Sunday, September 28, 2008

Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival

Ok, so this post is a little late, but Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival was about 2 weeks ago. It's pretty festive here at the moment, first the beginning of Ramadan, then Mid-Autumn Festival, and in a few weeks. Deepivali. This was the first time I was in a Chinese country for Mid-Autumn, and it was a nice experience. I've noticed that the traditional foods, like mooncakes, that I've had for mid-autumn are really *traditional*, while Singapore seems to have moved on to more exotic kinds, include "ice-skin" mooncakes, or "snow-skin" frozen mooncakes, or even durian mooncakes.

Bunch of us went out for hotpot (or steamboat as they call it here), and then to this mooncake market at basement of a major department store here. It was completely crazy! It looked like a trading floor of a stock exchange, with a bunch of vendors trying to get rid of all their stock on the last day. There were samples everywhere, discounts, freebies, etc. I got a small box of "ice-skin" frozen mooncakes, and a small box of lotus seed mooncakes. Check out the pictures, it comes in this beautiful box...

Friday, September 19, 2008

I'm going to India!

I'm going back for a former co-worker's wedding in Chennai in October. The timing is perfect, it falls right during my break between classes, so I have a full 5 days in Chennai (Madras). And, all for a total price of about US$230. Hard to imagine I'm going to India, I've always wanted to go, and its only about 4 hours away from Singapore...

I sent off my passport for the Indian Visa back on Sunday, and had an interesting experience. The Indian Embassy has outsourced the work to Mustafa Air Travel, the same owner of Mustafa Centre, which I've previously blogged about (ie, the Wal-mart of SIngapore).

Interesting process.. they required a reference contact in India, but I explained that my friend was Indian, but now in the US. THen they said, OK, how about her address? I didn't know it, so I thought I'd call her, but then realized it was too early in the US. Then the lady said, "ok, here's a list of hotels, just pick an address" Doesn't matter if I planned to stay at that address or not

So funny, because it's like it really doesn't matter anyways, but why make us go through the work?

And then, because I had a US passport, I have the privilege of paying more than than Singaporeans, but I guess its a legacy of the US charges for American visa. (about US$100)

B's Birthday

It was my roommate's (let's call him B) birthday a few days ago, and we completely threw a huge surprise for him. It came together all at the last minute, but was totally hilarious at every step of the way. Here's the story:

We have these "closed door" breakout rooms (BOR) for group work here, and sometimes, some people like to "stay" in the same BOR every day.... so, in effect, becoming like their personal office. I used to get teased for this too, since I liked a certain corner in the school, I'd always refer to it as "my office", as in... "yeah, I need to go study, you can find me in 'my office".

Well, my roommate particularly loved his office, since you'd NEVER see him around campus, except in his "office". And, this office has huge windows on one side that faces the library and the entrance of the school. So, for his birthday, we decided that we'd do a little "office decorating"

So, another classmate and I were at school really late the day before (ie, 12:30am), and so we decide we'd go ahead and decorate. Problem is, we didn't have a lot of streamers, balloons, or anything like this. So, we had to be creative with the things we had in the room.... and after a long day and a late night, ideas starting flowing from left and right. I have to say this is one of the funniest things I've ever done, and as my classmate said, "these are the things that you'll remember after you graduate..."

1. We posted a bulletin over the office number on the saying "B's Office, BOR 347", on official school logos
2. We took the big flipchart sheets of paper, writing "Do not enter", and "No studying allowed" , attached them to the windows facing the outside, and inside, it said "Happy Birthday"
3. We put happy b-day signs all over the inside of the office
4. I covered up all the numbers on the phone except for his age.

As we left school, we realized that the posters on the windows were SO BIG that you could see them from the street level! We were snickering as we left the school that day...

The next morning, B finds his office completely changed. He was really confused and embarassed. Then, he saw the big posters from the inside... then went outside to see what they said (ie, no studying!) He was so embarassed, we later found out that he took down all the posters.

Then, enters phase 2: the surprise birthday cake.

One of our classmates was supposed to take him out to dinner as we "re-decorated" his office and surprise him with a cake. Except... B escaped from us earlier than expected, and decided not to go to dinner.

So, as we were in his "office" waiting for him, we had to come up with something quickly, because the students getting cake just arrived as B was getting ready to leave the building. We had to get him back, but how?

ANother classmate said, "we'll call him and tell him his computer is on fire". Nobody thought he would believe it, although he did cover his computer with his sweater before leaving. So, as we called him, we saw him through the windows at the entrance. My classmate said "B, you better come back now. There's something wrong with your computer, there's smoke coming out". Immediately, we saw him run into the buliding, and in what seemed like less than 2 seconds, he ran up 3 flights of stairs and showed up to the BOR, where we surprised him with cake! I never thought somebody could arrive so quickly from the ground level to 3rd floor of a building!

He was hilarious, he said "my heart was beating sooo hard, how could you fool me like this? I thought I was going to lose my computer".

Ahh.. great fun and great memories!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Surprising Comments..

Every once in a while, you hear a really surprising comment in class.. I don't mean the really good questions, but more like inappropriate comments that you think wouldn't happen in an international environment like ours. I witnessed a 'train-wreck' a few days ago in a finance class, where we were discussing whether a startup needed a CFO. The professor had called a number of students down to the center to discuss this topic, among others.

The discussion went like this:

Professor: "Does this company need a CFO?"

Indian student: "Yes, it's clear, because reason x, y, z, and they need somebody to look over the financing documents."

Korean student: "Yes, those are good points, but I don't see why they need one. Why pay a CFO salary at this stage of a company, when you could just hire a lawyer?" (me: interesting question!)

Indian student: "No, that's not enough, because you have to consider x, and y"

Korean student: (in a civil tone) "Yes, I understand your points, but I still don't understand why they need one right now."

Indian student: (in a bit accusative tone) "Well, maybe in China you don't need a CFO"

Korean student and his friend: "I am not Chinese!"

Whole class + professor to the Indian student: "BOO!!!"

Meanwhile, turns out that this Indian student's seat was next to mine. As she returned to her seat, the other classmate next to me said, "Great job, you were able to make 1.2billion people mad at you at one go". To which I was almost tempted to say "Yes, including the guy sitting next to you", but she seemed pretty embarrassed already at her outburst.

It's really rare to hear really insensitive, if not racist, comments like these in class, especially in INSEAD where it's very international and you'd think the students are more sensitive to international topics. That why when events like these happen, it's really shocking, and hope that it's not a true representation of the person's personality.

Monday, September 08, 2008

From INSEAD France

INSEAD France photos up

After a long delay, my pictures from Fontainebleu are uploaded to Picasa, including pictures of our wonderful "village cottage" in Bourron Marlotte, and the campus itself.

Link to INSEAD France Album

Thursday, September 04, 2008

My own Amazing Race

I'm a huge fan of the TV series "The Amazing Race", CBS's reality show where you form teams of two people, and travel around the world in what's essentially an elaborate scavenger hunt, with some "made-for-TV" drama added.
I just realized today, that my experience this past year, has been essentially my very own Amazing Race. Within the last month, I have travelled to 4 continents in the course of 4 weeks. First, a summer in Switzerland (Europe), then a brief vacation in Morocco (Africa), then visiting friends and family in the US (North America), and finally returning back to school in Singapore (Asia).

Simply amazing, isn't it? And being back with my friends from all over? Completely wonderful.

What am I going to do after I leave this place in 4 months? Life in the US would seem so plain after something like this...

Credits: Amazing Race Logo from CBS

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

How Much I've missed Singapore..

It's really amazing to think that Singapore is feeling like home to me now. When I arrived last week, I felt like I was returning home. I knew where to go to get cash in the airport, taking the taxi back to Dover felt so natural, Today, as I walked to the bank, I wondered what it would feel like to close my DBS bank account at the end of my term here, the only permanent symbol of my time here in Singapore.

In that first week, walking into INSEAD, seeing all my old friends was a great experience. It's funny to think that some of these people I haven't seen in 4 months, but it seemed just like yesterday when we last spoke. Happily and sadly, we'll be graduating in 4 months, and it may be a long time until I see these people again...

P4 is definitely a different experience, I think everybody is a bit more relaxed, nobody is jockeying for position like in P1-P2, when you're trying to establish your reputation.

It's now recruiting season, as companies come for on-campus recruiting, and you definitely see the change in people. Students are dressed better, everybody is studying/preparing for case interviews, and the general mode has become a lot more professional. We're definitely entering the job market at a difficult time, and there will be lots of competition for positions, but thinking back, these past 8 months have been an incredible experience, and I'll be very sad to say goodbye to this place and all my friends/colleagues here.