Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Learning Chinese

During my internship at Gen-Probe over summer 2008, I was taking the train to Sorrento Valley from Carlsbad in San Diego on a daily basis. To fill my time while riding the train, I had downloaded some Spanish Podcasts from Itunes. The lessons worked out great and I was learning a ton.

Fast forward to about two weeks ago. I was looking for a similar Podcast to learn Chinese. While searching through Itunes for a suitable Chinese Podcast, I found some other applications that also looked very interesting. There was this one that worked like little flashcards. The application would show me the character, then when I clicked over the hidden part of screen it would show me the translation, the pronunciation in ‘pinyin’, and would also say the word out loud. I could also choose between traditional Chinese characters, and the simplified characters (Traditional is still used in HK where simplified is used in most of mainland China).

Please understand my excitement for this application. Chinese, not being a phonetic language, requires the student to learn the written and spoken language separately. So the fact that the flash cards tell you how to say the word is so helpful.

Sure there are programs on your computer like Rosetta Stone that have the same capabilities, but how convenient are they? When I’m sitting at my computer I usually have many more things to do than practice my Chinese. But what about when we're waiting for a doctors appointment? Or waiting for friends to meet us for dinner? Or during commercials when we're watching your favorite show?

The biggest problem is, the Chinese flashcard application only works for an Ipod Touch or Iphone. A couple of questions you might have to ask yourself before making the upgrade are these: Does your lifestyle include some waiting time allowing you to pull out your Ipod Touch for 5-10mins at a time? If not, just a regular Ipod that can download the Chinese Podcasts might be a good investment. Otherwise, I can say from experience, the Ipod Touch and the $5 Chinese flashcard application are two great investments.

Hope this doesn't sound to much like a product review. I just really love this new Program!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Work Visa Woes

Hey guys,

With just five days before leaving for Hong Kong, I received an urgent email from my employer in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, they’ve been having trouble with the work visa for a permanent employee and this has led to my work visa being pushed back. Regretfully, I’ve had to delay my return to Hong Kong until early April. Actually, April 1st (No this is not a prank!).

I’m a little bummed.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cheers to walking in the dark with your eyes wide open!

“But the common theme is this: Executives cannot function effectively until they understand the context they are operating in.”
-Developing Global Executives, Pg 22

“The basic mental process of developing into a global leader involves getting your mind around the whole world – not just one country.”
Global Explorers, Pg 186

I completely agree. With every new venture I take on, I can almost feel the process as my mind wrestles to grasp the size and complexity of the task at hand. I’m never fully capable until I’ve grasped the parameters of the project, until I can create a mental map of the situation.

So what do I do when I enter a situation that is completely alien to me, with no reference points?

“Just one more step Kevin, one more step,” I would say to myself. From Europe to South American, Budapest to Sucre, one more step got me through more situations than I would like to remember. Like walking in the dark, stumbling, fumbling and bumping around until I hit something solid, taking a mental note of what I’ve found. Depending on the size and intricacies of the room – and don’t forget my own desire to discover – it takes a while to get a handle on the environment.

I think the world’s cultures are similar in this way. My understanding of them will develop as I discover their parameters, as large as they may be. As much experience as I think I’ve had, I still find myself in situations where I’m walking a bit blind, feeling out, step by step, my path forward.

Cheers to walking in the dark with your eyes wide open!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"MYOFASCIAL PAIN SYNDROME” and “COSTOCHONDRITIS”

Exams taken in Hong Kong:
o ECG
o Tredmill exam
o Gastroscopy
o Blood tests
o Antibiotics
o x-rays


Exams taken in San Diego:
o Bone scan of my chest
o More blood tests
o Stool tests
o MRI of my spine
o CT scan of my chest
o Full pulmonary examination
o Barium swallow
o More x-rays

My Primary Doctor, Dr Prior from Kaiser in SD, has diagnosed me with 'MYOFASCIAL PAIN SYNDROME” and “COSTOCHONDRITIS.” I'm not so sure he's right. However, I don't have to many options. I had hoped to have everything figured out by now. With only a week left before returning to Hong Kong, I've run out of time and run out of exams. I'll continue to search for more answers, but I've become reasonably sure I've done my due diligence, it's time to get busy living.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Since when do people turn down free labor?

My Internship Search

My Internship search this past fall semester wasn’t half as peachy as I had hoped. Looking back, it’s easy to find fault in the way I went about my search, but I’m not sure if I would have changed the way I went about it.

After my internship with Gen-Probe over the summer, I realized a good place for me to start my career would be with a marketing agency; as big as possible (global), with a fast paced atmosphere. After receiving some good advise from a friend’s colleague, I began my search on WPP’s website. WPP is a holding company for marketing agencies, many of which are global agencies and have offices in Hong Kong. I created a list and began review each agency as a possible fit.

Turns out that most of these company, which on WPP’s website appear as separate companies, actually occupy the same office space. So when visiting Hill & Knowlton, Young & Rubicam, and Ogilvy, the agencies I was most interested in, I realized their offices incorporated five to six other agencies as well (though their addresses were similar, I didn’t realize they were literately connected). So the number of agencies I could actually apply to was cut dramatically.

After calling, emailing, and visiting numerous times, I was hardly received a phone call back. As I should have known, but over looked, was that agencies as large as the ones I had picked out, all have internship or fellowship programs that make spur of the moment internships highly unlikely. Additionally, obtaining a work visa from the HK immigration office is uncommonly difficult. Companies must show that they have been trying to fill the proposed position with a local employee. To do this, they must provide HK Immigration with months of documentation highlighting advertisements for the position as well as demonstrating how the possible labor that was interviewed was unable to meat the requirements of the position.

Many of the connections I made from the American Chamber of Commerce meetings didn’t go much better. I was so popular during these gatherings (haha)! And yet, after emailing all my new found friends, little came about from the connections. The situation was similar when I visited the ECO EXPO Asia late in October.

In late November, I emailed Patrick, a friend of mine who lives and works in Macau, to ask him if he had any possible connections that might help me find an internship. He responded quickly saying that he would get back to me tomorrow with an answer. Not knowing how well Patrick would do, I then asked all of my teachers in HK whether or not they had any connections that would be interested in an intern. Ms. Fransesco quickly responded to me saying that she was aware of a Non-profit that had an intern finish with them and that they might be in need of another intern. Within the span of a couple short days, I had not only an internship, but two!

Patrick was able to help me find an internship with DHL and Ms. Fransesco helped me find an internship with the Non-Profit called Community Business, who’s focus is corporate social responsibility.

After interviewing at Community Business, I liked the work pace, small business environment and team members I’ll have the chance to work with. Additionally, corporate social responsibility is something I had prior experience with when I worked at Gen-Probe. This might seem surprising, but I found it very enjoyable.

I leave for Hong Kong February 25th. My internship will start on the 16th of March. Community Business’s office is in Shueng Wan (right next to Central on Hong Kong Island. Remember, I stayed in Kowloon when I went to school last fall). I’m searching right now for an apartment to stay. Expensive! But I’m sacrificing size for proximity to my work place.

I can’t wait to get back to Hong Kong!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A failure to communicate

Communication is important. As the world/technology/etc has asked me to work harder, and my aspirations have sent me traveling, lately I’ve found myself in need of better ways to keep in touch with the people I really love to hear from.

Over the past couple months I’ve become increasingly proud of the tools I have employed to keep in contact with friends and family, that now, live around the world. Some might already be aware of many of the tools I use, but if not, I hope you adopt them and put them to use keeping you in contact with the people you love to hear from. Feel free to share some of these ideas with your friends and family. And if you have some that I don’t, please share!!

Google: Though I’m not sure of some of the other Internet search engines (yahoo, MSN), Google is an amazing communication and organizational tool. After making an account, I recommend using any of these free features/tools:

iGoogle: Customize your homepage (see pictures below). Add quotes of the day from Einstein, Ben Franklin, etc. Add a world clock or weather reports for most cities in the world. If you use Google Calendar, you can add an application that lets you quickly add upcoming events and then easily view them. I keep an app from the Student Travel Association that lets me check upcoming flights with their student discounts. Many more Apps!



Even more helpful, I’ve been adding Blogs/RSS feeds from my friends and also from business professionals in my field. With iGoogle, I keep about 20 different Blogs on one page and can easily see whenever one of my Blogs is updated. This has been such a time saver and has allowed me to stay updated with friends/current events/industry news.



Google Notebook: Have you ever wanted to copy and paste information from the Internet to a Word document, but then been disappointed when the information becomes skewed and the formatting is all wrong? Take a look at Google Notebook. I use it for doing research. I can take information from many different locations on the Internet, quickly copy and paste, and have a ‘notebook’ complete with pictures and headings.




Gmail: Use Gmail to bring all your email accounts to one address: your gmail account. If you use Google Documents (another cool online application) or Google Calendar, you can have application boxes put on the left hand side of your inbox. This way you can quickly see new documents that have been edited by friends or coworkers, or see which events are coming up on your calendar.
Create a ‘Task list’ and quickly create new tasks from emails you’ve just received. You have a list of friends (normally on the left side, but I’ve moved mine to the right side) that you can use to instant message. Rather than using folders, Gmail uses Labels, allowing you to ‘label’ an email multiple times, depending on how relevant it is to multiple labels.



------------

Skype: This really has been around for some time now, but it’s becoming increasingly useful. If you have a microphone, make international phone calls free to others using Skype. Make very inexpensive calls to regular phones or cell phones. If you have a camera attached to your computer, have a face-to-face chat with friends across the globe.



Social networks: Even though I belong to a plethora of social networks, my two favorites are Facebook.com and Couchsurfing.com. Of course Facebook is very common, but it’s common for a reason. In my opinion, what Facebook has done right, setting it apart from other social networks, is making photo and event sharing easy and fun. Get an invitation from a friend informing you of a party later that night, go to the party, and then tomorrow morning take a look at the photos others have posted and tag you in.

Couchsurfing.com (CS) is a social network for travelers, and people interested in traveling. Though I’ve only join recently, I’ve found few social networks to be as positive and as enthusiastic. Some use CS to find a place to stay for a couple of nights when they arrive in a new city. So far, I’ve only used CS to inquire about good neighborhoods to rent in and where to buy cheap furniture (I received about 15 quality responses, not bad).



Blogs: As you know, I keep a Blog (duh! You’re reading it). I’m not sure when I came around to the idea of Blogs being a good idea. I think I saw my life being pulled away from the people whose stories I loved to hear. But now, I think Blogs serve a very important purpose. Though I can’t be where they are, I still want to hear the trials and tribulations that my friends and family are going through. I want to hear them because maybe I can do something about it or know someone who can. Maybe I can help them when they’re in a rough situation. Or maybe I can learn from their successes and failures. I would encourage everyone to start a Blog. If not for you, do it for friends and family who want to hear how your life is going. Help them, help yourself, and inspire each other.

Anyways, I hope you guys can use or add to this list. As life pulls us apart, it’s also giving us tools to hold ourselves together. Use them!