Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Fruit and Mullets

Hiro and I where talking about the difference in rice between Japan and Spain. Basically, the Japaneese students are craving Japaneese rice for it's subtle taste and consistency difference, I can't begin to pretend to understand--but it makes rice balls much better. Hiro mentioned that rice is three times more expensive in Japan than it is here. He said part of the difference can be explained as financing government subsidies to rice farmers to ensure that the demand will be met. I had thought that rice was as ubiquitous as air in Japan, and that maybe some kitchens had cooked rice"on-tap", perhaps drawing from a a faucet on the sink next to the water. The combination of being in a foreign country and marketing class, has really got me thinking about product placements, availability and pricing.

Anyone who has ever been to Barcelona, knows La Boqueria. It's a farmers market frenzie, with fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, excellent tapas bars, and way to many stagnant tourists. When I first got here, Marquetta, a Czech girl told me that she didn't like shopping in La Boqueria because the people at the different stands short change her and give her poor quality items because she doesn't really speak Spanish. I thought she was exaggerating, but have come to see this for myself. Indeed, it was a badge of honor when a woman scorged through dozens of tomatoes to find nice ones for me---which at .89 a kilo, are pretty cheap.

Today I bought a pineapple at the local market across the street from me. It cost 2.02 (which today is close to $813) and is excellent. I think the pineapple here--which comes from Costa Rica-- is of much better quality than what's available in New York, and it's cheaper. It got me wondering, and admittedly perhaps hoping, that the Costa Rican's set aside the best pineapples for the Spanairds and give the lesser ones to Marquetta and the US, at a higher price. Spanish cheese and olives are excellent and cheap, as is chocolate-- a lot of which comes from Switzerland--there's really no way around it, the Swiss do chocolate well. Everything pork related is good and cheap too.

I find myself choosing a lot of private label items in the supermaket and elsewhere. This could be due to the fact that I haven't been marketed at here and so am brand indifferent--or private label stuff is actually of very high quality. That's certainly the case at Decathlon. I love that place--they have anything you could imagine that's sports/outerwear related--brand names and private label and everything is cheap. I almost bought a kayak before realizing that I had gotten a little carried away.

Another product difference is haircuts. When you try to get a haircut, the default setting on the drop-down menu is the mullet. If you asked for nothing you would get a mullet. I had to dig pretty deep into my language arsenal to prevent this from happening--beginning with a gracious request, and ending in a polite yet firm stance. I was about to add that I would rather have died a schoolboy than sport a mullet, when my barber acquiesced and noddingly agreed to cut the back of my hair short.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Giving Thanks, and Directions to France

On Wednesday, I thought about how if I were in New York, I would be on a train heading home for Thanksgiving, with flowers in hand for mom. Thanks to Sun-Sun and Ed, I actually was fortunate enough to celebrate thanskgiving twice last week. A homage to the holiday complete with food-coma. Despite the fact that pecans don't seem to be available in the Iberian Peninsula, we ate well, including sweet potatoe and pumpkin pie, thanks to Jenn and the supermarket at Amsterdam's Schipol airport.

Mananged to get some much needed exercise in this weekend, including Vikram Yoga for the first time and dancing till the early hours at Shoko and Catwalk. Refreshing to get away from the Universal soundtrack, which seems to pay tribute to "Hold On" every thirty minutes. I was starting to wonder if original songs are still made, or if all songs now get introduced as remixes. I stopped to get gas after Catwalk and Jessica and I were approached at the pump by a distraught man, who pleaded, Dans quelle direction est la France. I responded in Spanish to clarify that he wanted to know in which direction France was, and he enthusiastically nodded yes. Certain he wouldn't mistake my gesture for a first-down signal, I motioned extened my arm toward north along the autopista, much to his delight and our amusement/amazement.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

La Emigrante, Solecito

Prior to coming here, MBAs from other schools told me their experience ammounted to a lot of travel interrupted by a class from time to time. For better or worse that's not my experience. Seemingly each week poses something I consider an "unusal time constraint" write-off, only to find a similar "extraordinary event" the next week.

Exams to cover letters, to a Spanish exam that I passed, thanks to Ale's help with relative pronouns. I also recently learned the word cerrajero--locksmith, the hard way, spending 93 Euros for 27 seconds work to open the seat of my moto wherein lay my keys.

I can see some daylight now, which is nice. Actually life in Mediterranea allows for ample light and fresh air, as its still pretty nice weather wise--around 20 or so celcius which is something not cold farenheit.

Will certainly miss Sol when she leaves for London to move in with her boyfriend. At least Ale is staying put.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Invitados and Oratory

Midterms came and went, hopefully well thanks to Ranjeet's accounting help.

Friday afternoon, I wanted to celebrate midterms and the recent warm spell by taking a dip in the Mediterranean, but I had visitors to meet. Despite the damper in my swimming plans, guests could not have come at a better time, and exploring Barrio Gotic, El Borne and the Modernist architecture in my neighborhood with Sara, Brad and Dave reminded me what this city has to offer.

Saturday was Sol's birthday, and we had a nice gathering in her honor. A focal point of the merriment was Ale's brownie cheesecake.

I live with two wonderful people, and it's certainly a bonus Ale is a pastry chef in training.

Between Sara and Dave leaving, and Brad embarking on a motorcycle trip through Catalunya and the Pyranees,

I somehow unknowingly became a memebr of the whiskey an cigar club, IESE's defacto oratory society. The task was to give a 3-6 minute speech (loosely enforced) on who was history's most influential assassin and why.

Perhaps aided by whiskey free delivery, my speech on Gavrillo Princip was good enough for a 2nd place tie, the reward being an atta boy for representing first-years well, and an invitation to the next gathering. I look forward to it, especially if I can find a gong between now and then, in the interest of enforcing brevity.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Spanish Group Dinner

Eventful weekend. Friday night I went to a very good comedy show. After the opening act tanked, the main draw, Phil Nichol delivered. He's got all the tools--excellent impressions, creative "actual events", and hilarious original music. Google informs me that many of the ip addresses used to view this blog originate in New York--keep an eye out for Phil when he performs there in February.

I am constantly reminded how fortunate I am not just to be here attending a great school, but also that my Spanish group and work group are phenomenal. Saturday my Spanish group got together for "dinner" at Guillerme's. Our professor, Berta, joined --great food and fun. At around 2 we went to Universal for some dancing and as usual Quintin set the tone.

The pic of Quintin, Michel, Berta and Jan-David, does not do justice to the power of Quintin's dancing. Basically he brings a French "estripper" aesthetic to Will Farrell moves that's more impressive than hilarious. It's nights like this that stimulate the senses and make the work load easier to tackle.

This afternoon, my work group assembled at my place for Ranjeet's Accounting Boot Camp. It was actually pretty fun, and we got a lot done in five hours. I can't say that I dominate the subject now, but certainly have more clarity leading in to Thursday's midterm. Poco a Poco.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

No Ricardo Tubbs Sightings

Since Halloween is essentially a non-event, Barca trainer Frank Rijkaar had to carry the Ricardo Tubbs torch for me. Hotly contested Champions League game tonight between Barca and Chelsea, ending in a two-two draw after a Chelsea goal in extra time. I am looking for an underdog squad to support, one that needs me more than FCB and is more likely to have Air Plus Comet than Iberia as their official airline.

The head of Google Spain gave a presentation this evening--by far the best company visit yet. Extremely impressive guy and the insight into the company's operations was exhilarating. At the risk of sounding cheesy, what stands out is the successful coexistence of altruism and capitalism resulting in products that add value to consumers for free. As a bonus I got a 50 Euro Adwords coupon, an entre into their suite of applications which hopefully won't drive too much traffic to this site for google's server to handle.

Tomorrow is a holiday, which I will use to log some practice time in accounting and decision analysis, hopefully outdoors, in anticipation of next week's midterms, and try to explore a little bit. Any time I get void of immediate obligations serves as a reminder how great this city is, and how glad I am to be here.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Settling into a groove now, and finding more sleep. I picked up my residence card, a tremendous accomplishment. I am now legal--though I can't say the same for Tif.

The pics are from our bar crawl- an annual event put on by the second years. Each section had to dress up in different costumes, mine drew the superheroe assignment. My team, (members include from left Ranjeet and Nizami, and Guilllerme, with wife Maria, and Sylvia above) went as SuperBCNeta--a tribute to the work crews that clean the city (quite well). I was pushing hard for my other idea, SuperTapas, but we had a strong showing and the bar crawl was a blast.

On a separate note, one quirk I have noticed here is large number of middle aged people in driving school. It's really bizarre how many times you drive by a training vehicle expecting to see a pimple faced pissant and instead see a guy in his forties with his daughter in the back seat. Anyone who visits will see what I mean.

For now at least I'll keep my thoughts on our two day Career Forum to myslef, other than to say it was quite a frenzy and the possibilities are both humbling and exciting. I'm thrilled to be here.