piątek, 27 marca 2009

Goodbye Hai Phong

So our 4-week-assignment is overL It’s hard to believe how quickly time passed by here. So much happened and we are all coming back home with incredible experiences.

It was so nice that before our departure we have had visitors: our interpreters, some of our clients, and all the staff of the hotel came to say goodbye us. Goodbye was pretty emotional for some of us as really strong relations ships were built. And we will see how much it would be possible to keep in touch.

Hence we moved to Hanoi for the last 3 days in Vietnam.

czwartek, 26 marca 2009

Why do you always smile....

So there is our last day in Hai Phong….. Our assignments are almost over...... Where are the 4 weeks spent here.....

In the morning I have worked with my interpreters in the hotel finalizing the report with results of our work and our proposals. I’m not sure how much from my suggestions will be introduced in the future but I have enjoyed working with my client even my time was really limited and it was pretty difficult to get deep understand of current company situation.

After lunch I had a brief meeting with my client presenting him the report and handing some IBM gadgets. We will still meet tomorrow before my departure as HR manager and director will pass the hotel to say goodbye. It looks that so many people are coming tomorrow to see us before we leave Hai Phong, it might be emotional morning.

My last afternoon in Hai Phong I decided to dedicate to my interpreters so we spent long time going on their motorbike around the center, visiting a few places and having long conversations.
It’s always been interesting to see how local people are surprised to see me a foreigner on the motorbike in the company of two Vietnamese girls. Most of the people are so friendly; keep on smiling and saying constantly “hello”. I usually smile a lot but here I’ve got used to it even more and I like it:-) Today even my interpreter asked me why I’m constantly smiling but it’s so natural here and I have no doubts that back Poland it will be not so frequent:-(

środa, 25 marca 2009

In a bedroom with Napoleon

I have had another day spent with Monica by her client and have to admit that it was very productive day. The main contact persons from client are already pretty confident with my presence there and today we have managed to have long sessions related to HR management, roles and responsibilities in the company, employee’s motivation. Director seemed to be vey keen on learning more about our proposals and hopefully she would manage to implement some of our ideas. It’s a new company, most of the staff is really young but hopefully they will manage to build stable SME.

And after lunch it is a time for a nap - it is practiced by all the employees, and as company is located in a pretty big house a part from office space, kitchen there are a few bedrooms. I was sent to the director’s bedroom, sharing bed with her, interpreter, Monica and having picture of Napoleon above our big bed. Without any doubts we needed the recharge of our batteries to continue intensively in the afternoon:-) And also afternoon turned out to be very productive, having presentation on job description, making short interview with director.

The director’s pink Lenovo laptop

Continuing farewell dinners we were invited by one of the client for a kind of indoor “barbeque”. Another interesting culinary experience, making your own food on the “homemade” fire and having a chance different kind of food that normaly I even don’t know the names.

wtorek, 24 marca 2009

Farewell dinner with VCCI and interpreters

The last week of our assignment seems to be flying very quickly and each day is fully occupied. Today as my client was not available due to busy schedule and the director still being on the business trip in Ho Chi Minh City I decided to join Monica on her assignment and help her to meet her client’s requirements. And I was very happy of my decision as it enabled me to enrich my knowledge of another Vietnamese SME:-)

Thus we spent morning with Ms Hang, director and it was very interesting to see how she firstly was establishing relationship with me and trying to get confidence from my presence. Even though we have earlier met on a few occasions, it was our first-time-encounter at the professional level. And with time passing by, the relationship being built we moved on towards coaching session and we enjoyed very much sharing our thoughts and giving her some tips for managing the company. I found it crucial to have a chance to support her as in country like Vietnam it’s not easy for women to be running their own companies.

And in the afternoon, in the spirit of our Vietnamese experience, it means being always prepared for unexpected and ready for embracing surprises we went to …… hairdresser to have a one-hour-head massage and hair staighted. Very interesting experience, enriching our cultural knowledge:-)

And to finish our interesting day, in the evening we have invited our interpreters and representatives of VCCI for farewell dinner to celebrate our cooperation during our assignment in Hai Phong. We still have 3 more days but slowly we do realize that our assignments in Vietnam are almost over. It’s hard to believe how quickly the time passed here.

poniedziałek, 23 marca 2009

Always work on building relationships

As were informed last week that director of the company is still going to be on the business trip on Monday we decided to work in the morning from hotel and continue in the office in the afternoon. Firstly we had scheduled a meeting with secretary and provided some tips and small training on customer service skills. She is a newcomer in the company and still struggles to figure out her way of working but it was very nice to see how eager she is learn new things. Hopefully she would manage to implement some of our ideas in her daily tasks.
Afterward we continued with the session with HR manager.
And what a nice surprise to learn that they are just implementing one of my ideas related to salary that I proposed on one of the first days. But it wouldn’t be a typical day on our assignment if we wouldn’t have to face a situation in which our flexibility would be testedJ This time it turned out that even the director was supposed to be back on Tuesday she would not be back in the office before Friday. So we may not to meet her again and we would have to present the report to HR person.
We finished today presenting HR manager and some of other team members the content of
SME Toolkit ( www.smetoolkit.org) and it was very fascinating to see how much they were enthusiastic to look at the different areas available on the website. I was very glad to observe it because I think it’s a great source of data that they might be able to use in the future. Especially that partially it is available in Vietnamese language but I emphasized that it might also useful to check with original version only in English if there are not more resources. I did on purpose with intention if they need any help on translations, my interpreters might still stay in touch with them.
I’m learning to foreseen how important it might to be to build good relationship at the different stages so if there is anyway I can also help my interpreters why not:-)

niedziela, 22 marca 2009

Halong Bay tour

We have managed to spend our (the whole team being together) last weekend on private relaxing tour in the mystic atmosphere of Halong Bay - (literally: Descending Dragon bay) a UNESCO World Heritage site located 1.5 hours drive from Hai Phong.
The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and more that 2000 isles in various sizes and shapes.

So Saturday we spent chilling out on the boat, admiring the beautiful islands on the way to the bay where we stayed overnight and we visited Titop Island - little island that Got its name from Ghermann Titov, a former Soviet Union hero that visited an island with Ho Chi Minh.

On the island we climbed 400 steps to top to breathtaking view to the bay as well as me and Monica decided to go for the swim this year:-)The first jump into water was pretty difficult but later on it was much better. The only problem I found was that water was so dirty, some rubbish floating on the surface. Generally it was seen all the way during our cruise that Vietnamese have still long way to learn and put into practice more attention to protect their environment. I hope that being on UNESCO heritage list will help to protect this incredible area and different parties will be aware that if they don’t look after it there will be no way in the future to earn money on the tourists coming there.

And than back on the boat we had delicious dinner consisting of some varies meals (sometimes I have impression that I keep on eating all the time in VietnamJ But on the other hand except of few occasion food is really delicious) and afterwards we enjoyed interesting conversation about cultural differences related to relationships, marriages – especially learning about arranged marriages in India.

Sunday morning we visited a floating village and immense Hang Sung Sot cave and later on we could delight in the empty bay after most of the boats that stayed overnight in our neighborhood went back to the city.

P.s And Sunday evening being back to hotel very nice opportunity for more sportJ We practiced again shuttle cock game and afterwards a few of use played tennis with general manager and director of hotel. I haven’t played tennis for 15 years!

środa, 18 marca 2009

Yes, I have eaten Crickets.....

Continuing the “tradition” of invitations for dinners or different activities helping us immerse into Vietnamese culture this time was my client turn:-)
Hence we had dinner in nice restaurant overlooking small lake almost in the center of Hai Phong and meal consisted of the various starters and hot pot. Among starter the most “exotic”, bizarre were fried (barbequed) crickets!!! I have eaten them!:-) I admit that I had difficulty with the first one but the next ones were really ok. Proper sauce and no problem:-)
To be honest I didn’t think that I would ever dare to eat such insects.

The second part of the evening was truly karaoke experience and we had so much fun, everyone took part so actively singing:-)

Some Karoke performances:

And Tineke with special dedication for you:-)

wtorek, 17 marca 2009

Interpreter's life in Vietnam

Even though we are two of us on the assignment this week our work is not proceeding in satisfying speed. Our contact persons are very busy and as they are not able to dedicate us any time it’s difficult for us to think about any potential advices or solutions for them if our knowledge about company is still vague.

So we spent the morning “session” with our interpreters learning more about life in Vietnam and their current situation of entering on labor market. We did our best to share our own experiences and try to give them some guidelines or encouragement. I hope it was interesting for them to see also our perspective from two countries Poland and Holland (in Vietnamese Ba Lan and Hal Lan:-).
Personally I perceive very seriously our work with interpreters and see it equally important as our consulting for companies. These young people have great opportunity to improve their English and gain some work experience but at the same time they are our first ambassadors to the Vietnamese culture and for sure our work wouldn’t be possible without them. (for some of us for sure). In addition I’m sure that I’m learning so much thanks to them and my experience is so rich.

In the evening we had our first work-out:-) Hurra, some sport activities (that’s probably one of the biggest issue for me during this stay not having any sport/ fitness activities).
So we decided to master our skills in playing shuttle- cock at the parking of the hotel. It’s our second time only playing this game and it’s far away from presenting any level (probably every single child in Vietnam plays thousand times better than we do) but we have had so much fun.
I’ve bought 5 shuttle-cocks to take with me to Poland and introduce game to family and friends:-)

poniedziałek, 16 marca 2009

New week new researches

During this week the research in my company continues. As this is my second assignment I’m still in the phase of obtaining information how the company works and in which areas I can assist. I have got some initial blurred ideas but it’s far too little to be able to present my client any proposals. However I should be able to speed up a bit this week as Arjan will spend this week with me here and hopefully we manage to provide some advice.
So today we had a session on customer service management and tried to understand how this concept is understood and what the reality is.

And herewith are some photos from company surroundings:
Company dog:

My company building:

Other neighboring companies buildings:

niedziela, 15 marca 2009

Treasure hunt and other games in SOS Children Village!

Sunday morning we dedicated for the trip to Do San beach and Hon Dau Island nearby Hai Phong and the afternoon for activities at SOS Children’s village.

The trip was organized by one of our clients with VCCI (Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce) and probably we wouldn’t go for such an excursion by ourselves but it was another experience. We had difficulty to understand the purpose of different spots showed us during the trip like Casino or the resort that is still being built. None of use seemed to be interested in discovering it or being impressed by them. On the other side our requests to have some longer walk were seen as strange idea:-)

The afternoon we spent back at the SOS Children’s Village playing games with the kids. And it was very joyful time and it seems that children appreciated the lolly pops, books and IBM stationery they have received as prizes in the games organized by us. We arranged a treasure hunt, Debbie prepared balloon animals that seemed to be the most hunted by all the kids. We ourselves started playing popular in Vietnam a game of keepy-uppy using something similar to a shuttlecock. To be honest our skills were behind the children but we have intention to buy our own shuttlecocks and keep on practicing.

And it was also great that we could finally have some sport activities and seeing kids smiling and enjoying playing with us was very rewarding! It's not sure if we manage to come back to SOS village still during our stay in Vietnam but hopefully the other CSC teams will follow the relationships we have built.

sobota, 14 marca 2009

The unique engagement experience

What a wonderful feeling to wake up and to see the sun shining outside!!! It’s been the first time since we arrived to Hai Phong that we were enjoying such a beautiful day. A minus of our stay here is that we came during the rainy season and unfortunately almost every day it rains.
And regarding this weekend we decided to stay in Hai Phong due to some earlier arrangements, planned meetings and community activities.

The first one was the visit of IBM Vietnam General Manager Mr. Vo Tan Long to get overview of our assignments and to see if there is anything we need support on. It was very interesting to share our experiences and to get more light on some of the issues we have been facing as well to enrich our knowledge of Vietnamese business environment, culture. We may still meet again at the end of our stay in Vietnam visiting the IBM office in Hanoi.

The afternoon was supposed to be without any particular plans, rather lazy one but I have already learnt during my stay here “state without plans” can be really short one. And the became valid for this afternoon as well:-) Monica has received from the client (Mr Phuong ) invitation to another wedding and she didn’t have to persuade me for a long to join her. (not that I‘m fan of weddings but my intuition was seeing it as another unique experience, and I was right:-)!!!). This time the event took place outside Hai Phong, in the province and we were told that the celebrations would be rather modest. So we took a taxi and our excited journey started:-) Our taxi driver even though he had received all the indications with the address and detailed directions as soon as we left the city kept on stopping every 5 minutes asking casual people about the way but finally he succeeded and we arrived to bride’s house.
The preparation started shortly before our arrival and it turned out that we were going to attend engagement party. At the beginning there were only a few people and everyone was surprised to see two western women but quickly we were introduced by Mr Phuong (sister of his girlfriend was getting married) and so many people welcomed us very cordially. Especially the elder women from the bride’s family were so much eager to talk to us but the language barrier make it pretty impossible but still with help of our hands, constant smile and translations of Mr Phuong we managed to have very exciting “conversations” learning more about Vietnamese wedding tradition. So the ceremony we were attending was engagement party, where elders of the groom’s family will meet elders from bride’s family in order to exchange gifts and secure the authorization from both families to have their son/daughter married.
Earlier a fortune teller was consulted to set a date and time for the wedding, a good day” was chosen based on the lunar calendar and young couple’s astrological signs.

During the ceremony, we could observe many colorful, interesting rituals, among which was the boy’s relatives set off in procession to visit their future in-laws, bearing symbolic gifts in special red lacquered boxes. Furthermore we took part in the ride on the motorcycles from the bride’s house to the groom’s house. (Mr Phuong was kind to take us both on one motorbike:-).

We got along so well with family that we were also invited to stay over for a dinner and having no other plans for the rest of the day we accepted the invitation without foreseen that it would be continuation of unique experience as well as incredibly challenging culinary one. We were asked to sit down with the closest family, including two grandmothers and it was fine until we saw dishes prepared. Generally during my travels I’m very keen on learning new things, trying new things but this time I didn’t have enough courage. Very quickly we have realized that we would not be able to eat half of the meals as it was too extreme for us, some specialties: pork liver mixed with blood, some raw meat prepared only with lemon and other internal parts of different animals. We were simply terrified and had big dilemma what to do, how not to offend our host. Fortunately two grandmothers were very kind and didn’t force too much to eat things were not fond of and it was our choice what to pick up.
Even though one of grandmother insisted very much on our stay over there we decided to come back to Hai Phong and our 30-kilometer-journey on the motorcycles (this time we two motorcycles:-) was also very exciting.

I have to say that this engagement party was probably the most unique and moving experience of our stay in Vietnam.

piątek, 13 marca 2009

Not easy life when your partner is a sailor.

This morning at work when I continued my interviews with people to get better understanding how the company is organized we moved to one of very interesting topics: how to build successful relationship, later on get married if your partner is a sailor. As Hai Phong is a harbor city it looks that is pretty common problem/dilemma. My company is struggling with high fluctuation of employees leaving the company, precisely their work on the ships. It looks that many men don’t want to work in these very hard conditions and don't like being away from family for a long time. A boyfriend of one of my interpreter is a sailor and he’s been 2 months sailing and will stay another 8, the same situation was for HR person from my previous company with the difference that she’s been married for 3 months and her husband has been away for 2 months and will continue for another 8 months. And one of the managers in my new company was a sailor for 5 years and confirmed that it’s very tough life.

And today's lunch was in a shopping center as the security guide had a day off:-)This time we had “hot spot” – kind of soup being prepared by us with so many ingredients consisting of sea food, meat, vegetables and big variety of mushrooms (almost all of them were new for me).

In the evening, in the spirit of team knowledge sharing and supporting each others three of us decided to test personally SPA Nadal that is part of the complex where Murali has his assignment. Not only we could recharge our batteries after the whole week but we would be able to provide some feedback to Murali of the staff performance, one of his tasks during the assignmentJ. And we had a lot to talk to him as we have had really bizarre experience. None of staff spoke English hence we were a bit struggling explaining what we want as well as to get some understanding how we should prepare for the massage. It was a lot fun but hopefully our experience will help Murali to get some training to the staff on better customer service :-)

czwartek, 12 marca 2009

You never know what you get for lunch.

The first day stayed by new client passed very nice, having conversations with HR representative and director of the company in order to get some overview of the enterprise and to see where are the potential areas of improvement.

So my new assignment is in a family run oil trading company, selling and shipping oil in Vietnam, and apart from office where I work they have 6 ships (sea and river ones). One day I need to arrange to go harbor and to see it, it might be very interesting:-)

And what about the most important part of the working day lunch in a new place?:-) So the meal is prepared downstairs in the kitchen by security man and it looked ok but as we have already agreed on in our group you can never take for granted that one particular lunch can be totally “safe”. ( in terms that you can be sure what you are eating).Even innocent question “do you eat chicken” can never guarantee you that you will get the one you may be used to. So for my first lunch in a new place I got cooked chicken with lemon grass, but it was almost the whole chicken, with skin on it…. And later on the interesting discussion related to vietnamese food occurred and it was hard to persuade that there is no way I will eat a dog…. That’s probably one of the biggest culinary fears not to get a dog during one of the meals out.
Our stay in Vietnam without any doubts is amazing culinary journey but at times pretty risky one:-)

And the part of 2-hour-lunch break was watching vienamese soap opera on TV:-) Every company has its own culture:-)

środa, 11 marca 2009

Visit in blind school

In the morning me and Arjan were introduced to a new potential client and were taken to its office to see if they expectations are in line with what we can do in our remaining time in Vietnam or maybe the following later on in April another CSC volunteer can continue our work.
The meeting was very nice and despite time constraints I hope it would be possible to implement some improvements or give them some ideas that can be used later on.
We have decided to look at: Human Resources, building Customer Service and communication skills of the staff and providing some ideas on building enterprise culture.
Firstly I’ll start myself and later on, the following week Arjan will join me.

Afternoon we again dedicated to community activities, visiting this time blind school in Hai Phong with the purpose to start building the relationship and to see if there any areas we could assist on or prepare the ground for two other teams coming later this spring.
We have presented the proposals and let’s see what outcome will be.

And for the dinner we were invited by the management staff of the hotel we are staying in.

wtorek, 10 marca 2009

Be always prepare for unexpected

This morning I felt a bit anxious going to work (my sixth sense?!) as I knew that I was supposed to get more details from the previous day meeting and maybe also to gain better comprehension of what I had observed the last days in the office. There are moments when I feel a fairly helpless without understanding the language and without deeper knowledge of Vietnamese culture. I may have some background of working in the international environment (including the Japanese company) and earlier experience of travelling in the South East Asia but the current challenges expose me to totally new learning and sensations. (Thus the being CSC participant is such an enriching, challenging and enjoyable experience).
So this morning I started with a session with my interpreters going through the materials I prepared the previous evening with the assistance and the comments from the other team members. I wanted my interpreters understand first the concept before going into translations for the client. Than we had a brief session with the head of one of the departments and shortly afterwards Mr B arrived and wanted to summarize me the outcome of the last conversations with the client. Hence the client asked me to prepare the report of my analysis and some potential advice for him and …….. my assignment was over. It looked like that the expectations from the client and organizer were not entirely met and the company would like to finish the assignment. The situation looks pretty complicated and deeper knowledge and understanding of Vietnamese business culture as well as culture itself is required. Thus I need to embrace new coming challenges. Probably I will need to go to another company and start the second assignment together with Arjan who also finished his assignment the last Friday.

Herewith are the photos from the lunch in my last company and very lovely teahouse restaurant. (I think this is one of the most beautiful places I have been in Hai Phong).

The afternoon following our ideas for get involved in some activities for local communities we had an appointment with Director of International SOS village in Hai Phong. We have got a chance to learn more about their activities see how they run village and play a bit with children from Kindergarten. It looks that every team member found himself/ herself very well in the company of little Vietnamese children. I don’t know if this is because we are foreigners but the interactions were so intense and vivid.

poniedziałek, 9 marca 2009

Flexibility and patience needed

The most magic words we have learnt during our stay here are:
patience, flexibility, mind-openness, willing to embrace unexpected changes and challenges and what’s the most important smile whatever it happens.
During the pre-work time before departure to Vietnam we were many times warned that we need to develop the above the skills but the reality is not always easy.
Another crucial aspect of taking into account in Asian culture is “saving face and we keep in it continuously in mind and sometimes it gets really complicated having many parties involved in our activities, client, VCCI (Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce), ABV and ourselves and the responsibility we feel towards the whole organizing team of IBM CSC.
And without doubts the beginning of the week made me face new challenge and provided some lessons learnt, I started my work following the agreement from the meeting on Friday and kept on making some analysis in order to complete some of my guidelines and suggestions for the company. However at one point I started to notice that my client was starting to behave in a bit strange way than it was followed by sudden visit of VCCI representative having long discussion with the director of the company. When the meeting was over another discussion followed in my presence but I didn’t manage to get any information what’s going on.
My interpreters were also not so much willing to enlighten me about the situation. The only information I got was to keep on working and we will talk to you tomorrow. Strange, but fine I said to myself, “it’s normal that I may not understand what’s going on, I don’t understand the language and I may have already some experience in Asian culture but still it’s long way to become expert. Just another learning opportunity”
So let’s see and be patient for tomorrow’s meeting.

Ah, one lesson learnt from today: it’s not a good idea to wear skirt and try on get on a motorbike as a passenger:-( I did it once and that’s enough. It’s too dangerous.

niedziela, 8 marca 2009

The first spring rolls prepared by myself

We have already had pleasure to participate in so many events related to the international women day during the week so finally Sunday was time for recharging the batteries after extremely busy week full of so many unexpected situations and tests for our flexibility and patience:-)

The only fix plan I had was home visit to my main contact person from client and going to for tiny local food market and buying all the necessary ingredients for preparing local Vietnamese dishes for lunch. With guidelines of my host and my interpreters I had fun preparing few Vietnamese dishes with the most important: spring rolls. I have made accurate notes hoping to be able to prepare ones when I go back to Poland. Not sure yet if I manage to get the ingredients at home I’ll try to bring some with me from here.

The nice meeting was finished with watching on TV the show which recording we have attended on Friday and it was hard not to recognize our group among others viewers. We were sitting in the second row and after every little competition of the participant the camera showed the audience. “The Hai Phong Blue Team” was always visible:-)

sobota, 7 marca 2009

Ninh Binh Trip and ....... Vietnamese wedding

Weekend time and excursion time! We have arranged the day trip to Ninh Binh that is located to the south of the Northern Delta, between the Red and Ma rivers. We woke up at 5.30 AM, got on the mini bus, got some sleep on the way to Tam Coc the first stop on our tour. The Tam Coc (“three caves”) is a two-hour excursion by small boat along the Ngo Dong river, beginning at the village of Van Lam and proceeding through a scenic landscape dominated by rice fields and karst towers. The route includes floating through three natural caves (Hang Ca, Hang Hai, and Hang Ba), the largest of which is 125m long with its ceiling about 2m high above the water. The boats are typically rowed by one or two local women (the row using not only hands but also feet, look below pictures).

The next stop was Bich Dong, a cave pagoda on Ngu Nhac Mountain dating to 1428, a holy site of pilgrimage for Vienamese. The site comprises of three structures: Ha, Trung, and Thuong Pagodas, in ascending order.

The final stop during our tour was Phat Diem complex, is the center of Catholicism in north Vietnam big tourist site attracting foreign and domestic visitors.
The entire complex is unique example of combination of Vietnamese and European Architecture as the kind of symbol merging the Vietnamese Buddhism culture and catholic religion. All the buildings reflect both concepts.

While were visiting the monuments were asked by one the Vietnamese film school student if we would agree to give him little interview what our impression from Vientam, Ninn Binh province. Somehow I was a selected, volunteer to talk about itJ It was fun and of course I couldn’t forget to mention that aim of our stay in Vietnam:-)
So there Arjan is not the only celebrity in our team:-)

Even though the excursion had very rich itinerary and we enjoyed it a lot, the attractions for the day were not over yet. As soon as we arrived to the hotel, we changed our clothes, picked up a present and went to the Vietnamese wedding. We invited by one of our clients to attend the reception of the wedding for 1000 guests that took place on the two floor of the modern conference center in the center of Hai Phong. Due to our excursion we couldn’t make on time and unfortunately we the missed the ceremony of the exchange of marriage rings but we still enjoyed experiencing the Vietnamese reception. As usually our group was surprise for most of the other guests but we could feel to be really welcomed by young couple and their family. The main reception took on the first floor while were sitting on the other one but could follow up all the events on the special screen placed in our hall. The main “activity” during the reception was enjoying so much delicious variety of food as well as constantly making toast with other guests.

More on Vietnamese wedding tradition and the pictures will follow soon.

piątek, 6 marca 2009

And the winner is.......... Arjan!:-)

As promised earlier to my client I arranged a meeting in the morning with him, my interpreters and Ms Huyen from ABV (our partner organization) to present my ideas gather during the week spent in his company and my proposals. I was very glad to have assistance from ABV at my side to sharing my suggestion with client and listen also from the other side comments. It was very good meeting however still we are at the point non reaching final conclusion what exactly I’m going to deliver them in these 3 remaining weeks but as they are happy with my current finding so my idea is to keep on going what I think is right direction and use the knowledge and advices of my team mates and provide them as many as possible tips or different templates they can. Taking into account time constraints and cultural difference that’s probably the best approach, and I believe they would be able to use later on some of the changes proposed by me.

What about lunch on the last week day? This time is was the sea food restaurant in the city center and as usually it was pretty funny to watch local’s reaction at foreigner coming there.
Today’s menu contained some seafood and vegetables.

After luch we passed by the center to buy me a new helmet:-)

And evening’s attraction of this week was local TV show recorded in the building of Opera in Hai Phong. We were invited by one of our clients to attend the show dedicating to the celebrations of “International Women Day”. The idea of the show is to demonstrate if men can deal with women’s daily tasks and host of the program was vey famous Vietnamese presenter ( we don’t know exactly who is but our interpreters told us they are his fan, we didn’t manage to get his autograph but we have a picture with himJ). Even though we didn’t understand very deeply all the activities it was interesting experience. And what’s worthy mention is that we as a team were sitting in the second row just in the front of the scene and definitely we were very visible (especially we were wearing our lovely team “Hai Phong Blue Team” T-shirts:-).

Part of the show involving audience foresaw small lottery so all viewers have received special envelops with lucky number. Almost at the end of the performance one of our team members Ashok was asked to pick up the numbers from crystal bowl.
And the winner is ……. Arjan!
So we have new celebrity in our team:-)

More pictures from show will follow.

czwartek, 5 marca 2009

Streets of Hai Phong

The last word we could say about our stay in Vietnam is that we are bored, we face tones of incredibly interesting situations on daily basis, and it’s on every level, at work, at any meal or myself after work going for stroll trough city center exploring each time new streets and finally taking motor taxi back to hotel.

Firstly let me update on today’s lunch meal which maybe was pretty ordinary comparing with others, it means nothing scary to eat so no need to have beer to help with eating some of the pieces:-) As usually I went out with my interpreters and my main contact from the company and this time it was small street restaurant and we had “only” soup but very good one. I can’t stop being amazed by all the variety of food I have already tasted here in the last 5 days, my 3-weeks spent in Vietnam last year is nothing comparing with current stay here.

It’s so easy to get used to 2-hour-lunch break and enjoying the meal. The only complain I could have is that I don’t have opportunity of taking a nap after lunch as the others have, some of them have even been forced to do it:-) Now probably we have simply “acknowledged” Vietnamese customs and enjoy it.

Despite of the rain (the weather is not very generous for us, it rains every day but usually only in the mornings) I still decided to go on with my tradition of walk after work and again was exploring some new streets in the center with main attraction of the food market. Below are the pictures but for most of the things I don’t the slightest idea what are the names.

And usually on the way back to hotel I took motor taxi:-)

I need to make a small movie to show the traffic on the streets here and how it goes here. There is no way that words can express it.

And today’s afternoon was different from the previous as finally we have decided to spent some time all together and go through many pending organizational things as well as share our thoughts, doubts, challenges we face on the projects we work on and to use each other’s knowledge. The session was very helpful for me especially that I have promised my client to present on Friday my analysis and proposal of my work for the remaining three weeks. It was very precious to hear others comments as my company has very high expectations on me and they somehow want me to analyze new whole organization structure, work on change management, prepare some plan for foreseen management and organization changes. Although I have mentioned that the task is huge and it can’t be done in such a short period as my assignment is planned my clients want to look at my proposals. Nevertheless we have gathered some ideas and points that I’m going to share with my client.
And the second crucial outcome from our team meeting was agenda with all the events we have plans for and it seems that whenever we receive another invitation we will need to consult our schedule to make sure that it is feasible:-) We have also draft regarding some of the community activities we would like to get involved in, maybe visiting blind school especially that Murali has so much experience in this field. We will work on it the coming weeks.
Last not the least it’s brilliant to be in a company of people with such a great sense of humor, that’s probably reason why we deal so well with constant changes, situations where flexibility and patience are real virtues.

środa, 4 marca 2009

Pre-work for Internationl Women Day......SPA evening

The number of surprises and unexpected immerses into Vietnamese culture we encounter each day is incredibly impressive and makes our days so vivid.

Today I have discovered that there are two women days in Vietnam: 8th of March is international women day and 20th of December is Vietnamese Women Day. And as the international women day is forthcoming I have experience already some evidences of the respect and special attention that is paid to women on this day.
Going out today for lunch with my client and my interpreters to the local restaurant enabled me to watch a company dinner with plenty of food, rice wine accompanied by some interesting speeches (Ok, I admit I didn’t understand much of it as my Vietnamese is limited to 10 words) However it was hilarious to observe body language of the people and trying to guess what’s going on as well as to master my ability to “comprehend” this precious knowledge so needed here. The fact is that we face so numerous situations on daily basis in which we have to guess the meaning of particular circumstances and even it might be tricky we don’t have a much choice.
After I have taken some pictures of this vivid group one of the men approached me and gave me a flower similar one as all the women in his group received. And talking about lunch of course I have to mention what this time menu was. Goat meat prepared on the kind on “barbeque” by the customers by themselves is the specialty of the restaurant. So when you are at your table the waiters bring plenty of different ingredients to let you to make your lunch. So there are various herbs, two kinds of meat and many vegetables. You prepare your meat; you can make kind f spring rolls – rice paper filled in according to you preferences. Than the soup is carried and additional items, like special mushrooms (first time in my life I’ve tried it, not that it’s something bizarre during my stay here, I keep on doing it constantly) rice pasta, vegetables, herbs and again the soups is boiled in front of you and you add whatever you want.

And just few words how proud I’m of myself starting taking up some Vietnamese very day and as nobody speaks English in my company that they are impressed when come in the morning and say “hello”, thank you, good bye or see you tomorrow. Nevertheless I have to admit that it’s very difficult language and it’s not similar to any of the languages I know and being able to pronounce words with proper intonation is big challenge. Even people laugh when I say something but I think it’s important I keep on trying.

Seizing the opportunity that the office of my client is located pretty in the center I decided to go every day ( if only possible) for a walk after work and later on catching taxi ( moto taxi) to the hotel. And without any doubts is really exhilarating stroll as it looks that inhabitants of Hai Phong are not so used to foreigner and I can’t hide that I’m not from Vietnam so passing by I constantly meet people smiling and greeting me so I do exactly the same. I love it. Thus I wouldn’t be surprised that I’ll get used to it very quickly and when I’m back home I would to greet people as well e.g getting on a bus and everyone will look at me as an idiotJ
I travelled in Vietnam 3 weeks last year and I met so many friendly people but in Hai Phong is incredible how open and welcoming their inhabitants are. I marvel every day.

And it’s not the end of the day full of unbelievable experiences……. we – 4 IBM women of our lovely “The Hai Phong Blue Team” were invited by Monica’s client to visit ……. SPA. We were driven to one of the most upper market Beauty Centers in Hai Phong to secret treatment. It turned out that we had special facial treatment, skin analysis and individual recommendation. Everything happened in the surrounding of 3 interpreters, all the staff of the beauty salon and one man filming us.:-) And everything ended with the session with manager of the Beauty Center, we were asked to share our opinion about the place, think about any recommendation or guidelines we could give for running this business, for marketing or generally for strategy.

We have had such a lovely; relaxing evening even we have asked ourselves if this is supposed to be our assignment?! But we can’t forget that we are in Vietnam and one of the crucial cultural characteristics is building relationship and that’s what we are working on:-)

Tomorrow I try to focus more on writing a bit about my client, my work with interpreters and the assignment.

wtorek, 3 marca 2009

Eating out in Vietnam

Everyday seems to be so full of emotions, and it’s hard to believe that it’s only the second day spent in the client’s location. In addition when we share our thoughts in the team we are amazed how different our experiences are, how many new situations we encounter and how varied our assignments are. That’s make the whole project so rich and valuable at many levels.
Apart from work we have already started to think if there are any other community activities we could be involved in and we do not forget to take care of our weekend plans for exploring a bit the north of Vietnam:-)

Hai Phong is well-known for seafood and we have had a chance to discover it today being invited for the dinner by Director and other staff members of Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI). The variety of seafood was amazing however I have to admit that I didn’t dare to try everything even though Debbie was trying to convince me that as I’m adventurous type so I should do it:-) I’m really keen on exploring Vietnamese cuisine but at the same I’m a bit concerned each time I order the meal because you never know what you will get and sometimes it might too extreme. But of course that’s part of excitement related to travelling.

And if I have already started the subject of eating it’s worthy mentioning that food is very important part of the Vietnamese culture, lunch lasts in most of companies 2 hours (11.30 -13.30) and if it’s a small family run business, where house is not only for live but at the same it’s an office, maybe little factory or warehouse, food will be prepared there and the owners (directors, managers) will have meal with other employees. What’s important to point out is that meal consists of many various dishes.
More on Vietnamese food, some tradition and Vietnamese culture will follow on later.

poniedziałek, 2 marca 2009

First meeting with client

We have waited for such a long time to meet our clients as well as to get more information about our one-month assignments and it happened today. The first introduction of both sides and the first day spent in our client’s location.
Despite the initial uneasiness caused by language barrier and the new situation for every one: the client, my two interpreters and myself (getting into completely new environment) we managed to get know each other a bit and break the first ice. The further steps will consist of getting understanding of each other’s expectations for our month partnership and analyzing what we can do.

From so far experience I can say that Vietnamese people are incredibly friendly and always willing to help despite the fact that communication barrier exist and both sides have pretty difficulty expressing themselves the way that interlocutor will comprehend. Another observation is that it’s true that smile is constantly on their faces making any human interactions easier as well as tricky frequently. Our partner may not understand us, will keep smiling, will be polite and we would be need to find the way to pass still our message.
So our journey into Vietnamese business environment and immersion into intercultural communication started:-)

niedziela, 1 marca 2009

Hai Phong - Meeting with the interpreters

After lazy morning, walking a bit around in the old town and having foot massage (we are in Asia so it’s difficult to resist for long time with massage and it’s important to keep fit:-) we left Hanoi heading to Hai Phong the destination of our assignments. And here after arrival we’ve got the surprise – the first meeting with our interpreters the students of private university that will help us during our one-month-assignment.

For all of us volunteers it’s going to be a first experience of working with interpreters and for sure it’s going to be additional challenge. Me personally even tough I have worked, studied or travelled using other languages than my mother tongue I still think that the coming experience is going to be unique one, enriching both side as well as challenging one. Especially that I have somehow been chosen to work with two students: Hang and Anh. So hopefully I have enough knowledge, cultural sensibility and other traits that will help me to deal well with the new task.

Let’s see tomorrow during the first meeting with our clients in the division of Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce how our month partnership will work out.

Hanoi, day 2 sightseeing

Seizing the opportunity that meeting with IBM Vietnam General Manager and others representative from IBM Vietnam was schedule for the evening we have spent day sightseeing and wandering around old town. And to my surprise I still remember pretty well the old town and was able to “guide” our group. So we started with visiting the Temple of Literature - Vietnam’s first university established in 1076 to educate the sons of mandarins, than we continued to see from outside Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex – the holiest of the holies pilgrimage place for many Vietnamese, place where there is sarcophagus with the body of Ho Chi Minh.

Than we went to glimpse at One Pillar Pagoda
Hanoi landmark built of wood on a single stone
pillar that was designed to resemble a lotus blossom, the symbol of purity, rising out of a sea of sorrow.

And being in Hanoi we couldn’t permit not skip seeing the Water Puppet Show (http://www.thanglongwaterpuppet.org/) – the ancient art of water puppetry show, originated with rice farmers who worked the flooded fields of the Red River Delta. The farmers carved the puppets from water-resistant fig-tree timber in forms modeled on the villagers themselves, animals from their daily lives as well mythical creatures as the dragon, phoenix. Contemporary performences use a square tank of waist-deep water for the “stage”. Additionally to the show, there is live music performed by the band allowing to get know a bit Vietnamese traditional music.

The day was finishing with lovely team dinner in Highway4 Restaurant ( http://www.highway4.com/) in the company of IBM Vietnam General manager as well as other ‘s guests and we are all time so warmly welcomed here and we are sure that our projects are so strongly supported.

Arrival to Hanoi, Vietnam day 1

After very long journey I’ve made and I’m finally in Vietnam, Hanoi. It’s a bit bizarre to be back in the South East Asia again but I enjoy from the first moment and especially this time I’ll have a chance to gain totally different experience than last year backpacking.
At the airport in Bangkok, I’ve met Monica and Jo and it was a positive surprise that we didn’t any have problems to recognize each others. That’s what good pictures on Bluepages or earlier email introduction meanJ It’s great to meet in person after the last two months spent on the conference calls, Sametime and email exchanges. Later in hotel we met Murali and Debbie.