People Find a Way

Starting with my initial taxi ride from the airport here in Chongqing one thing has been very clear: the Chinese don’t let very much stand between them and their goals. Driving is a pretty simple example. There are lines and general traffic rules, and people follow them, until it’s more effective not to. Every time I’ve been in a car I’ve been amazed at how there is no semblance of order, yet no one ever gets in an accident. This has also been apparent in the business world, where despite laws for lots of things, they are bent or broken whenever needed to accomplish something important.

Side note: many Chinese don’t have cars and don’t drive, which explains how the poor driving stereotype developed since they come to America and are forced to drive everywhere for the first time in their life. However, driving is an actual skilled profession here, and the Chinese that do drive are phenomenally better drivers than the average American (they actually pay attention to what they are doing).

Where we're going we don't need roads! Even in a 200k car.

Where we’re going we don’t need roads! Even in a 200k car.

Anyway, my point is that people here just get things done. Need power? Just rig a line on the sidewalk and throw some cement over it. A ladder? Use whatever you can find to hold two bamboo sticks together. Cable TV in the office? Drill through the stone wall of this multi-million dollar skyscraper and hook it up. This list could go on forever. One fact pretty much sums up the town: The peninsula of Chongqing is literally a mountain, and they built a downtown on top of it anyway.

Standard permanent wiring job

Standard permanent wiring job

Brand new 900ft skyscraper

Brand new 900ft skyscraper

While some of this comes across as a little comical, the reality is that instead of wasting time worrying about how to do something, the Chinese are just getting it done. And what they are getting done in Chongqing is incredibly impressive.

Wifi in the phenomenal Three Gorges Museum

Wifi in the phenomenal Three Gorges Museum


Rolling blackout

On Monday morning 5/19, we woke up to no internet. The city was in the midst of a rolling blackout, which apparently happens quite frequently. Our hotel was powered by a back-up generator, so our lights and water were (for the most part) working, but the internet was out and the phones were also spotty. Ethiotel, the country’s only landline and cell phone provider, was also experiencing intermittent outages. Even so, we were luckier than most, since many people have no backup power supply.

We met with our Addis client, Dr. Hailu, at 11am to present a rough draft of our proposal. With water, coffee, tea and kollo, we shared our ideas and listened to his suggestions. Overall we are satisfied with the progress we’ve made and will make time to incorporate Hailu’s suggestions before we leave.

In the afternoon, some teammates stayed at the hotel to complete their section of the project, while the rest drove into the city center to do some shopping. We bought some roasted coffee at Tomoca and green coffee at the local supermarket chain Shoa. It was our first time inside a grocery store here and we were excited to see what people buy here on a daily basis. We were also excited to stock up on some essentials, like bottled water and Mars candy bars.

During the drive back, we hit rush hour traffic, which is unlike any other traffic I’ve ever experienced. Think LA-level gridlock, but with all cars spewing diesel exhaust, and streets without painted lanes, and huge potholes, and tons of people waiting in lines 2-3 people thick for the next bus or taxi van. Pedestrians are also quite bold and usually walk right in front of cars, while cars themselves drive quite closely to each other. It’s amazing we haven’t seen any accidents yet.

After dinner we did some more work and then got ready for bed. Somehow even in the midst of the blackout, the club across the street was still well-lit, with loud music blaring through the night.


The Never-ending Sausage Fest

Before any of you start to roll your eyes and dismiss this post as another Shai-box…hear me out.

Life as a business woman often means you’re the only girl in the meeting, in the department, or even in the entire organization. Life as an MBA woman (unfortunately) stays consistent with this standard.  I was the only girl on my core team. And now…life as a Gapper…is shaping up to be the same.

Other than the very important diversity and women’s empowerment point, (both are at the very center of who I am), it doesn’t bother me too much to be the lone carrier of the lady flag. My team-bros are super great and see me and treat me like a team mate…a brilliant beautiful crazy intelligent team mate. J

There is another girl on Team Scotts, which is awesome. Not only does it mean there is someone to tell me if there is salad in my teeth, it also means there’s another voice in the discussion. But for social activities and weekends, she often has other plans.

Which means Shai and the fellas. ALL THE TIME!

For example, in London, we met up with the London team. We saw the ladies for about 20 min and then it was a total bro party for the rest of the evening.

boy fest

It can be a little difficult to be the lone lady at karaoke. I kept selecting Pink, Beyonce, and Miley Cyrus and the boys were not fans. I think Chris almost lost it when I selected the second Taylor Swift song…but that is probably justified.

karaoke growl

(FYI, Korean karaoke in france is definitely a good idea.)

This weekend the fellas and I took off on a little adventure to Switzerland. We booked one huge hotel room that was absolutely freaking great.

swiss hotel room

But what do you do when it’s 4 boys and one girl? You set up some rules. Well one rule…the Fart Zone.

Fortunately, we had a great balcony with a view.

balcony view

Then Andy and I decided to take our life into our hands and go Canyoning at the recommendation of Jeff D (who is crazy). Canyoning is like cliff jumping, but in a canyon where there are rocks on every side of you and the water comes straight from snow run off and you could basically die at any moment.

It looks like this…


When the driver picked us up, I was really excited because there were two other girls on the bus. But when we got to the loading zone and farmed out into teams, I ended up on a team with about 10 fraternity bros and Andy.

My main concern here was being the one person on the team squealing or nervous or playing into the ‘girly’ stereotype. Also, it gets a little weird when the guide tells everyone to strip down and then suit up. That meant 10 frat boys in their underroos (hello swim suits anybody?) I stealthily found a curtain to duck behind to wriggle into my wetsuit.

To make matters more gender-awkward, we had to pick up our helmets that had names across the front. And when it came to be my turn, the only helmet options I had were Snookie or Party Boy. Obviously you know what I picked…

waving party boy

Right before we took off to drive up the mountain to our insanity, I asked the guide what’s up with me being the only girl? And he said, “think of it this way, you’ve got about 10 extra brothers looking out for you on the mountain.”

One the one hand…BLERG! I don’t need BROTHERS to look out for me. I’m a strong independent woman that can do it myself.

On the other hand…BLERG! It’s on me that I assumed being the only girl meant an automatic adversarial relationship. I took on the role of “other” long before anyone put me there. And it turns the Bro-skies were totally great. So KAPOW to my own gendered assumptions.


If you have a few minutes you want to allocate to me squealing and jumping to my doom, check out this video.

Saturday also happened to be my birthday. And these sweet boys that I’ve spent the last few weeks mothering (they even call me Momma Shai), really knocked it out of the park!

I got to pick the dinner place. THAI! YUMMMY! And then I got to pick the evening activity, which, honestly, all I wanted was a night off to just be alone. The hotel had a really nice bathtub that was calling my birthday name.

But the guys insisted we all go back to the hotel together. Admittedly, I was a little annoyed because bath time did not need to include 4 boys. But when we got into the hotel, the guys had a surprise.



Gateau chocolate! My favorite!

These boys!

And then, the boys gave me my birthday wish. They left for their un-supervised night of debauchery and I got this:

spa birthday

Executive Summary:

– Birthdays in Switzerland are awesome

– Being the only girl in a room full of boys struggling to put on wetsuits is awkward

– Just because you’re the only girl in a room full of boys doesn’t mean it will be a bad experience

– We still need more women in business school, in business, and in GAP

The men of Team France know how to do birthdays right (and how to honor the fart zone).

– Shai

Une soirée seul (An evening alone…)

A quick update from Sherehan:

“Tonight, I went solo…..found a restaurant overlooking the river, with a wonderful view, yummy food and a great atmosphere.  Salad, dessert and a fine Riesling later…. my “soirée” turned into an enchanted evening filled with harmonious melodies!  Turns out, there was a concert at the Lyon Confluence, so obviously, I stayed to experience it with the wonderful people of Lyon.

The Razowski restaurant in Lyon Confluence

 Razowski is inspired by the delicacy of Eastern Europe.  The restaurant’s name is rooted in that of a Polish boxer who managed to escape thanks to his sports career.  It is a tribute to people as courageous as the founder of Razowski.

Inside Razowski        


View from the terrace


With a view this magical, I was left to wander in my thoughts and felt an overwhelming sense of serenity.  A much needed relaxing evening with beautiful melodies from amazing artists, the music filled the air and emotions overcame me.  Sometimes, it is absolutely wonderful to be left alone and experience the world untainted.  I allowed myself to be a woman who emphasizes a life of passion expressed through personal style, leisurely pastimes, charm, and cultivation of life’s pleasures… better known as quaintrelle!

As expected, the food was trés trés delicious!  The menu is very American, with burgers, nuggets, fries and brownies; I forgot I was in France.

My Salad Entrée                                                       


Dessert… YUMMY!!


Finally… the cherry on top à The Concert

Artists Lili Road (opening act) and Pep’s (pictured below)

Pep’s sang his infamous Libertà song (the crowd went wild) and how can they not, it sounds even better live.  With a simple guitar, Pep’s relied on the amazing acoustics of the Confluence.

“I just wanna be free in this way…Just wanna be free in my world

Vivere per libertà…Vivere nella libertà”

My evening alone was perfect!”

– Sherehan



Lucy, and Looking Away

Sunday we worked for a few hours in the morning because our deliverable to the GAP office was due today. By the afternoon we felt ready for a break, so most of us went to the National Museum of Ethiopia, where the fossils of Lucy and other early hominds are kept. The Awash region of Ethiopia is home to many ancient fossil discoveries, and we were lucky to see some of them.



Katie + Ardi = BFF

Katie + Ardi = BFF

After the museum, a few of us went to a cafe across the street and ordered some coffee, tea and pastries. The doughnut was one of the best we’ve ever had!

Awesome doughnut!

Awesome doughnut!

After yesterday’s excursion to the textile shops, the guys wanted to do a little masculine shopping, so off to Churchill Avenue we went in search of some swords and wooden objects. We pulled up to a small stretch of vendors which had many poor people asking for money outside of them. Several of the people were tiny children. After two weeks here, I still can’t get used to that, and my heart goes out to every kid. They touch their hands to their lips, indicating, “Give me food,” and hold their palms open, ready for us to place something in it. But we don’t, because we don’t really have food with us, and if we give anything, we will immediately be swarmed.



And that’s exactly what happened. After about 45 minutes of shopping and haggling prices with the help of our local guide Mebrat, we got in the van and all the beggars pressed up against the sides of the vehicle, talking through the windows, asking for food, or to sell us one more item. I closed my eyes, I could not look at them. I had to look away.

We drove off to dinner, to a comfortable night in our lovely hotel, to a night full of dreams.

Exploring Bole

On Saturday we worked for a few hours in the morning, since we have a deliverable due Sunday, and then went out to explore in the afternoon.

Carla and Alejandra have made a connection with a local blogger named Sara, who gave them all sorts of suggestions on where we could go for shopping, food, and other delights. The area we concentrated on is Bole, an expat neighborhood.

We first stopped at an out-of-the-way workshop (which we definitely wouldn’t have found on our own) called Sabahar that produces handwoven scarves and placemats. The factory was open and light-filled, and we went to the attached store to buy some of the colorful goods. Some of us were particularly inspired by the owner and manager, Kathy, who expatriated from Canada for her husband’s work, and 14 years ago started this business on her own. She employs over 150 local people and teaches farmers how to raise silkworms to produce the silk used in some of the scarves. It’s the kind of sustainable business that some of us want to develop after business school.

Ladies of the team wearing our new scarves

Ladies of the team wearing our new scarves



Next stop was ice cream at Igloo, which Kathy recommended as the best in Addis. We were really excited to try it, since ice cream is super rare in Ethiopia, due to the limited cold chain (something we’re learning a lot about with our project). The flavors were very bright and we’re already planning to return!

Yum, ice cream!

Yum, ice cream!

We visited another handicrafts store called Salem, owned by a kind proprietress by the same name. The inner courtyard had a puppy and kitten romping around, who Katie quickly befriended.

Not actual kitten and puppy. Just pretend.

Not actual kitten and puppy. Just pretend.

Our money all spent and our bellies full of yumminess, we retired to the hotel where we ordered pizza for dinner and talked for awhile. It was a cozy and relaxing evening.

Bahir Dar



We left Gondar in the early morning on Monday, awakening to a multicolor sunrise and roosters crowing. We said goodbye to this lovely city and our driver Amara safely drove us three hours to Bahir Dar, a resort town on Laka Tana and the capital city of the Amhara region. Before reaching the city we passed five hippos bathing in the Nile!

hippos!!!!We checked into the hotel and found our beds had mosquito nets, the first we had seen here. Bahir Dar is warmer and has lower elevation than both Gondar and Addis, so malaria can be a concern.

Mosquito net

Mosquito net

We first had two meetings to visit the regional storage facility and the research lab. Then it was time for lunch and relaxation.

The ladies in the group took nice long naps, while the guys explored and walked around in the hot sun. From our group’s exploration we found that Bahir Dar seems more middle class than other places we have visited in Ethiopia thus far. All the streets we saw were paved (rather than dirt roads), many people were riding bicycles, and there were few beggars. There was also a lively downtown area with many shops and cell phone stores.

Most of the team decided to go to the Kuriftu Spa, an upscale resort providing spa treatments like massage, pedicures, waxing, etc. Most of us took advantage of different treatments, which were awesome quality and super low prices. I paid the equivalent of about $3-4 for one of the best eyebrow waxes of my life.

Danny, Javed and Tamiru chill in the spa lounge

Danny, Javed and Tamiru chill in the spa lounge

Alejandra gets a pedicure

Alejandra gets a pedicure

Relaxed and content, we reclined at the Kuriftu cafe with fried ice cream, coffee, veggie wraps and other treats. We had a lovely view of Lake Tana.

Lake Tana

Lake Tana

Me and Katie appreciating fried ice cream

Me and Katie appreciating fried ice cream

It was a well-deserved day of relaxation.




Debrief and beer garden

Sunday was our last full day in Gondar. We had a client presentation at 3:30pm, and then a goodbye celebration following. But first we took the morning to chillax at the hotel, leisurely drinking cups of coffee and macchiato (a popular drink here, presented so beautifully with lots of foam and chocolate drizzled on top, overflowing over the side of the small cup to the dish beneath), talking about non-work-related things, and sitting outside on the cushioned chairs, watching the world go by. It was nice to see families walking down the street, and little kids being slow, silly and cranky, like little kids everywhere. I took some time to flip through my Oprah magazine, brought from home. The luxuriousness depicted in the pages was such a stark contrast to what we’d seen this past week, it was almost surreal. Like, do both worlds really exist simultaneously?

Macchiato lusciousness

Macchiato lusciousness

In the afternoon we broke up into our functional sub-groups to prepare our presentation, and then met with our clients to present our findings. Drs. Afework, Reta, Legesse and Tamiru asked us helpful questions that will guide the rest of our work here.

Then Tamiru and Dr. Legesse took us to the Dashen beer garden, a lovely outdoor space with a covered roof that can fit a few hundred people. The locals took time to stare at us, the only firenji (white foreigners) there, and some even laughed, pointed, and took our pictures! It’s a new experience for some of us to be in the minority, but a good exercise in understanding what it’s like to be the “other”.

Ladies FirstThe kind proprietor took us on a tour of the outside of the Dashen brewery right next door and we learned that some Dashen beers, like the Royal Cellar line, are not pasteurized, so must be consumed there. We enjoyed many large beers and some food, and told childhood stories. A wedding after-party was also taking place across the garden, and we saw some of the wedding party doing the shoulder dance; it was quite entertaining!

Niraj & Dr. LegesseWe said goodbye to our wonderful hosts Dr. Legesse and Akilo. We are so grateful for their hospitality, and showing us so much around Gondar.

Gondar Churches

On Saturday most of the team got up early to drive to the Simien Mountains, the second-highest point in Africa, with tons of wildlife and natural beauty. Carla and I chose to stay back in Gondar to explore the city. Our university guide and host Sintayehu met us at the hotel and accomodated our request to walk into town, about an hour walk. Since Saturday is a market day, we saw lots of people from the villages walking through town with their wares and animals (donkeys, mules and chickens). Carla and I enjoyed walking past the shops we normally drive by, because we got to see a more close-up view of the surroundings. For example, we saw there was a barber shop and some vendors selling some delicious-smelling, fried street food. We stopped in a Western Union to get some cash, and it took a really long time. We have noticed that “lines” here, such as they are, don’t really exist. People often crowd around a bank teller or post office window, and try to get their attention.

We went to our first stop, King Fasiledes Bath. It was built during the 1600s as the king’s personal pool, and is quite large, about Olympic-sized. Now it is empty, except the one time of year when people go swimming for Timkat, the Feast of the Epiphany for Eastern Orthodox (the main religion in Ethiopia) in January. There were huge trees with roots growing out of the stone and bricks, and we also saw parrots and other brightly colored birds.

Hellooooo from inside the pool!

Hellooooo from inside the pool!

We next took a bajaj (motorized three-wheeled rickshaw) to Qusquam church. We were trying to get to the Selassie church, but the bajaj driver took us there by accident. It was a lovely accident, as we were able to explore the ruins of old stone buildings. We learned that many historic buildings in Gondar had been bombed by Somalis during the war.

Qusquam Church (detail)

Qusquam Church (detail)

For lunch we stopped in the Four Sisters restaurant, a tourist destination that capitalizes on foreigners’ interest in traditional Ethiopian customs, like ritualized hand washing. Sintayehu’s cousin Eden joined us, and then we all went to (the real) Selassie church together. We had to take off our shoes and there were separate entrances for men and women. Inside, the small church was covered in religious paintings that are about 200-300 years old. With Sintayehu translating, an elderly man dressed like a priest told us about the art. According to him it was painted on fabric and then pasted on the walls. He also explained the different saints, some of whom were Ethiopian, and Carla and I were not familiar with. Others were more universal, like Jesus, Mary, and the holy trinity. Selassie actually means “trinity” in Amharic.

Priest displaying works of art

Priest displaying works of art



Outside church

Outside church

We took the bajaj back, and it was so helpful to have Sintayehu with us. Not only for his friendly companionship, which really added to our experience of the day, but for his local knowledge of negotiation, and ability to get better fares for us than we would have gotten for ourselves.

Bajaj selfie: Carla, Sintayehu and me

Bajaj selfie: Carla, Sintayehu and me



St. Mary Festival Day

Friday May 9th

 Today was a holiday, the first of the ninth month in the Ethiopian calendar, the feast of Saint Mary. Ethiopians use the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian (which Americans and Europeans, etc use), and their current year is 2006. Their time follows the traditional Middle Eastern 12-hour clock, in which the start of the day begins at 6am, which they call 12.

Due to the holiday, our time would be limited, so we headed out to the rural areas to conduct some interviews. We drove about 30 minutes outside of Gondar to the village of Ambezo to interview the Health Extension Workers there. We were curious to discover what type of things they encounter in the rural areas when dealing with health issues of the villagers.

One thing that has surprised us and brought much joy is talking to the local children. When driving on country roads we see a few people, but once we pull our vehicle to the side of the road children swarm the van. They seem to come out of no where to look at the “firenje” (foreigners). During this particular stop we handed out pencils and showed the children how to do O-H-I-O.

Giving pencils to kids O-H-I-O

A particularly confusing stop for us was when we thought we were walking to a “kebele” (neighborhood), but it was really just a lookout point. It was a worthwhile stop because a little girl, Tigist, took Katie and Danielle by the hand and walked to the edge of the view point. She was very soft spoken and so sweet. We have found most of the children here to be very affectionate. It is so heartwarming to see the way they embrace us with so much trust and love.


Kebeles have leaders, and we met with Asfow, the leader of the Charambazo kebele. He told us how laws passed from the government are enforced at the kebele level. For instance, Ethiopia recently had a very successful HIV campaign to raise awareness of how the virus is spread and can be prevented. The kebele leaders organized HIV testing and gave HIV-positive individuals agricultural jobs. One thing that would not happen in the U.S. is the manner in which the interview was conducted. We drove to a location where the kebele leader was waiting for us on the side of the road with a rifle over his shoulder. We picked him up, and drove him to his next meeting, all the while asking questions. One week into our GAP project and we are learning to just roll with it, as none of us objected to the gun.

The last interview of the day was with a local religious leader of the Eastern Orthodox faith, which is the most popular religion in Gondar. His time was limited due to the holiday, but he was forthcoming with information. The site on which we met him had a large building under construction that will soon be a home to people with HIV and AIDS.

Before lunch we stopped with our Amharic speaking client ambassadors to get a plane ticket from Gondar to Addis Ababa. This is where we learned the power of patience, and discovered just how valuable our translators were. We arrived at at the ticket office at 11:45am and the agent behind the counter worked on our transaction for over 90 minutes. Hunger creeped in and we shared two granola bars between 7 people. Luckily for us a distraction in the form of a “firenje” allowed us to take up the time. Shached, an Israeli woman doing volunteer work with the local street children, shared the wait with us. We compared notes on Ethiopia and talked about our experiences abroad. If you would have told me that I would spend over an hour and a half in an airline office, I would have told you no way that would happen because I buy my tickets on the internet!

After lunch we walked to a historic landmark in Gondar called Fasilidas Castle. We were shocked by the 200 birr entrance fee per person. Though that equates to $10, we haven’t paid more than a few dollars for any meal, and $0.50 for souvenir post cards. Again, our client ambassadors came to rescue by negotiating for us to get the student rate. We each showed our BuckIDs (yes, all of us brought them all the way to Africa!), and paid just 75 birr per person. The castle makes Gondar a tourist destination in Ethiopia, and lends to the richness and vibrancy of the city beyond what you may read or imagine to exist in Ethiopia.


Though we are thousands of miles away from home, Gondar allowed us to keep up with our daily practices. Friday prayers were attended in a local mosque, and Danny and Danielle went to Shabbat services at a local synagogue. Danielle noted that the temple was simply an open air space with a corrugated metal roof, and basic benches with a curtain separating men and women, as in the Orthodox tradition. Most women wore all-white: white head coverings, shawls and dresses underneath. She also noticed that while some of the prayers were similar to the ones back home (like L’cha Dodi – welcoming of the Sabbath bride – and blessings over the bread and wine), others were different. Congregants repeated the rabbi after every word, and at the end of the service, women called out a high pitched “ay-ay-ay!” sound, which would definitely not happen in most American shuls! It is nice to be so far from home and be able to keep up with some of our traditions.

Coffee is very important in the Ethiopian culture. They have a formal ceremony for roasting the beans and pouring the coffee for guests. There is even a special dress that the women wear for the occasion. Though some of the others on the team have seen this ceremony, I had not. To my surprise, when we returned to our hotel a ceremony was set up in the lobby. With no one around but my teammates, I saw a photo op, and sat in the seat to pretend pouring coffee. I was nervous when the lady who was supposed to perform the ceremony caught me in her spot, but she was gracious and covered my head and shoulders with her scarf. It was so touching that she let me enjoy the moment and embraced me with her clothing.

Coffee Ceremony

The night ended by participating in another Ethiopian tradition called “eskista,” which is apparently the dance that the Harlem Shake is based on. This is shoulder dancing, and it is exactly what the words describe. You move your shoulders in various ways to the rhythm of the music. I couldn’t believe there was actually going to be an audience for the shoulder dancers when we first walked into the night club. We were the only people there. After just a short time the place filled up with Ethiopian twenty-somethings dressed to the nines in nice jeans and shirts for the guys, and colorful blazers, dresses and cropped pants for the women, who also had their hair styled in sleek side-sweeps and wore bright lipstick. There was so much energy, especially when the musicians and singers performed popular songs that had the whole crowd up and shaking The dancers came into the audience and danced with us. It was so much fun and a truly Ethiopian experience. Another entertaining moment was when a male singer sang some double-entendre-loaded songs to the audience. It was all in Amharic, but we know at least one verse referenced us, because the whole club looked at us and laughed. I couldn’t think of anything to compare it to in the U.S. for our hosts. I felt like I was experiencing something truly unique to the country I chose to work in for the next few weeks.

At the end of a very long, but culturally rich day we all fell asleep easily. We knew the next day was going to have more adventures as some of us were going to the Simien Mountains for exploration.