Monday, August 29, 2005

August 29

Hello again! It's actually the 30th now here, but I'd like to share my experiences from yesterday. It was a very busy day.

I slept in yesterday and it was wonderful. It was 10 before I got out of bed. Our session started at 1pm, so I wasn't late and could catch up on the sleep I desperately needed.

Lunch was at 1. We had our group of Cadbury people and ABN-ABRO people together completely for the first time. Food ranged from Indian to Thai to Cream of Mushroom soup. I had three bowls of the mushroom soup, as it was good and very "American". I enjoyed it a lot and was very hungry, having not eaten since lunch the day before. For those of you who don't know, Thai food is very big in India. This was news to me, too.

So then the session began and finally some questions I have been asking since being told I got to come were answered.

For example, what is AISEC? What does it stand for? Why are we here? What will we do?

So, since I know now, I'll share with you.

As best as I can explain it, AISEC is a 57 year old exchange program for college age students. AISEC used to stand for something, but has recently re-branded itself with just it's name as AISEC, so it doesn't really stand for anything anymore. College students join AISEC for the international exchange and leadership opportunities it provides, as it is a complete volunteer, student run non-profit organization that completely turns it's members every three years. Cadbury and ABN-AMRO are corporate partners who help share leadership development programs with the students and often offer internships. Other international corporations who participate include Microsoft and Unilever. They offer other types of assistance whether through funding or job opportunities for "graduates". AISEC lives on university campuses, so it's a very YOUNG and VIBRANT organization. There is lots of dancing and laughing and staying up VERY LATE. The exist in 90 countries and many of the people here for Cadbury or ABN-AMRO had heard of them. It's not big in the US, so for the few American's here, this is a very new experience.

Yesterday, after we learned about AISEC, we began training for our Developing Leaders Day. We will be paired off with someone from ABN (one Cadbury and one ABN employee) to teach a room of 30-35 AISEC-er's about leadership. Our focus will be the Johari window and situational leadership. Yesterday, we learned mostly about the Johari window. To give a quick recap, the Johari window is a theory of building relationships. In any given relationship there are four dynamic stages: Arena, Blindspot, Untapped Potential and Facade. (You should think of this as a 4 block quandrant with arena in top left, blindspot in top right, untapped potential in bottom right and facade in bottom left) As you develop a relationship with another person, you naturally want to reduce the facade by sharing more about you and reduce your blindspot by learning more about the other person. By reducing the unknown, you are increasing the area of the arena and therefore deepening your relationship and trust with the other person.

In addition, we had to learn a dance. AISEC has developed a culture of dancing, so it's our job to fit it. For those of you who know me, you know I like to dance, but normally am less bashful after a beverage. The dance we will do includes classic moves like the lawn mower, vanity smurf and some fishing thing you would only recognize if I showed you. We should definitely get some laughs, I think.

Today, we have more training. We will focus on situational leadership and then head over to the AISEC party. It's a bazaar which will have elephants, snake charmers and palm readers. I'll take my camera so I can share the experience.

More to follow soon!

Aug 28

I have arrived in Delhi. I think the last time I slept was for one hour in the Frankfort airport business class lounge. I tried to sleep when I got here, but the street noise and aroma kept waking me up. Plus I was very afraid of oversleeping. I am sure I'll sleep better tonight once I get to Agra.

So far my trip seems to be a trip of smells. The plane, the airport, passengers, cigarettes, my own mosquito repellant...I expect to grow accustomed to the scents soon, but haven't yet. My trip has been relatively uneventful, except for the ride to the hotel last night. The driver was worse than any cabbie I have ever seen. Lanes here, are a suggestion, and any sort of driving rules are definitely not enforced. There was a cow in the road and that was the only thing that made the driver hit the brakes until we arrived at my hotel. With blood pumping and adrenaline rushing, I was very glad to get to the Raddisson. My nerves are still a bit frayed, as I am quite tired and a bit nervous. I look forward to my destination at the Taj View Hotel.

I must also mention breakfast. The food was fine, but the music was...repetitive. Yes, you see there was a continuous instrumental version of "I love you more than I can say" playing. As much as my body demanded caffeine, I had to take leave of the restaurant to escape the music.

We had a five hour bus ride to Agra from Dehli. The bus was air conditioned but the roads were very bumpy indeed. In India, apparently the horn is as common as a turning signal in the US. The drivers use the horn to warn pedestrians to get out of the road. They use the horns like we use high beams to tell slower cars to get out of the way. They use horns to show impatience and generally, they use horns. The noise, of not just the bus I was riding in, but of other vehicles on the road kept me from sleeping much on the way from Dehli. Besides, there was too much to see.

The people are very friendly. They frequently wave and smile at us through the bus window. Often, I feel oppulent as I sit in the bus with air conditioning and two seats to myself, while they have 5 people crowded onto a scooter. (That is not an exaggeration!) I saw monkeys and more cows. I saw many stray dogs. The saris on the ladies were beautiful and I saw many little girls whose smiles reminded me so much of my Meghan. Oh, I do miss the kids!

We arrived at our hotel about 1pm. It is named the Taj View, but that only means that you can see the tips of the Taj from the top floor of the hotel, about 5 rooms. I had suspected as much, but had to laugh anyway.

There was a large group of Cadbury and ABN employees that arrived at the same time. We had lunch and headed out to see the Taj for real. WOW! I can really only say wow, as my descriptions would only be filled with words and the experience was amazing!. I took over forty pictures, and when I get home and Lorenzo can download them for me...I'll post them for you. We had a wonderful experience.

Did you know the four pillars outside of the Taj Mahal actually lean? They are not perpendicular to the ground, as you would expect. Why? Because the designer wanted them to protect the main building and if they should ever fall, they would fall outward, not inward towards the tomb. Did you know the Taj was designed by a 22 year old? The precous gems that inlay the marble of the Taj range from jade to onyx. Oh it's beautiful. Not only that, did you know that all four sides of the Taj are exactly the same? If it weren't for the movement of the sun, you could not tell them apart. You walk barefoot onto the actual building. You can feel the heat of the sun permeating from the marble. On the shady side, you can feel the coolness of the marble. It really was an experience for all of the senses.

After our 2.5 hours at the Taj, we headed to a shop where descendents of the artist families who inlaid the gemstones into the marble still work today. We got to see a pair as they worked. What an amazing craft. If you come here, you should be warned that many people will try to sell you things that look like the art from these families, but you can easily be fooled and swindled.

Speaking of swindled! Oh the peddlers! They literally attack you when you go out. I was amazed. Of course, I am clearly a tourist and they target me worse than some of my counterparts who blend it better with the population. It's ok, I know how to say no and move on. Besides, it's part of the charm, right? Ok, at least part of the experience.

By the way, about the weather. It's hot, but not terribly so. It is very much like Dallas, so I can't complain really. There is air conditioning in my hotel, so I have been quite comfortable so far.

It's actually Monday here now. I slept in this morning, because our project starts at 1. I'll try to write again soon!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Leaving Soon

As many of you know, I am heading to India later this week. I have been preparing for this trip most of the summer and am now pretty excited about this endeavor. But, truth be told, I am nervous too.

As a preview, here are some links of my accomodations:

Pretty spiffy, huh?

Looks pretty nice right?

These are clearly beautiful places, but the in between spots aren't so lush. I know this will be an interesting trip. I will meet facinating people, see new things and have a great time, but I am nervous. I lived in a foreign country as a kid, where we were reminded how not to be "ugly Americans". I hope I remember those guidelines.

I know I am spoiled here with my air-conditioning, clean tap water and bug zapper...and I know I'll appreciate it even more when I return.

I am excited and nervous, but I know it'll be great.

I'll have Lorenzo help me post pictures upon my return. Take care!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Dilbert Worthy

I am sure all readers who work in any corporate environment have had their share of Dilbert moments. I have to share my most recent one.

The department I work in is "semi" IT. I say that because my department manages a really big database and tends to know more about how it works than our actual IT department. In addition, we have more people in our team who fundamentally understand database structure than our IT department does. (Of course, that could be my misconception)

Anyway, one of my colleagues found and reported an issue in our database to our IT department. For this to make sense, you must understand that components of our database are viewable through an extranet site. In this instance, information that should be viewable on the extranet was not being shown. She double checked the source data and the information was tied, as far as she could tell, so she wanted to have IT look at the joins.

57 hours later, the ticket was closed by IT. Without even consulting us, they determined that our user needed a new monitor.

I believe that says it all.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Chapter 3 - Risk Averse

Before I jump into the next chapter, I have to mention Alex's first day of school. I can't believe he's in first grade now. He catches the bus right outside our house. I just love this picture Lorenzo took this morning.


I opened my first savings account when I was 8 years old. I remember going into Navy Federal Credit Union with my dad and some money I had received for my birthday. He wanted me to save it. Of course, being 8, I wanted to buy something important like a Barbie or candy, but no, Dad told me to save it. I did, of course.

From then on, when I got money, Dad would usually strongly suggest I save half and spend half. Generally, baby sitting, summer jobs, and any other money I got over the years went into that account. I watched it pile up. When I finished high school, I had just over $2,000 in that account. I needed every penny for ND.

After 4 years of building debt instead of equity, (college does that to all of us, right?), I got a job and tried to start saving again. I didn't save half, who could? But I did have a crafty plan. You see, I was traveling a good bit, being in sales. So, I had an expense account. Well, I'd pay my business costs out of my own money, and when my reimbursement came in, I deposited into a different bank. FOR ALL YOU DEVIOUS PEOPLE OUT THERE, THIS WAS COMPLETELY ABOVE BOARD. I was young, naive and COMPLETELY honest back then. By putting my money in a place I couldn't easily access it, I was able to save almost $3,000 in a year. It came in handy, later when Lorenzo and I were paying for our wedding.

So, what did I find? Well, saving is as easy as choosing to do it. The rainy day fund, in the coffee tin in the cupboard, never worked for me, because it was too tempting to have money sitting around accessible. However, a barrier to my funds made the world of difference.

So, I am financially, by nurture a saver. Ok, how does that make me risk averse?

Let's discuss my professional history, sort of. The week I graduated high school, I knew I needed a summer job. For those of you who have been to Quantico, Virginia, you may know that there aren't many great jobs for non-military, non-degreed personnel. Me, I was just looking for some summer work. So, I went to the places that were most likely to hire. I should add that, at the time, I could only borrow my parents' car. The job had to be close by. I started at the local Burger King. On Okinawa, BK was the only fast food place, so I had a bias. No luck, I wasn't 18, and you couldn't work at BK until 18 due to the flame grill. Bummer. Next, I headed to Wendy's. I filled out an application and was told the manager would call me.

I still didn't have a job, so I went to McDonald's. I didn't really want to work at McDonald's, but not having a job, wasn't a pleasant idea either. So, I went in. The manager was on duty and hired me immediately. I went home and told my parents I had a job!

A few years later, I was finishing ND and needed a job in a bad way. All that school loan debt headed straight at me and no job was not a pleasant future. I should state that my dad offered to let me come home to NC and look for a job after I finished. I was comforted by that option, but really wanted to find my own job. I went on 18 first interviews. I went on about 5 second interviews. I got an offer. General Mills wanted move to Detroit! Before I accepted, I was told I had an offer with a bank in Virginia. No details, though. I had no idea if the salary would be ok. Would there be benefits? The Virginia job was closer to my parents, but the Detroit job was closer to Lorenzo. Yes, these were factors to me! What's the saying? "A bird in the hands worth two in the bush." General Mills was the choice. When the Virginia bank offer came, it was lower anyway.

So, I am risk averse professionally. Onto dating...

When I was in high school, I wasn't much of a dater. As a matter of fact, it was my junior year before any boy's reciprocated feelings for me. I'd like to think they just weren't mature enough for me, but I was probably just the brainy, nerdy red head. So, anyway...With dates being a rarity instead of common, my philosophy was the first one who asks, is who I say yes to. This philosophy worked well, since generally only one person asked me out for any night. Until Prom, my senior year. I actually had 3 different people ask me to Prom. That was completely unexpected for me. Not only that, I wished I had gone with the third person. So, everyone once in a while, the risk averse part of me doesn't pay off. Since I am not dating anymore, I am perfectly comfortable with that, though!

So, I guess whether it's finances, professional or personal, risk averse is a good way to describe me. Whether by nature or nurture, I've become the person who doesn't bet in Vegas. It's just not worth the risk.

I guess that ends my three part series. I hope you enjoyed it!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Chapter 2: Early Bird

Do you know any Marines? Have you heard of boot camp? Do you know what time drill instructors rouse Marine recruits at boot camp? Let's suffice it to say, early. Now imagine being raised by a man who spent over 20 years in the Marine Corps. That only begins to explain my early bird habits.

I have strong early memories of my father running into my sister and my bedroom with a large stock pot and wooden spoon hollering, "Good morning! Good morning! Good morning! Rise and shine!" I remember being told to get up at 5:30 on Saturday mornings so that we could get a good breakfast before starting the yard work. I remember hearing, "We do more by 9 am than most people do all day." It's true for the military personnel and true for their families by association.

When I left the family home and went to college, I was so used to getting up early that I really bugged my room-mate with my schedule. She was a natural night person, so we definitely clashed. To complicate matters, my dad tended to call at 6 am. My room-mate, justifiably, thought I had the strangest family. In defense of my dad, there was a time difference, so it was 7 where he was, but 7 was still too early for communication to my room-mate.

I am a firm believer of the idea that you are what you are, when it comes to sleep. So what does that mean really? Well, it means that regardless of when you go to sleep, your natural pattern will remain with you. For example, throughout college, I stretched my bedtime to 11-12pm most nights, while still rising at 6am most days. Tired as I was, I couldn't comfortably sleep easily past 6. It was just my way. I was and remain a morning person.

My kids have become the same. The schedule I live by, has trained them to be early risers. They rise daily between 5 and 5:30, but they go to sleep between 7 and 8. It puts kind of a crimp in any night life I may have, but you may have noticed by now, I don't even really pretend to have a night life, except for the occasional date with my husband.

That fairly well sums up the early bird piece. Soon Chapter 3 ... Risk Averse.

Chapter I: Foodie

I must tell you about how I got to be here. It all started in my mama’s kitchen. Of course it did, right? Don’t all foodies learn to love food at home? Well, my mama was a great cook. I say was, because she doesn’t cook much any more. “Now that the family’s gone, there just isn’t much a reason to cook a big pot of spaghetti or a pot roast on Sunday”, she says. And I can’t really argue, she’s right, cooking for one is not easy because managing portion sizes to the point where you don’t have to eat the same thing for a week is a real challenge. I tried it when I lived alone, and soon pretty much gave up, too.
Anyway, back to mama’s kitchen. I can remember helping her in the kitchen in my earliest memories. Whether it was that Sunday after church pot roast or chicken & dumplin’s on a cold wintry day, watching and eventually helping her turn ingredients into a satisfying meal for the family was the epitome of love to me. It always seemed that mama, who demonstrated her love for us in so many ways, did it most eloquently with a big meal.
Every Sunday morning, we would start the week with a trip to the commissary. Up and down every aisle, we would go each week. We’d plan menu’s, consider prices and add treats for the family. We’d leave the store with two full carts most weeks, but know for sure that we’d be back the following week. Of course, with a family of five who love food, it’s tough not fill two baskets, especially once the kids grow into their teen years.
When we got home, we’d put away the food, clean vegetables and fruit and begin to prepare the Sunday meal. My favorite was fried chicken. Daddy’s originally from the south, so even though mama’s wasn’t, she learned to cook as his family had. It made for a great combination of foods crossing the palate over the years. When you add the years we spent in Japan, there was ultimately no food I wouldn’t try at least once. Mama, she learned how to cook most all of them, and by osmosis or dedicated lessons on a particular dish, I learned them too.
So I do the same now, for my family. I am happiest when I am preparing the meals. It really doesn’t matter what stage the preparation is, either. For example, I’ve been experimenting with gardening for about 5 years, so that I can have my own source of some ingredients. This year, it’s tomatoes and cucumbers. As a matter of fact, I’ve got tomatoes out the ears right now. Oh, they are wonderful! Last year, I had chili peppers. From jalapeno’s to habenero’s, I had ton’s of peppers through out the summer. Next year, I am planning to extend my gardening space, for the express purpose of being able to grow even more vegetables.
I don’t just grow vegetables though. I have a raspberry bush and two blackberry bushes. I also have experimented with mint. If you’ve never grown mint, I don’t really recommend it. It’ll take over your space. It grows like squash really, and will dominate your entire garden, or you’ll fight it forever. Quite annoying.
So from the garden, I head to my kitchen. I LOVE MY KITCHEN. It has 5 windows and looks into my back yard. It is big enough to entertain in, while still feeling cozy. My husband put a radio/cd player in the kitchen so I can jam while I cook. If you want to see me at my happiest, you’ll find me there on a Saturday or Sunday, chopping or cooking. My kids will be running through with their Tonka trucks and the radio will be playing songs I can sing to. I can’t easily recollect a time that I am more relaxed or content than those times.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Introduction: Lynn the Risk Averse, Early Bird, Foodie

So there I was sitting on the piano, wearing nothing but a smile. I've always wanted to use that line in a conversation. It suggests my story will be racy, exciting and even sensual.
Sensual, that's probably not the word my friends would use to describe me. Sensual suggests confidence in oneself. It suggests beauty and a connection to the external world that I don't pretend to understand. The closest I could come is probably savory. Come on, admit it, can't you just imagine the taste of a rich chocolate cake with deep creamy icing. The cake, moist and almost melting on your tongue. The icing lingering on your lip to the point that you must wipe it away. Is your mouth watering? Mine is.
I am a chef by hobby. Perhaps you could tell from my passionate description of that cake. Being a chef as a profession is not practical for me. Why? Well, the hours stink. Consider when you most often eat out. If you make a reservation at a restaurant, the average dinner time will range from 7 to 9 pm, with dinner often lasting into the wee hours of the morning. I am not a night person. As a matter of fact, I am the complete opposite of a night person, most days rising at 5 am and heading to be around 9pm. So, as you can see a chef job would probably not be ideal for me.
Of course, there is always a breakfast / lunch place, and believe me, I've considered it. I make great breakfasts. I have mastered waffles, pancakes, all varieties of omlettes, eggs, breakfast meats and most recently fritattas. I can make muffins, cinnamon rolls, various breads and even operate a cappucino machine from a stint at Gloria Jean's Coffee Shop in college. Ultimately though, no matter how much I love the idea of running my own business, there is risk.
Risk is something I don't handle well. Strangely, regardless of subject I tend to be extremely risk averse. I can't really articulate why, but suffice it to say if there is a conservative and safer position on one side of any spectrum, you'll generally find me there. So why do you need to know that, well, so you can understand me, I guess. What have you learned so far? I am a risk averse, early bird, foodie, who wishes she was more exciting, or at least confident.

Chapter I "Foodie" to follow