Final days in Bangkok: National Museum edition

On our final Wednesday in Thailand, we decided to take a river tour north and then walk to the National Museum to check it out. Kevin, Thomas, Matt W., Tony, and I ventured out together and first took the river tour.

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It was near impossible to understand the guide on the boat, so instead of listening we just looked out and took it all in. Seeing Bangkok from the river provided us with a new perspective of the city. We only saw a small portion of the many beautiful sites that Bangkok has to offer, but seeing some of the others from the river was an experience in and of itself.

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After the river tour, we walked to the National Museum and toured the grounds. Although much of the museum was being renovated, we were able to see many artifacts, some dating back to the 7th century.

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The most interesting piece we saw was the royal chariot used by King Rama I, made in 1785. The picture does not do justice to its size. The chariot weighs over thirteen tons and when used, it needed more than 200 men to carry it.

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We continued through the museum reading about fascinating sculptures, weapons, and art of all sorts. Afterwards, we walked back through the street market, picked up a few souvenirs, and headed back to the hotel. As one of the last things we did here in Bangkok, it was without a doubt one of the most memorable.

Last day in Bangkok

I can’t believe our GAP experience is almost over. The last three weeks have been such a great experience. I have learned a lot about team work and professionalism, as well as Thai people, Thai culture and why they are so much better off than Vietnam economically.

Now heading back to my internship, I hope that the lessons I’ve learned from this trip will help me in my new position. Thank you Fisher for this wonderful opportunity, thank my friend for helping me during the project, and to Thailand: แล้วพบกันใหม่ (see you again).

Some random memories:

Most professional photo

Most professional photo

Thomas was checking out some painting on an ancient house wall.

Thomas was checking out some painting on an ancient house wall.

Free live music in a shopping center

Free live music in a shopping center

 

This city keeps building huge temples every where, something to look forward to for my next visit.

This city keeps building huge temples every where, something to look forward to for my next visit.

 

Last meal in Bangkok, cooked by my girlfriend, taste like home. So delicious.

Last meal in Bangkok, cooked at home. So delicious.

Market Day

Saturday

Today, we had the opportunity to experience the Nairobi market and shop for souvenirs. Kenya is very entrepreneurial, and the different merchants were very eager to have you look at what they had to offer. There were many options and a verity of sculptures, wood carvings, paintings, bracelets, rings, necklaces, sandals, bags, spears, earrings…the list goes on and on.

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Each of us found a variety of things to buy. On the way back to the house, we got a taste  of downtown traffic. Saturday is not as intense as the weekdays, but there are times when you can touch your neighbor’s car.

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I was grateful for our drivers and the skill they exhibited in getting us back safely.

 

Marketing to a different culture

Personally, one of the most exciting challenges of this project was developing a marketing strategy for a culture that was entirely different and new to me. As business students and marketing majors (myself included), we have a tendency to think we have it all figured out: run a Five Forces, do a SWOT, NPV, find the competitive advantage, differentiate, add in some other random b-school buzzwords, and poof! You’re done! Looking back, it is hilarious how off-base we were in our analysis and our approach to our analysis while doing our preliminary work back in the US.

Working

In country, we quickly realized how much of what we knew (or thought we knew) about business- marketing in particular- was not useful. How do you market a product to someone who has very little disposable income (and a high month- to month variance on what disposable income they do have), no television, no computer, and limited mobile capabilities? On top of all that, how do you reach consumers who have a completely different perspective on consumerism with different priorities, characteristics, and personalities, and entirely different outlooks on life, culture, and sense of self than what we we know as Westerners?

It has been a humbling learning experience to apply our knowledge and test it against an unfamiliar market.

Last team dinner at a Shanghai restaurant in business since 1800

Two days before our final presentation, we decided to have a last, team “fancy” dinner at Renhe Guan, an Old Shanghai style restaurant in Shanghai.

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Education time: Old Shanghai style is actually a mixture of Chinese and Western style dating from the 1930s. Originally a fishing and textiles town, Shanghai grew to importance in the 19th century as a result of its favourable port location and status as one of the cities opened to foreign trade by the 1842 Treaty of Nanking. The city flourished as a center of commerce between East and West and became a multinational hub of finance and business by the 1930s. Old Shanghai style developed during that era. The decor and feeling of the restaurant is a perfect example of this Old Shanghai style. The restaurant plays the music of the 1930s (soft and emotional) and the posters on the wall feature many famous female stars living in Shanghai during 1930s.

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IMG_3883_副本—old Shanghai beer ads post

Now, food time! Listed below are Shanghai specialities.

1. 烤麸(kao fu): steamed gluten + mushrooms

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2. 酒糟毛豆 (jiu zao mao dou): preserved soybean with wine

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3. 花生梅子 (hua sheng mei zi) preserved peanuts and plums

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4. 陈皮鸡 (chen pi ji): chicken with dried orange, SWEET!!!

 

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5. 红烧肉 (hong shao rou): braised pork, one of the most famous Shanghai dishes. The fat melts in your mouth!

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6. 蟹粉拌面 (xie fen ban mian):  crab noodle without soup

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7. 四喜丸子 (si xi wan zi): giant Meatball

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8. 碳烤猪颈肉 (tan kao zhu jing rou): BBQ pork (nape part)

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9. 渝麻鸡(yu ma ji): chongqing spicy chicken, super spicy but so good!!!

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10. 荠菜虾仁双菇汤 (ji cai xia ren shuang gu tang): shrimp, veg and mushrooms soup

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And after dinner, we all had “Rich Kids Ice Cream”—光明冰砖 (Bright Ice Cream). When I was in primary school, Bright Ice Cream was a luxury to poor kids. (Normally, poor kids bought a 10RMB ice stick because the Bright Ice Cream was 50RMB).  Bright Ice Cream was first sold in 1915 and is a Chinese “time-honored” brand. It is still one of my favorite things in the world, and I think it is even better than Haagendazs! (There are so many good memories about childhood!)

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Now, they have an even more upscale product- a “One Polar Bear”! I will have one tomorrow!

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Finally, I love my team!!! We have had such an amazing time together in China. We have been through rush hour in Shanghai, we tried different foods, we got lost together! I will always appreciate and remember these few weeks and my team.

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(5-28-15) Burning the midnight oil

With one day left until our presentation, we received some final feedback and could update our slides.  In order to polish our slides and add the final touches to our appendix, we had to order takeout food and burn the midnight oil.

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We even changed conference rooms two times.

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I’d write more, but today was all about the office and the presentation comes first.

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Meanwhile, enjoy this gif:

We’ll be done once the puppy gets on his feet

Stargazing in Africa

By Carlos Garcia

One thing that has absolutely blown our minds is the astounding number of stars that you see at night in Africa. The nights had absolutely no clouds, fully exposing an incredible array of stars that would normally be hidden. We used Google Sky Map to identify the constellations that are not visible from the United States. It is a truly humbling experience to see how many stars are out there. We spent a good amount of time admiring and trying to capture the sky’s beauty with our cameras. The trick was using a tripod, timer, and extra slow shutter to capture as much light as possible from the stars.

Attached are the results from this mind-blowing experience.

The open sky in Tanzania

The open sky in Tanzania

More stars

More stars

A lightning bug passes in front of the lens

A lightning bug passes in front of the lens

 

Conflict Management in Action

By Carlos Garcia

Heidi expertly stated “the honeymoon will last about a week” during the final debriefing of the GAP class. She may have overstated the week. As expected, with six guys living together every second of the day and night, slight differences eventually accumulated and resulted in conflicts. Not “Real World” material, but certainly situations more intense than the tender interactions that take place inside the confines of Fisher.

We managed our differences expertly on an individual basis, as well as in full blown group interventions. The individual conflicts were, of course, easy and quick. “Hey, I’m tired of this…” or “I really think that you should stop doing…” were not uncommon. After the small shake downs, everything was fine. However, the small superficial brushes covering the underlining differences could not keep the boat afloat.

The sit down session and throwing everything out there was the solution to the conflicts. As is the case in the work environment, conflicts have to be dealt with in a group setting while formulating solutions to the problems at hand. Our session was not excessively long, nor devastatingly harsh. Shortly after the heated exchanges, we were laughing again and playing poker. Poker become our bonding time. Nothing settles the annoyances of the day better than bluffing the other party out of a good hand.

All is good and we all survived. Cheers.

Exploring Water Usage in Villages around Dodoma

By Mike Sargent

While spending the week at the University of Dodoma (UDOM), we were given a presentation on a recent water study conducted by the College of Natural Sciences. Prior to our visit, they had visited four nearby villages to study the water channels and quality of water used. The methods – and village health – were drastically different from each other.

Although we had little time remaining, we chose to squeeze in a visit to see first hand the best and worst villages. At each village, we searched and searched for the village chief before proceeding with our tour. We quickly learned that village chief buy-in is a critical step in gaining approval and avoiding an unfriendly confrontation.

Starting with the first village, we found poor levels of agriculture quality and deep water holes that had very little water around six to eight feet below the surface. One astounding aspect was the extremely positive attitude the villagers displayed. They were clearly happy we had an interest in visiting and helping. One woman collecting water proudly slurped a gulp of what appeared to be mud. Although we recognized her pride in her village, we very much wanted to reach out and stop her.

Limited Dirty Surface Water at First Village Visited

Limited and dirty surface water at first village visited

Christian interacting with villagers collecting water at first village

Christian interacting with villagers collecting water at first village

Villagers go to great depths to collect surface water

Villagers go to great depths to collect surface water

This village was equipped with a windmill to power a bore hole that was designed to pull clean water up from the water table. Unfortunately it had been inoperable for over a year with no clear problem defined. in addition, sand had been taken from the river bed, which limited the potential to collect larger amounts of ground water.

The second village we visited was a night and day difference. The crops were in bloom, kids were playing a full scale soccer game, and there were multiple water sources that the villagers were able to access. The collection points in the river bed were full of water and a a fully operational diesel powered bore hole was jointly owned by 60 families. Compared to the first village, this one was definitely thriving.

Diesel pump and bore hole at second village

Diesel pump and bore hole at second village

Water storage for irrigation purposes at second village

Water storage for irrigation purposes at second village

2048 – Download Now!

By Mike Sargent

2048 is one of, if not, the best app I have ever downloaded. Elliott introduced us to this game, and it has been like crack. The basic premise is to move tiles around in a 4×4 grid combining them in powers of two until you obtain the coveted 2048 tile. After each move, a new tile appears until you cannot make anymore combinations.

The elusive victory screen

The elusive victory screen

We have hardly noticed the extended waiting times and slightly inefficient culture as we simply grab our smart phones, open 2048 and swipe away. Whether it’s someone meeting us an hour late, others taking tea instead of sticking to the schedule or a three hour wait after ordering food in a restaurant, 2048 is always there to make the delay pass in a flash.

A little mid-safari 2048 action

A little mid-safari 2048 action

Although strategies are shared, a stiff competition has evolved with significant bragging rights for top score. Carlos thinks he has the highest score, but considering his app was created by a separate developer and appears to be much easier, he has been excluded. Equally impressive is Elliott’s low score of 44, which, counter-intuitively, requires significant skill.

We have also had intense debates as to the possibility of scoring a zero in the game. Although theoretically possible, most of our team believes it could never occur.

Mike's remarkably low score.  Is 0 possible?

Mike’s remarkably low score. Is 0 possible?

I urge you to get this app ASAP, especially if you have a bunch of time on your hands. Yes, Kenya teams; I’m talking to you.