“EatWith” a Local – Amsterdam

On Tuesday, our team was joined by Kurt Roush for a night out to dinner, minus Oxana who wasn’t feeling well.  Instead of going to a pub or a fancy restaurant, Kurt had the great idea to use a website called EatWith in order to get a truly Dutch eating experience.  Nobody on our team was familiar with EatWith. After some digging, we found out that EatWith is just like Airbnb.  However, instead of renting out other peoples’ homes or apartments, you pay them to cook a meal for you.

Our chef for the evening was a wonderful lady named Petra.  Petra is a local artist who specializes in a unique type of anime (but don’t tell her it looks like anime).  See for yourself: Petra Art

Petra was great as were the other guests who joined us: Victoria, Vlad, and Vitali. These three unique individuals are from the Ukraine. We’ll talk about them in a future post. 11267160_10104172473975552_1122949785_nTo start, we were brought an “amuse-bouche” of cured (raw) herring with chopped raw onion and pickle.  (I’m sorry if you don’t know what an “amuse-bouche” is.  Nobody else did either, but think tiny bite sized hors d’oeuvre.)  It was a strange dish for some in our group. I could tell because as I looked around, there were several squeamish faces/slow eaters. None the less, everyone ate it.  I also forgot to mention that throughout the entire meal, Petra was restocking the table with white wine, which definitely made the unique food go down easier.

Next up was the homemade tomato soup (sorry Eric, not Pumpkin). It was delicious.  Petra mashed and ground up the tomatoes herself, so it tasted very fresh.  Then, we had the main course, which consisted of garlic stuffed chicken, wrapped in pancetta, roasted in a white wine sauce. Oh yea- it was delicious, too.  The plate also came with sliced baked potatoes with rosemary and more garlic, as well as a salad with balsamic vinaigrette.  Finally, it was time for dessert. Petra made a white chocolate panna cotta with a homemade blueberry sauce. It was pretty dang good, if you ask me!

Once the meal was over, Petra spent some time showing us her art work, and how she gets it done.  We also found out that Petra started a charity that raises money for children without parents.  Her charity is very unique in that she has created an entire world called “Heart-World” and in “Heart-World” there is a family called the “Fam.Li”.  The family has a mom and dad, as well as nineteen children and a dog.  Each member of the Fam.Li has a name that ends in Li, for example there is Happi.Li (who, by the way, is always very happy).  Petra has created books about the family for the children to read and enjoy.  One way Petra makes money to support the children is through partnerships with donors who become friends of the Fam.Li and are later added to the books.  Some of the friends are Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Dutch National Soccer Player) and the Prince and Princess of Orange.  The other way she helps to raise money is through selling art featuring the Fam.Li, which can sell for several thousands of dollars at galleries all over the world. Petra FamLi

Overall, the meal was delicious and the company was great.  Petra was a fantastic host and had a beautiful apartment with an amazing view.  Thanks again to Kurt for setting up the dinner. We had a blast!

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All work no fun days!

With our deadline to wrap up our project coming soon, we all had our caffeine fix and FullSizeRender (7)started working around the clock. We were trapped in snow in Calgary, which was the perfect chance to coordinate and deliver our first draft to the client. We were a bit nervous on the feedback. We were sent two different feedback reports. Our client took a lot of time to respond and provided us with a long list of things to consider. We were still motivated to deliver our best. So, we pulled another all day and night of work and provided them with draft two with some hope.

FullSizeRender (9)We were all flying to Vancouver the next day, but wanted to speak with our client to get real time feedback. To add to our misery, Jackson mentioned that we had to leave our place at 9.30 am. We had nowhere to make the client call! Fortunately, Keith used his influencing skills and booked us a small room in a cozy brunch place, and we made the call. We had great feedback from them and used every piece of information they offered.

We did not stop working until we were boarding the flight to Vancouver together. We sat at the famous Vancouver airport (it looks like a zoo), and still kept working. After we landed in Vancouver, we reminded ourselves not to get influenced by warm, sunny, 70F weather. Instead, we kept on our jackets and pretended that we were still trapped in snow as motivation to keep working. We did sneak in a break with some awesome Mexcian food, but kept working! Teryn used her editing skills to the max, and we submitted our draft three. We got back lots of smiley and winky faces from the client with GOOD JOB written in their reply. It made us so proud of ourselves.

We still haven’t stopped. Aditya and I are crunching numbers at Starbucks; the FullSizeRender (6)boys are in the lobby working on the reports; and, Natalie and Teryn are doing the field trips. We are planning to pull another all-day-work-and-no-fun-night and deliver our finest product. Then, we will enjoy our Vancouver trip as a reward! Canada team is working hard!

 

The Wheels on the Bus to Marsabit

(Note – Date of bus trip, Wednesday, May 13th)

Today, we left for Marsabit, a small community in northern Kenya, along with Partners for Care staff and students from Mount Kenya University to treat local school children who have been infected with Jiggers. Jiggers are tiny parasites that burrow into open skin, particularly under finger and toe nails, and can cause a loss of nail, toe deformation, or even gangrene.

We are all very excited about our trip, but first there is the twelve hour bus ride to get there. There isn’t a whole lot to say about a day spent on a bus, so, I decided to write a song to make our bus drive more interesting. I call it “The Wheels on the Bus to Marsabit”.

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “Seriously? 4 AM?”

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “What’s my latitude? Oh that’s right. Zero!”

equator

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “Wake up, Andrew! Only six more hours.”

Andrew Asleep

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “So…dirt roads from here?”

dirtroad

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “Cough! Cough! Cough!”

kerriandmebandana

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “Are you sure we are going the right way? There are camels everywhere!”

camels

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “Almost there, Travis.”

Travissleeping

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “HOLY $%#&! That was a big pothole.”

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “There is a paved road right there. Why are we not on that?”

pavedroad

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “George, stop taking pictures of people sleeping!”

sleepingonbus

The wheels on the bus to Marsabit go, “Phew. Made it. I’m getting to old for this…stuff.”

African Safari

On Thursday, May 21st, the team spent the day on an African safari!  We went to the Maasai Mara National Park.  It was quite an experience and one we didn’t want to leave Africa without.  We got an early start to the day, waking up and eating breakfast at 7am, and entering the park by 7:30. The weather was perfect.

Driving around, we saw gazelle, zebras, and buffalo grazing.  This was cool at first, but we wanted something more interesting.  This came along soon into our drive.  We saw a gathering of about six other safari vehicles and knew something was happening there.  Two lions were finishing eating from a kill they had made of a water buffalo.  It was quite a sight.  We were only about twenty-five feet away from it, too.

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We saw some more lions later in the trip, four of them laying around a tree.  We saw elephants, giraffe, hippos, and many more animals in their natural habitat.  The scenery was equally impressive, especially the vast expanses of open green.  We spent about nine hours, in total, driving around the park and had an experience that we will always remember.  How cool is it to be able to say you’ve been on an African safari?!

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University of Cambridge!

After finishing our first work week, Adam and Ben decided to expand their Euro trip to Amsterdam, and Saha had plans to go to London. I decided to take this opportunity to meet my cousin and his family. My cousin moved to the UK fifteen years ago, and now lives in Chelmsford, which is 90 miles away from Northampton. Cambridge was almost on the way to my cousin’s house, and this closeness gave me the perfect opportunity to take a side trip to the University of Cambridge on my way to Chelmsford.

Upon reaching Cambridge, I discovered that the University of Cambridge surrounds most of the Cambridge town itself! I parked the car and right in front of me was a majestic historical monument: King’s College. The chapel sits right in middle and is surrounded by student residencies.

King's College at University of Cambridge

King’s College at University of Cambridge

I asked around for Punting tours (Punts are small boats that ply the river Cam, which surrounds the university). These tours take you on the river Cam and give you a beautiful view of the university with its colleges, bridges and beautiful sights. I started my punting tour and the first sight was beautiful Trinity College and its residencies.

Trinity College along river Cam

Trinity College along river Cam

Below is one of the several beautiful bridges that we come across on the tour.

Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs

After punting, I explored the University a bit more. At the center of the University is the local marketpace surrounded by several shops and malls. There is literally everything within the university: malls, shops, theater, grocery stores, street markets, anything one might possibly need.

Marketplace in the middle of the university!

Marketplace in the middle of the university!

Overall, a perfect sunny day made this visit even better than expected. Although Cambridge is a huge university with 14,000 students, from the perspective of an Ohio State Buckeye, it seemed small in comparison to OSU. And yes, we may not have the river Cam, but we do have mirror lake :)

With the weekend almost over,  so time to head back to CVG Northampton and get some important work done!

Snap, Snap, Got it!

When we found out we were headed to Kenya for our GAP project, one of the first things to cross our minds was, “Let’s go on a safari!”

Once in country, we scheduled an excursion to Masai Mara. This trip took place last week, and we were able to experience so much:

Kenya 251

We drove around the rift valley during our six hour car ride.

Resized2Kenya 249

We arrived at the glamp (glamour camp) site at about 2:30pm, ate lunch and headed out around 4pm for our first game drive. Our goal was to see the “Big Five”: African Lion, Cape Buffalo, African Leopard, African Elephant, and White or Black Rhino.

Check out some of the pictures from our first day!

African Lioness

African Lioness

African Lion

African Lion

African Elephant through my binocular lense

African Elephant through one of my binocular lenses

African Giraffe

African Giraffes

Cheetah

Cheetah

Cheetah

Cheetah

Wildebeest

Wildebeest

Zebra

Zebras

Most of these pictures were taken during the first two hours of our time there. Up until this time, I had only seen such exotic animals at the zoo. It was so amazing to see these animals in their natural environment.

Though we came to Kenya to work, I’m so glad we were able to take a break and see all the great things Kenya has to offer.

 

 

 

 

Random thoughts from Thailand

While none of my ideas for a blog post is long enough on its own, if I put a whole bunch of them together, then maybe it will make sense.

Being Tall. I am one of the taller people I’ve seen in the area, or at the very least, significantly taller than average.  I have to duck when I go through some doorways, I can see over the crowd, I almost hit my head on the train.  I feel like Godzilla walking down the street.

American Music. When we go out for drinks after work, the music at the bars is inevitably going to be American rap from the late 90s and early 00s.  It’s like high school all over again.

Chop Sticks. Over the past two weeks, I have used chop sticks more than I have in the last two years. My hand is starting to cramp.

New Languages. While many people we deal with speak nearly perfect English, there isn’t a day that goes by that having learned more Thai than simple numbers would have been a great asset.  On the plus side, I should be really good at charades when I return to the US.

Biker Gangs? I’ve noticed every Thai city has tons of roving biker gangs.  In Bangkok, they wear orange vests; in Pattaya, they wore green or yellow; and, in Phuket, they were red.  People hop on these strangers’ bikes and are carried away to places unknown.  Who does this? Oh… turns out they are bike cabbies.

Real time vs “Thai Time”. I’m not sure if this is official, but there seems to be a “Thai Time”… and it runs quite a bit slower than American Time. The clocks seem to keep accurate time, but nothing else.  From trains coming whenever (though frequently), to buses maybe showing up at the correct stop within 30 minutes of schedule, everything happens in its own time around here.

The Kenyan Landscape

Family farms in a mountain valley in Machakos. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

Family farms in a mountain valley in Machakos. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

The day after we arrived in Kenya, we traveled to a small village near Machakos, a mountain region forty miles southeast of Nairobi. The hilly terrain provided a great birds-eye view of dozens of terraced family farms and river valleys.

Part of the GAP Greif team in the mountains at Machos

Part of the GAP Greif team in the mountains at Machakos.

Sunrise on the drive to Marsabit, just north of Nairobi. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

Sunrise on the drive to Marsabit, just north of Nairobi. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

 

The drive to and from Marsabit (http://bit.ly/1PuDgo6), 327 miles northwest of Nairobi, provided an amazing opportunity to see a large swath of the Kenyan landscape. We left the house around 6am, stopped briefly in Isiolo (http://bit.ly/1cMkQxh) and Merille (http://bit.ly/1FvOunC), and arrived in Marsabit around 6pm. Our actual drive time was 10.5 hours to cover 327 miles. The first 257 miles were paved, until Merille, where the pavement stopped. There was another swatch of pavement between Merille and Marsabit, but it was only about fifteen miles long.

Travel speeds on the tarmac (the more common term for asphalt/paved road in Kenya), could reach 50-55 mph, but there were dozens and dozens of speed bumps that slowed us down. Installed in common pedestrian and livestock crossings, the speed bumps alternated between the normal single humps we see in the US, and a series of 2, 3, or 4 smaller bumps in succession that required the bus to come to almost a complete stop to avoid throwing the passengers in the back out of their seats (which still happened to those of us in the back from time to time, anyway). There were also multiple police checkpoints marked by roadblocks and tire spike strips because the highway we were on is the main road up to Ethiopia. The checkpoints were predominantly used for vehicles traveling south, to prevent illegal entry from Ethiopia, but the bus still had to slow to a crawl or complete stop to weave around the spike strips or wait for the police to remove them. It took us about five hours to reach Isiolo, 167 miles from Nairobi.

Mount Kenya and farmland, near Nyeri between Nairobi and Marsabit. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

Mount Kenya and farmland, near Nyeri between Nairobi and Marsabit. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

Kenya is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. We traveled from the lush green landscape of Nairobi, through grassland dotted with trees, up to Nyeri, where we saw Mount Kenya to the east. Isiolo marked the start of the drier landscape, turning to desert reminiscent of the Southwestern US all the way up to Marsabit. The town of Marsabit is the capital of Marsabit county. The town sits in a forested area on an extinct volcano, Mount Marsabit, but the surrounding area below the mountains is desert.

Camels by the side of the road Marsabit. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

Camels by the side of the road Marsabit. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

 

Most of the other travelers – students from OSU, Mount Kenya University, and PFC staff – slept for the early part of the trip, but I only napped for an hour, I couldn’t bear the thought of missing out on the opportunity to soak up the amazing landscape.

The view from the Hula Hula school in the mountains of Marsabit. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

The view from the Hula Hula school in the mountains of Marsabit. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

 

I was able to capture quite a few nice pictures after the rain stopped, and the water dried off the windows. I took even more once I realized that my window opened, and it was warm enough to do so. (Overnight temps are in the 60s here, so it is a little chilly for us to drive with the windows down, and positively freezing for the Kenyans who bundle up in scarves and parkas during the overnight hours!).

 

Desert landscape south of Marsabit. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

Desert landscape south of Marsabit. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

North of Isiolo, the landscape turns to brushland and eventually to desert. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

North of Isiolo, the landscape turns to brushland and eventually to desert. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A river on the route from Nairobi to Marsabit. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

A river on the route from Nairobi to Marsabit. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

Farmland north of Nyeri, near Mount Kenya. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

Farmland north of Nyeri, near Mount Kenya. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

Lush green landscape outside of Nairobi, en route to Masai Mara. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

Lush green landscape outside of Nairobi, en route to Masai Mara. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Several days later, the drive to Masai Mara National Reserve gave us another opportunity to see more of the country. The drive to Masai Mara first took us north west, and then south west, towards the border with Tanzania.

A "cactus tree", which is actually a type of euphorbia, the same family as Poinsettias. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

A “cactus tree”, which is actually a type of euphorbia, the same family as Poinsettias. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

 

 

 

Again, the landscape was lush and green as we left Nairobi. Fertile farmland gradually became more desert-like as we traveled west, and finally turned to grassland dotted with trees and hills inside the park.

The grassland of Masai Mara National Reserve. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

The grassland of Masai Mara National Reserve. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

 

The park is somewhat bowl-shaped ringed in parts by large ridges, one of which separates Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya from the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania. There is no man-made border between the two parks, and animals move freely between them.

The Mara River, with a crocodile in the foreground and a hippo in the background. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

The Mara River, with a crocodile in the foreground and a hippo in the background. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

 

 

Every July marks the migration of the wildebeest, who travel from Seregeti to Masai Mara. They cross the ridges and the Mara River for a few months, where they gorge themselves on the tall grasses, then mate before returning to Serengeti to give birth and repeat the process the next year.

A view of the Rift Valley in Kikuyu Escarpment Forest, Kiambu, Kenya. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

A view of the Great Rift Valley in Kikuyu Escarpment Forest, Kiambu, Kenya. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

 

 

 

 

 

The drive to and from Masai Mara also took us through the East African Rift portion of the Great Rift Valley, which stretches from the Red Sea to Mozambique.

 

 

 

Our next adventure will take us to the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for us on the shores of the Indian Ocean!

A panoramic view of the rift valley in Kikuyu Escarpment Forest, west of Nairobi. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

A panoramic view of the rift valley in Kikuyu Escarpment Forest, west of Nairobi. Photo by Alison Schwalbe

The Temples of Worship

Since our arrival in Kenya, we’ve been working with a non-profit (Partners for Care) and their Kenyan Staff. They’ve also been gracious enough to let us stay in their house and have been the most amazing hosts.

I speak for the group when I say that one of the things we have enjoyed the most is their singing. Five of the guys have formed a group called “The Temples of Worship”. They sing all over the country and have even recorded albums together.

George, Franco, Justice, David and Sammy

George, Franco, Justice, David and Sammy

Outside of PFC’s water initiatives, these guys use their musical talents to spread HIV/AIDS awareness and educate people on how they can become a part of the movement towards an HIV/AIDS free Africa.

Follow the link and take a listen!

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10151746307968583&video_source=pages_finch_thumbnail_video

 

 

 

“Measuring” our progress

We are in the second half of our GAP project now! I feel better and better working with my team members. We are used to each other’s styles and working well together.

We are working on a cost model. Everyone is excited about what we have created and feel confident about what we are working towards. To be more specific, one task for our model is to allocate shipping cost per commodity. For this number, we need packaging information. All the parts are coming from the UK and the China warehouse doesn’t have this information in detail, on hand. Rather than wait in the office for a whole day, we decided to go to the plant in Jiading and measure the dimensions ourselves.

Jiading plant is an hour and half away from the CVG office in Shanghai, and we arrived at 11 am. The warehouse manager helped us measure the dimensions of packaged boxes on pallets.

From this effort, we gained some valuable real world experience. We learned that some data is not available or hard to explain, and that it is more efficient to take action to get the data by ourselves.

Warehouse