Soaking Up Gaborone’s Culture

This week, we went out to dinner to a local African chain called Spur. Spur is very similar to the US chain Chilis and serves basic staples such as burgers, steaks and ribs. Our server suggested that we try the burgers. Being that we were hungry and looking for something easy and quick, we agreed. Note the word “quick”!

About 30 minutes later, we heard a bell ding and noticed our order sitting in the window, waiting to be collected by our server. She, however, did not notice, and we waited another five minutes before she finally brought our food. We quickly ate our meal, had our plates promptly cleared from the table and then proceeded to wait for another 45 minutes before we finally walked to the front of the restaurant to ask for our bill. It then took the staff another five minutes to locate our server, identify who had what meals, and then pay for our food. With process improvement on our minds from a long day’s work, needless to say, we were less than impressed by the staff and their inability to understand our needs and meet our demands. Unfortunately, this level of service seems to be a standard in the food service industry and is one thing that we are looking forward to leaving behind when we return to Ohio at the end of the week.

To conclude our time in Botswana, we enjoyed two fun activities in Gaborone.  For lunch, one of the sales team members took us out to a local establishment which specializes in Setswana specialties.  We tasted dishes like Guinea Fowl Stew and Goat Seswa with dumplings, pap, rice and a local kind of salad.  After lunch, we went to a craft store where we were able to buy souvenirs made by local craftsmen.  Then, for dinner, we took our project sponsor and Barclays project lead out to an Indian restaurant called Embassy—one of the best restaurants in Gaborone.  With the project complete, it was nice to relax and enjoy the company of some great new friends.

There are some things which we will miss about Botswana—the nice people we met and good cheap Setswana food—but it is going to be nice to be home after several weeks.  We all hope to come back here again at some point in our lives.IMG_1371 IMG_1373

Hong Kong: One Student, Two Schools

David Drummond shares his highlights in Hong Kong, as he studies there for a semester on the Student Exchange Program. From the mixed culture, accessibility, and the many ways to spend your free time, he points out what makes Hong Kong a special place to live in.

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Hong Kong really is one of the must-see places in Asia. The tourism board touts it as “Asia’s World City” because of how many different cultures can be represented in one city. It is also one of the safest, and I think by far, the most accessible cities in the world. It has to be the easiest of cities in Asia for westerners to integrate into because of how much English is both spoken and seen. Since my arrival, here are the major highlights so far that have helped form my picture of Hong Kong:

  1. Highly accessible. Hong Kong’s transport system is extremely easy to get to know and get used to. The MTR (subway) service stretches across most of both Hong Kong island in the south and Kowloon in the north. It is easy and cheap, especially with a student discount, to travel anywhere in the city. If you cannot get somewhere by MTR you can find a double-decker or minibus to take you closer. All of these options usually cost less than 10 HKD (about 1.3 USD) and take the Octopus card, the most effective tool of mass transit EVER! You can put cash on this card just about anywhere through 7-11’s or McDonald’s or at any station and can even use it to buy food at many restaurants. If you’re in a hurry you can take a cab, which only takes cash, but still are fairly cheap compared to big cities in the U.S. and you only have to worry about them understanding you (Often speak no English). For such a big city, over 7 million, it hardly feels very crowded.IMG_9271
  2. Take advantage of good weather. In Hong Kong it rains a lot or the fog rolls in and you can’t see much. I’ve been told that the summer can get very hot and humid. But when you get, every other week or so, a stretch of sunny days there’s so much that you can do! From beautiful views over the city in high rises or the peak, to hiking the many trails and hills of the island and country parks, Hong Kong has much more than a city can offer. Around 70% of the land in Hong Kong is outside the city and much of it is easy to get to by bus. Spectacular views await as you hike on down to the sandy beaches in the southern reaches of Hong Kong Island and spend the afternoon eating Thai food and drinks! I’ve climbed mountains, met monkeys, and traveled to far away fishing villages all within a short trip away from downtown or campus. Campus is only about 45 min away from downtown and less than one to two hours away from the best beaches, hikes, and scenery it has to offer.
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  3. Vibrant nightlife. Like any major city, Hong Kong has its nightlife district. Lang Kwai Fong is where people young and old congregate around a few blocks to enjoy the night, but head on up to SOHO and you find streets lined with unique restaurants with every taste you could be looking for. This is much more for the expats and young professionals where you can find any kind of cuisine of your choice. There’s always a new place to explore. The food scene is incredible. With so little space to work with, there is a huge variety of unique restaurants with food from all around the world. If you love to eat you’ll fall in love with the city. I have yet to get really into any music scene here but I have seen a few jazz clubs about.12697096_1688147988065365_273820927109159395_o
  4. Cultural crossroads. With the English no longer in control, Chinese culture may be becoming more dominant, but there are sizeable western expat communities and Hong Kong will always try to be the place to bridge East and West. British is no longer the upper-class standard, but you can find the influence still. I’m reminded of this when I see signs in English and walk past elegant western-style facades. There are definite pockets of the city which cater more aesthetically and culinarily to expats. However, when you walk through the markets with hanging fish and roasted ducks, see people chatting over a bowl of hotpot outside of a small dai pai dong, or walk through the crowds of Filipino domestic workers relaxing on their day off in Statue Square, you are reminded of the unique Asian cultures here. The little things also stand out, like having your card handed back to you with two hands or occasional subpar customer service (tipping is not very common). It’s harder to feel out of your comfort zone here, but you experience enough of the local and mainland Chinese culture to keep you interested to ask questions.  12697494_1688148098065354_2853886174183624221_o
  5. Shop till you drop. And you thought consumerism in America was the world standard? There are literally malls EVERYWHERE in Hong Kong, attached to the MTR and major buildings. Markets, with street food, abound. It’s definitely fun to wander through the malls and down the back alley stalls and wonder, who all buys this stuff? It is a city that only exists because the British wanted to sell things, mostly opium, to the Chinese. In Tsim Sha Tsui, the downtown of Kowloon you’ll find a lot of premier shopping and lots of mostly Indian men looking to advertise watches, suits, shirts, coats, bags, etc. I am really curious how many people respond well to being followed and touched by these guys asking if you like nice watches over and over! Shopping is definitely in the culture here. I heard from my roommate that a local girl mentioned that her usual holiday was going to a mall and just spending the day walking around and getting little bites to eat at lots of vendors. She didn’t understand why he would go on vacation and go windsurfing or water skiing!

Hong Kong offers a beautiful and vibrant experience where safety, accessibility, and comfort bring you back, but from where you can travel to a wide swath of nations in Asia with ease. Over my first two months here, I have experienced a beautiful and unique city which bridges East and West. In some ways it is struggling to hold onto its Western identity as China tries to gain influence, but I have gained a great appreciation for how the two cultures can work together in interesting ways. It is the perfect place for anyone wanting to learn about a multicultural Asian city with many of the comforts of home. It really is a the perfect location as a home base to see the diverse nations in the region. Asia is your oyster, and Hong Kong is the pearl.

About the Author: David Drummond, SP 2015, Student Exchange Program- Hong Kong

Welcome to Bocconi’s Education System

Let Brad Schulze help you navigate the educational system in Italy and share his tips of being a successful student at Bocconi University, as he spends his semester on the Student Exchange Program. 

Imagine having a class scheduled for an entire semester at a certain place and a certain time; for example, at 10 am on Thursdays. Now imagine having another class that is canceled and rescheduled to the exact same time as your 10 am Thursday class and you have to miss the rescheduled class BUT are unable to get the absence excused by your teacher or by the university. Welcome to Italy. Welcome to Milan; and welcome to Bocconi Univeristy. A complete 360 from what you are used to; but an experience of a lifetime.

Just a quick background on the university in which I am spending my semester. It’s called Bocconi University and is highly regarded as one of the top business and overall university’s in Italy and in all of Europe. It consists of 2 main classroom buildings, 3 or 4 other buildings, a cafeteria, a gym, dorms and a bank. THAT IS IT. It is small, no question. It was a complete 360 from Ohio State and where I had spent the last 2 years of my college career studying. There are three huge differences that I can see and those are university lifestyle, classroom and school structure and self-study and self preparation for exams. Understanding the 3 and how to adapt has been crucial for me to succeed in my classes.

First, the university lifestyle. I hate to break it to you Buckeyes but there is no college football and in that case any college sports at the universities here in Italy. You won’t see your fellow Bocconian’s traveling down the street on a Friday afternoon repping their gear for Saturday’s big game. Just won’t find it. There aren’t nearly as many clubs and organizations to get involved in and you most certainly won’t see hundreds of your classmates tossing the Frisbee or lying out studying on your way to class; as I mentioned above there really is no campus quad, etc. I definitely was not anticipating the usual US college lifestyle when preparing to attend Bocconi but I can definitely say I was very shocked at just how different the two are. Of course I am bias and believe the Buckeyes and campus lifestyle at Ohio State trumps that of Bocconi but it most certainly has not taken away from the experience at Bocconi. Here you get to work and learn with kids from all over the world; more so than Ohio State. Instead of paying $7 for lunch on high street their are many local pizzerias where you can snag lunch for less than $3. Completely different and un-comparable. A different experience to say the least.

Main Classroom Building Lobby

Main Classroom Building Lobby

Moving on from the lifestyle, imagine yourself sitting in a lecture on Portfolio Management; with a professor who you may not find the most interesting for three hours every Friday morning with only one five-minute break that is denote as “the smoke break”. If you have never been blessed with this experience, I am here to tell you; you are not missing out. This is quite common at Bocconi. They only offer classes in either blocks of 1.5 hours, in which you have class twice a week, and 3 hour in which you have class once a week. Aside from that each class, from my knowledge, is only offered around 3 or 4 times a week so there is very little flexibility in creating your “ideal schedule.” Finally, as far as structure goes, and what I wish I had been a little better prepared for, is the idea that your grade completely falls on the shoulders of your final exam. Most classes here have very little, if any, homework and there is no such thing as participation points. With the different structure and all the traveling I wanted to do, I really had to adapt my studying and learning habits in order to succeed here at Bocconi. There was a learning curve but I think I have finally come up with my studying techniques (which I share at the end of this post) that will help me do well on my finals coming up in November.

Marketing Lecture

Marketing Lecture

The first thing I learned is that buying the textbook is a must. Unlike Ohio State where for a majority of the classes the textbook is a recommended learning material; it is the learning material. Being proactive and reading the chapters and doing some practice problems ahead of class is a huge advantage. The teachers here don’t take the time to make sure you understand the material and go at a very fast pace. The fast pace also makes office hours a must but the only problem is there are very few and they change a lot. I have learned it is much better to just send the teacher an email and set up a meeting. This way you know he/she will be there and won’t waste valuable time. Lastly, and maybe the most important is just to be kind and patient with the teacher. It is a different culture here and if you show an understanding of that and are patient they are way more willing to work with you through any problems you may have.

Looking back on this; it makes me realize that had I known all this before my semester begun it would have been way smoother; but to be honest I am glad I didn’t. It really has pushed me to academic levels I would have never thought possible. It has been one of the best parts of studying abroad and as I sit here describing my experiences and giving my advice it will be different for everyone and the best advice I can give is just be ready for change. There is no right or wrong answer or right or wrong way of doing certain things; you just need to figure out what works for you. And I believe if you can do the following things you will have a great and successful semester, academically and culturally, abroad even through the highs and lows.

  • Be patient. You won’t have the answer for every problem on Day 1. It takes some time.
  • Be adaptable. The way things are done here will cause some differences in what you are use to on a day to day basis. Be ready to adapt to those in order to make the most out of your abroad experience.
  • Take Initiative. Even more so than back home. Be on top of things. Office hours are not encouraged as much and most teachers only have them on an appointment basis. It is up to you to take advantage of these things.
  • Stay on Top of Things and Find a Balance. This may be the most important tip I can give. Yes, you are a student first but studying abroad is a once in a lifetime experience. You will want to travel to all the top places on your bucket list, hang out with all your new worldwide friends and enjoy events hosted by your university. To be able to do all these awesome things it is very important that you do not fall behind. Create a schedule and find the right balance for you.

So even though, 2 months later, I still have not been able to get that 10 am Thursday Class absence excused; I am still here and still a student at Bocconi. Even though there are fewer office hours and teachers are less involved I am still doing just fine in all of my classes. Just because something is different doesn’t make it easier or harder or right or wrong. It just requires a little change. If studying abroad is something that interests you but the differences scare you; I promise that if you can be patient, be adaptable, take some initiative and find your balance, you will be just fine and better for it.

About the Author: Brad Schulze, Senior, Finance, Student Exchange Program- Italy.

A Farewell to You

The past three weeks have been a fulfilling and humbling experience. I could not have asked for more or less. It was the ups and downs of working/traveling that I was looking for. The research project we’ve been working on has come to a close. This research could help make better lives for some of the women and children I’ve met during this trip. I’m optimistic that this research project could help them. It was a great pleasure to work with my team, Akshay, Jake, Santiago, Molly, and Ryan.

I’ve come knowing only our GAP group, but I left Kenya with many friends…

Sunset

An Ode to You

It’s time to say goodbye

I know I’ll be back soon
Though, I don’t know how soon
It was easier to say hello
than goodbye

Now, the bus is leaving
I have to catch the last one, out of town
Until we meet again

Kwaheri, rafikis

Ariella

Trip to Downtown Nairobi

Last Monday May 18th Akshay and I went on a trip to Downtown Nairobi. The purpose of the trip was to explore the textile retail market and assess the availability of several components required to assemble the PackH2O in Kenya. We were also interested in obtaining information about industrial sewing machine retail prices.

Google Maps™ told us that it would take approximately 21 minutes to get there. Ha! The Mountain View giant had it all wrong. It took us about one and a half hours just to get to River Road, the major textile retailing zone in Downtown Nairobi. The traffic is extremely heavy, and it is advisable to plan trips adding approximately one hour or more to the standard itinerary.

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What Google thinks does not matter!

 

George from Partners for Care drove us with his characteristic “defensive” driving style, zigzagging through thousands of cars, SUVs and most of all, “Matatus”, the Kenyan colloquial name for their public buses. Matatus are really peculiar, colorful, highly decorated and personalized vehicles. Most of them include paintings of American pop culture stars or famous local slogans and sayings.

Traffic is 98,37% matatus

Traffic is 98,37% matatus, or at least that’s what I think!

Typical traffic in Nairobi

Typical traffic in Nairobi

During the trip, I challenged myself to find at least one single running vehicle without any scratches, dents or other damage. I lost the challenge. According to the short sample I took during the duration of the trip, I can say with a 99% confidence level that the mean proportion of running vehicles in perfect shape on the streets of Nairobi at any time is 0%.

"Come on!! There's still an inch available!!"

“Come on George!! There’s still an inch available!!”

When we arrived to River Street, parking was a different story. George found a tiny spot between two cars. I thought that he was joking when he started to park there. When we realized he was serious about it, Akshay and I went out of the car to try to help by giving him distance alerts to each car’s bumper. I took us another ten minutes to get the car to a decent distance to the sidewalk.

We engaged in conversations with several textile retailers in the area. People was really friendly and helpful. At the end of the day, we were able to obtain good information for our project and Nairobi’s frantic traffic made our return to the house feel like it was quite an accomplishment!

 

The People We Meet

There certainly has been an abundance of many cultures in Amsterdam! Being one of the most concentrated areas for trade in the world, you run into a very diverse cultural scene here in “the Dam”.  Beginning with our home office host, Cyriel, who gave us a great perspective on what this city has to offer, we are sorry to miss some of the very “interesting” musical events he described taking place in June.  Unfortunately, GAP does cover another three weeks….

In touring the city our first weekend here, one fine server took quite the liking to Joe and continuously peppered him with questions about Ohio.  In fact, our server took so strong a liking to Joe that he gave Joe some shirt patches to take home as a souvenir!  On our way back to our house, we met a few Swedes whose interpretation of American culture was truly eye opening!

In doing our canal tour the next weekend, we had the great pleasure to be introduced to one of the finest boat captains (and Amsterdam tour guide) in the city.  Meet Frank.IMG_8898 Ahoy there Frankie!

Frankie was full of Amsterdam knowledge as he’s been a canal guide for the past six years.  If he didn’t know a question we asked, he would make something up and no one would be aware that it was a complete falsehood (self-admitted).

Last but not least, we had the great pleasure to meet one of the more refreshing gentlemen, as well as one of our WD direct reports, Ronald Dek.  The first day we met with Ron to discuss the logistical issues facing Western Digital, he entered the room and immediately told us how he conducts business.  “I am Dutch.  I am very straight-forward and do not screw around.”  This statement was actually quite nice to hear as we became much more comfortable discussing our research openly and frankly with Ron.  It helped our project and it shed light on the very direct nature with which business is conducted in the Netherlands.

Hope you all enjoyed meeting some of these great people!

-Sammy

Friendship, Food, and (very few) Fiascos

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Friendship and food are the two main themes of our time in China. Going into this project, Sumanth and I were the only two who had worked together in previous projects. As we were in the same core group, we understood each other in regards to working together, yet we never spent much time together outside of group meetings. Traveling to China, working on a challenging analytical project, and living together for three weeks bonded our mini team into a mini family. I don’t think any of us expected to leave with such great new friends, but we are all grateful for this experience bringing us together.

We have written a few blogs about food already, but finding vegetarian food was a daily discussion that took up a significant amount of our evenings. Chengcheng was a huge help for Sumanth in regards to getting vegetarian food (except vegetarian fried rice). However, vegetarian or not, without Chengcheng, it would have been very difficult for us to get any food. In fact, Sumanth, Joe, and I ate at an Indian restaurant more than any other restaurant in China because we knew how to order food there when Chengcheng was not with us. I never would have guessed I would go to China and come back liking Indian food.

Finally, usually when travelling in a foreign country without knowing any of the language, fiascos are bound to happen. With the exception of one missed train (which ended up working out okay), we had an extremely smooth trip. We are all fortunate for this because if something bad did happen, it would have been extremely difficult to ask for help. All in all, we had a great time in China and we are traveling back to the U.S. with full stomachs and a few new friends.

A Budget Traveler’s Dream

By far the biggest perk about studying abroad in Singapore is the ease of traveling around Southeast Asia. I was able to travel to 5 different countries outside of Singapore and the most I paid for a flight was $300 to Australia. Most flights were 2-3 hours long and only around $150. Airlines such as TigerAir and Jetstar make flying on a budget a breeze.

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Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

My favorite country I visited was Thailand and I loved it so much that I went twice on my four month exchange. From the white sand beaches, to feeding elephants, to 40 baht pad thai, Thailand was nothing short of Paradise.

 

My favorite experience out of both my trips to Thailand was visiting an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai called Elephant Nature Park. I heard horror stories about how elephants are domesticated and knew I didn’t want to go the typical route and go elephant riding. Instead, I got to spend the entire day among them, feeding them, bathing them, and observing them. It was an unforgettable experience and I recommend it to anyone traveling to Thailand.

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Elephants playing in the river

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Up Close & Personal

 

Other amazing experiences included visiting the temples of Angkor in Cambodia, sailing Halong Bay (New 7 Wonder of Nature), diving in the Great Barrier Reef, and visiting tea plantations in Malaysia.

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Halong Bay, Vietnam

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Angkor Archeological Park

 

 

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Ta Prohm-Tomb Raider Temple

 

I was fortunate enough to travel to all these amazing places and not have to break the bank. Although traveling was relatively inexpensive, the people I met along the way, the culture, the views, and the memories were all priceless. I definitely recommend traveling as much as possible while on exchange because an opportunity like this doesn’t come often.

 

 

Lucky Number Seven- EMGL Blog December 9th, 2014

Today’s class marked a very important milestone of the semester; we would be giving our last presentation of the year. After counting up the numerous presentations we have done over the past weeks, I realized this was going to be our seventh presentation. Seventh. Not many MBA or graduate programs can say they have given seven presentations in one 15-week class, let alone an undergraduate program. Since we have practically spent this entire semester in front of our peers presenting and the last presentation we gave was our 20-minute final group export project, this 5-minute one seemed like child’s play.

We had approximately 3-5 minutes to present on the individual interest topic we chose about Brazil. The presentation would then be followed by everyone’s favorite pastime: 2-minute hot-seat Q & A interrogating the presenter about his or her topic. Everyone got these topics cleared at the beginning of the year and have been slowly gathering information for this presentation all semester. The purpose of these individual short presentations was to educate the class on a variety of topics that will be essential to know when we step off the plane in Manaus. Some of the topics included were: the history of the rubber industry, the Brazilian business culture, the Manaus Free Trade Zone, special holidays in Brazil, the stock index, Japanese culture in Brazil, Prime Equipment, the Brazilians’ view on Americans, Afro- Brazilian culture and the presidential election. We had no restrictions when choosing our topic; it only had to be relevant to our travels to Manaus.

The vibe in the class was more laid back than normal and this is probably attributed to the fact that this was our seventh presentation and we were well equipped with what kinds of questions could be thrown at us. Also, we got to choose our own topics so we were 100% confident and comfortable with the topic. Even though we did not get through everyone’s presentations this week and some people will have to go next week, this class seemed like the pretty bow that seals the nicely wrapped package. Following the end of each presentation, Mr. Sword asked the presenter questions, but they were more opinion- based and not as technical as in the week’s past. After one was finished presenting, they received feedback not just about that specific presentation, but comments about how they performed throughout the entire semester. The students appreciated being recognized for the hard work they had put into preparing for their many presentations: the countless hours spent in the Mason study rooms researching and preparing with their group, gathering knowledge about their individual interest topic on their own time and managing the intentional vagueness with instructions, which at times could be challenging.

After everything is said and done, the presentations are complete, our nine- day trip to Manaus is over and we start a new and fresh semester, I know for a fact that the students of the EMGL will take everything they have learned from this class and apply it to their future endeavors. They will be able to successfully handle bosses that say, “Make a presentation about the potential market in “insert country here”. You present on Monday!” They will not just “successfully handle” the situation, but surpass the expectations of their superiors and be one more step ahead of their peers; the students can thank The Ohio State University and The Fisher College of Business, but especially the Emerging Market Global Lab to Brazil for that.

This is not meant to scare you!- EMGL Blog December 2nd, 2014

When the presenter starts with the disclaimer, “This information is not intended to scare you!” you know you are in for quite an interesting presentation. This is exactly what happened to the students of the EMGL to Manaus, Brazil yesterday evening. Dru Simmons, the International Risk Manager for The Ohio State University, came to our class to debrief us on all of the different scenarios we could encounter in Brazil; from the rare disease of chickengunya, a mosquito- born illness that is becoming more prevalent in South America, to alcohol and drug safety in Brazil. One would think this information would be dry and hard to sit through, but Simmons included a multitude of anecdotes that broke up the information and made it more extremely interesting. We learned about what the responsibilities of the Department of States Program are and what they are required to do in case there is an emergency in country. Simmons also advised us to dress down and not wear jewelry in public. To supplement this advice, Simmons illustrated how imperative it is when he told the short story of a woman who was being interviewed on the street of Rio about the street crime that was rampant there, and while she was in mid-sentence, someone came up and ripped the necklace right off of her neck!

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Simmons also encouraged us to invest in a money belt, so the money we carry on us is not visible to the public eye. Furthermore, he noted that there are a good number of credit card scams in Brazil, so we need to make sure we are monitoring our account while in- country to watch out for fraudulent activity. One of Simmons’ closing suggestions was to never ever under any circumstances leave a person behind. Even if they are being a drag or are not interested in what the group is doing, they should never be left alone. One point was made very clear in that the group sticks together.

As Simmons was wrapping up his spiel, Zach Grammel, the Program Coordinator for The Office of Global Business at OSU, jumped up to start his presentation about more specifics of our Brazil trip. He split the class into guy and girl groups as people exchanged curious looks thinking they were back at elementary school recess about to be selected for dodge ball teams- boys versus girls. It turns out that our task was to create a packing list in 3 minutes of exactly what we are going to take to Brazil. The girls came up with more items, but the boys ultimately won the challenge because they quantified what they are bringing i.e. two pairs of dress pants, three leisure shirts etc. Grammel expressed how small our flight would be by displaying a photo of the inside of the airplane and you could hear whispers throughout the room. Mr. Sword took this opportunity to urge the class not to be selfish and only bring one light suitcase, so no one would hold the class behind when we arrive in-country.

At the end of class, we went over some of the planned events that we will be doing in Brazil and after hearing about chickengunya diseases and high street crime rates for the last hour, one could visibly notice the morale of the students pick up. Everyone is very excited about the trip and some overly enthusiastic students even started a countdown on their phone. In case anyone was wondering, the Emerging Market Global Lab class to Brazil will be on a plane to the Amazon in 29 days 17 hours 1 minute and 10 seconds from this very moment!