Friday, September 29, 2006

Back to School

I am officially a second year MBA student, and with that comes some nice little perks, the most exciting of which is that I am taking only classes that I chose, so I can actually look forward to all of them. (No more cold calls in finance or accounting! Hooray!!!) Another thing is that I'm not required to be at IESE from 8:30 till 5 every day because we make our own schedules. Yesterday I was tired after my first class so... I went home and took a nap. Awesome!

My schedule is pretty heavy Monday through Wednesday, but Thursday and Friday I have only two classes: Personalidad del Directivo at 9:45 (an Organizational Behavior type class) and Brands & Advertising at 3:30, which is right up my alley. Obviously, the first two days of school have been pretty simple and straightforward. Perso might be tough as it's all in Spanish and my participation will definitely not be what it normally is, but if I'm going to get the bilingual degree I need at least two courses in Spanish, and a class about the executive personality seems as good a place as any to start.

Monday through Wednesday I'll have a pretty full load:

8:15 Entrepreneurship
9:45 Marketing of Experiences, Concepts, and Media
11:15 Applied International Economics
2:00 Logistics (you know, to plan the Bar Crawl and the Olympics)

And I have an additional half-credit class, New Product Development, from time to time at 3:30.

So that's what I'll be doing for the coming three months. And now for what I've been doing for the last week.

Nicole and Evan arrived on Saturday and we spent the weekend checking out the Festival of Merce, which is the big holiday weekend here in Barcelona. Monday we went with Marc to Montserrat and did a four-hour hike to the top for some awesome views (and lots of American tourists.)

We've also had plenty of dinners out with IESE pals, catching up on what everyone has been doing for the summer.

With Madhur and Bertrand

Marcus and Alexandre

Nicole and Evan

Alexandre and Benjamin
And Wednesday night, immediately after standing in the 6 hour residency renewal line and before getting kicked out of Bar Berlin because we were customers, IESE held a reception to welcome back all the 2nd year students and the exchange students, two of whom are living in my apartment this fall.

Muktambar teaching me how to drive a motorcycle
Presenting the Calatrava Guapos, Fall 2006: Brendan (on exchange from Tuck at Dartmouth), Atsh, and Ayako (on exchange from LBS)
Finally, the most interesting thing about being a 2nd year student this week has been the minor celebrity that comes with keeping a blog. I had received comments here from a handful of prospective and incoming students, but now those people (and many other IESE first year readers) are actually here on campus. And they know me! Every day this week I've been approached by another student who has followed the blog and several people have even told me it was influential in their decision to come to IESE. (I guess they didn't read it during the first term... heh heh.) It has been really cool to meet everyone and I hope that what I've experienced in the last year will help others get through it all as well.

So if you are at IESE and you haven't introduced yourself, please do. It will be a pleasure to meet you. Welcome!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ahhh, Spain

I've been back in Barcelona for a few days now, enjoying some time with Nicole and Evan and seeing IESE pals before classes start tomorrow, but today I had to go to an office to renew my residency card. I had hoped to do this back in June before I left for Romania, but IESE didn't have my paperwork ready, so yesterday was the first time I could pick it up.

I decided against going at 7:30am and opted instead to go at 11:30, figuring the crowd would've died down by then. Let me tell you, it did not. And now I know exactly how Mexicans feel in the US. There I was, in a line that stretched around the corner for 2 blocks, just to drop off some papers.

I stood for a while, tried to read a case for Friday, got tired, tried to do the squat, almost destroyed my knees, and finally caved in and sat down on the sidewalk where countless people have sat, dropped food, stood, stomped cigarettes, spat... oh geez. Miraculously the line moved in large bursts for the first two hours and I felt like I was making some real progress.

And then, from 1:30 to 3:30, we didn't advance a single inch. BECAUSE THE PEOPLE IN THE OFFICE WERE HAVING THEIR SIESTA!!!!! You see, they recently changed the office hours from 9am to 2pm and extended them all the way to 7:30. Shocking! But what they DON'T tell you is that the office still does no business for two hours in the middle of the day.

Anyway at 3:30 we started moving again and an hour later Bertrand offered to stop by to entertain me for a while. He brought a Snickers and a bottle of water. Manna from heaven! Then, miraculously, I was in the room by 5pm. I took a number, sat in a chair (a chair!!!) and then frantically checked my watch as the minutes ticked by and our 6:15 IESE welcome reception approached.

At 5:55, my number was finally called. By 5:57 I was done. I waited over 6 hours for a process that took all of 2 minutes. I handed over my paperwork, did my fingerprint, and bolted. Raced home, changed clothes, raced up to school, and plopped myself in a seat in the auditorium just in time to hear Luis Palencia's welcome back speech.

And now for something even more ridiculous. After our welcome reception, a group of us met at a bar called Berlin, which has a lounge downstairs. It was empty when we arrived (9pm) and we took seats and started chatting away. This room is usually jam packed with people and it's often hard to hear because of the music and to order a drink because it's so busy.

Tonight the room when from completely empty to buzzing with people... in other words, we brought in a lot of business. So it's strange that a manager would come down and tell us that we need to have called in advance and paid 1000 euro to hold an "event" there, don't you think? There we were, enjoying a quiet drink, and we're kicked out because we're providing too much business! They need another waiter! They weren't prepared for this! Caramba! However, if we'd all pretended we didn't know each other, they would have been able to handle the situation.

Well fine. We left.

It's so nice to be back in Spain....

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Two things about Corsica:

1. It's the ideal location for a James Bond movie. Everywhere you look, you find the perfect spot for an evil lair or a perfect beach for a hot Bond girl to emerge from the water in a skimpy bikini. On no fewer than three occasions, I found locations where Nazis might be lurking in massive underground lairs, training dolphins with head-lasers. Impressive.

2. During the ski trip in February, a few of us had a discussion about our ideal place to live. I said I need to be near water, preferably salt water. Others needed mountains, and I agreed that I need a mountain too. So my ideal place would be a seaside location with a mountain sticking out of it. That's Corsica.

Day 1 (Tuesday):

After a horrendous travel experience (the worst of the summer - and those of you who have been following my summer travel know that this must've been BAD) I arrived at Bertrand's house with Benjamin and found this:

Susannah was supposed to be on the flight from Paris as well but missed it not just on Tuesday but also on Wednesday due to train problems, so for the first couple of days it was just the three of us.

Day 2 (Wednesday): Hiking

Day 3 (Thursday):

Susannah arrived and brought some fancy clouds (read: crappy weather) with her from London. We went to beach anyway, but it was inundated with jellyfish floating around and beaching themselves. Did someone say Global Warming?

Proving to the jellyfish that we're not afraid of them

Due to jellyfish, Benjamin was forced to surf on a log:

Benjamin & Bertrand arguing over the best route back to the house

On the way home we visited this cool James Bond style house, which has been bombed and rebuilt three times. I thought we had trouble at my parents' house, where we have to argue with the neighbor below about cutting his hedges every year. Here you just bomb houses that block your view. Awesome!

The mountain jutting out of the sea

We finished the day with champagne, of course.

Day 4 (Friday): Scuba diving
After diving we treated ourselves to a dip in the neighbor's pool before going for a run on the beach.

After the run, I took a shower and emerged to find this:

This was obviously related to the Ibiza-style sunset, the lack of oxygen caused by running, the cheesy dance music, and the consumption of a beer immediately post-jog. Ben sang to his "fans" for a little while and then we all joined in and once we finally calmed down, we went to see a "polyphony" performance. Basically a capella singing... with very sad music. On the way home we made up our own to cheer ourselves up. Fortunately for you, this did not make it on video.

Day 5 (Saturday): Francesc arrives, attempted hiking and big dinner

Hours after Francesc arrived we decided to go hiking. Bertrand looked up at the mountain where we'd planned a 4 hour hike and said, "It looks like rain up there. Do you guys want to do the shorter walk along the sea instead?" and we all said, "NOOOOO the mountain!" And so we went. And proceeded to get dumped on by rain.



An interesting thing about Corsica is that they are adamantly opposed to Coca-Cola. So they have their own rebel brand, Corsica Cola, the packaging and taste of which is a complete ripoff of Coca-Cola. After our rain-soaked hike, we decided it was time for some Corsica Cola, since we didn't have any other choice... besides champagne.

That evening we went to Chez Edgar for the Most Filling Dinner of All Time. After five huge courses (including the smelliest cheese ever, which comes in a JAR), we had to roll ourselves out of there. Also, if you've never seen two guys play the same guitar at the same time, I'd suggest you pay a visit. It was pretty impressive.

Ben (before he passed out due to "over-heating") and Francesc

With Edgar himself

Cheese in a jar

Day 6 (Sunday): Benjamin leaves, the rest of us mope, oh and take the beach hike

George W. Bush in the rock. Scary!

With Bertrand & Francesc

With Francesc and Susannah

What else are you supposed to do at the top of a mountain besides strike a pose?

Day 7 (Monday): Drive and boat to Bonifacio

We left around 8am for the 3.5-hour drive from Bertrand's house in the northwestern part of the island down to the southern tip and arrived at Bonifacio (after some serious negotiations with locals about the price of our boat trip) just in time to have some crepes and see a bit of the town.

We then got on a boat and headed for the Lavezzi Islands, which are a nature and marine preserve and the southernmost point in Corsica. After a bit of wandering and climbing we found our own little private beach where we swam and relaxed until it was time to head back to Bonifacio.

On the boat en route to Lavezzi

I do not recommend climbing on volcanic rock in a bikini

Susannah found a wiser way to enjoy the rocks

Incredible rock formations spring up all over the island. (And that lizard-like thing on the top is me.)

Before heading back north, we stopped at another incredible beach for a rousing, action-packed round of beach paddle.

Day 8 (Tuesday): Rent a boat and head south to Porto!

Unusually rough waters and lingering jellyfish didn't stop us from enjoying a day on a rented boat, complete with water skiing, dolphin sightings, and jellyfish attacks.

This photo is in no way altered. That is the real color of the water. (And this was pre-jelly-attack on Sus.)

Dusting off the old waterski skills


Susannah on the lookout for jellyfish


Rocks and sea

Mediterranean Rodeo

Cap'n Bertrand

Hanging on for dear life

Day 9 (Wednesday): Lounge around by the pool, stretch and complain about being sore from water skiing, play tennis, go to the top of a mountain for dinner

Hmmm we seem to have taken no pictures the whole day. I guess we needed a rest. Anyway, it was a nice relaxing day.

Day 10 (Thursday): Susannah's last day!

Before we dropped her off at the airport, we managed to buy some jam and smelly cheese at the market and take in one last mountaintop village.

Day 11 (Friday): My last day! :(

All good things must come to an end. So after a morning clean-up and house-closing session, Bertrand dropped Francesc and me off at Calvi airport. We managed one final mountaintop village visit and had a lemonade and then it was time for the long haul back to Barcelona. I left Corsica at 3:20pm and arrived at Barcelona at midnight, completely exhausted but finally refreshed and recharged enough to think about starting classes again.... on THURSDAY!!!

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the hospitality and uber-planning of our host extraordinaire, Bertrand. Thank you for an amazing vacation! (I will manage his Corsica tourism business that he doesn't yet know he will be starting next year.)