Sunday, September 30, 2007

Back to Barcelona

No, not for good.... just for a long-ish weekend. Friday was the Annual Global Alumni Reunion, held here in BCN this year for nearly 2000 attendees. I arrived at 7:30 in the morning and had enough time to take a quick shower and slap on a suit and head up to the new building. Not much has changed in 4 months, aside from the fact that Avenida Pearson (where IESE is located) is now one-way. So I was almost smooshed by an oncoming car going the wrong direction at one point, but fortunately my reflexes weren't completely shot by my overnight flight. My left thumb worked well enough to beep the horn and confuse the other driver as he continued the wrong way down the street.

The most exciting part of the day was certainly a quick off-campus lunch break where I saw Thierry Henri. And Friday night Inigo our class prez organized a fantastic dinner at Orange around the corner from Calatrava for the 30 or so 2007 alumni who are in town this weekend. Yes, Calatrava.... Muktambar is living at my place while I'm away so I'm back at my old digs for the weekend. It's great to be back here, even though I still keep expecting George to emerge from his room in his underpants any minute. Oh well, can't have everything...

The weekend so far has been all about R&R (no choice, really, since I'm completely on the wrong time zone) and seeing friends. And tomorrow morning I'll head into the office to meet with my boss and then I have to go straight to the airport for my flight back to Boston. Short but sweet, and totally worth the travel time, no doubt about it. The good news is that I should be back here in about a month... and this time for good! Or at least for a while.

Group Shot!

Though I think I like this one better....

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Rain in Maine Falls Mainly In Spain

Last week my dad was in town for some meetings on the other side of the Charles River, so we took advantage of the incredible weather and spent the weekend outside. Saturday morning we picked up a rental car and headed north to Maine, a state I'd never been to. We stopped off in Portland on the water for some lobster and mussels, then headed back south to Kennebunkport (where Bush Sr. always spends his vacays - nice house, Bushie!) and made our last stop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire which, for such a small town, was positively jumping on a Saturday night.

Incredible Maine foliage

My dad ties one on... pre-lobster extravaganza!

This guy was waving at passing cars. We had to get a photo with him. I WANT THAT LOBSTER SUIT!

Lovely little Portsmouth, NH

Sunday morning I played my first soccer match with my new team, Opus County. These players are GOOD. Several all-American and all-state players... geez. I was worried I was in over my head, but two years of playing with boys in Barcelona served me well. And anyway, we only had 7 players against the other team's 14, so we played the whole match down by 4. That's what happens when the Patriots have a home game and people manage to get last-minute tickets, I guess. Football before... football.

In the midst of one of my favorite passtimes...

Anyway, it was a lot of fun, even though I'm incredibly sore today, and the best part about playing a full-length, full-field soccer match at 10am is the brunch that comes afterward! My dad and I headed to Tremont 647 in the South End, where on the weekends all the waitstaff wear their pajamas for brunch. Next time I go there, I'm wearing mine too. Apparently you get free desert! So I guess I need to invest in some PJs...

Good news of the week: My work permit came through from Madrid and I received it on Friday. And today I got my good conduct certificate from the NYPD. So now I have everything I need to start the processing of my visa! In other good news, I'm off to Barcelona on Thursday night for the IESE Global Alumni reunion. So the visa processing will have to wait until next week. Not that I'm complaining!

The view from my apartment

Friday, September 21, 2007

IESE comes to Beantown

It has been a pretty eventful week. First, a colleague came into my office and dropped Business Week on my desk, open to a full-page ad for IESE featuring... my smiling mug. Wow. Pretty intense. Seems that this version is subscription-only though, folks. So I can't get my hands on any other copies aside from this one. So if you happen to get Business Week mailed to your home or office and care to share your copy with yours truly, I'd be much obliged. In case you missed it, here's a scanned copy of what plopped onto my desk on Tuesday morning:

And today I was checking out the IESE website to get more info about next week's global alumni reunion which I'm now fortunate enough to attend in Barcelona and came across a page of IESE recruiting events. Turns out that there happened to be an MBA fair in Boston. TODAY. And that could only mean one thing. That Claudia was in town. So I dropped her a message on Facebook and, low and behold, got a call from her only an hour later. Ah, the wonders of the web. (And our addictions to it.)

I'd already planned on dinner with Madhur, so Claudia was an added bonus. We hit a sushi restaurant and then when that place suddenly turned into a dance club, headed back to my apartment for some vino and reminiscing about IESE. And, more importantly, about how it's good it's only a two-year program. Because after looking back on all the ridiculous predicaments we got ourselves into (Claudia flew off a donkey, Madhur shattered a humongous vase in the middle of Thanksgiving, I bump into things on an hourly basis without the need for vases or donkeys) we figured it's probably best we're back out in the real world where we might not do as much harm to ourselves and others. Anyway, it was fun to look back and laugh and even more fun to run into old friends in a new town.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mini Reunion and Madhur hits the USA

After a lovely week in Boston, wherein I got further settled in at my office and moved to my new apartment (though I haven't unpacked properly, but threw all my stuff all over the floor), Madhur arrived yesterday from London for a week of training with his new company. He had really wanted to see NYC for the first time, so I agreed to get us some train tickets thinking that even 4 hours on a train would be faster than all the nonsense and delays and security of today's air travel. Especially considering my own bad travel luck.

Poor Madhur. He had just arrived from London when I whisked him away to South Station and put him on a train. We made it with about 15 minutes to spare, enough time to pick up our tickets and some always-necessary trashy magazines. The four-hour train ride from Boston to NYC was one I'd never done before and I have to say that even though it was slow, it was incredibly beautiful. And Madhur hit four states (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York) by 7pm.

We met Suaye, Carol, Gabe and Mimi at Florent, one of my favorite restaurants in the meatpacking district for a mini-IESE reunion and caught up on our respective work permit troubles (Suaye's beats even mine - he was even deported from the UK a few weeks back!) and apartment and commuting trials (Gabe is in Albany while Mimi is in NYC and even when he's upstate during the week he still has an hour commute each way each day!) We finished off the night with drinks and foosball at Soho House. Fantastic to see everyone again. (Particularly a partial A6 reunion - Gabe, Madhur, and me.)

Gabe, Suaye, me, Carol, and Madhur

So despite the long train ride, the weekend was totally worth it. I even had time to hang out with Annie Bananie this morning, run into an old work colleague, and do a bit of shopping with Madhur today. And then the fun started. First Madhur lost his train ticket... well, he left it on the train yesterday. And after that was sorted out, we got on the train and all was well until we were about an hour away from Boston. The train ahead of us, a commuter train, apparently caught fire. So not only did we have to wait a while, we then had to pick up all the passengers from the disabled commuter train, and then make all commuter stops... like every 3 minutes! So we got to the Back Bay station at 10pm instead of 9 and I missed the whole first half of the Chargers / Patriots game rather than just the first quarter.

Of course now that I'm home they've scored 2 touchdowns... and the first half didn't seem to be something I would have wanted to see anyway. Yikes. So I have bad train luck as well as bad airline luck. But at least I seem to be good at helping my Chargers! For the moment anyway.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


I'm really tired. It's Wednesday, nearly 8pm. I have been in four states in the past four days. I moved into an apartment an hour ago, after a full day at work. And I'm staring at my bags, trying to will them to unpack themselves. It's not working.

But I did sort of bring this upon myself. I wanted to travel and go to live in new cities as part of my new job. And this weekend I totally voluntarily went to Philadelphia to hang with Nicole. Which was awesome, by the way. And on Monday I had to take care of some visa processing which could only be done in Manhattan, so off I went. And as long as I was there anyway, it seemed wise to have some meetings, so that was Tuesday. Which, incidentally was Sept 11 and the New York office, incidentally faces ground zero. But whatevs. I was too busy to think much of it.

Particularly since Sept 11 is a very cool day in my family. Yesterday my grandparents celebrated 59 years of marriage. When I called to congratulate them, my grandfather was upstairs and my grandmother was downstairs. Understood. (Note to self: Marriage requires at least a two-story house.)

Another interesting thing about Sept 11 is that the airports are empty. Particularly the ones in New York City. It took like 5 seconds to get to Laguardia yesterday, which is pretty unusual. And check-in was like a ghost town. Of course, that didn't mean our flight left on time. My airport karma meant that we sat on the runway for 2 hours before taking off. Unfortunately, my boss was sitting behind me and he asked, "Are you responsible for this?" I had to admit guilt. But maybe the other side of the karma means some World Series tickets will find their way to me if the Red Sox make it.... Hmmmmm.....

Friday, September 07, 2007

First Friday At Work

Ahhh I forgot how great Fridays are. At IESE Fridays were bad because we were always nursing hangovers from the previous night's Bar of the Week. And working Fridays can be equally bad, but they're also oh-so-good. And tomorrow morning I'm on an early flight to Philly to hang out with Nicole for the weekend. Yeah!

Anyway.... Overheard today in my office:

Conversation #1:

Female voice 1: "Oh my god, you bought TUSSIN?" (generic brand cough syrup)
Female voice 2: "Yeah, I saved like 3 bucks!"
Female voice 1: "I buy generic medicine, but I would never stoop so low as to buy Tussin."

Conversation #2 (which really isn't a conversation, but more like...)

Female voice: "You are SO MEAN!"
Followed by lots of laughing from lots of people. I wish I knew what happened, but I just went downstairs to buy money orders (more money spent on my visa!) and a much-needed coffee and if I jumped up too fast I would've spilled it all over myself and my keyboard. Which I'll probably do anyway.

Incidentally, at the post office I had a very Wayne's World moment. There's a guy working at the post office who has eyes that don't really look at you just like the weird eye guy in Wayne's World! And no one, including me, knows which eye to look at... since neither of them seem to be pointing in your direction, even if his face is.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

How To Influence The Market: A Study

Apparently I'm a trendsetter. This is what happens when you return an unopened iPhone.

You see, unable to buck the iPhone craze (and Huy's demands that I buy one while in the US) I folded and while on a Nano-buying spree for my dad, I chucked an 8gb iPhone in as well. Why not? I was pre-spending my first paycheck, that's all.

But buyers remorse sunk in almost immediately. I'm the ultimate impulse shopper and I rarely regret any purchases, but this time it hit. And it hit hard. I'm only in the US for 2 months and who knows when the phone will work over in the EU? Or if my US phone will work over there at all or if I would need to buy an EU version? So I left it in its box, knowing I had 15 days to change my mind and get all "my money" (ahem) back.

Well, I returned it the day before I left San Diego. And what happened just 1 business day later? Price dropped by $200. Evidently someone is watching my every move. And so not only was I one of the "cool kids" who had an iPhone early, I'm so cool I even RETURNED IT! And then the price dropped! Hahahaha. That's one point for Noelle. (Still trying to determine if this relates in any way to my bad airline kharma.)

Citizen of the Universe?

And now a few words on why I need an EU husband. Or at least an EU passport.

The process of getting a visa to study or work in the EU is arduous. And frustrating. You have to jump through hoops, run all over town, deal with grumpy people in windowless, flourescent-lit offices, pay a lot of money, and waste a lot of time. Having already been through the process for my student visa, I was well aware that getting a work permit could be potentially disastrous. Or at least extremely annoying. Even with help from my company on the Spanish side. (Without which, I think I'd jump off a bridge before getting the work permit.)

To get a visa for a work permit in Spain you need the following:
1. A valid passport
2. 3 passport photos
3. 3 original Schengen forms
4. A letter from the "Extranjeria" in Spain saying your permit application has been approved
5. A "Concesion" from the Spanish govt saying it's ok for you to work there (this is new, and how it's different from #4 I cannot say)
6. Proof of No Criminal Record, bearing the Apostille of the Hague
7. Doctor's letter stating you're not crazy or on drugs
8. $100 money order payable to the Spanish Consulate
9. Patience
and, if you're working while doing all of this,
10. A very understanding boss

So I have numbers 1-3 and 7-10 under control. I have a lot of #9 and fortunately also a #10. What I'm still waiting on are the two documents from Spain. And today I tried to take care of #6, the criminal record form, without going to New York. Emphasis on "tried."

You see, in order to get this fancy Apostille, you must first get fingerprinted. Then your friendly local police run your prints and in 10 business days, your form is ready. And THEN you can take your papers to the Consulate, after which you might get your visa in 3 days or maybe in 33 or more. Once you get it, you have only 30 days to split the country or you have to start all over. Tricky, eh?

So I called the NYPD yesterday to find out if I could get fingerprinted in Boston and then mail the prints to NYC. The surprisingly friendly and helpful person on the other end of the line said that I could, as long as the Boston Police put a stamp or a seal on the paperwork. Easy! So I called the Boston Police, where another surprisingly nice person told me that I could indeed get printed here even though my last US residence was New York, as long as I first go to the FBI to pick up a federal fingerprinting card. No sweat!

So this morning I (and my flip-flops) took a $10 taxi ride to FBI headquarters. I guess my new thing when I go to a city is to visit as many bureaucratic government offices as possible. Call it a hobby. At the FBI I walked through a metal detector just to talk to someone at a bullet-proof window. Then the woman behind the window gave me the card I needed and I was in another $10 taxi on my way to police headquarters. Which was loud and crazy and exactly like police headquarters in the movies, and much cleaner than the one at Police Plaza in New York.

At or about this time, my luck started to run out. A woman at police HQ asked me for an ID, which I presented: a California drivers license. She asked if I'm a resident of Boston and I said yes, but I just moved here 2 days ago. She asked for proof of residence. Um, I'm staying in a hotel until next week. She said fingerprinting is only for residents. I explained that I had spoken to someone on the phone and had explained my situation and had been told I could get printed here even as a resident of New York. She asked who I spoke to (What?! I called police headquarters... how would I know?) and clearly felt pretty badly for me as she told me I could go to another fingerprinting place AROUND THE CORNER FROM THE FBI BUILDING and get printed there.

So, unable to swallow another $10 taxi ride, I decided to venture onto the T. Where I bought a $10 metro ticket. Makes sense, right? By the time the train came I was already an hour late for work. Now despite the frustrations of the morning, I might go so far as to say it was totally worth it for the place I saw next. I wish I had taken pictures... I might have to go back. Because I wasn't sent to another police station but to a random basement fingerprinting place run by a little old guy with a really strong Baahston accent. He was awfully nice to me, especially as it dawned on me that in no way would I be able to get a Boston Police seal on my fingerprints at his place. He brainstormed for a few minutes about how I might get myself out of this no-current-residence catch-22 (I mean, NYC hasn't even been my residence for the last two years!) and finally just took my prints and my $20 and I was back in another $10 taxi to the office.

So by 11am I was $60 poorer, 2 hours late for work, certainly very frustrated, and more than a little hungry. And after all that, I will still have to go to New York to get printed again. And then wait 10 days for them to be ready. And then I can go back to NYC to pick up the prints and then wait in the extremely long line at the Spanish Consulate...... wheeee! Immigration is fun!

By the way, the rest of my day was much better. Lunched with my new boss, met lots of cool people in the office, and heard about some nice little projects I can work on while I'm here.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Back to Reality or How I Survived Mr. Bloody Head

In the 10 years I lived in New York City, I never once saw a mugging. Not one shoot out. No riots. Nobody dead on the street. Not one body floating in the river. Not even a body part!

But on my way to my very first day at work here in quaint little Boston I saw a man lying on the sidewalk, oozing blood. Awesome! But I'm way ahead of myself.

I went straight to the Spanish Consulate this morning, as suggested by an assistant in the Barcelona office, only to find out that everything I suspected is true. Not only can I not get a police record here in Boston (since, as I suspected, I have to get it in my last place of US residence - New York City), but I can't do any of my visa processing here. It must all be filed in NYC.

Okay so I spent nearly 2 hours there to learn that I can't get anything done there, but that's fine because I wasn't really ready to start work anyway. At 11, however, it was time to head to the office. But first I had to stop at the pharmacy to buy emergency band-aids for my already-aching feet. New shoes AND new job? Too many new things all at once. New city too!
And much more early-morning, humid, high-heel walking than I'd planned for. Oof.

My detour took me right past a fat man lying on his back next to the pharmacy with blood draining from his head, across the sidewalk (I politely stepped over it in my NEW SHOES) and toward the street. How very unexpected. A crowd had gathered, someone called an ambulance... this all seemed quite fresh. Anyway I couldn't even wait to get out of
the pharmacy to slap some band-aids on my blistered heels (even though this dude probably needed them worse than I did) and then I was back on my way to work. I was almost hit by a car as I waited to cross the street because the driver was so intrigued by Mr. Bloody Head.

But soon I was in the safety of the office building at the Prudential Center and in my new boss's office, where we tried to brainstorm what I could possibly be doing here for the next two to three months. We figured out some cool-sounding stuff by the end of the day, which includes plenty of travel to NYC so I can get my visa AND get some work done. Crafty, eh?

Tomorrow morning I get to go to the FBI! And then police headquarters for fingerprinting for my work permit. Another exciting morning ahead. Tomorrow I'll wear flip-flops.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Labor Day

It's Labor Day here in the US, which marks the unofficial end of summer and, unfortunately, the official end of my life as a student. New things are always a little daunting, and though I've started several new jobs before, starting over again tomorrow is no different. I am looking forward to getting back to work, however, and meeting some new people, learning some new stuff, and ... well, earning some money again.

So after a beautiful day in Boston (if you have to spend two months in Beantown, you couldn't do any better than September & October) during which I wandered my new neighborhood of Back Bay, did some last minute "business casual" shopping (so complex!), and ate clam chowder, I think I'm ready at last to spend my last night as a student. By being reasonable and responsible and GOING TO BED!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Hey Now, Don't Dream It's Over

After two absolutely perfect weeks in my hometown of San Diego (where, believe it or not, I didn't take a single photograph - I was too busy just enjoying it) I am now in Boston. My post-MBA vacation is over and reality is about to set in. On Tuesday I will start working and the first part of my job will involve trying to finalize my Spanish work permit, which to date has taken two months to acquire and will possibly take two more by the time everything is said and done.

And so I'm in a hotel. A nice hotel near the river. And since tomorrow is Labor Day, I am starting my new job right: with a holiday! I think the last time I was in Boston was in 1995 when I was looking at colleges, so even though I've spent quite a bit of time here in the past, it was certainly a while ago and I'll probably be spending the better part of my day tomorrow remembering how to get around. Next week I'll move into an apartment for the remainder of my stay in Boston.

It's a little strange being here. I was trying to think of the last time I felt this way and I realized I probably haven't really. Every time I've moved to a new city in the past, aside from Bucharest last summer, it was for school, and there were lots of events to attend and people to meet. So I guess my closest experience to this would have to be my summer in Romania... and at least here I can speak the language!

Being from California, there's also always something about heading back east, particularly in late summer, when it's still warm and humid but you know fall is just around the corner. No matter how many times I've flown east, I still always have a strange sense of nostalgia that I can't quite put my finger on. Maybe it's just something to do with the fact that I didn't sleep enough last night because the power went out for several hours and I couldn't finish my laundry and packing until 3am.

Anyway, it has been an incredible summer. I've been to some pretty amazing places, seen lots of old friends and made some new ones, laughed a lot, and definitely made the most of it. I certainly won't look back on this summer with any regret... it has been absolutely perfect, and I think I might ALMOST be ready to (gulp) start working again. Happy Labor Day, everyone!