fear, anxiety, death screams, I am pretty sure I blacked out.

Then there’s our wild card . . . Travis

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Note, exactly the same facial expression and he is smiling . . . I have discovered his hidden talent

This picture undoubtedly makes me cry from laughter, every time I look at it

On the way out we decided to stop in the Aquarium, nobody was particularly interested as we have all been to plenty of aquariums but figured since it was included in the price we might as well check it out. This is no regular aquarium.

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The Lost Chambers Aquarium is designed as the underground tunnels of a lost civilization and includes sharks, eels, seahorses, piranhas, and this guy. . .

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The waterpark was definitely the right call.

Day 7: Creative Destruction

The difference in the level of development becomes very evident as we leave Kuala Lumpur for a week in Singapore.  The differences are most apparent in the amount of construction in KL.  Cranes crowd out the skyline as often as skyscrapers and seemingly wild green-space pushes back at the edges of construction.  No one on our team believes the landscape will recognizable within five years of this post.

The stunning architecture, however, has a number of drawbacks.  As we drove through Maleka, empty apartment buildings stood next to complexes still under construction and even the hotel advertised discounts for foreigners seeking to invest in property.  Time will tell if the drive for urbanization affects Maleka as significantly as KL, but they certainly have the infrastructure and potential for rapid growth.

Scaffolding between two complete skyscrapers.
Scaffolding between two complete skyscrapers.
Growth from decay
Growth from decay
Between growth and green space.
Between growth and green space.
Skyscrapers and cranes pushing upwards
Skyscrapers and cranes pushing upwards
Growth from all angles
Growth from all angles
Construction reflecting the Petronas Towers.
Construction reflecting the Petronas Towers.
Tradition and modernity
Tradition and modernity
Stages of growth.
Stages of growth.
View of growth from the Batu Caves.
View of growth from the Batu Caves.

 

The Tian Zi Fang – A Serendipitous Find!

The Tian Zi Fang is an arts and crafts center located in the French Concession area of Shanghai.

In this post I want to tell you the story of how we happened to find this place. It was our very first weekend in Shanghai. On that rainy Sunday morning, my team got ready to meet the OSU shanghai gateway office director for lunch. The gateway office is located in Taicang road. After a long subway ride, we arrived at Taikang road and started to roam around the street trying to locate the office.

About 45 minutes into the search, we realized that we were on Taikang road as opposed to Taicang road. It was too late to make the lunch appointment, and we were all famished as it was well past the lunch time. We started looking for a place to eat and turned into a side street. And there it was –  Tian Zi Fang…what a beautiful thing!

Tian Zi Fang Arts & Crafts Center
Tian Zi Fang Arts & Crafts Center

The street view
The street view

We found restaurants from around the world…Ireland, Spain, India, New York

 

Irish Restaurant
Irish Restaurant

NewYork Pizza
New York Pizza