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Real World Dubai . . . Day 2

News Update. . . Joey now has luggage!

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Day 2 . . . our team is continuing to settle in. . . which has proven to be rather amusing in our new habitat . .

Here is what we have learned . . .

1.) Language barriers are deceiving. On our venture to locate the local wireless carrier and acquire new SIM cards (you can’t honestly expect us to survive 23 days without data right?!) we quickly began to realize our observation in the lack of any clear language barriers was strongly mistaken.  Words like “du” for “du” and “markers” for “markers” or better yet “large” for “large” have left us feeling new levels of confusion.  Correct, we start by stating one word and then circle an entire conversation before we end where we began with them stating the same word? How can we be pronouncing “du” wrong?

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2.) Be prepared for the unexpected.  During a trip to check out the ocean (in our backyard) we were busy planning our weekend Dune Safari getaway, excited to get out in the desert, camp, traditional BBQ  and riding camels . . and then this happened. . .

beach camel

 

talk about true juxtaposition

3.) This is going to be a true foodie experience. . . and we’re ready.  Our consulting assignment at RISE trading is focused on franchising food concepts and we have spent the last seven weeks researching trends.  Dubai is well known for franchising American concepts in both the restaurant and retail industry, and it is certainly populated with everything from McDonald’s to The Cheesecake Factory, but it doesn’t end there.  This evening we ate at Reem Al Bawadi, a Lebanese/Moroccan barbecue in Jumeirah. Located on the Marina, among an endless sea of restaurants, it had an airy, arabian feel, we loved the atmosphere and the smell of shisha that filled the patio and the restaurant.

Consensus. . . there may be plenty of places to try but we would come back . .

Labneh, Goat Cheese Salad, Lentil Soup, Orfalli Kebab (four of them!) and the Izmerli Kebab

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The tomatoes were not as popular among the team though . .

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tastes exactly like Chloraseptic

4.) This view will never get old.

night view

 

 

Getting Ready for Monday….

It is Sunday afternoon and the team Philips is here and working!

Phil was the first one to arrive Thursday night and did some reconnaissance work. Katie and Melissa finished finals and came in on Friday. Justin arrived soon after, having bungee jumped from the Macao Tower, the highest bungee point in the world (this was work-related, of course). Rajiv came in Saturday after doing some medical volunteer work in Vietnam. And John arrived Sunday after many delays. But as always, he was ready to hit the ground running!

Now, we’re get ready for our kick-off meeting with our sponsor.  We’re working in a very traditional Chinese meeting point – Blue Mountain Jamaican Coffee.Philips - Coffee Shop Meeting

Because every good team needs a good team-building exercise, we closed the day with dinner at a very traditional Chinese restaurant… Simply Thai.  Delicious!

Philips - Dinner at Simply Thai

Melissa

Day 1: Being Tourists

Our first day in Malaysia was all about tourism by numbers. 97-272-88.

We began our day as tourists by taking the public transportation system. To our surprise, the trains were extremely clean, well managed, easy to use, and well air conditioned. The key here was well air conditioned! The first number, 97, is the average temperature pretty much every day in Kuala Lumpur. But this isn’t your standard 97 degree heat. This is an extremely humid, high UV ray, over 100 degree feeling heat. Basically, our team bonded immediately by sweating profusely from the first minute we stepped outside! But we’re getting used to it…

Our first stop was at the Batu Caves. The Batu Caves is a limestone hill that has a series of caves and cave temples. They are said to be around 400 million years old, and it is the sight of one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India, dedicated to Lord Murugan (as shown in the 140-foot statue pictured below).

Batu Caves

Rising high above the ground, the Batu Caves temple complex consists of three main caves and a few smaller ones. The biggest, referred to as Cathedral Cave or Temple Cave, has a very high ceiling and features ornate Hindu shrines. This brings us to our next number of the day. 272. To reach the Temple Cave we had to climb a steep flight of 272 steps – again, in 97 degree heat! Sweaty bonding continues…

After making it to the top, taking a number of selfies, protecting one another from the wild, bag-stealing (but cute and entertaining) monkeys, and engulfing ourselves in the breathtaking views, we headed back down and took the train into the center of the Kuala Lumpur. Here, we visited Chinatown, the famous City Center (think large flea market), and then made it to our last stop – the Petronas Towers.

Petronas Towers

These twin skyscrapers are a landmark of Kuala Lumpur, and were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004. And here is our final number of the day. 88. These towers are 88 floors and definitely a sight to see (and of course get a great team pic).

Towers as Team

Overall, great sweaty day of team bonding. We will definitely always remember our day of numbers as we head into our first week of work at Western Digital!

Building Language Skills One 18 Letter Word at a Time

18 Letter German Word
…wut?

Before diving in to how Team DHL dealt with overcoming the language barrier in its first 48 hours within Germany, it’s worth noting that I took three years of German in high school. Combining that decade old education with four 15-minute lessons in Duolingo last week and needless to say, my hubris towards reading, writing, and speaking German was at an all-time high when our wheels touched down in Frankfurt on Saturday morning.

And it only took a few hours to be brought back down to Earth.

Luckily for us, the Frankfurt airport is very much a German/English hybrid, with both languages used in tandem on all signage. Most of the customer service agents spoke English as well, which was incredibly useful when we went to pick up our rental car. Even the guy that brought us our car greeted us with a giant “SUP GUYS?” when we arrived at the garage, quickly picking up on our Americana. So much for blending in.

Upon arriving in Koblenz (which is a charming and quite nicely sized German city that sells itself short in its marketing materials – GAP 2015 project?!?!), we quickly realized that we wouldn’t have the same dual language luxury of the Frankfurt airport. I had the genius idea of parking in a garage marked “Frei – 400”, correctly assuming that “frei” meant “free” but failing to realize that it was commentary on the amount of open parking spaces and not the cost of parking itself.

Natalie and Sruti with Church

After we set up shop in our apartment, the team hit the road for an authentic German meal. We found a cozy restaurant in one of Koblenz many, many squares, and after correctly nailing down a table for six, we quickly realized that our German vocabulary was limited to niceties and had a shocking lack of culinary terms. Our waiter, like the attendant in the parking garage, instantly recognized that we were Americans and came prepared with an English menu. We each ordered traditional German fare, with varying different types of meat, potatoes, and sauerkraut. I was in heaven.

First Meal in Germany

We next headed off to the local bars to get a lay of the land. The first bar we went to felt like a dive bar back home. US state license plates adorned the walls, and we even found a confederate flag which was… weird. Our cozy table featured a basket of peanuts, and we were scolded for not throwing our discarded shells on the ground like the rest of the patrons.

More of Irish Pub Night #1

For our nightcap, we ventured into the Irish pub across the street from our hotel. Having patronized many an Irish bar in my young adulthood, I felt in my element. I suavely (or so I thought) ordered “ein Guinness und ein Magners”, coupling my shallow German skills with my deep knowledge of Irish adult beverages. However, the bartender was having none of it, and replied back with the price… in English.

Irish Pub Night #1

Overall, we had a fantastic weekend in Koblenz. We still have much to learn on the language front and on how to not stick out like the traditional American tourist. Tomorrow, we begin our project at TRW, one of DHL’s customers. Stay tuned for more info on our project!

Mistranslation of the Day: When a crying woman approached Devin asking for directions, and Devin replied (in German) “No… do YOU speak German?”

Ausfahrt

Interacting with Interxion

Day 2 – Today we had our first in-person interaction with Doug Loewe, the CEO (Managing Director here in the UK) of Interxion (also pronounced “interaction”), and what a fun and insightful meeting it was!  Four and a half hours there at Sushi Samba with Doug, and we got to know him, how he sees his company, and how he envisions the six of us coming into play.  Be inquisitive, he told us.  If you have more questions than answers at the end, it’s a good thing, he told us.  So ask lots of questions, he told us.  After today’s lunch discussion with Doug, I felt this project taking an unexpected turn…  At this point, I think the experience with all of those ATRQ’s from Professor Matta’s class may come in handy!Sushi Samba Doug

Sushi SambaThe rest of today was spent just exploring London a bit and venturing along Brick Lane, a famously hip street in the city.  Interxion’s headquarters are on this very street, and we’ll be spending our first day there on Tuesday when we begin the work that we came here to do.  Tomorrow (Monday) is a bank holiday, so we’re off for one more day.  No solid plans just yet, but Anda and I are determined to buy a hair dryer. (Exciting, I know.)  We’ll also probably do some touristy stuff.  You’ll read all about it tomorrow!  G’night for now, mates!

Mumbai Day 2

It’s the morning of Day 2 and there is already excited anticipation of our full team arriving tonight. Although Team Wonderkids is not complete, we did take advantage of a day in the city.

Here’s what we learned on Day 1:

1) Street signals are meaningless

2) Little kids are persistent when trying to snag a free soda

3) Starbucks is indeed everywhere
India - Starbucks

First day in Brussels

Our first day in Brussels went with a lot of surprises, annoying, and fun.  Taruna and I was the first to arrive at Brussels at 7am, then Cal and Aaron arrived 2 hours later.  Burouj will come on Saturday morning, and hopefully Olamide can resolve the issue with the Visa fast, god know we need our master chef here.

All 4 of our team today could hardly sleep during our flight from USA to Belgium, we were technically zombie walking around, and just want to go home to take a nap right away.  Just when you think everything was ready, let just take our rented car at the airport and go home, the “let just” part didn’t happen.  You would think the queue of 4 people to take the rented car is nothing, it shouldn’t even compare to our line of 50 persons at the custom checking.  But nope, I don’t know what kind of salary they paid these people, but they took forever to even move 1 person.  It took 40 minutes before it was our turn, and it took another 40 minutes for Cal and Aaron to “chat” with this 20+ years old agent girl before we could finally get out.  The company next to us is none better, I felt bad for the 3 ladies standing on that booth as well.  The agency guy on that company didn’t even look up to talk to the ladies, he just “concentrate” intently on the computer screen for… may be an hour.  At least our girl talk to Cal, if Cal didn’t desperately try to get her phone number or give her his namecard, maybe we could have got it sooner.  At one point, Taruna and I even made a bet to see between our girl and the agency guy, who will finish renting out the car first.

Competitor

The other company

Our line

Our line

So expensive

Everything is so expensive here in Bruseels, oh, and no fountain water!  Viva America!

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Our sweet ride

The city of Brussels is quite nice, beautiful green trees along the high way, the road is much better than America.  Downtown Brussels are much more crowded and the road is narrower, it makes sense why most of the car here is small.

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When we got to our building, it stroked us with a hilarious surprise. The elevator is so small and literally made to hold 3 people maximum.  When Aaron, Cal, and I tried to get into it together, Aaron’s butt pressed on all the buttons.

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The apartment is a totally different experience, it’s spacious!  The living room is really nice, we could definitely throw a party with 20 people here.  The ladies get the master bedroom.  Cal and I share one, and for now Aaron is the lucky dude with the single room for himself, until Olamide comes!

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The bathroom, however, threw us another curve ball just like the elevator.  In our bedroom, we have the window with the shade on, but not in our bathroom, and the window in our bathroom is not high either, it is at the upper half body level, so outsiders could totally see us take the shower!  And outside our bathroom’s window is millions of other window opposite the street.   Our bathroom has the both the bathtub and the standing shower separately.  The standing shower is hidden behind the wall of the bathtub so since I refused to be videotaped taking shower and put on youtube, my only choice is the standing shower.  But the standing shower has no glass door!  So anyone taking the shower in there would spray up the entire bathroom floor, a fact that I learned too late.  Even the bathtub only has half of the glass covered!  What is wrong with this bathroom!  Nevertheless, after the mess that I made in the bathroom, Cal and Aaron decided to be brave and take a shower in the bathtub to show off their meat to all the ladies in Brussels.

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Lunch in the street.

To end our night, we had a dinner at a cozy place with each a Chimay bottle.

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Rea-Ching Chong-Qing! – Part 2

ANDDDD we reach Chongqing! It’s a city that we all had never heard of before, a city that we were all waiting to visit, and a city that we had been researching on for the past seven weeks! Did you know? – Chongqing is the fastest growing city in the world (and yes we could see that in the crazy development and infrastructure and tons of construction sites in the city)! Its GDP grew by a whopping 12.3% in the first half of 2013, more than the national average. This is primarily due to the government’s efforts in encouraging manufacturers to build facilities and take advantage of the cheaper production costs in the inner areas compared to the coastal areas such as Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Beijing.

We took a cab from the airport to our hotel, and during the cab ride, we experienced the thrill of what they call – organized chaos! 😀 I felt like I went back to India, and my fellow American friend felt that he had the best 20 mins of his life. After checking in at the hotel and some much needed break, we headed out for some dinner at a local restaurant to get some HOTPOT! Read on to find out more about hotpot and our local food experiences.

Food:

There is only one word that comes to my mind when I think of the food here in Chongqing – SPICY!!! And be warned – this is the type of spicy food that can make your voice go weak, your face go red, your eyes water, and your stomach burn. On our first day, we ordered a hotpot, which is basically a. We are so lucky to have teammates who know basic Mandarin and so could communicate to the waiters and place the food order. Almost 5-6 waiters gathered around our table trying to help out ‘us confused foreigners’.

Chongqing Food Collage!

 The spicy street food experience in Chongqing.

Communicating! (for those who do NOT know Mandarin)

The rule is simple: If you do not know Mandarin…..well, LEARN MANDARIN! (at least basic). Else get ready to mime your way to communicate your thoughts. The entire broken communication process that I had to go through just to explain the word ‘make-up remover’ while eventually successfully buying one was a memorable experience for me. Similarly, I noticed that every time I asked (through gestures) the attendants at the malls to explain the various discounts and schemes, they would either signal some numbers or even better, pick up a calculator, do some math and give me the final amount.

Downtown Chongqing:

 

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Chongqing Downtown Collage

Yangtze River:

Yangtze River Skyline Collage

Hello Shanghai!

First day adventure in Shanghai streets…Morning Breakfast

Our team arrived in Shanghai on May 2nd. We were all so tired from a straight 15 hours flight travel and the jet lag from 12 hours time difference (It is a day and night difference, seriously!). The following day refreshed from a long sleep, my team was ready to explore the city on foot. Itinerary for the day – spontaneity is the word. First stop – fresh dim sum buns for breakfast at a local dim sum shop.

Next stop: A local fresh fruit market that sold exotic fruits like Durian and Dragon that are rare in United States…

Durian
Durian

 

Dragon Fruits
Dragon Fruits

Stay tuned for more of street adventures in Shanghai!

Visit to the magical “Bund”

Introducing the “Shanghai Six” team

Left to right: Vanitha, Kevin, Brad, Ryan, Mehdi & Dilyana
Left to right: Vanitha, Kevin, Brad, Ryan, Mehdi & Dilyana

On May 3rd, we took a subway to view “The Bund” – the water front promenade located at the bank of river Huang Pu. The  day we visited this world famous sight was on a Chinese holiday (May day holidays), so we were greeted by a lot of local Chinese tourists. I found people in this country to be friendly and warm. An occasional smile or a greeting such as “Welcome to China” were heart warming!

The oriental pearl tower
The oriental pearl tower

The oriental pearl tower is a TV tower, a tall structure that towers above most of the buildings in the bund.

Here is another picturesque view of Shanghai Skyline

Buildings on the other side of the Huang Pu river
Buildings on the other side of the Huang Pu river

Who would expect to see this breath taking flower garden in the middle of high rise buildings cluster?

Flower Garden
Flower Garden

Here are other buildings that are part of the Bund.

More of "The Bund"
More of the “The Bund”

Overall, exploring Shanghai on foot proved to be a worthwhile expedition. We returned back to the hotel well satisfied!