August, 2008

Baby Shower

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Last weekend I visited my friend in Morelia. It’s a beautiful city in the state of Michoacan; colonial and tiny. In fact, some residents call it ‘Little Spain,’ since much of the architecture resembles that of Spain’s. In general, I noticed that the people look more native in Morelia than they do here in Guadalajara, and they are much friendlier. I stayed with my friend and her host family. We spent much of Saturday evening talking American politics and Iranian culture. I am now accustomed to hearing, ‘Don’t you guys have to cover your faces and if you don’t, you get beaten?” right after I tell them that I am Middle Eastern. The discussion is fun, actually because I have the opportunity to help them see that not all Muslims are fanatics as shown in the media. I guess the street runs both ways because I now have the chance to return to the U.S. and explain to my friends and family that Mexicans are not as we see them in the states and the country is not all dirt and sun. Mexicans have so much pride in their culture and their country, and unfortunately their image has been tainted by the few who have crossed the border to create a better life.

In about twenty minutes we will be celebrating a co-worker’s baby shower here at the office. Tomorrow night I am going to a wedding. So far, we have fifteen companies who have confirmed to attend our trade mission in Seattle and Portland.

Before Leaving

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Here are a few things to check out before leaving or deciding to exchange with the National University of Singapore:

University of Wisconsin has a very informative site regarding the exchange programs it offers, UW (University of Washington) should look here for inspiration:
General Information from University of Wisconsin
Student Feedback from University of Wisconsin

National University of Singapore also has some useful pages for reference:
Pre-departure checklist

When applying for housing, make sure to apply for PRINCE GEORGE’S PARK RESIDENCES, this is the hall mostly for international exchange students so the chances of getting accommodation is higher.

Some more random/useful facts:

  • Capital One credit cards don’t charge a forex fee.
  • Public transportation is convenient and taxis are inexpensive.
  • There are three local GSM carriers: SingTel, Starhub, and M1, I recommend Starhub for SMS, bring an unlocked phone and a SIM card can be purchased for S$18 (passport required).
  • Electric outlets are different in Singapore, but don’t buy overpriced adapters in the US, they are everywhere and very cheap in Singapore.

Farmer’s Markets, London Field Research

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

This weekend is Bank Holiday, which is sort of like Labour Day, and means that we all have a four-day weekend, hooray!

wooten1.jpgOne of my Seattle friends was in town this week, so Saturday we took her to Borough Market, a huge farmer’s market by the Thames. It’s off of Borough High Street and is extremely popular for grocery shopping. They have nearly every produce you could imagine, fresh fruits and veggies, smoothies, bakeries, fish vendors, tea, fish and chips, turkish delights, falafel, beer, wine, BBQ, it goes on for quite a while. Between the three of us, we ate BBQ, fish and chips, and more BBQ!

wooten2.jpgWe stopped into a boulangerie and shared an amazing strawberry tart. The custard was the texture of whipped cream and melted in your mouth, while the strawberries were sweet, and the buttery crust just the right amount of flaky. We also found (we think) the world’s largest pyramid of brownies!

Camden Market was very fun today! Once you get past the touristy part of Camden High Street, you get into the area by the canal which has amazing food and much more unique, culturally diverse shopping. I got Bombay potato and a strawberry smoothie, while Pavel got both Jamaican jerk chicken and goat curry. We tried to find the vendor that serves huge coconuts from which you drink the water, but they were gone for a carnival outside of Camden! I’ve vowed to take us back there to get our coconuts and our photo opp!

Trade Mission

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

The Trade Mission in Seattle-Portland is only a month away and we are super busy at the Chamber preparing for it. So far, I have been following up with companies in the state of Jalisco as to whether or not they have received the invitation. Our goal is to have ten companies confirmed to attend next week. The exciting part is that we get to work closely with other sister chambers in Jalisco and in the U.S. in addition to gaining membership interest on the part of corporations. Aside from the lecture and individual meetings that we have planned for the event, we have also arranged a visit to Nike, Microsoft, and the Port of Portland. The goal of the trade mission is to expand business opportunities within Mexico and the U.S. (specifically the Northwest and the state of Jalisco).

Aside from work, I am slowly winding down and preparing myself mentally for my return back to the states. Although I am still here for another month, I feel that it will fly by super fast, considering that I can now visualize how many weekends I have left here and what I will be doing each weekend. It’s interesting that now that I have finally developed strong friendships and I feel as if I am a part of the community in Guadalajara, I have to let it go and return to ‘normal’ life.

This afternoon I will be heading off to Morelia, a city in the neighboring state of Michoacán to visit my friend. She came last weekend and we traveled to Tequila, which is a beautiful town nearby where I live and is also where Jose Cuervo’s hacienda is located; tequila runs like water there. Of course I also showed her downtown Guadalajara and the Sunday markets nearby.

I am excited to see Morelia. I hear it’s very colonial and is often compared to Spain, architecturally. Tonight, we will be going to a Karaoke bar. I have never been to a karaoke bar, let alone one with Spanish songs.

Scotland: Edinburgh, The Highlands, and, surprise! Clean air!

Monday, August 18th, 2008

p1000858.JPGThis last weekend, a fellow American traveler and I took a three-day excursion to the green lands of Scotland. Scotland reminded me of Seattle, with the clean, crisp air and greenery; however, Seattle is a very dark forest, while Scotland is the brightest emerald. The Highlands have rolling hills and textured mountains, which are not green because of trees, but the grass and moss that cover nearly every inch. Loch Ness is a lake; that’s all I have to say about that. All lochs (or lakes) are gorgeous in The Highlands, but to be honest, they all look the same to the not-so-Scottish eye. No Nessie, sorry guys! Scottish Highland cows are fascinating creatures: they look like yaks, but they p1000878.JPGhave the brightest orange hair which flows down their face and covers most of their vision! This picture was of one that spent most of its time at a rest stop in The Highlands examining tourists and posing for photographs.

The cities, particularly Edinburgh (pronounced Edinburrow, not Edinburg), have buildings that are hundreds of years old, p1000839.JPGmade of sturdy stone, and still standing with McDonalds, Boots, and other modernp1000857.JPG shops inside. Edinburgh began as a fort in the 7th century and blossomed into a metropolis; having been around for so long, the part of the city considered “new” is actually 200 years old. We toured Edinburgh on a bus for two short hours, then ventured around on our own and visited Edinburgh Castle, which is smack in the middle of the city on top of a plug of volcanic rock. We also trekked the Royal Mile, down which the royal family moved back and forth from their two homes. We also spent some time on Princes Street at the National Galleries of Scotland and the Royal Academy’s Impressionism Exhibition. We had chai and a latte at the Starbucks on Princes Street, where from thep1000969.JPG second story you got an amazing view of Edinburgh Castle. It was so strange to be from Seattle, in a Starbucks in Scotland, and to see an amazing castle high up on rock out the window!

In short, Scotland is just absolutely amazing.

Trade Committee

Friday, August 15th, 2008

guadalajara-872.jpgThis morning the American Chamber held their monthly trade committee meeting in Hotel Hilton. Since I work in the trade department, I helped put the event on. This month’s topic was JALTRADE and external commerce. Basically, since we are preparing for the trade mission in late September, the meeting served more as a manner to gain interest for companies who would like to be a part of the trade mission in Portland and Seattle. We had a speaker from JALTRADE (a company here) present while other executives sat around tables and were served breakfast.

guadalajara-824.jpgThis weekend, my friend from Morelia will be visiting me. We have some plans to go see a nearby town called Tequila. Yes, it also happens to be the same town famous for all the tequila companies and agave plants. I hear it’s very pretty. On Wednesday, I went with my boss and her roommate to see the movie Batman. It was in English with Spanish subtitles. Even though the screen was a bit smaller than what we are accustomed to in the U.S (and tickets much cheaper), the movie was nevertheless amazing.

For the time being, I am convincing my dad to come visit me while I am still here. otH

San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

This past weekend, I traveled to San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato. Only a five hour bus ride, I met up with my friend who is staying in Morelia. San Miguel is beautiful. It is a very small town, filled with tourists and flowers. We spent one day and night in San Miguel, enjoying the intricate churches and delicious food. If you have ever seen the movie ‘The Tenth Kingdom,’ this town resembles much of the romantic town that the main characters visited. At night, we listened to a live mariachi band play in the garden until well past midnight. At 8am the next morning, we rode the bus to Guanajuato, which is famous for its colorful houses and the street called Callejon de Beso. I finally felt that I had visited the heart of Mexico. Many residents dressed in traditional Mexican clothing and the streets were filled with tiny shops.

This weekend, my boss returned from her trip to Seattle. I am back to being a normal intern again, no longer in charge of the international trade department. What is different, however, is that I established some relationships with clients while she was gone. Now, sometimes when they call, they ask to speak with me. Next Monday, I will be hosting the meeting with the company in Texas and helping them open their office here in Guadalajara. The most exciting part is that I have been the point person through this entire project and I hope to see it through to success.

Yesterday I played soccer with the Amcham team. Funny story is that nobody believed that I would play with all guys. And I did, and scored a goal. My team ended up winning the game.

Living in London (AKA cultural learnings for make benefit glorious University of Washington)

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

Outside the office, I’ve found the UK a very hospitable place for Americans. Obviously, there are a lot of values that the US and the UK share. Compared to any other country except Canada, the language barrier between Americans and Brits is minimal.

Many of the differences are “procedural”, such as driving on the left side of the road. Since most of the world drives on the right, the Brits have generously painted “Look Left” and “Look Right” at intersections to help you check for oncoming traffic.

Then there are supermarkets. Most people in London (like people in New York) have to shop for groceries with baskets instead of shopping carts purely for space reasons. This is fine for me since my fridge only holds so much anyway.

One of the few differences is that supermarkets generally make you bag your own groceries. This should theoretically save labor costs, but really doesn’t since the cashier can check out your purchases twice as fast as you can bag them, so he or she just winds up sitting there watching you bag (though at some chains, cashiers will pitch in at the end voluntarily).

Like New York City, London has a very developed mass transit system. Its most prominent feature is the double decker buses (alongside smaller, normal buses) that cruise the streets. Buses with two sections joined by an accordion segment are ubiquitous in the Seattle area, but most Londoners hate them, preferring double deckers. When “bendy buses” were introduced, numerous complaints were made about the amount of road space these buses took up as well as the allegedly higher risk of crashes due to the sheer length of them. Among newly elected London mayor Boris Johnson’s campaign promises was a pledge to get rid of the bendy buses by 2015. This all seems funny to me since in Seattle the accordion buses are not really very controversial at all since double deckers would be unthinkable—Seattle just isn’t built to accommodate such tall vehicles in the places they would need to go. Every city has its own needs, I guess.

Beneath the city streets, of course, lies the London Underground, or “Tube”. During rush hour, (more…)