Thursday, July 19, 2012

The End Is In Sight

The rain has set in the past couple days. Maybe it is Lithuania's way of mourning our departure. Today marks the last day of classes and though we are happy to be done it does nmean we are thrilled to be leaving for home. The majority of us are taking both classes offered, international marketing and international project management. That means we wake up every day by 7am and do not finish with classes until 5pm. As you can imagine we are ready to not have to be in class again. For those of us staying through the weekend, today marks the beginning of our last few days to celebrate and appreciate Vilnius. It will be sad to say good bye to our new friends but we will go knowing we have new contacts all over the world! The cultural differences have been difficult to navigate so it is sad to leave just when we are getting closer. As soon as I finish this last exam, I will be spending the day finishing souvenir shopping and hunting for new luggage. Yes I have acquired more items but my back pack also ripped! Oops. We are then getting beers tonight with our professors, mentors, and fellow students. Bring on the celebration! Right now my stress levels are on the decline but last night I was terribly stressed. In both classes we had a group presentation and a final tests so the past couple days have been crazy. I am over half way done. Both presentations went smoothly and my management final was cake, even knowing I missed one. All I have left is a marketing final and since we are being tested by two professors and one taught finance not marketing. So I am not looking forward to his part. Wish me luck! On a higher note, yesterday we toured the remodeling of the Dukes Palace. One of the American's uncle is on the committee so we got a tour of something that citizens of lithuania cannot see yet. They are remodeling the palace to open as a museum and are expected to open one part of it by next year. It was very cool to get this private tour and hear the passion behund the committee members. They talked and talked about everything from the rebuilding of a bell that was given to the Lithuanians in the 80s to seeing the wall that houses the names of big donors. Many if these donors come from the American Lithuania group. So go see what your fellow Americans built! It will be so cool to come back one day and see it completed and be able to say I saw this under construction! We also were able to go up the tower and have a 360 view of all of Vilnius! So beautiful! I have learned to appreciate this town and the people who are so proud of their heritage. Lithuanians constantly want to tell you random facts to try to prove to you how great their country is. Apparently Lithuanians housed the first operas. Not Rome. It wad Lithuania. Kinda interesting. This will always be a trip to remember and I have at least learned so much about these Baltic countries and their continued growth in the competing economy. This is not my last post but I wanted to leave you with a little love for the baltics.

Monday, July 16, 2012

What Does Zip-Lining and Body Surfing Have in Common?!

Palanga, Lithuania! This past weekend we took a trip to Palanga which is a Seaside resort town in Lithuania. It was nice to get away from Vilnius and relax. We left early Friday morning on a four hour bus ride. We stopped just outside of Palanga at a "small" brewery. "Small" is in quotations because even though they do not brew for distribution, this place was anything but small. On site was their main brew house and two-story restaurant where we were able to taste their brews and tour the facility with the owner and brew master (ISM graduate). For the first time in my life, I liked the dark brew better. Their samples came in large 3 liter cylinders with a pour spout so everyone could serve themselves. We sampled the beer first and then we went outside and toured their facility. It was interesting to compare US brews to this Lithuanian site. Another cool thing is that this facility brews a beer that has such small amount of alcohol in it that it is perfectly safe for pregnant women and children to drink. They actually consider it alcohol free. It looks about like a light beer but it tastes different for sure. It's much sweeter. The really exciting part came after the tour though. The site has expanded to much more than a brewery. It's its own amusement park. No joke! It is loaded with challenge rope courses, kids games, petting zoo, gift shops, and two more restaurants. I think that the tour guide liked us (mostly because we asked a lot of questions and were totally excited about his business) so he gave us a HUGE discount on the challenge course. They have like five different intensity levels and usually they cost around 55Lt. He allowed us to go on any of them for 10Lt. Yup pretty much awesome! So we went on the most difficult one they would allow us to go on and I am grateful they restricted us because it was challenging. There were five zip-lines on our course, ropes to climb from tree to tree, netting to climb side-ways on, rope to swing into a netting, and they were all connected to trees which meant every time the wind blew the tree wobbled back and forth. Oh and it was scary because you had to harness yourself while standing on a platform 30 feet above the ground in a forest. It was so cool but there was a few times I thought I was going to fall!! It was an amazing experience and such a great opportunity. So now I can cross zip-lining off of my bucket list. Thank you Lithuania!
The next item of business was straight to the beach! When we reached the town of Palanga we unloaded the bus and went off in separate locations to our various houses. The hotel was set up much different then I have ever seen. It was one hotel but there were several apartments, houses, and residential areas in a two block area. I was in a house of four girls, two bedrooms, two and a half baths, living room, and kitchen. Life of the luxurious! At least in comparison of our current hostel in Vilnius. My house pretty much threw our things down and headed for the coast line. We were only a couple buildings away from the main street that leads down to the Sea. The street was lined with vendors and ice cream carts, and all kinds of activities. It was very cool to walk down and it led straight onto a boardwalk. By this time it was getting darker (of course the sun doesn't go down until 11 but it was a cloudy day). I snapped a couple pictures on the boardwalk and then we started back towards the house, hoping we would find everyone else. We ran into the American boys while we were watching a street dancer and they invited us to their place that night for dinner and drinks. We headed home, dolled up, and met the whole crowd just two streets over at the boys' mansion. The place was huge, 10 bedrooms, 5 baths, and a HUGE room full of tables. Best guess is it used to be a frat house or a governmental site. Martino cooked spaghetti for everyone and we danced, chatted, played various games and hung out with everyone including two professors and Ruta, our awesome coordinator. Once people started wandering off, a few of us went with the professors and followed them to a few hot spots in town to continue the fun. The night ended well and the next morning we slept until 9 and then strolled down to the beach where we spent almost the rest of the day. The sun only peaked out for a short while but we lounged on our blankets, swam in the sea (this is where body surfing comes into play), and took a couple naps. That night we attempted to hang with the boys again, but being there was drama and we some how all caught the Flu. We called the night early and crashed. By noon on Sunday we were on the bus again headed back to Vilnius with a pit stop in Kaunas (the old capitol and the second largest city. The only worthy story from this trip was my tragic need to pee and the horrible incident of the bus bathroom being locked then my embarrassment of having to ask Ruta to have the bus driver pull over at the next stop because I could not stand it any more. Luckily everyone else was in need of a pit stop as well so I was not singled out! Whew! Anyway, Sunday was rough because I felt like death and called it a night early (11pm). Even though I attempted to sleep, there was no way my poor sick body would allow me to. It certainly does not help being in a foreign country, sick, with no way of getting any NyQuil or anything of the equivalence. :( Tragedy has stricken! I spent today in class wanting nothing more than to sleep and the new Serbian professor was constantly on my case for yawning! I still pretty much feel like death and I certainly do not feel like studying for two tests on Thursday and preparing two presentations for Thursday. Holy crap this week is starting out rough. I am thankful for my awesome weekend and even more thankful for all the cultural experiences I have had thus far. Nothing is better than traveling and learning about international marketing and management while in a foreign country, working with multiple foreigners. I couldn't get this experience just anywhere. As much as I love MCB and I have learned to appreciate our educational system, I still think I am getting something of value here and for that I am thankful!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Never Have I Ever

When you mingle with other cultures, it's not un-common to teach each other new games, new dances, and introduce each other to new food. Last week we introduced the Portuguese and Maryna (Ukrainian) the game "Never Have I Ever". If you do not know this game, you are not American. Look it up! Anyway, now they are mesmerized and obsessed with the game. Any time we are sitting on the porch looking for a game to play, it some how ends up being "Never Have I Ever". At this point we pretty much know everything about each other, and the Americans are pretty sick of it. So I thought I would start this post with my own list of never have I ever...

  1. Never have I ever seen such picky eaters. The Portuguese that are in my lunch group are by far the pickiest people I have met. We walked into our restaurant this afternoon and about 5 people walk up to the waiter and start demanding their special orders. First of all, the school is paying so you cannot order anything. Next, the restaurant has already prepared the meal so we are not ordering our own. And third, stop being rude!
  2. Never have I ever rode a Segway...until yesterday! Yeah they are quite a bit more difficult to ride than I imagined. They are controlled by leaning forward to go, back to stop, and further back to go backwards. Then the problem comes with going fast, uphill, or downhill. Doing any of these three causes the Segway to lean so far back, it feels like it will kick you off. Anson's and my feet were flexed back the whole time so by the end of the hour ride our feet were numb. We drove all over Vilnius and even made it to the modern side with the "sky scrapers". We got a few good looks from people, almost crashed, and got good enough to do donuts! So much fun.
  3. Never have I ever known so many ways to say Cheers! Two nights ago when the Lithuanians took us to dinner, my table started learning all the ways to say cheers in different languages. I now know Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Chinese, Portuguese, Italian, and of course English. I have them written on a coaster from the restaurant.
  4. Never have I ever had a group of men, let alone Portuguese men cook for me. Last night the Portuguese made us dinner. Basically I can describe it as rice with a strogenoff over it. It was delicious, but sticking with the Portuguese way, we didn't eat until 10:30 at night. In their culture, they eat around 10 and finish around 12 so if they go out at night they don't arrive at the club until 3am...Americans are in bed by then.
  5. Never have I ever been this tired for this long. Being abroad has made me want to try every new thing I can and since there is only so much time in the day I have not slept much. Yesterday I took a nap at 8pm and slept for about an hour. After the Portuguese dinner, Jeff escorted us girls to the town hall since our Hostel's Internet refuses to work! I had a group presentation this morning and I was up until 2am working on it. It is all worth it to me because I have seen so much and I have had a great time with good people. But I think my family is right when they say I will be sleeping for two days when I get home.
Those are just a few of my first and I know the list will keep growing. This weekend we are going to Palanga, by the sea. The weather is forecasted to be rainy and mildly cool. But I am hoping their weather men are just as wrong as Colorado's. I was hoping for a Baltic tan this weekend.

Speak soon!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Finally A Good Hair Day

For the first time in four weeks the weather (particularly the Humidity) finally cooperated with me. The humidity was low and it wasn't blistering hot. Basically the perfect weather to finally give me a good hair day. Weather complaints aside, I have been having a great time in Lithuania. Being in classes every day for 8 hours is so hard. It is even more hard when all you want to do is go out at night and have fun with the crowd. Of course we all still live it up but it can make for a hard morning to get through. Not gonna lie, I fell asleep in one of my classes last week. There is a picture on facebook to prove it. Lesson learned, don't try to keep up with the Portuguese because those kids can out do you every time, and make it to class the next day. Our international experience is a little different than most. We have not met any Lithuanian friends beside the group of student council members who have been taking us out a couple times a week. There are seven American students and about 20 Portuguese so we are definitely overwhelmed. I have definitely warmed up to the Portuguese, they are just terrible students when it comes to shutting up in class...get my drift? But they are fun to chat with and hang out with at all other times. We have gotten pretty close to one guy name Tiago Martino. We usually call him Martino. His English is very good and he is funnier than Sh*t. When he gets shocked he'll say, "Reaaaally". It's hard to describe in written text but God he's funny to be around. Just don't try to wake him up, even if accidentally, he'll swear and yell and be royally mad! It's hilarious but the first time it happened to me, I was trying to turn off his laptop and he woke up and glared at me and I ran out of the room! He's so scary lol. There's also a girl named Matilde, she has a fashion blog where she posts pictures of fashion and looks that she likes. It's kinda inspiring me to start my own blog. Blogging is fun even if no one is reading it. I've met interesting people and it is fun to exchange stories and see the differences in our cultures. For example, all you Americans out there, try to explain to a Ukrainian how important July 4 is to us. They do not get it. To them it is just another day. July 4th came around and us Americans hunted down fireworks and were going crazy in preparations. No one else understood why this day was bigger than Christmas! It was crazy and eye opening. I have never had to explain what July 4th is let-alone, what ranch dressing is, or what sarcasm is. Sarcasm is completely lost with internationals. I am constantly pausing to apologize and clarify that I was being sarcastic. Americans often do not get how different cultures truly are and in our daily lives there are some many things that I thought I would never have to explain to someone. I dare you, explain what ranch is....yeah it's hard.

It is also cool to see the relaxed culture. Going for drinks and dancing with your professors is completely acceptable. Last week we got drinks with one of the ISM professors and a staff member. Following drinks we went to a karaoke bar with them and I sang for the first time in my life. Here they completely separate work from private life. Nothing that happens outside of class will ever be considered within the building premises. It is awesome because we have made deeper connections and feel more comfortable about being ourselves around them. The night before we left for Estonia we went out with our professor and stayed out until 4 in the morning. It was crazy, crazy fun. I have officially made stories that I can tell my grand children about and the list just keeps growing. For instance, after class today, I am renting a Segway with one of the other students, Anson, and we are going to ride around Vilnius. Who else can say that they have done that? It is an amazing experience and I am so grateful to walk to class in the morning with such beautiful architecture to look at with the morning sun shining perfectly on the buildings.

Last night we went out for Lithuanian food with the students from ISM. We went to this little restaurant just off a main street down from the school. We were in this little dungeon and we all were able to order pure Lithuanian food. Carly and I decided to get two things and split them so we could try more. We tried potato pancakes with Curry, kinda tasted like ranch! Perfect! Then we tried the traditional Zeppelins. It is a gooey potato mash that is smashed around some meat. And served really greasy. Honestly it was decently good with the meat but the potato by itself was not so hot. Everyone had a few drinks (more for Portuguese) and we all bonded and had a lot of fun!! I am excited to keep these nights going. Tonight the Portuguese are cooking a traditional Portuguese dinner for us. We are all praying its not chicken blood in rice....

Sorry for keeping these long the past couple posts, but I should be posting more often and keeping them shorter.

Cheers from ISM

Monday, July 9, 2012

Three Countries in Three Days! Love Europe

Classes sure make for a long day but the first week flew by. 8am-5pm is a hard schedule to get used to four times a week. This past weekend we got our first break and headed out of the country. VERY early Friday morning a group of 9 of us headed to Estonia for a visit to Skype Headquarters and a weekend away. After two 30 minute flights and a short layover in Latvia we made it to Estonia. We had an hour at our hostel before we left for our visit at Skype. Basically enough time to change into business casual attire and fix our hair and makeup and head out the door. Luckily everything was in walking distance from our hostel, unluckily our professor had no idea where he was going so we wandered around the university for a while. Finally we reached the building we were supposed to be at for a quick lecture on Estonia. The plan was; a forty minutes lecture on the background of Estonia and then we would walk over to the Skype headquarters for a tour. Since most of us had anywhere from 0 to 3 hours of sleep, we were quite tired going into the lecture which did not help. But mostly the professor must have been a history buff because even though  she was quite excited the lecture could not have been more boring and put at least three people to sleep. We felt bad but she should have been more entertaining. She presented a 13 slide PowerPoint with a bullet pointed timeline of Estonia and a quick tutorial on the Estonian language. Yeah not entirely worth our time. But after we enjoyed a delicious lunch in the school cafeteria (yes it actually was good) and the professors led us to Skype. The building on the outside was relatively simple and plain. A simple Skype sign was the only thing signifying the location.

Skype on the inside is much more visually appealing. In fact it was stunning and innovative. The culture inside the work place was casual and designed to feel comfortable, operable, and inspirational. The employees were completely open and free. There are no scheduled work hours, and places on every floor to store your shoes, rooms to work in that were full of color and unique designs, kitchens on every floor, and rooms with special walls to make the sound better to skype with. The building was great and our tour guide was better. She was in charge of making the culture of Skype what it is today and she gets to design every part of the building. She has been around since the beginning of Skype and she is well known as the "mom" of the headquarters. This is the type of company all of us would like to work for. Kids and dogs are welcomed every day, bosses work side by side with their employees, and there is plenty of room for creative thinking. What a great tour!

By 4pm on Friday, we had finished the main purpose of this trip so now we have until Sunday night at 6pm in Estonia. Estonia is pretty and the town center is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe, but is relatively small and in one day you can see the whole town. We went to the town center for a little bit on Friday night but didn't stay out long because we all had gone way too hard for the two days prior so we decided sleep would be well received. Side Note: It is only dark in Estonia for three hours of the night because it is so far north. By 11pm it looked like it was 7 maybe 8pm, so it threw us off guard for sure. Early the next morning we headed to the port and hopped on a ferry to Finland!! This was exciting to us to be able to reach three countries within a couple days. All nine of us wanted to go to Finland but since 4 of them slept past their alarms they missed the first ferry out, which left five of us to spend the day together. Through this we discovered that its a little better to travel in smaller groups. Our day in Finland was amazing and we discovered the whole city. We saw churches (one with a traditional wedding going on), museums (architectural), and of course good shopping. We discovered a huge market down by the sea and decided to have a picnic for lunch down there. I ate a mixture of wild pig, moose, and reindeer sausages and potatoes for lunch. Delicious and fun to try something new. Strawberries are in season now so we of course had to taste them, and they were amazing. We spent a good couple hours in the market shopping around. There was food vendors, crafts, and all kinds of goods. I found a super cute winter hat hand-made by a little old lady who did not speak any English. I tried negotiating the price with her but she wouldn't budge. I walked away a couple times but in the end I felt sorry for her and bought it anyway. I love it and its got a Norwegian feel to it so it was worth it. I also finished my souvenir shopping for my family. Successful day? I think yes. I definitely gained a few blisters on my feet that day from all the walking around. We compared Helsinki to San Fransisco because the city was placed on rolling hills similar to San Fran. It was beautiful weather and I was so thankful to get away and discover another city in a different country. By 7:30pm we were on the Ferry back and we spent the rest of our evening showering, and watching Mob Wives on TLC (seriously crazy ladies). Sunday we slept in a little and had to check out of our hostel by noon. We left our bags there and we caught the bus to the town center to walk around and see the sights. We ate lunch at this delicious place that was super hidden. You had to walk behind the building and walk up this pretty garden. The chairs had sheep skin (at least i think it was sheep skin) draped over them as a cushion. I ate the fisherman's special and it was delicious. Afterward a group of us took off and walked around the city. It didn't take us long to find all the sights and realize that we had seen it all already. Sooooo...what to do now to eat up four hours? After asking many strangers who apparently had nothing for us to do, we discovered a Seaport Museum that was awesome and huge. By that time we only had a little over an hour to walk around two floors and a few ships outside. It was disappointing to have such little time but I took a lot of pictures and it was cool to read about the history of Estonian ships, bouys, and ancient boats. Outside one of the boys and I walked around the ships before we had to catch a cab back to the hostel in order to make it to the airport on time.

We accomplished a lot on this one little weekend trip and it was a lot of fun to be able to travel around again and get out of the classroom for a while. My only disappointment was that they never stamped my passport :(

Top 10 of Germany

Just to wrap up my trip in Germany I want to give you all a list of the top facts I observed while in  Germany.

10. Do not expect Germans to smile at you while passing on the street. They are helpful and pleasant but not always happy.
9. Lederhosen are definitely still normal attire.
8. Pigeons will not move for you, if you scare them off they will fly at your face!
7. Expect to pay in cash EVERYWHERE.
6. European bicylces are cute and freeing. Just don't expect them to be easy to ride.
5. Meat and potatoes. Meat and potatoes. Meat and potatoes. Meat and potatoes. See a pattern?
4. Fans have not been invented yet. Just sweat it out.
3. Beer is cheaper than water. No, water is not free.
2. If you are not having fun then you are a hermit.
1. Learn to enjoy meeting new people, because you will have the time of your life.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Vacation is over...NOT!

What a crazy few days...but I have finally arrived in Lithuania and today is my second day of class. So what does my SECOND day of class involve? Oh right, a 20 minute presentation that is 25% of our grade. Yeah I did not go out last night. I have class monday through thursday from 9am-4:45pm because I am taking both classes offered. Maybe its not the best idea in the world but I will be rewarded in the end. Not to worry though, there will still be stories made and lots of fun to have. The next three weeks hold so much potential and I plan on capturing it all. I apologize for the lapse in time since I have last blogged but internet has been a little challenging. Especially since I was stranded at the Stuttgart airport overnight because of some leak by the engine. At least they put us up in a hotel with a dinner voucher. But that did not come without a lot of frustration. First we get kicked off the plane (because they cancel the flight due to the malfunction), then we have to collect our luggage, then we got to stand in line at the ticket counter for an hour to re-book flights out, then we stand in line at the hotel to get our rooms. Oh man lol it was nothing but an adventure. I finally made it to Frankfurt with a 3 hour layover and met up with a fellow student from MCB so we became travel buddies. The flights went smoothly and when we got off the plane we caught a train to Vilnius. From there the taxi guy tried to rip us off so we stuck it to him and walked lol. It really wasnt that bad of a walk, especially since I was with an American gentleman who carried my super heavy backpack for me! After we settled in and showered we went out on the town. We found a great restuarant with a waitress who was at least entertaining...uh huh. We then found a brewery and tasted Lithuanian beer which is definately different...yet tasteful. We walked to our school and then met everyone back at the hostel. Besides having two classes all day long, and a presentation off the bat, classes are going well and I think they will be interesting and entertaining. This coming weekend is a visit to Skype in a neighboring country with a possibility of a boat ride to...........Finland! Yup. I already have 3 countries on my list from this trip so far, so adding two more sounds pretty freaking great. The weather is is much nicer than the heat and humidity in Germany, but I need an umbrella asap cuz it has rained quite often. Pictures will be coming soon. If you arent my facebook friend and you want to see these pictures, find me. I'll end it for today in effort to keep this shorter. Cheers folks!

P.S. I love my uncle (nice little portuguese guy) but our classroom full of Portuguese students is probably the most annoying thing thus far! I'm not too sure about those kids!