My weekend was a little all over the place but truly epic. It started bright and early Saturday morning with a volleyball tournament with my MBA team. As the rain became progressively more intense I was reminded how glad I am that I chose to go to school with such fantastic people who can make just about any situation fun. And also know when to call it quits – after thee hours of driving rain and a 1 and 3 record we headed out for the day. Which freed me up to attend the Vancouver Public Library’s 3rd Annual Vogon Poetry Competition in which my lovely sibling was competing.
Of course, she is a lovely and talented Vogon poet and won 2nd place after a Vogon freestyle poetry off since there was a tie for first place. I couldn’t be more proud. Or more entertained. The presenters were so eclectic that at one point a gentleman from the crowd wandered up on stage to tell the audience about himself and it took longer than you’d think for everyone to realize that he was unaffiliated with the event and had simply wandered into the room. Since my sister is not just an epic wordsmith but also a great person we then headed up to Whistler for the night to attend a fundraiser for the charity that she is a volunteer member of the board for – Zero Ceiling Society. It took place at the gorgeous Scandinave Spa in Whistler and I’m not sure I can think of anything nicer than alternating between the sauna, spa, and solariums while looking out over the mountains.
I feel incredibly lucky going back to work this summer. As it turns out I’ve chosen a pretty difficult path for myself. Brand management is one of the most difficult, most competitive areas of focus. Thousands of people compete for handfuls of jobs, and the market is even smaller in Canada. The more time I spend doing it though, especially in going through the brand management mentorship program at UBC where we get weekend long training sessions with graduates working at major firms like P&G and Colgate, the more I love it. It really is like running your own business within a larger company and comes with incredible amounts of responsibility. Having said all that I managed to score an internship with a truly phenomenal team this summer assisting with trade marketing programs and working on my own project running tests to determine the success of some of their sponsorship activities. I couldn’t be happier at my new company and I am looking forward to showing them how much I can bring to the table. Of course the first couple of weeks have been tough, steep learning curve, and I hate the feeling of needing so much time and energy and like I’m dragging people down as I struggle to get up to speed but I am working on staying confident that I will be an asset to them.
So… yeah. Plus, nicest office I’ve ever worked in by far – gorgeous loft in Yaletown with an attached bar featuring our kickass lineup of brews. And I’ve learned more about beer purchasing decisions in the last couple of weeks than I ever thought, including incredibly edifying trips to liquor stores around Chilliwack and Surrey last week with the sales team.
I’m not sure I fully comprehended how awesome the Taj Mahal was when I was actually there. The second last day of the trip a few of us headed to Delhi early, promptly passed out in the vans that one of our lovely classmates’ parents arranged for us, and woke up in Agra about 3 hours later. We wandered the grounds at dusk and then headed to Pizza Hut before driving back to Delhi and having dinner at about midnight with our classmate’s parents. It was a weird, surreal, incredible day.
This picture is actually semi unrelated to the actual content – these are the gardens at IIMB Bangalore, the school we worked with on our malnutrition case study. This is an incredible school, one of the hardest in India to get into with thousands of students applying and a more exclusive selection ratio than Harvard. I think all of us expected to be in way over our heads brainpower-wise. It was interesting though, while all of the students we worked with were incredibly well prepared, the way they approached the case was really different from our thinking. There definitely seemed to be an attempt to put as much information as possible on every slide, a technique used in many case competitions where your slide deck is judged before your presentation, and a preference for backing everything up with tables of data. On many teams UBC’s MBA students’ roles became to power creative thinking on problem solving and refining the slides for presentation impact. It really made me realize what I need to be working on – the ability to synthesize data with creative thinking and clear story telling will be a huge asset for success.
On the way back we visited one of our classmates’ father’s farm, where he grows coconuts, papayas, and sugarcane. We also stopped by the local school during the midday meal and handed out school supplies, which felt weird and forced since the kids were clearly terrified about the strangers looming over them shoving pencils at them as they tried to eat.
The village was beautifully decorated since the harvest festival had just passed so it was really neat to see that, and having neighbourhood boys climb on top of the bus to detangle us from the power lines we very nearly brought down was an experience in itself.
Not to mention my personal highlight – a young man riding a pink sparkly bike around the village which played “Boom boom boom boom (I want you in my room)” by the Venga Boys when he pedalled.
This is what it looks like when you drive the wrong way down the highway.
We spent our last night here visiting a local temple and exploring the market at night. The details on the temple were incredible, with intricate figures made from plaster and painted incredibly bright colours. The most interesting thing to me were the trees full of bright yellow baskets outside where couples looking to have a baby leave little toys and trinkets for luck in fertility. Also that it bore more than a passing resemblance to the Temple of Doom. I tried real hard not to yell KALI MAAAAAHHHHHH.
Also there was an elephant who you gave a bill to and he would drape his (incredibly heavy) trunk on your head.
Visiting the eye hospital here has been so interesting – the double model where the for profit hospital offers slightly better services and sustains a free hospital should be something that could be replicated the world over but most first world countries seem to struggle to run hospitals at a profit period. It was interesting seeing this after coming off studying the Shouldice case, the Ontario hospital which solely treats hernias and churns people out on a rotating three day basis and yet is constantly cited for amazing bedside care. There are some definite differences that would need to be overcome before it could be exported though, even the paid hospital seems chaotic and noisy to my embarrassingly first world sensibility. The most interesting part for me though was the fact that despite the fact that anyone can go to the free hospital many families choose to pay once they realize that there is an option within their range for a shared dorm style room, even if it costs a few months salary, as a point of pride.
So you remember all those lovely things about India being less busy and crowded than expected? I take it all back.
We left this morning for Madurai, for what we were told by our travel agent was a 6 hour bus ride. 9 and a half hours and one RIDICULOUS Bollywood movie later (plot lines included: a girl whose personality was sports, a guy calling his sister selfish for complaining about being kidnapped, countless music videos, and more explosions than a fireworks display) we arrived at our new home for the next three days in Madurai.
So far Madurai is all the things I expected; busier, noisier, crazier. It’s a little overwhelming right now but I’m hoping with morning things will feel a little more settled.
We toured the eye hospital production facility just outside of town on the way in and it is lovely, a clean and incredibly efficient oasis which also has an amazing training program for the women who work there, with some of them now staying on even after marriage and bringing their husband to live in Madurai because they earn more money working at the Aurolab than their new partner.
We were welcomed to the hotel with these lovely flower garlands as well and the view from the rooftop restaurant is amazing, so I am confident things will start to be exciting rather than intimidating soon.