Blackout, Day 2

The power outage continues on Tuesday. Internet is still out, phones seem to be working, and the hotel is still powered by the generator. This morning there’s no hot water, however, since apparently the water is heated by electrical power.

Javed and Niraj went to client meetings while the rest of the team sought out internet to let our family, friends, faculty advisor and GAP leaders know of our situation. The hotel kindly provided a shuttle to take us to the nearest internet cafe, but only two minutes after our arrival, the power cut out there too. I asked the young man next to me how long the outage might last. He said it could return almost immediately, or it could take quite a long time. We waited several minutes, everyone else left the place, and then we did too. The kind proprietress didn’t charge us for our time there.

Greetings from the internet cafe!
Greetings from the internet cafe!

We decided to go to the Sheraton Hotel to use the internet there. Again, the hotel driver took us down the winding road to what might be another world. As we entered the gleaming gates of the hotel, I couldn’t believe something like this existed in Addis. We went through a security check and metal detector, and entered perhaps the most luxurious hotel I’ve ever seen in my life. A gurgling fountain greeted us in the front lobby, while sumptuous brocade-covered couches and arm chairs filled the wide lobby and cafe seating area. Coffee and cakes at American prices were for sale from a sparkling clean glass case, while diplomats wearing pressed suits and speaking many different languages spoke with each other at the cafe tables.

Roses in front of the Sheraton
Roses in front of the Sheraton

Rooms cost $700/night. Considering that the average Ethiopian earns $400/year, this is where the 0.0001% of Addis resides. It was a strange slice of reality to experience, however briefly.

View from the Sheraton balcony
View from the Sheraton balcony

Closing Comments

Some final reflections from Dr. Jeff (Saucy Daddy Pop).
‘This project has been unique in many ways and I am proud of the work we are doing. I am proud of what we have accomplished and the dignity and professionalism with which our team has comported itself. I acknowledge the exceedingly atypical conditions under which we were introduced to the project and both fully recognize and fully respect the decisions that were made regarding us and our work. I am grateful for the opportunities we are being given to learn and apply and think and solve and travel and grow and experience and share. Deeply. Lastingly.
GAP is as real as it gets. It allows individuals to take all of the ideas and approaches and theory we learn at Fisher, remove the training wheels and put it into practice where the rubber meets the road. It also offers an unparalleled opportunity to learn about yourself – both as an individual and as part of an organization. And I am thankful to have had this opportunity.’
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Reflections… by Sherehan Ross

As my GAP experience is coming to an end, I feel compelled to write about how it’s affected me as a person and reflect on my journey thus far….

To my fault, I came into GAP with very specific expectations, not because I was oblivious to the reality, but because I didn’t calculate and analyze the environment and situation as well as I normally would have. I just jumped with joy and got on board without thinking twice. I personally selected Scotts France as my # 1 project out of 11 choices for many reasons and was ecstatic to get in!

To clarify, this experience has been extremely challenging. I have been drug so far out of my comfort zone that I barely recognize my starting point. I have learned so much and as a result, feel that I have grown as a person and more importantly as a being. My senses have been heightened and my emotional state stretched thin. It is a roller coaster ride of joy, fear, sadness, longing, happiness and anger.  In 3 short weeks, I have undeniably realigned my priorities in life!

On an intellectual level, I was pleasantly surprised to work with a diverse group with various backgrounds and areas of expertise. I don’t know that I necessarily fit into any one mold, as I have always been the “Jane” of all trades and expert of none. My diverse background both educationally and professionally as well as socially and culturally made me the odd “Woman” out. This alone was a challenge given that I am spending 3 full weeks, day and day out with the same 5 people.

Having a roommate was an interesting experience as well. I have always lived alone and never had to share a bathroom let alone a less than 200 sq ft room. As adaptable as I have believed myself to be, this was a bit rough at first until we learned each other’s behaviors and adjusted accordingly.

Observing the team and seeing growth on so many levels with many of my peers has been eye opening. To see the quiet one become very opinionated or to see a natural born leader take the back seat was surprising. Those who were timid became territorial and those who were stubborn learned to compromise. When survival instincts kick in, you’d be amazed to see yourself transform overnight. I too have changed.

Reuniting with a childhood friend, who was like a twin sister to me, was overwhelming. This feeling of having missed someone for so long only to learn that you would see them again was both joyous and frightening. Fear left my body the moment I saw her as we immediately were able to pick up right where we left off all these years ago. Now I am overwhelmed with sadness for leaving as I am not sure when the next chance to reunite again would be.

I have never felt this homesick before. Growing up, I moved a lot, changed schools and moved continents and thus never had a sense of belonging or a place I considered home… until Columbus, Ohio. Being away for 3 full weeks has been really tough. It’s just a feeling I haven’t experienced before and was an interesting one to deal with. Now that I do have a home, missing it made me once again revisit my priorities, especially when it comes to career choices.

Another thing I take pride in is the deep connection I make with a selective few and the strong bond I form with them. Relationships are very important to me and thus I made sure to keep them alive to the best of my means. I know some people view each stage in their life as a phase, and as you pass through, you make friends and then once you start a new chapter, all that was goes away, along with those relationships and you move on.   That’s how I felt too. I never thought in a million years that by keeping in touch via social media I would really get to reunite with a childhood friend, and now that I have, these relationships became all the more important to me.

So where am I going with all this? Ah yes, the realignment of my priorities. Those did change… I have changed. I am simply trying to go through life without any regrets!

As this journey comes to an end, I guess I just had a stream of thoughts and feeling that I wanted to share to shed some light into this whole experience. It’s not all candy and butterflies; there were tough moments, thrilling moments, scary moments, sad moments, happy moments and all very challenging ones. I am exhausted both mentally and emotionally.

I am very happy to be leaving this chapter behind, but thanks to this invigorating journey, I will never be the same!

Sherehan Ross

RISE to the occasion, our final presentation . . . Day 21

The day has come . . . our final presentation.

final pres

We wrapped up both decks and made our way to the office.  The temperature is certainly hot now. . . so hot that we had to resort to a cab.


Yikes. . . This is only the beginning of the warm months and the hottest months are still to come. . . hard to imagine anything warmer than this.  The month of Ramadan is approaching at the end of June. . . which must be considerably more difficult when summer months mean both longer and hotter days.

We arrived at the office. . .


fina pres

Gregg and Matt ran through our first deck, the revised final version of our initial presentation, and I wrapped up with the RISE Strategy deck.  As we loaded onto the elevator it seemed very anticlimactic, the conclusion to the last ten weeks. The presentations went well but the F&B industry is tough and I don’t think that they were particularly thrilled with all of our findings.

We head down to the souks (I swear this is the last time) to pick up our shirts from the tailor.  The shirts weren’t quite ready yet so we make one last stop for shawarma. . . at Al Marfaa.  The restaurant is tiny but they are extremely welcoming. . . make room for us in the back corner. . . I eat sitting on the window sill.  As always, the food was great.


The tailors outdid themselves once again.  We are paid on average $10-20 for a custom shirt.  On their last visit Gregg met a couple from England that was in the shop having several custom suits made. . . we later looked online and found out they are turning around and selling them for over 500 euros . . . masters of arbitrage.


(I think they may have messed up on mine? kidding . . . it is not for me but the guys insisted that I still had to be apart of the fashion show)

3 weeks down . . . it is crazy how fast it has gone. We make our way back to the apartment. . . tomorrow we depart in the morning for Abu Dhabi to make our way back to the US.

Till next time Dubai…


Day 20: It’s been fun

This was our final day abroad, as we all begin our journeys back to Columbus tomorrow. It’s hard to believe that we began this adventure three weeks ago. While we are all eager to get home and see our friends and families (and do laundry), it is sad to see this chapter end. From climbing 272 stairs at the Batu Caves to fishing for own dinner in Langkawi, we have gained cultural experiences and memories that will last a lifetime. From suiting up to enter clean rooms to presenting our findings to multiple executives at a multi-billion dollar company, we have gained international business knowledge that will benefit all our future careers. We could not be more grateful for this experience, and on behalf of my team, thank you for coming along on this journey with us!

Final teammate reflections come from the girl who loves O-H-I-O pictures and could never get enough, Ralitsa:

“Having the opportunity to visit two countries in Southeast Asia was incredible. One of the things that struck me most was how multicultural both Malaysia and Singapore were and how peacefully the different ethnic groups coexist and how well they work together. The amount of construction that is going on in KL, as well as in Melaka was also an eye-opener. I really hope Malaysia is going to be able to build all this infrastructure in a sustainable way. Something that Singapore seems to have done very well. All in all the past 3 weeks have been a great eye-opening experience.”

Ralitsa - doing what she loves most!
Ralitsa – doing what she loves most!

It has been an honor sharing this experience with you – it’s been fun, but goodbye for now. See you later Southeast Asia!

Goodbye from our team!
Goodbye from our team!

Final Thoughts: Those things that interest you more than the touristy places…

As our team wraps up the project and leaves tomorrow for Columbus, I feel the need to pen down my final thoughts about this city – this country – these people.

I love walking around a city, or taking its public transport. I feel its the best way to get to know a city better. You come across so many interesting things, sights, people, events etc. around you. Its the best way to get to the soul of a city. That’s what I always told people about Mumbai (where I was born and raised) – you want to feel the soul of this city? Just walk around.

Yes we walked, and we walked, and walked. Sometimes with a fixed destination in mind, or sometimes just bumping into places (even better). The photos in the previous blog, are all the touristy places that we went TO, whereas what you see now, are the observations along the way, or let’s just say, those things that interest you more than the touristy places:


The spices of Chongqing 

A Chinese astrologer reading (deciding?) someone’s future


An old man selling some meat skewers


A street food scene


Chinese DIY


 A young lady on the ipad, at a local tea store


The traditional way of serving tea. The hospitality you experience at a local tea house is simply humbling.


A fruit seller with his carrying pole. This is the local way of transferring small goods here. 


IMG_5171Walking down the lane…

IMG_5460Shoot and win


Two women selling heads/teeth of actual dog carcass. From what I got to know, it is supposed to ward off evil. 


 You see them everywhere. Good luck charms? Jewelry?


Women gambling

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 Everywhere I went, I saw so many spots where people would just sit and gamble.

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 Chinese dominoes?


Loved listening to their music


He was singing a Chinese song. We praised his music. And then he starts singing ‘Unchained Melody’!


 These little dogs are EVERYWHERE in Chongging


Pet dog of a dye maker. I’m serious


Three wheelers. A very common sight.

 Check out the video


Curious kid


Grumpy kid


Smiley kid

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Funky kid

IMG_5602Everything has a meaning!



I asked her if could take her photo. She said very sweetly, “Yes you can'” I told her that her English is very good (For a moment I went back to the ‘Stuff’ Indians are asked article on Buzzfeed – sigh). She smiled, removed this book from her bag, and said, “This, is my English book!”

Key Takeaways:

  1. Crazy infrastructure
  2. Just interacting with people here can be a very humbling experience
  3. Dictionary/Translation app can do wonders
  4. You get mangoes in China. Your life is awesome.
  5. Chongqing is very green
  6. Surprisingly good traffic scenario despite the busyness of the city
  7. Pandas are funny
  8. China and India are a LOT similar
  9. Tea houses are the best
  10. Sichuan Opera would be the only other thing I would give up visiting a tea house for
  11. It helps enormously to have a local friend who can help you deal with a lot of things. We are very grateful to many people we came across here, some of whom we hope to keep in touch with
  12. Chongqing is INDEED the ‘mountain city’ or the ‘crane city’
  13. Chinese kids are the cutest
  14. Bullet trains are impressive
  15. Sichuanese cuisine is INDEED spicy. Been there, done that.
  16. Mayo and Nega are the two most commonly used (or heard by me) words

Cya China!


Last night in Belgium

Finally, it is our last day at Volcano, our last night in Belgium.  It is time to show case what we have been working so hard during the last 10 weeks for.

photo 1

Team gathering before the presentation

photo 3

With our client


Big man nervous before the presentation.

We presented to our client in the afternoon.  It was longer than we expected, taking us more than 2 hours to finish the presentation, including time to answer our client numerous questions.

However, this is not the end yet, since many of the key persons from our client including the CEO, the Operation Chief, the Marketing Manager are at a conference in Paris, they couldn’t join us at this time.  Volcano would like us to present for them one more time through video conference at a later date.

Nevertheless, we have finished our research, produced a good work, it is time for celebration!

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Tomorrow, we will depart in 4 directions: Columbus, London, Milan, and Paris.  Belgium has been a mixed experience, an up and down one, it’s time to say good bye.  Thank you GAP program, and thank you Volcano for all the support!


Three Natural Bridges

Skiles and I set out to find what we felt was the main attraction of western China, nature. It didn’t go quite as we envisioned it though.

After a bit of a circus ordeal with bussing, 3 hour bus ride, questionable lunch, and an unexpected additional tour fee we finally came to the first attraction, Fairy Mountain. The ride up the mountain seemed like there would be some pretty cool scenery once we got out and looked around. However, what we came to was literally just a prairie in a cloud. Also, we brought an empty bottle but were disappointed to find there was no fairy fountain anywhere. It did have a bunch of random cartoon characters and this guy in it though:

Yup, that's a random T-Rex. Skiles braved the water for a better picture but I decided to pass.
Yup, that’s a random T-Rex. You can tell by the tiny arms.

We then continued our tour, which was just a ride in an uncomfortable train thing back to where we started. So for those of you keeping score at home, we’ve spent a moderate sum of money and 6 hours of time to get cold and wet and see an inexplicable T-Rex in a field of grass.

At this point we departed for the second and last attraction of the day, the Three Natural Bridges. Once we got there though, our day instantly took a turn for awesome as we quickly discovered why this area became an UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007.

Our first glimpse before taking an elevator down
Our first glimpse before taking an elevator down


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Even I'll take a selfie at a place like this.
Even I’ll take a selfie at a place like this.


Skiles' happy face
Skiles’ happy face

It was a breathtaking ~3 mile trail, and needless to say we left pretty pleased with our experience for the day, T-Rex and all.

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


The Tourists of Chongqing

We, the tourists of Chongqing, and all the touristy places in this sprawling city.


Leaving a mark – at Great Hall of the People, Chongqing.


Hongya Cave


The People’s Liberation Monument (and Gucci), at Jiefangbei


Jiefangbei! Our home!


The Three Gorges Museum


Chongqing Guotai Arts Center


A string of 60 Chinese kites – at Chaotianmen Square


Arhat (Luohan) Temple. That’s Chongqing for you, Constructions, skyrises, and a temple – all in one frame.


The beautiful Eling Park


Chongqing Skyline – View from the Yangtze River cable car ride


Skyline – by the night