Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The halfway point

Today marks the second day of the new module. 

Spring break went by really fast, and I didn't do half of what I wanted to. It was a lot work and catching up on things I had dropped to finish up for finals. Mainly professional linked projects, so it didn't feel like a break at all. Aside from my museum day.  Hello indoor rainforest. And cool aquarium. I got kissed by an abalone.

But what a final wrap up for Mod B!

Our mock ads
I remember thinking at the end of the last presentation how amazing it was to present an advertising campaign to agency representatives. My team and I did research, developed a concept around our findings, and then created a message. We also developed and presented a prototype, built a business plan around it. This is in addition to coming up with a PR campaign to prevent China from acquiring a company our client liked.

Our post mod karaoke night was much deserved.

And now it seems like Mod C is even more intense. I've only had the one class so far, and there's no team project, but the prof makes me feel like I've learned nothing the past six classes with all the information he packs into a lecture. Its overwhelming, this is the first time I've ever had to debrief with a classmate after a lecture, but so good to know. (Thought it's a little scary how he said he deals with more numbers as a salesman than he used to as an accountant.)

Alumni mentioned things really picked up in Mod C, but I never suspected it to be this extreme! Still, it's exciting.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

From the Redwood Forests

This past weekend was full of stuff, going out three times is a lot for little introvert me. But I'm glad I did it all. The best outing, hands down, was driving out to Big Basin.

A friend and I had the spontaneous decision to rent a car and go, only to not be able to fill up seats like we had hoped. But that's okay, my roomie hopped in the back seat and off we went!

Just the driving part was an adventure of itself - slowly getting used to it since I haven't done it regularly in years - because roads were twisty, uphill, and narrow. Still, in the little Kia we rented it was fun to hug the corners and wonder just how long a curve ran.

Redwood trail sign post at Big Basin park.The park was beautiful. I've always wanted to see the redwoods, and unlike Muir Woods near the city Big Basin has some old growth trees. That means these things are larger than those at Muir and that alone made it worth the almost two hour trip to me.

These trees are impressive, we never saw one all the way to the top, and I could easily fit in one. There are stories of frontier cabins being entirely built from one tree. I went around hugging several trees, just for the novelty. Sure, there are some outside of my apartment but they're no where near as wide as 50ft. Or 300 ft tall.

After three hours of hiking, up a to an ocean view and then back down, we headed to Santa Cruz twenty minutes away. I was blown away by the boardwalk - rollercoasters, carnival food, games. Downtown SF can get busy during lunch, but this was visually busy thanks to the lights and colors. Still, it was cool to see. I haven't been in any type of carnival setting for years, and while it was a bit overwhelming (but I'm getting used to dealing with that now) it was also a breathe of fresh air. Something new. Something different. 

We grabbed food and ate it on the beach and boy was that another novelty. I got some smiles from my travel mates as I wiggled my toes in the sand. My roomie's from Thailand, she sees sand all the time, but I couldn't help but touch it. 

Still waiting to see snow since my return.

I'm so glad we got out of the city, even for a day. SF is growing on me, it's true, but nothing refreshes you like a mentally stimulating trip into nature. Just getting away from what I see in a daily basis is nice and doing it with friends is amazing. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

CashFlow Adventure

My roomie has been talking about CashFlow for awhile, not the game so much as a weekly get together of it she was introduced to. She kept saying it was about business practices, I likened it to an advanced Monopoly, and finally went to a session last night.

It's not like Monopoly at all.

And...apparently CashFlow is a super famous game in the business world. As is the book (which is actually titled Rich Dad, Poor Dad and I'm sure a lot of you have heard of that). Silly me for not knowing this prior to showing up.

It was an interesting game for sure - you play with a balance sheet that gave me flashback to my accounting class. And as one player mentioned before we got started, it really is a simulation for life and the money flow of it. You start in the Rat Race, giving time for a monthly paycheck and waiting for opportunities to come your way. Opportunities like stock at a good price, foreclosed houses, limited partnership in a business. Slowly, slowly, you build up passive income to the point where it can pay for your expenses, and then you're in the fast lane! At which point, if you land on a gold mine most people think 'eh, why not?' and buy it.


We played in teams and that was interesting in and of itself. She was a bit...more risky then me. I was not ready to take out as many loans as we did, but things worked out. We didn't get to the fast lane by the end of the game (this group plays with a strict time limit - 3 hrs) but we were super close.

It was an interesting group of people. I wasn't the youngest, our host's daughter was there, and half of the people playing have a lot of investing under their belts already. Business owners, millionaires, life coaches, new investors, old investors.

This is a weekly thing the group has been playing for a year, a three hour game followed by a debrief of however long it takes, and there's a lot of talk about how this game has changed their thinking about real world investments and how well the real world is reflected in it.  All very interesting, and it's cool to see elements of what I'm learning reflected in both the game and the stories they tell.

I'm looking forward to the next time I can play. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Homecoming of a Sort

So, I've been back in San Francisco for roughly a week now.  And one of the odd things was walking back to class last Monday I realized I had missed it.

I mean, sorta. It wasn't like I was sitting around in Detroit missing the Bay, but once I was here I found myself giving the Ferry Building a fond look as I walked by. Which, honestly, was a surprise to me.  Because when I first got here, I pretty much hated the city.  It didn't click with me, despite people telling me I'd love it, and while the weather is certainly nice I feel like I could have the stuff I have here for cheaper elsewhere. There's nothing, well, special about SF in my mind to say this was a good city to live in.

But then of course, I have to leave and realize that yeah, okay, maybe I do like this little city. And my roomies who like to sit and talk, and teammates who can't help but smile every time I hiccup, and classes this Mod that are simply a~mazing.

What also struck me coming back, or maybe rather when I was loading the car to go to the airport, was that this is the first time I where I can't say when I'll be back.

In undergrad, it was for pretty much every holiday and break. And even when I went off to Ethiopia I knew that come August 2014 I'd be back in Detroit for a decent stretch. Then for grad school I knew I'd be back for Christmas, but now....now....

I honestly can't say. I'm not planning on flying out there for Easter. Or my March break. Or even, most likely, after graduation.  That, that was it. A side hug in the back hallway from my mom, my brother in the basement on the couch, my sister loading her own car, my dad giving me a hug before handing me my suitcase at the terminal.

Can you call someplace home, even internally and as one of two or three, if you may not see it for years? Is this that first step towards only seeing siblings every five years for family reunions? Will I now see my immediate family as often as I see cousins? I'm not sure I'm ready for that, I missed two years of us all home for school holidays. I already went a long time without seeing my family, it might be a little too soon to do that again. (Though granted, this time I can call them once a week, send texts every day. It makes a huge, huge difference). We didn't even take a family Christmas photo that I could have printed to stick on my wall.
Tried to find my most recent family photo, and all I could find was this of all the cousins in the summer of 2011. Man, people have gotten married since then.

Sometimes, often, being an adult super sucks. And is depressing. And well, makes me regret I said no playing that one night of cards, or didn't sneak into my sister's bed to snuggle with her, or see Yiayia one extra time.


I guess at this point, all I can do is go forward and make sure I take as big as steps as possible. If I'm far away, I better be happy and successful to make it worth it. Dean's List every mod, aggressive job searching, here I come!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Holiday De-Briefing

I feel like a lot has happened in such a short period of time, so I'm gonna blow through events trying to get my head around them.

1) Christmas

Celebrations in Ethiopia were...pretty mild. There's no large build up, no light up snowflakes on lampposts, wreaths on store fronts, carols in stores. It's all in your head, and in hindsight I think I held onto that Christmas idea hard because it was from home and America, so the day comes, you have dinner with friends, and that's it.  No one around you is even celebrating, because the dates are different.

I had expected, coming back, for Christmas to be a big deal again. But it wasn't. Maybe it's because I didn't have decorations in my apartment, or maybe because it didn't feel that special anymore now that everyone was celebrating. Or perhaps it was the fact that I wasn't excited for the holiday, but rather going home and seeing family.

I'm probably gonna peg some of it on displaced traditions too. I didn't decorate a tree this year. The stocking I've had since my first Christmas had been replaced while I was gone. I didn't bake any cookies - my sister had taken up the 'baker' position of family when I left and so all the tupperware containers were filled by the time I landed in DTW. 

It was another sign of how my family has adopted to my absence, of things that have happened while I was gone that I missed.

But back to Christmas. It felt like just a normal day, except for presents and the mass of people who ate around the dining room table. I enjoyed it, immensely, but I didn't have that magical feeling of Christmas I can recall having a few years ago. Maybe that is PC's doing, maybe it's just growing up cuz if I had to pick a year where I was most filled with the Christmas Spirit it would have to be sophomore year of high school.

2) Up North

We took a family vacation up north for a weekend to ski. Except, our ski day got rained out. That was a first. But still, it was a nice couple of nights. We had no signal, so we played a lot of games and did a lot of reading. It was nice, and I think helped reconnect us after not really having isolated family time in years.

Plus, it was fun to have them comment on the rustic nature of the trip and then share stories of my much worse situations. Oh no! The hot water tanks is only so big? We'll just have to heat water in the kettle and wash up with that and a wash cloth. Trust me, it's easy.

It was also interesting because of the drinking. My parents have been giving us wine glasses at dinner since 16, but this year we were all 21. Dinners out included rounds of drinks. Card games were played over liquor. I love my parents, but they've always been that. Parents. Figures who controlled my life through chores, allowances, and rules. But that weekend, I feel we were all on equal footing and it was a nice change of pace. It had at one point morphed from 'hanging with the family' to 'hanging with fun people'.

Don't get me wrong, I have for the most part enjoyed my family. But I suddenly realized that there are times I would elect to do actives with them instead of nearby friends. I feel like we all have more to contribute, a more balanced relationship now that we're (by which I mean us children) all older.

3) RPCV meet-up

I'm lucky I know a guy in SF who's an Ethiopian RPCV. Because, I'll be honest, I haven't been able to really click with anyone in that town - school or otherwise. I'm not entire sure if its cuz I haven't meet any other geeks, or something during my service changed how I relate to new people.

It actually was a common topic that came up at a mini reunion for a few MI RPCVs from G7. Things happened, events and feelings and thought shifts, that can make it hard to relate. Who else understands how you still marvel at everyday things once in awhile, who understands what's it like to live in a foreign culture and how dealing with that for years changes how you do, who gets it that you sometimes feel guilty and wrong because now that you're back in America you recall Ethiopian events and are slightly ashamed at how you adjusted, even if at the time it most likely made your life better?

We all had the same problem with Christmas, we all have the same problem finding people in our new cities to 'click' with, we all desperately miss each other, we all are frustrated about how people don't really want to hear about Ethiopia, about how they don't understand how much it has changed view points, and we all can't believe the attitude of people who have never left their corner of a state.

Regardless, it was just nice to see old friends that I can connect to on a level that I haven't found in other people in while. What's that saying, something about friendships founded in battle are the strongest? Not saying our Peace Corps service was a battle in the traditional sense, but I would say our experiences there brought us together two years ago and I'm super glad we were able to do it again this holiday season.