Saturday in China

Holy crap is this really my life? Saturday was a free day from work, so my hosts said we could do what ever we wanted to. Thanks to Pinterest, I knew of a local tourist destination called Stone Forest, and suggested we go there. It was only about an hour outside of the city and we got there around 11am. It was absolutely stunning and amazing and holy crap how is that even natural? It was an incredible experience and makes me excited to one day see the grand canyon too…

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Afterwards, we went to lunch at a place that was clearly very upscale.

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But we had beer too so it was all good. Next, we went go get massages at the most crazy place I’ve ever seen. I seriously thought it would just be a normal massage joint, but we got there and it was just breathtaking. There were large velvet couches, huge chandeliers, and a staff that could only tell me how beautiful I am. Then, we went to go shower where they had new toothbrushes and all these other amenities for us. We then put on robes and got led to bedrooms and were brought blueberry juice. My masseuse came in sporting a Maserati t-shirt and I knew I was in heaven. After an 80-minute massage and a foot shaving – seriously – I went to the buffet. Thankfully they had corn and cauliflower and watermelon so I got filled up on that. Here we all are in our robes:

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After eating and dominating (aka, losing my ass) in ping-pong, we took a cab to the local KTV spot. I was under the impression that this karaoke place would be similar to karaoke in the US: tons of people, one stage, lots of drinking, etc. However, we arrived at this luxurious place with huge chandeliers and men in suits everywhere. They brought us to our private room, which would be ours for singing for the night. I had never seen anything so cool ever.

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There we drank a lot and they delivered food, such as chicken tenders and French fries, to our room. I sang Sara Barielles (for Joe) and Hanson and Adele and Taylor Swift and Steven Tyler (because I love him) for the whole night. If we had something like this, at a similar price, in the US, I’m not sure I could ever be torn away. Pretty sure I’ll need to have one in my house some day. Best. Day. Ever.

Editor’s note: Kate is in China and unable to post herself, so I’ll be uploading her submissions as they make their way to me.

China Is Amazing

I’ve only been in China now for just over a day and I already know I love it. The flight here was extremely long and taxing, made worse by my cold, but now that I’m here I’m glad I’m staying awhile before having to go back.

The first thing that caught my attention was the cars. There was a pink Bentley at the airport and it was beautiful and amazing. All of the other cars are really nice too – the man that picked me up from the airport, Victor, was driving a pretty nice BMW. Within the first 10 miles I also spotted a Maserati and the rest are really modern too. Up until this point my experience in other countries, Egypt, Costa Rica, Mexico, even Italy, has been that their cars are pretty old and not as nice. I asked Victor about it and it turns out that they have to pay 100% import tax on cars too. So, they are hella expensive.

This doesn’t make it any less scary when they are whizzing at you on the highway though. The traffic laws seem to be lacking, or, potentially the only one they enforce is no running red lights. Otherwise people don’t stick to their lanes or use turn signals either. That part feels pretty standard for outside the US.

I’m also treated like a princess here. We went to the zoo and I got all dressed up in fancy Chinese dress, and they lightened up my face more because light is beautiful, they say.

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But on top of that, I feel very comfortable here. Everyone wears colorful outfits and has bright pink luggage too. I’m seriously in love with their style here, I feel like I fit in. AND! They wear fanny packs. It is beautiful. The only reason I didn’t bring mine was that I didn’t want to look weird… now I’ll know for next time :)

I’ve had trouble eating with the chop-sticks, maybe I should have practiced first. I’m not going hungry though, and even if I do a little that’s okay because I was still carrying around Christmas weight. Anyway, I now know to ask for a fork if I think I need one. Last night we went out to dinner and I tried pig skin, bamboo, tofu, and some really spicy soups. The pig skin was a little tough for my taste, and some of the soup really spicy, but I’m happy to be eating authentic food rather than just McDonalds (which I can get literally everywhere).

Another potential reason I’m not going hungry is that I’ve discovered Oreos. And not just any Oreos, Chinese Oreos, which surprisingly are different from American Oreos. There are just a lot more flavors. So last night Victor took me to a store and we bought every flavor they had. Strawberry, Green Tea, Blueberry/Raspberry, Mandarin Orange, Grape/Peach, and Vanilla Ice Cream. I also got these amazing chocolate covered Oreo wafers, which were better than they have any right to be.

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Re: Water. They have to boil water to drink it from the tap here, and so with dinner, they served hot lemon water. I then asked if I could get a bottle of water too because the food was so spicy, and they apologized that it was cold but I said that’s how I like it. Even the beer I had was room temperature, it is interesting that they don’t drink cold things much, especially when it is so hot here! In Kunming, it has been and will continue to be a consistent 80 degrees every day. Which could be another reason why I love it so much.

Editor’s note: Kate is in China and unable to post herself, so I’ll be uploading her submissions as they make their way to me.

Kunming Folk Art, here I come!

Tomorrow I depart for China in my first ever trip to Asia. Having traveled so little prior to Sloan, I made it a priority to start seeing the world. Participating in China Lab allows me to both gain exposure to a new country while also learning about business abroad. China plays such an important role in business that I’m excited for my first experience with it.

I’m working with a small company called Folk Art, which makes and distributes handbags and dolls both domestically in China and abroad. Along with my team, I been evaluating potential opportunities to increase profit margins and improve sales overseas. This is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to truly evaluate a marketing strategy and it has been a great learning experience.

While I’ve been spending so much time preparing for the project though, I’ve let some preparations for travel fall to the wayside. I still haven’t packed, (my flight leaves at 7am tomorrow!) I haven’t researched places nearby my hotel, nor have I learned even one word of Chinese. I don’t have a power adapter and I’m not sure what websites I’ll be able to access while there. Good thing I am an expert at “winging” it.

– Read this again here: http://mitsloan.mit.edu/student-blogs/china-india-lab-2015/kunming-folk-art-here-i-come/#sthash.dNMIbMx2.dpuf

Power/Rangers for class

For my Social Media class today we had to complete a case analysis on a person, company, or issue. I ultimately chose to go with the Power/Rangers video launch for two reasons. First, it stars Katee Sackhoff and I think she’s the coolest woman ever. Second, it is super relevant and just happened within the last two weeks so it was compact yet fresh.

In addition to a short write-up (2 pages), we had to give a 2-3 minute presentation on the content. My visual aid was just a screenshot of the YouTube page because unfortunately I didn’t have time to play any of the video. When I first started I asked “how many of you have seen the Power/Rangers reboot?” No one had. Well, actually someone raised their hand halfway and said they didn’t watch the whole thing. For the rest of it, people listened respectfully and I said my part, but I couldn’t help but feel sadness in that I was the only one out of my entire social media class that had seen or was even aware of this video. If I’m not going to find other fankids in my classes at MIT, where am I going to find them?

All sadness was completely overshadowed by the fact that I was tweeted to by Katee herself though. If a badass like her is proud of me, then I’m proud of myself.

 

Zoombinis, a lonely obsession

Growing up I was all about computer games. I think the obsession started at school, where we would play things like Oregon Trail and Kid Pix. Zoombinis is quite potentially one of my favorites. I believe I started playing it in either 2nd or 3rd grade…

About 5 years ago I actually bought a CD-ROM version of the game from eBay. It was just as magical as I remembered it. So, when I saw online that the original company plans to revamp the game, I was obviously beyond ecstatic. A kickstarter was just launched for TERC to develop the game for both tablets and PCs. (I’ll be able to play it on my iPad!!!)

In addition to instantly backing this project, I started telling everyone else about it. At school, while in a group of 4 people or so, I brought up the fact they are re-making it. No one knew what I was talking about. No one had played it. The next time I was a little safer about it. I asked the group if they had ever played it instead of blurting out “omg did you hear they are re-launching Zoombinis isn’t that so exciting?!” but none of them had. How is it that I am at MIT and none* of my peers have played this educational video game?

One guy did bring up the Dinosaur Zoo game though, which I had forgotten about but am excited to have rediscovered. I also really liked 5th Grade Adventures which, although I didn’t realize it until now, had a lead female character and that may be why I like it so much.

I do find comfort that over 2100 people have backed Zoombinis though. So, while I might be alone at MIT Sloan, I am not alone in the world.

*Sample size of 14

To drop or not to drop

Sometimes I feel like the smallest decisions can be the hardest ones to make. I think I allow myself to make something seem like a bigger deal than it really is. I try to ground myself in gathering more information, such as the true pros and cons of a decision, but that doesn’t always help.

What am I fighting with today? Whether or not to drop my marketing class. With it, I max out the number of credits I can take this semester, which is a good thing. However, the class is painful. I can’t determine if it is the content or the professor or the structure of the class, but either way the idea of not having to take it excites me. The draw backs though are that I’ve already spent $85 on the case materials, and those aren’t refundable. Additionally, I’ve already gone to 3+ classes. But, because I’m in business school I need to accept those as sunk costs.

So, going forward will I get more benefit out of dropping or staying in the class? I’m pretty sure I get more benefit dropping it and giving myself the opportunity to take a class that is more interesting to me. Yet for some reason it still feels like a failure to drop it. I have no idea why I am giving this much weight to such an issue.

Snow days bring Golden Girls

This past week I had two full snow days off from school, both Monday and Tuesday. I haven’t had a snow day since high school. During college, we had snow for sure, but Macalester never closed because of it. Snow days are just as fun as I remember them being.

On Tuesday, my friend came over to play. Ever since we became Facebook friends before even meeting, I knew she and I needed to watch The Golden Girls together because she had taken a “Which Golden Girl character are you” quiz and scored Rose so I was impressed. We’ve been trying to find a time since the summer to get together to watch it but until the snow day, it never came up.

Obviously we made a drinking game out of it. We used the one we found here but cut out the part about choosing a character. We just followed the these rules:

  • When Sophia says “Picture it…”: Drink.
  • When Rose says “Back in St. Olaf…”: Drink.
  • When Blanche says “Big Daddy…”:Drink
  • When they eat a cheesecake, finish the drink

It was fantastic and everything I ever hoped it would be.

It also brought back a lot of fond memories for me. Growing up, anytime I stayed at my aunt Joann’s we would watch it together. Usually after my bath, she would cut up apple slices, serve them with cinnamon sugar, and we’d curl up on her bed watching it.

Once we moved to Minneapolis I began watching it every night as I fell asleep. Revisiting it now, it is no wonder I turned out the way I did. Just like Joe attributes my burping to Pippi Longstocking, I think The Golden Girls gave me my sarcasm and my ability to hold a straight face. Well, that and my mom.

Social Media – what goes viral?

This week in my social media class we discussed the attributes of content that make it go viral. Before the class, we were asked to post on our class tumblr a piece of content we recently shared and to dive into the reason behind it. I chose to discuss a tweet I had recently retweeted:

I retweeted this in order to raise awareness to the harassment that Anita Sarkeesian and other female video gamers receive online. #Gamergate has been something I’ve followed since the beginning, mainly because I love video games myself but also because of the pure hatred it has surfaced around the internet.

Retweeting this allowed others to learn about the topic and also enabled those giving the harassment to see there are a lot of people who support those they are attacking.

Even though I follow @femfreq myself, when I saw so many other people I follow also retweeting it, I knew it was something I wanted to stand behind. I chose to retweet this one in particular because I had never associated the two accounts before and realized how widespread the support was.


 

Berger breaks the components into 6 pieces, or STEPPS, that can make content go viral.

  • Social currency
  • Triggers
  • Emotions
  • Physiological arousal
  • Public
  • Stories

For my retweet specifically, there were emotions that it caused in me: frustration and anger. Strong emotions, either positive or negative, increase the likelihood that something will be shared. Super interesting!

Friends: a value

At Sloan, we don’t have official classes during January. It is called the Independent Activities Period (IAP) and is time for students to travel, do externships, or participate in a short term class. I’m in a class for this week called: Conflict Management & Assertive Communication. It has actually been really interesting and has prompted a lot of self-reflection.

One activity I did was called “values.” We were given a handout with maybe 50 different values and we each had to self-select the 5 we individually valued most. I selected, in alphabetical order, Fame, Friends, Humor, Self-Acceptance and Wealth. I was a little hesitant to select this specific set because Fame + Wealth seems incompatible with Self-Acceptance. Yet, just because I love me for who I am doesn’t mean I don’t want others to do the same, right?

Next, the trainer asked “How do others know these are your values?” My eyes went straight to “Friends” and I realized: They probably don’t.

I’ve never had a plethora of friends. In fact, for a majority of my life I would say I had none. Growing up, I related better with adults. So, if I can count my adult friends then I am fine, but in all honesty it was difficult to be my true self around them too.

I had what I thought was my first “best friend’ in 6th grade. Then one day we got curious and kissed and she never spoke to me again. In 7th grade I had a close friend who ended up hating me by the end of the year because she thought I was a lesbian and by 8th grade I had a new bff. Then I switched schools because that’s what happens and in high school I got along better with guys. I had one good high school friend but even by senior year we spent less and less time together.

Once I got to Macalester I was like “holy shit, I finally found my people” and had 7 good friends that I would always hang out with. Over the years some of them drifted away (read: we didn’t click and things got awkward). And then there were just Devin, Drew, and Mollie, which would be all I ever needed if they all lived in the same state (or at least not California, Minnesota and North Carolina).

Post-college was hard. It’s also when I started this blog because I realized I needed some way to get what was inside of me out and a deep friendship wasn’t available necessarily. I think I rub people the wrong way. My humor can be hard to read, and I’m not good at making people feel overly welcome if I don’t like them. Maybe I’m too judgy, which I do try to work on.

I’m also an introvert and am very anxious in large group situations, which is what makes business school kind of funny. A recent article in the Huffington Post spelled me out to a T, and also made me feel a lot more comfortable with the fact that I’m not rolling in friends. tldr: I withdraw in large crowds, small talk stresses me while deeper conversations are great, phone conversations are hard and I basically shut down when I’ve had enough of people. I think it was actually secretly written about me.

So, now that I’ve uprooted my entire life to move across the country to go to a school that revolves around networking, how am I doing? I feel extremely alone. I miss people understanding me and I miss having a deep connection. But I also acknowledge that as an adult, best friends don’t just fall from trees and real relationships can take some time. I’ve got one thing going on right now but I don’t want to be overly eager and jinx it.

So even now, as I reflect on my current friendships and how bad I am at keeping up with people across the country, I still see these connections as being ever so important. It was just a lot easier when we lived together and it makes me want to be rich enough so I can buy a huge piece of land and have all my friends live next door. Wisteria Lane doesn’t look too bad right now.

Staring at my apple tree

I was a lot of things when I was four, but most importantly, I fancied myself a song writer. I would sit on my bed, tape recorder in hand, trying to get the best recording I could. I then listened to the cassettes everywhere I went, turning my own songs into my instant favorites. In fact, to this day other’s can remember the words, and by others, I mean only my mom. What a treasure it would be if I still had those compilations. Alas, they’ve gone missing over the years, most likely mistaken for a Mary-Kate and Ashley album I no longer enjoyed (blasphemy in itself).

Looking back, I see these recording as true musical genius. Just starin’ at my apple tree. That would have been the song that changed the world. I wrote it while sitting on my bed, get this, staring at my apple tree. I don’t remember any of the other lines, but there were many verses and a course. My mom totally fed into it too – she would play it in the car, learn the songs with me, and commend my amazing skills. If I had limited access to a time machine and only got one use, I’d go back to 1992 and get those cassettes so I could treasure them forever. Then I’d realize how terrible they were and regret going back in time. OR (more likely – obvi), they’d be Taylor Swift’s next #1 hit because shiiitt, I’ve got connections.