Sunday, June 6, 2010

Weeks 2 through 4

May 10th, Monday
The second week of 7, not much to write about, this week was all about work, eating, and sleeping, not much fun. The business unit took us out for lunch every day except for one. Monday we ate lunch at the first place where they made you take your shoes off, and you sat on the floor (I think more Japanese style, but Korean food. . . I think) I’m getting more use to the chop sticks even though everyone is telling me that I’m using them wrong . . . as long as the food gets in my mouth, and not my shirt, I consider it a success. The waiter/waitress usually brings out forks half way through the meal. . . very nice. Of course I forget to bring my camera for most lunches, but I had some sort of soup with veggies and beef, why soup when it is always way too hot, maybe not outside, but in the office, I don’t know. The picture looked good. That is how I order here, if they don’t have pictures of the food, I don’t order it. They do not use air conditioners here even though they have them, mainly to conserve energy (yet they have heated toilet seats when it is 70+ degrees inside and outside, maybe would be nice during the Minnesota winters.?.) I haven’t been good at keeping track of the weather here, but it has been very nice (short weather except that I have to wear dress pants and shirt); nothing like they have been experiencing in the cities, and Hawley, cold and raining).
May 11th
It might have been late last week, but I have realized that I’ve got sick of the music that I have on my MP3 player (no I’m not cool enough to have an IPod). I put the music on my personal computer and usually play it when I am in my apartment since the TV doesn’t do much good. I have learned that CNN is a lot like ESPNews, very nice expect that they play the same bit over and over again. It is nice to hear it the first time, but not the same info every 30min. I work here with a guy that is living in Minneapolis, but is British, so we have been following the election closely. Learned today (5/14) that moving into the apartment for Prime Minister, is very, very different than moving into the White House. I also found out this week that they have scheduled tickets for us to see a LG Twins game on June 19th, the day I leave. . I don’t think I’ll spend an extra day to catch a baseball game, I’ll find a way to get to one sooner. I might have mentioned it before, but the admin assistance we work with is a sweetie, she puts up with us ‘Americans’ (schedules lunches, weekend outings, soccer games, baseball games, etc.), so I’ll have to ask her to schedule something sooner. I defiantly want to get a Korean Twins jersey. Almost forgot about the food today. For lunch we ate at a Chinese Korean restaurant (I even have pics). Nothing like the Chinese food that we are use to. They must not believe in the fortune cookie (that can’t just be an American thing). First pic shows some sweet-n-sour chicken that we all shared.

The second pic shows the meal i had, beef and noodles.

May 12th
Today was the first day that we ordered lunch in, something that is very common back home, but not here. The culture here is to always take at least an hour lunch. Also found out today that we will be moving to a different apartment. One that is closer to downtown Seoul. I’m not too crazy about it because our commute will go from less than 10min, to about 40min (1 way). There supposedly is more to do around the area of the new place, and some of the team’s spouses will be making the trip shortly. I guess leaving them for the day at the Senior Center is probably not the best thing. We ate supper at the Burning Pan, an Italian restaurant that is very American. By far the best place so far. Ordered Chicken Fajitas, just like back home, build your own style. Only difference was the mini tortillas they had. Everything here is smaller.

May 13th
Today was the worst meal of the trip. After work I went with a couple other guys out to a corner bar. I ordered what I thought was buffalo wings, but found out it wasn’t wings, but a whole fryer. The sauce was terrible, it was hot, but no flavor. The consultant we work with, Eric, had duck which was actually really good. We got the waitress to imitate a duck for us to make sure he knew what it was.
The funny thing is, Eric has the same initials as me (EDM), therefore he is known at work as old Eric, and I’m young Eric. At the age of 28, I don’t mind a bit. After supper it was back to the apartment for some work. I miss my recliner, this couch in the apartment, or at least what they call a couch is killing me.

May 14th
Friday is here, for lunch we went back to the restaurant that has the Bibimbap. I’ve actually become a fan of this. This time I tried the hotter version. It comes out in a stone bowl that is very, very hot. It makes the rice almost fried like. I need to get some work off my mind so I can start remember to bring my camera at lunch. For supper we all went out to the Burning Pan again. I had taco . .something . . pasta. I found out it was mainly spaghetti in a taco shell, very good red sauce.

May 15th
End of the second week. I spent the day mainly working, after catching up on some much needed sleep. I did go out for a big lunch/supper, and a quick trip to the EMart. I need to remember that Saturday is the worse day to make this run. There is soooo many people, and a vendor at the end of each aisle trying to sell you something. Way too much Korean being spoke, almost loud enough to drive one crazy. Today work was actually fun, we have enough of the data identified for one of the deliverables so I was able to start to combine/join it all together. Today was also a breakthrough, I figured out how to use the dryer. It seems that this machine has complete cycles, meaning it washes, and then dries. Before I did a quick setting, which excluded the dryer, it is weird to think that one load takes over 3hours, but that is how it has to be. Below is the chicken fajita
May 16th
Today I spend most of the day relaxing. Tried getting some work done, but got distracted by some movies on TV. Tonight I get to use the webcam for the first time. Trisha and the family plan on heading over to use the parents laptop. It will be 9am Sunday for them, and 11pm Sunday night for me. Should be fun, this week I finally got my soft phone hooked up, so it is just like me calling from desk in Minneapolis. It was nice to hear some familiar voices. That about sums up the week, I hope to add a little more fun moving forward instead of just the usual work, eat, and sleep. 2 down, 5 more to go.

Week 3 May 17-22
This week was filled with a lot of hours at work. I got real behind on writing daily updates, trying to remember week at the end of week 5. This week I attempted at making my first meal in the apartment. I was able to find what seemed to be a chicken stir fry combo. It came with chicken already cut up, and a sauce that had a red pepper on it. I also picked up some broccoli, peppers, and rice. I couldn’t find Minute Rice, so I had to deal with the ‘real’ thing. As you can see from the first pictures, I don't have much of a stove to work with. The second pic shows the final product. It was actually realy good, almost too spicy.This was also the weekend that we moved out of the senior to an apartment downtown Seoul. It was sad leaving behind Cheers and the other eating/drinking places close to the apartment. It took a couple of weeks, but we found a couple places that we really liked. Plus we were real close to the EMart for groceries. Friday a couple of us made one last trip to AKPlaza to the Mad For Garlic restaurant.Simon (the Brit) is on the left, and old Eric (the consultant) is on the right.
We made a pretty big scene moving out. Six people, most who are here for 16 weeks. We had over twenty bags of luggage. Two vans were needed, one for suitcases, other for us. Our commute went from 15-20min both ways, to over an hour. You can also see from the pictures that it is very, very, very small.
The second one you will have to tilt your head. My legs do not fit underneath the desk, so working on the couch is the only option. Finding a place for lunch, or early supper since it was past 4pm, the first day (Saturday) was difficult. I bet we walked for about 45 min before we went to a Japanese place where I had the pork cutlet and rice, and maybe a beer that ended up getting in the picture.
We definitely have more of the downtown atmosphere, the streets light-up at night. We are all amazed by how late the Koreans will stay out and drink . . every night. We will get in around 10:30-11pm, and there are a lot of people just going out. No wonder why most are not into work until after 9am.

Week 4 May 23-29
Another hard week for me, we added a new team member this week; we now have a Frenchman (Jacky). First lunch for him was back at the Chinese restaurant (339). I am having issues trying to get use to the new area from a food perspective. The EMart is further away, so we try to go to a grocery store closer to the hotel. Fresh, fresh fish anyone?I also made my second meal in four weeks. I know, very similar to the first, but I found a package that said chicken wings, and veggies are easy to pick out. I also make a stir fry usually once week when back home.On the brighter side of the move, the bed here is 10x more comfortable, but that and the downtown atmosphere (vs. the senior life atmosphere) are the only two upsides of move. I guess the breakfast is much better, but know I’m either eating French toast, or pancakes on an almost daily basis. You also can build your own omelet that is prepared for you.

Also trying to get use to the commute, my days have already been busy, and now we spend almost an hour in the van to and from work. Thankfully we start having some of our meetings in the van, so we no longer have to have them in the office. Around week 3 and 4 I have also noticed issues trying to keep in contact with family/friends. As you can tell, I haven’t had much time to work on the blog, and even finding time for returning/sending emails has been difficult. My nieces (1st grade) had their first track meet, and I also missed their dance recital that I usually attempt to get to.

On Friday (5/29) the team except for the Eric’s left for the annual sales meeting in a beautiful city of Pusan. Since the driver was getting the others to the airport, Eric and I took the subway to work. It was about a 40 minute drive, and was so busy. We took a taxi back. After work we stopped by a seafood place for happy hour. Couple of first for me, first was octopus, but I can’t exactly considering it a first, since it was fried in Canola oil, so everything tasted the same. This place also serves Makkoli (I’ve heard/seen it spelt differently), which is Rice Wine. Doesn’t taste anything like normal wine, but is very cheap. Saturday afternoon Eric and I walked a little bit around the area near the hotel. I then went back to work a bit, before the others got back from the sales meeting trip, and we went to back to the great Mexican restaurant. The same one that Eric and I went to Friday night after work. After supper the guys decided to walk back instead of taxi. We noticed an outdoor concert that turned out to be a political rally. Their election day is June 2nd, another vacation day for them, and suppose to be for us, but we worked. That sums up end of week 4 . . . 4 down, 3 to go, at least for now I'm scheduled to fly out June 19th.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Week 1

Purpose of trip:
One team of the Tartan project is the Process Improvements (PI) team. This team is separate from Tartan in the fact that they are rolling out projects to the business units (BUs) before the huge SAP conversion. SAP is a business software that Cargill is rolling out to every business unit of Cargill. Currently the business units around the world do business their own way. Getting everyone using the same system will ensure we have visibility to all BUs in one source. One project the PI team is rolling out is the Customer Profitability project. The purpose of this project is give visibility to the business units’ customers in hopes we can identify ways to increase our profit. I am not part of the PI team, my role is to gather all of the customer data, and display it in the tools that Tartan is rolling out. Very similar to my job in Minneapolis with the Business Intelligence (BI) team (gathering data), however, I never work within the tools. I pass the data off to another team member that builds the reports to display. Teaching myself how to use the tools was part of the challenge of this project. I hope to display as many pictures as I can. From what I've seen, you can click on any picture to see a bigger image. Enjoy, and please pass the link onto anyone that might also enjoy.

The Long Day:
The trip started with a very, very long plane ride. Longest I've ever flown was for about 3 hours. This trip would be about 12 hours from Minneapolis to Tokyo, couple hour layover, then a 2+ hour flight into Seoul. Traveling is one of those times where one wishes he wasn't 6' 2''. I was very lucky not to have anyone in the middle seat, and since I was on the aisle, I was able to extend one leg every once in awhile. The leg room was decent, until the guy in front of me reclined his seat. I was able to rest the eyes, but I didn't sleep much if any because of the seating conditions. A couple TV shows played, and then some movies. Finally got to see the Blind Side (very good movie, must see).

The food was actually decent; I choose beef with veggies and potatoes. It came with a small salad, and a couple of shrimp that I actually ate. I forgot to take pictures, probably won't be the last time. My team from Minneapolis loves to see pictures of the food whenever anyone goes on trips/vacation. It's something our team started, very fun team building activity. After a few hours they brought out a snack of a turkey sandwich. It was literally bite size.

The hope was to be able to get a little bit of work done on the plane ride. Got the laptop out, but since the lack of room, it was more on my stomach than the lap. I wasn't too impressed with the Tokyo airport. I was looking to find a small souvenir to buy, but all I found were more duty free stores that sold liquor, tobacco, and perfume.

I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was once landed in Seoul. It was about 11pm so there weren't many other planes landing at the time. There were many knots in the stomach because of the history some of the Meissners' have had with traveling and bags. I was so relived once I saw all three of my bags. Now off to customs. On the plane they made us fill out the forms to help save some time. I was amazed how easy it was. It helped that I was only staying for two months. They have stricter rules when you stay past 180 days. I also thought that customs would want to go through the bags, but they just let me walk right on through. It was also very nice to see a familiar face from work waiting to pick me up. A quick bus shuttle ride to the Hyatt hotel that is real close to the airport.

Even though I had been up for about 24 hours, decided to have a drink in the bar with Simon from work. First had to drop off bags in room, and change out of the clothes I have had on way too long. It took me a little bit to figure out how to turn on the lights in the hotel room. In Korea, you have to insert your room key in a slot when you first get in the room. So I swiped it, and the lights came on. However, after about 30 seconds they'd turn back off. After a couple more swipes, duh, you have to leave the key in the slot. I have been very amazed by how more improved the technology is here in Korea. After a quick drink went back up for some much needed sleep. The Cargill driver was going to be at the hotel to pick us up in about 6 hours. My dad would love the beds here, me not so much. It is like sleeping on a board. Very different from the pillow-top I'm use to.

First Week:
Day 1
The airport is in a suburb of Seoul called Incheon, and is actually on an island and there is a bridge that is about 12-15 miles long that will bring you into the town of Incheon. It was about a 1 1/2 hour drive to the apartment where the others were waiting for me to then drive to work. The nice part is that the apartment is less than 10mins away from the office. We have a driver that picks us up on a daily basis, so we don't have to worry about transportation cost.

We were told that the apartments that we will be staying out housed about 30% retired people. The first sign in English I saw said ‘Dream of a Senior Life’. Needless to say, there are a lot of older people here. Included in the stay is free breakfast. I was happy to see a cereal that is very similar to a coco rice chex. They also have other Korean foods, but I mostly stay away from that in the morning.
In the office, we have an area where we all can sit (there is 6 of us). The first part of my day was to meet everyone from Korea that is on the project. It is a good guess that most people are Park, Kim, or Lee (last names). There were signs all over the office that welcomed our team. I meet a guy in the elevator (not on the project), and he knew exactly who I was, and even how to pronounce my name; very respectable people here. Lunch was my first experience to Korean food. They were easy on me; we went to a place where I had a pork cutlet. It was deep-fried; I don’t think I have had anything deep-fried that I haven’t like. For supper we went to a bar that is very close to the apartments, the name was Cheers. We all had a few drinks to finally welcome me to Korea, since I came a week later than the others. Below are some pictures of the apartment.

Day 2
Wednesday was the Korean holiday Children’s Day. We decided to work ½ day in the morning. Lunch was at an Italian style restaurant where I had a pizza. We always have to point when we order, most of the time we have no clue what we order. After lunch we got picked up to go to a soccer game, I’m sorry, soccer match (I can’t bring myself to call it football). The match was at the Seoul World Cup stadium. It was built solely to host the World Cup. When we were first trying to find our seats, we were in the upper level. After asking somebody, he took us directly to our seats. We keep moving down, and down, and down, until we were at the 3rd row.
It was an amazing atmosphere. We were thinking that the stadium probably holds around 100,000 people. There were over 60,000 at the match.

For supper we went to AK plaza. It is a huge shopping center with a bunch of small restaurants. We went to a Mexican restaurant where I had some great steak fajitas. Even though we are staying more westernized, it is always has a Korean twist.

Day 3
Today was my first experience at a plant. We went to the Cargill Agri Purina Songtan plant. We were told that it is the largest plant in the Asia region. The plant produces every product that the business unit sells. If anyone has pets, you are probably familiar with the brand Purina, or Nutrinia. I also found out that we have a contract with Nestle to produce a form of Nutrinia for them. Guess they do more than just chocolate. I was very amazed during the plant tour how much technology plays in the production. Everything is done by machines, with workers monitoring them. Even to loading up the plants. There was a robot that grabbed the bags, and stacked them on the palate exactly where it was suppose to go. I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures, but a guy I work with took a few. I hope to get them soon.

Everyone at the plant was very nice. We all received a couple of gifts (see pics).
Lunch was interesting (sorry, no pics again). Thank goodness for the pork cutlets, otherwise I would have been very hungry. After the plant tour, and lunch, we held interviews with some of the people at the plant to try to gain knowledge of how they do business. Before I left I heard from a couple people how women are not treated like they are in the U.S. The men here are not the gentlemen some of us are back in the U.S. It is always people of authority first, no holding doors open for women. The plant was my first experience of this, we had a translator that was along to help us communicate. At one point on the plant tour, I motioned to the lady to go through the door first. The plant CEO grabbed her by the arm and pulled her back and told me to go first. He also did it again further on the tour.

Day 4: Friday 5/7
Friday was a very long working day. I finally got access to the data so I had to go through and identify what we have, what we were missing, and the plan to get what was missing. It’s challenging because I can see the data, but I need help translating so I know exactly what column means what. Lunch is usually Korean food, the BU takes us out. Today was the first day that I actually enjoyed it, and it wasn’t deep-fried. I did struggle big time with the chop sticks. At least the others got humor out of it, but I didn’t spill all over my shirt like one of the guys did. First pic is of Bibimbap. It comes out like shown, and you mix it all up. Very good, a little spicy which I like. The second pic is Bulgogi that we all shared. This was my favorite, again, comes out like shown, and you mix it all up. Third pic shows lettuce wraps with some bulgogi. Last picture is of some veggies that I have tried, but usually stay away from. Everything is pickled, I can not tell the radish from the onion. Can't remember what they call them.

For supper we went back to AK plaza (shown in pics)
and went to a fancy restaurant called World of Garlic. It was mainly Italian, but I’m a huge fan of garlic. The garlic bread was amazing. The waiter brought it out, and the garlic and butter was in the center of the loaf, standing up right. He then used some knifes like chop sticks and worked the garlic throughout the bread. It was pretty cool, and it was the best garlic bread I’ve tasted. I had the curry chicken pizza. It had a curry sauce instead of the regular pizza sauce, very spicy.

On the way home was the first time where we felt like an unwanted foreigner. It was very difficult to get a cab back to the apartment. At first I thought it was because it was so close, but other nights we had no issues. We had some cab drivers that turned us down before we even gave them the card that had the address on it. Thanks to a nice Korean couple, we were able to get a cab, and get home.

Day 5: Saturday
Today was a fun day. I turned down a trip that would have been more historical. A lady that I work with went on a 3 hour walking tour. Instead I went with the other guys to a suburb called Itaewon. It was a very westernized city. We did not stand out like we do in Bundang. It is very close to the army base. We walked up and down the main street that had a lot of little shops. I ate my first burger since getting here. We then went bar to bar soaking in the culture. The subway system was very easy to figure out, and cheap transportation.

Day 6: Sunday
Today I spent relaxing and recovering from the long week. I stopped at the E-Mart (like Walmart) to get a few things. It was also the first day trying to do laundry. Our apartment has a washing machine. I even went to YouTube to watch a video how to run the darn thing. I figured out that I had it mostly right, but I went to the video to try to figure out how to get it to dry. There is only one machine, so I was hoping it was a washer and dryer. Found out that it doesn’t dry, guess that is common around here. Caught a Seattle vs. Anaheim baseball game on TV (Saturday night game on around 1pm). Guessing it was on because both teams have famous Japanese players. I also took the time today to get the blog finally out for viewing. Now that I’m done, I realize I have to do this more daily because it was a lot of typing.

Week 1 recap:
The hardest thing for me so far would have to be the language barriers, from ordering food, trying to get around, and mostly at work. Most of the people we work can speak some English, however, it is very broken. A lot of time it is hard to catch what people are saying. Secondly, I’ll try to be nice, but the smells are very different. I think it is a combination of the fish, and the fact it has been hot and very humid these first few days. Overall it was a very fast week. I’m a little nervous for all of the work that needs to be done. Next week will be a big one. One week down, 6 more to go. Couple of snacks i bought. Had one of each and couldn't eat anymore. Didn't like, considering calories, this was a good thing.