Internship

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…)

Soccer Games, Shopping, and Family

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

guadalajara-718.jpgAfter several weeks of traveling and moving, I finally spent this past weekend in Guadalajara. It felt nice to feel like I could finally discover a bit of my own city. I spent the Saturday walking through San Juan de Dios, located downtown Guadalajara. Although this was my third visit there, I was impressed by the volume of shoppers and families strolling along the streets, shopping, chatting, and eating. I walked through the market and enjoyed every scene. That Saturday was the first time that I made it through the entire market. The third floor amazed me the most. There were computer shops, video game stops, brand name shoes and clothing…..all imitation. Unfortunately, I can’t purchase any software products due to the fact that I will have problems at customs when I return. The following day, I went to Tiangis del Sol, an outdoor market that only happens every Sunday, with my friend.

This week, my boss left for Seattle for vacation. How small is this world? On Friday, she will be having dinner with my family.

I’m excited for what this weekend will bring. I am going to the Chivas soccer game (Chivas is the team here in Guadalajara) at the stadium. On Saturday, I will meet up with my friend for Morelia in San Miguel de Allende where we will spend the night and then take a bus to Guanajuato the next morning. I hear both cities are beautiful.

Thunder and Lightening…Don’t Forget Dolly

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

guadalajara313.jpgI am finally getting adjusted to living on my own. It took me about a week and a half to get situated, and I think I succeeded. The hard part was not that I had to cook on my own and buy my own groceries, rather it was thinking of things to do after work. Because I no longer have to wait for the bus every day, I have guadalajara203.jpg time to explore the city. My problem is the lack of friends to explore the city with. But, as I realize that I am only here for another two months, I will make the most of it. This weekend will be the first guadalajara276.jpg weekend in a while that I will be staying in Guadalajara, so I will take advantage of it and go to the markets downtown, the zoo, malls, etc.

guadalajara318.jpg

One of my good friends flew to Mexico this weekend to see me, and we met up in Puerto Vallarta. I am starting to believe that Puerto Vallarta is magical. Both times that I have visited, I have encountered amazing adventures and met some incredible people. I do think it’s time to visit other places in Mexico.

guadalajara487.jpg

Yesterday, I got permission to leave work early and go to my friend’s soccer game. Him and his friends play soccer every Wednesday, as he calls ‘professional’ (the field they play on has imitation turf and because of it the soccer ball bounces everywhere. Of course as a measure of precaution, the field is caged like an ice rink with a net that covers the top to prevent the soccer ball from flying into the streets). He invited the other guys from the American Chamber to play and they showed up. It was quite an eventful game, and our team played very well.

As for the weather, it was fairly warm this past week, with temperatures at about 26° C. Unfortunately, the undying gray clouds and thunderstorms will not leave us alone. Every couple days or so they return only to flood cities and destroy homes; perhaps Hurricane Dolly made the news this weekend.

Another weekend in Puerto Vallarta?

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

n10738878_38625111_23041.jpegI feel more situated at my new house. Thank goodness I don’t see any gigantic insects in my bedroom or bathroom, and there are less mosquitoes here. My roommates are friendly, yet rarely home. The best part is that I leave my house at 8:58am and get to work by 9:02am, walking. I also have time to go out after work. For example, yesterday, I went to La Gran Plaza, which is a gigantic shopping center. I felt like I was in California. The stores were very similar to what we have in the states including Hugo Boss, Armani, Mango, etc.

n10738878_38937141_631.jpegI have a friend who works as a flight attendant and has this weekend off. She’s planning to come to Mexico for the weekend, however, the only easy access flight that she could possibly hop on is one that flies to Puerto Vallarta. SO…. guess where I will be heading again this weekend? PUERTO VALLARTA! I’m excited to see my friend, as well as the lovely beaches as we reunite in Mexico. This time, I will bring more sunscreen!

London and Seattle are very different places

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

London and Seattle are very different places, but there’s one thing that always reminds me of home here: the weather, in both good and bad ways. Despite the occasional thunderstorm, I prefer breezy, cool summers to hot, muggy ones.

For the summer, I’m working at an accounting (they call it “accountancy” here)/consulting firm called Fitzgerald & Law. F&L is in a downtown London neighborhood called Holborn; most of their clients (about 70%) are American midsize and small companies, many of them Silicon Valley tech firms that have opened UK divisions. F&L offers these companies a wide variety of services ranging from preparing tax returns to HM Revenue & Customs (somewhat analogous to our infamous IRS) to auditing company books to providing a full financial outsourcing solution. This means F&L essentially acts as the accounting department for the client’s UK branch, and can really save money for operations that aren’t big enough to have their own in-house accountants.

A day at F&L is different for everyone. In theory, the workday lasts from 9 until 5:30. Many partners and managers may start the day earlier; today I came into the office to hear that my boss was on his fifth or sixth cup of coffee—and that was the one day I showed up earliest. On the other hand, another manager in our office is a new mother so she often arrives late and leaves early, skipping her lunch break to make up the time. In general, there’s a solid respect for the principle of “you gotta do what you gotta do” when it comes to arriving and leaving as long as you get your work done.

As for myself, I usually get up around 7:15-7:30 (which I’ll probably never get completely used to as I’m not at all a morning person) and leave for work around 8:30-8:40. I take the Underground to Holborn, which is just a couple stops away. The whole commute takes about 20 minutes, with the actual tube ride being only about 5 minutes long. Most of my time is spent inside the stations getting from the platform to the surface or vice versa.

This time of day, the Tube is packed. To me, this simple annoying fact actually demonstrates the resolve of the British people. (more…)

Another week…

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Another week has passed by ever so quickly. I went to Puerto Vallarta with a friend from Morelia last weekend. It was amazing. We explored the beaches, snorkeled, hiked up a mountain to see the waterfall. The interesting thing about this fish1.jpgwaterfall is that many Puerto Vallartans take pride in it and promote it to tourists. As Washingtonians, we are surrounded by gigantic waterfalls and tall mountains, so to hike all the way up a mountain wearing flip flops under the scorching sun was not as exciting for me and my friend as it perhaps was for others. Especially since the waterfall was only about 40 feet tall. Either way, the experience was wonderful.

What fascinated me so much was the nightlife. Both locals and tourists spend evenings out dancing until three or four in the morning. The great thing about it was the environment. In Seattle, spending an evening out requires constant attention to surroundings to ensure safety, whether it be from other cars, thieves, or those who had too much to drink. In Puerto Vallarta, families went out together. They walked along the streets with children late at night and there were much fewer police officers roaming the premises.

The mornings at Puerto Vallarta were gorgeous. We could see to the ends of the sky and through the depths of the ocean. The afternoons were another story. Since this is the rainy season, both afternoons it rained. I don’t mean droplets of rain over a spring meadow. I am talking about the kind of rain that resembles that of our shower water pressure in the states. In a matter of thirty minutes, the streets flooded with water and cars were swimming instead of driving. By morning, all the rain had washed into the ocean (leaving long streaks of contamination, bad for tourism).

It’s interesting to visit a town thats main revenue comes from tourism. The people will work three or four different jobs in the town to make money. I met someone who sold horse rides and boat tours during the day, and worked the bars at night. What we may consider a ‘temp’ job in the states is what many Vallartans do for a living.

This weekend, I’m going to be moving into my new place. Can’t wait!

Life as a Mexican, from an American Perspective

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

I have almost completed my third week in Mexico. I love it here! Let me begin with a little bit about the environment and activities outside the workplace.

Bus:
I live a bit far from the American Chamber of Commerce, so I struggle with the bus rides every day. It’s not that the distance bothers me, rather the inconsistency of the buses. Believe me, we will all be grateful for the King County Metro if we experienced the transportation system here. Despite its tardiness, it’s rather a fun ride. In the evening, clowns, guitarists, singers, and whatever other talent imaginable hop on the bus and perform circus acts, sing songs, and play their instruments. It’s just another form of asking for donations as we often see on the streets of Downtown Seattle. In terms of speed limit: There is none. And I would caution you when crossing the streets because the vehicles have the right of way.

Housing:
I live with a very nice family near downtown Guadalajara. My host mom cooks so I have been eating all kinds of Mexican food, which is delicious. Breakfast is a bit different, however. Generally, in the states, our breakfast consists of milk, cereal, coffee, etc. Something sweet. I eat quesadillas, omelettes, beans, etc. Dinner is usually very light and we eat around 9:30pm. I think host families are incredibly useful for exposure to the language, culture, and are a great support system. I did not once feel alone or lost because I always have a family to come home to who also helps me with finding bus routes, shopping centers, etc. However, because of the difficulty of going to and from work, I have found a house to rent a room only four blocks away from work. I will be moving in one week.

Culture:
It’s super different. I see less difinition in terms of structure here. Allow me to explain: For one, I did not bring a
(more…)