Thursday, March 29, 2012

McCombs in India: A Film

The amazing Christine Chen of Moth to Flame Films. I want to go back to India!!!!!!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jump if you love the Taj Mahal!

The Recap... McCombs Global Connection in India

*Taken from my blog post on Texas MBA's Talk.

A big hello from India! I’ve just finished the official part of my McCombs Global Connections trip, and now I’m joining 6 of my classmates on a trip to Kerala for some safari and houseboat experiences. I’ll admit that after the last ten days, I can use some time to process everything and relax a bit before hitting the books again on Monday. But I digress…

I knew before coming to McCombs that I would visit India within a few years. Therefore, as soon as the opportunity to visit through a Global Connections trip came up, I took it. The infamous Professor Doggett was the lead faculty and my friend Rohit was the second year planning the trip. Those two + India = ensured amazing trip.  As I look back at the past ten days, I realize how much of an understatement that is. I was certain that I would have an amazing experience, form stronger bonds with my classmates, and see places I had never seen before. I had no idea I would get to know this country from the perspectives of entrepreneurs, CEOs, students, think tanks, locals, and alumni. These perspectives are what made going to India with McCombs an experience unlike any other I have had. This wasn’t an exotic vacation to an emerging country. This was a chance to broaden my perspectives and forever change my outlook and my future.

I’ve kept a daily journal, but as a summary I can say that this trip has been a balance of business and tourism. We visited four cities (New Delhi, Agra, Ahmedabad, Mumbai), saw a ton of sites (India Gate, Taj Mahal, Ghandi’s Ashram, temples, monuments, wells, etc…), and visited some amazing businesses (PTC India, IndiGo Airlines, Apollo Hospitals, Bombay Stock Exchange, Cushman & Wakefield, Gateway House, Amul Dairy) and equally amazing schools (IIMA, the top MBA program in Asia, and Lend-A-Hand India, a non-profit that teaches rural schoolchildren skills to enhance their life opportunities.) I have been constantly inspired and amazed by the people we have met, the things we’ve seen, and the plans for the future.

At the same time, I have been brought to tears at the layers of poverty, trash, and disrepair throughout the country. Even so, from my very limited perspective, people still seem happy. I saw a family living on the street, playing together and smiling as if everything they ever needed was right there with them. This makes me hopeful.

India is a place of such contrast that you can’t help but feel a need to make things better here.  Our alumni in India are already doing just that. I want to be a part of it too.

I knew I would love my classmates and my global connections experience. I didn’t know I would fall in love with India.  I am so thankful that the Global Connections trip helped me realize how incredible this country is.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bye Bye Mumbai...

Bye Bye Mumbai...
And hello Kerala! Yet another completely different place in India...

But first, I will finish with Mumbai. We started the day at Cushman & Wakefield, which was a makeup appointment booked last minute. I was excited since C&W was one of my clients before. I'm not honestly sure what the meeting was supposed to be about. We basically just heard the life story of our speaker - talking about how he went from being a waiter to being an EVP. Very cool. He also gave us insight into doing business in India. My takeaway: mutual respect. Love it.

From there we went to Lend-A-Hand India, which is a program that teaches rural schoolchildren life skills so they can be successful once school is over. Think - welding, construction, blood testing. Seriously, these kids surpass me. I'm sure I will write more about Lend-A-Hand because it is our group project. I shall just say that yet AGAIN I was impressed and inspired. I even made a new friend who came from Ahmedabad to work for LAH. She taught me some traditional Gudrajati dancing, and has now Facebook friended me. So sweet. :)

The bus ride back was the end of our trip. Amit passed the microphone around and various people shared their thoughts. From there, Sang & I went to Delshad's parents house to play an Indian shuffleboardlike finger flicking game. First...the place was stunning and inspired me to make a lot of money in Mumbai! Second, it was nice to hang out with friends in a low key environment... just like being home. It was a reminder that no matter where you are, as long as you have people you love around you, home is anywhere you want it to be.

I made it home around 11:30, and instead of packing I called Joe and caught up. This probably was why I was completely late for our 5:30am meet-up to head to Kerala. DOH. Nice job skipping the wake-up call, E! Lesson learned - All of my packing procrastination paid off! I was able to pack in 3 minutes. Score.

So here I am in Kerala, at the Treetop Hotel. I just took a shower with a bucket and a pitcher. Things are a little less 5-star now. ;) My smaller group (Angie, Julie, Marian, Theresa, Ryan, and Robert) flew to Kochin this morning, took a 5 hour bus ride to Periyah, and rushed to ride some elephants. We had a nice birthday dinner for Robert and now I'm ready to relax and get some sleep! I made the decision to skip bamboo rafting tomorrow in lieu of exploring the town, visiting the spice/tea farms, and getting a massage. It's like $14 for an hour here. Ridiculous.  I'm glad to be here, and I'm glad for the smaller group and some time for reflection.


It's been two days in Mumbai, and I can see why people claim this to be their favorite city in India. It is very cosmopolitan, hip, urban, busy, lively, etc... I feel a lot like I'm in New York City, only with crazier cab drivers!

We arrived yesterday via an early morning flight and went straight to a Bollywood dance studio!! YAY!!!!! It was a blast, although I'm sure I might say otherwise once I see the videos. I was really impressed with how everyone participated, and our guys were rocking the dance moves. From there we took the bus to our hotel - the Trident - which was one of the hotels hit in the 2008 terrorist attacks. It is an absolutely gorgeous hotel, located at the end of Marine Drive, with views overlooking the harbor and the city. We had a break, so Angie and I decided to go for a run along Marine Drive. And run we did! We went to the end, and then ran the other way towards the city. We stopped after a really long impressive distance (which totally showcased how in shape I am) when we heard the sound of drums. We had come across an Indian wedding!! We crossed the road and stood watching the festivities for at least 20 minutes. We both lamented how boring American weddings are as we gushed over the dancing and gorgeous outfits. After that, we met up with Sang, Jeremy, and Kevin and had lunch at Khyber - which was an amazing Indian food restaurant. Delicious!!!

In the afternoon, we took a bus tour of Mumbai. It was neat to see the city, although I definitely felt a bit removed as I sat higher than the street looking down. This was the first bus where the people on the street couldn't see back in, so I felt even more removed. It is clear how much the city is growing - tons of new buildings everywhere. Of course, they are again sandwiched between slums and run down buildings. Contrast is strong here. After the tour, I opted to stay at the hotel and rest. I was beginning to feel a bit run down, and convinced Angie, Sang, Jeremey, and Kevin to sit by the pool and watch the sunset together. We were able to watch the sun set over the harbor and the buildings along Marine Drive light up - hence the nickname "Queen's Necklace." We ate dinner (i.e. many many desserts) at the hotel's cold buffet and called it a night.


After a visit to the one of the best hotel gyms I have ever been to, I wandered into the breakfast buffet to find Sang sitting with... Peter & Rishi!! YAY!!! I joined them for breakfast before the group headed to the Bombay Stock Exchange. I wish I could say I found the visit fascinating, but I was trying my hardest just to keep my eyes open. I also am somewhat clueless when it comes to stock exchanges, so I didn't quite get excited about the visit until we went to the old trading floor and wandered around. Afterwards, the group was going to Khyber for lunch so I suggested that Angie & I wander around the area and buy our presents for the trip. So we did! And it was fantastic! Since I generally hate shopping, we stumbled into just one store and got everything we needed. Score. Afterwards, Angie, Julie & I went to McDonalds for Mumbai Majarah Macs. (It was actually really good!?! Who knew!?) From there, we went to a Mumbai Think Tank called Gateway House. Very cool group doing some intersting public policy writing in India. Lastly, we met up with Rishi & Delshad and went for some more shopping. It was so nice to see Rishi & Delshad. (That makes 2 different cities with them - so fun!)

I'm about to head out for our last group dinner of the trip. I can't believe it's already here. We've got a full day planned for tomorrow, and then the next day a smaller group leaves for Kerala. I think that's when I will feel like I'm on vacation. So far I feel like this has been more of an educational travel experience vs. a vacation. I suppose that's the point, right?

I can say this. I want more of India. I want to live here for a while, and really get to know it. We'll see...

Ahmedabad, India

This city is freaking cool.

And I am exhausted. I skipped a night out in favor of checking my email and going to sleep so I'm rested for my 4:15am wakeup call.

-Dinner last night --> tradiational Gijuradti tali. Soooo yummy, and gorgeous place. Details later.
-This morning--> long bus ride to the Step Well. long bus ride to the largest well + Mosque. (Badgered Prof Doggett with questions the whole ride back.) quick lunch in the hotel
-Visit to IIMA, met with students, toured campus, thought to myself "Maybe I want to study abroad here!" Need to think on that. Regardless, I kinda really like this city and kinda maybe want to spend more time here and kinda maybe think 3-4 months in India would be amazing. Hmmmm...
-Back to the Marriott Courtyard (did I mention this is the nicest hotel ever?) and waffled about going out. Decided to stay and plan to sleep within 30 minutes.
-Started trend with Kevin of taking ridiculous triangle pictures at our various stops. Sang is starting to photobomb the pictures. Good stuff. I like these people!

Sorry for the lame post. Hopefully I have good Bollywood dancing reports from Mumbai tomorrow. :) Good night!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Days Four & Five in India

Day Four started with a different experience at the Taj Mahal. We left the hotel at 6am in hopes of seeing the sun rise over the Taj. That didn't exactly happen - we were waiting in line to get in because it wasn't open at sunrise. It was okay, though, because standing in line gave us the opportunity to see the piles of colored cow dung burnt down from Holi celebrations. (Colorful cow dung. Contrast much? See what I mean?)

Once we did get into the Taj, it was a different experience than the prior night. We mainly played and took silly pictures. It was nice... and still beautiful as ever... and I was glad to get some energy out. (Being a morning person, I was pretty hyper and convinced Ryan to run back to the bus with me.) I'll post pictures once I'm back - but most of them are cheesy high school shots or pictures of me & my friends jumping.

After another large breakfast buffet, we celebrated Holi. Sang & I took the less crazy route, skipping the street celebration and just going outside the hotel with Angie. I think standing in big white protective garments, and being American, made us good targets. A group of women in saris came up to us and rubbed powder on our faces and shook our hands, saying "happy holi." then a group of teens on motorcycles came and did the same, but then insisted on taking our pictures with them. It was fun, my face was colored in paints, and I felt like that was good enough. :)

At about 1pm, we boarded our bus back to to Delhi. It was really interesting to watch the roads... watching people covered in paint from Holi, seeing the array of sites, and mainly noticing that even though we were on "highways" there was always something to see. It's nothing like the US at all.  (I should mentioned that Rohit & I played two rounds of Scrabble. I won both. :))

Then we arrived at the local Delhi airport and took an Air IndiGo flight to Ahmedabad. From there we took the bus to the Marriott Courtyard - which I should say is by far the nicest Courtyard I have ever seen in my life - and I promptly conked out at about 11:30pm.

Day Five started early at the gym - I have to work off some of the breakfast buffet calories! After breakfast, which again was massive and amazing, the group took off to Amul, which is the largest dairy in the country.  We were given a presentation about the White Revolution, and then a tour of the Amul factory. It was pretty interesting, and my favorite part was seeing the part where they made the ice cream. :) I should admit that I couldn't hear much of the tour, and I was getting really tired, so I will have to catch up on the White Revolution more when I get back to the US. We stopped at the largest Amul Cafe for lunch (which ended up being a cup of mango yogurt, to compliment my earlier Amul treats of mango yogurt and mango lassi!)

Then we went to Ghandi's Akshram, which he lived at from 1915 to 1930. I think. Again I need to look it up. It was really nice, although again I wish I had known more so I had a better appreciation of being there.

And that leads me to now. A quick blog update, and then we are heading out to the markets and to a traditional dinner. Which Rohit will be buying thanks to my two Scrabble wins. ;)

I will say that Ahmedabad is much different that Delhi or Agra - it's clean, it's less noisy, and it seems like people here are just different. Perhaps because this was where Ghandi was from, or perhaps it's because it's more business-y and commercial. It's good to see a difference in cities. Mumbai should be very interesting.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

India Updates: Delhi & Agra

I'm taking advantage of my hour long break to catch up on some thoughts and recap the day. It is sad that my midday nap came nearly during a presentation 3 hours ago instead of now, but I guess that's jetlag for ya.

And I have some fun news... this blog will also serve as a vehicle for the MBA program catching up on a few students' spring breaks. That will be my 3rd official pr-ish blog for UT.

Also, I forgot to mention that we were in an earthquake yesterday. (My first one!) It occured while we were at IndiGo Airlines. We clearly were fine, but the walls were full of cracks once we left!

Anyway, I guess I should first explain what happened last night. After a wonderful group dinner at Q'ba in Chawndni Chowk, a few of us decided we wanted to see Old Delhi... aka "the real India." This required a trip on the metro, which was crazy. At about 9:50pm, my group (Rohit, Marian, Caroline x2, Robert, Kevin, Chris, Neka, Ryan, Amy and I) descended the steps into the Indian subway. The trip was 10 rupees ($.20) which first of all is crazy to me. Once we got to the platform, it was clear that we were 1) the only Americans, and 2) the only girls. We managed to all fit into a subway car, but we were so jam packed that I thought, "if this car breaks down we are toast. I will claustrophobically not be able to survive." It thinned out with a few stops, and then we were out. We ascended the stairs into a foreign world. It was dark out (clearly, because it was past 10pm) and the streets were covered in trash and liquid and stray dogs (both sleeping and scavaging) and homeless people in various states of sleep. Around us were a few open vendors/stores, and tons of traffic from motorcycles, pedicabs, and various small autos usually towering with something unfamiliar. When I say shops in India, I mean that you should imagine that public storage was street level, and every unit was its own store with stuff falling out from it.

Anyway, we first walked to the oldest Sikh temple in Delhi and saw the first high-rise, which was in shambles. Then we walked to a Hindu temple and Rohit explained how remarkable was that religions shared the same street. From there we kept going, and at about 10:40 we reached a dark alley that looked really shady. Rohit asked if wanted to keep going. While we probably should have said no, I think group-think set in and we figured we'd already gone this far so why not. We made our way through the alley and came across the steps of a huge mosque. While taking pictures, someone motioned to Rohit and they talked. Then Rohit came back and said, "okay guys. we need to go now." The urgency was obvious, so we headed out quickly. Between the scene I described earlier, the added fear, and the constant near misses of getting hit, I admit that all I could think about was getting back safely. We couldn't find any autorickshaws to take us, so we kept going. Finally we reached the metro at 11:05 in time for the second to last train at the station. I'll be honest, I was pretty damn happy to arrive back at the hotel. And I know Rohit was too... I felt so bad for him because he was entrusted with this group of Americans and he didn't quite expect it to be so scary. To make a long long long story short, I don't regret going at all. (Of course I'm safe and absolutely fine.) It was an experience I will never forget, though, and definitely was a side of India I never expected to see.

Anyway, this morning was a new day. After another huge breakfast, we headed out to Arkshardam and spent about 4 hours exploring the grounds, going through an exhibit that sadly reminded me of a Disneyland ride (think recorded voices, sound effects, and animatronics in at least 7 different rooms) and watching an Imax before hitting the food court. The place was beautiful, but having been built only in 2006, it didn't have the same feel as more historical building. It was neat to learn a different type of Hindu religion, though, and again - it was stunning. (Sorry, I will have pictures when I get back!) As for the food court, I tried something Rohit suggested and promptly spit it out in the trash while everyone watched me. I have no problems being adventurous food wise, but man it was horrible.

Next we went to Apollo Hospital Delhi, where we learned about healthcare in India and toured the hospital. It was really interesting, however I felt terrible that I kept nearly nodding off. Some takeaways were that traffic in India makes ambulances virtually worthless, so they send doctors on the ambulances to give patients a chance at survival. Also, attracting talent is a challenge and the government is working to change it. Lastly, the majority of hospital visits are paid for out of pocket. Insurance really isn't common except for corporate people and officials. From there, the whole group played a mean game of frogger crossing a crazy busy street to get to the bus.

Lastly we went to the Lotus Temple, which was a gift to India from the B'hai faith. It was beautiful, although the main attraction often seemed to be us, as people were taking our pictures all over the place!

The busride home was interesting too, and I'm anxious for dinner so I can continue a conversation with Rohit, Amit, and Angie about Indian expectations and culture clashes. We'll be heading to an alumni dinner soon, and then coming back to crash before our 5:00am wakeup call. We're taking the train to Agra to explore the city and then see the Taj Mahal at sunset.

Again, a few more thoughts about my experiences.
1) I am SO GLAD I am here with a McCombs Global Trip. And I'm not just saying that because they will be using this! I love going to these businesses and hearing their stories, expectations, challenges, and plans. I love sharing the experiences with so many of my friends. And I love that I didn't have to plan any of this myself. The fact that Rohit, who's pride is his homeland, gets to bring 20 of us back here with him... well that's just incredible. I can see how much he loves sharing his country, and I also can't say enough how thankful we all are for him.
2) I wonder how long it would take to be immune to all the chaos. Already I'm finding that I expect it or don't even notice at times. And that's just in two days.
3) It becomes increasingly easy to say "no" to beggers and vendors, but seeing the kids is heartbreaking.
4) I love getting served tea and cookies during meetings. It is the best. Why don't we do this in the US?!!
5) I am so dirty, I feel like I need to shower every time I come back to the hotel.
6) I so wish that Americans wore saris.
7) There is no way to capture into words the smells or the sounds here. But both are intense. (Maybe one day I will try.)
8) I am so very glad I am here.

Alright... I'm off to shower for the second time today and head to dinner in our big safe bus. No more adventures for tonight. :)


I'm exhausted. India becomes more beautiful every day, but it is balanced out by some of the most horrible scenes I have ever seen. This country is incredible. (I guess that's why everyone keeps saying "Incredible India.")

Today started with a 4:20am wakeup call so we could get on a train to Agra at 6:15am. I watched out the window for a majority of the train ride - at least until I couldn't take looking at the same things over and over while being served a bounty of breakfast. The scenes from "A Fine Balance" came true before my eyes... People in slums, on the railroad tracks, trash everywhere... then balanced with a beautiful field and a mosque in the distance... and back to poverty again.

Upon arriving in Agra, we took a bus ride for about an hour to Fatehpur Sikri . Along the way, I saw everything from little kids making cow patties, women carrying cow dung in pots on their heads, cows everywhere, a lively game of cricket in a big open field filled with cows, stray dogs, and goats, holi colors to be sold, people riding atop buses, and... well I could go on for a while. There is always something to be seen. Fatehpur Sikri is a red standstone fort build by Akbar in the 1500's. It seemed like a very well perserved ghost town.

After that, we had lunch on the penthouse floor of a hotel in Delhi, looking out at the Taj Mahal. The meal was so many courses!!! Man do people eat here!!! I can't even think of all the names of what we ate, but there were honestly 6 courses, including a heft dessert. Even though I tried my best not to eat a lot, but you can't help yourself when more just keeps coming. However, I am still feeling lunch and it's been 8 hours, so.. maybe it wasn't really all that good afterall. Next we headed to hotel for a break.

I was really bummed we weren't going to see Agra Fort - especially because we missed the Red Fort in Delhi. So, I rallied Sang, Jeremy, and Kevin - and against the advice of my leadrs (something along the lines of "it's not that much different than what we've already seen," - headed to Agra Fort for our break! I am SO VERY GLAD that we went. It was beautiful. Plus, it has some crazy history. Essentially Shah Jehan's son kidnapped him and locked him in a room for the last 7 years of his life. The room, located in this fort, overlooked the Taj Mahal beautifully - and thus the Shah lived out his days staring at his creation. The four of us had a great time trying to pack as much of this fort into our short timeframe, and again I am so happy that we went.

Finally, we went to the Taj Mahal. I am hesitant to write about this because I know my words will do it no justice. Let me just say this... When I visited the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem in 1996, I had nowhere near the emotional experience that I did when visiting the Taj Mahal tonight. On one hand, the place is more beautiful than any picture can represent. Simply breathtaking. On the other hand, seeing it symbolized that I was in India... after all of my talk and planning and learning. You know those rare moments where you are supremely conscious of being alive? This was one. I see 100% why it is one of the Seven Wonders of the New World.

On the way back, we were swarmed with beggars and vendors. What put me over the edge was a little boy with a limp leg, walking on his hands and good leg, following us to the bus. It was heartbreaking in itself... but then someone gave him 10 rupees, and he looked up and waved at us and smiled. Speechless.

So, that's what I mean about beauty and beast in India. Another eye-opening day. One I will never forget. (My mind is filling up this trip.)

Sunday, March 04, 2012

update from Delhi

I am largely updating my India blog for class, but if I have time I will paste my posts to this blog too. (India blog:

I arrived in Delhi at 1:30am this morning. I was so happy to have Marian and Professor Doggett by my side to help navigate the airport/visa/taxi situations. Marian had booked us a room at the hotel next door to the Shangri La (in a wonderful effort to save about $100), and I was glad to see a bed! I slept from 3am until 12:30pm! So much for my ability to sleep on the plane. ;)

Arriving into the Delhi airport was different than I expected. It was very international. I'm not sure what I was expecting - but definitely a more local feel than I saw. I think I counted 1 woman in a sari. When I arrived at the visa desk, I friendly asked how the man behind the counter was doing. "Not Fine" he answered grumpily. Oh. Okay, I guess maybe I should not be so friendly! I was also expecting much more craziness on the way to the hotel. Maybe because it was 2:30am, but the city didn't seem all that different from a city in the US. Again, not sure what I was expecting, but it seemed like a lot of buildings with barbed wire around the perimeter, and not much else. what did surprise me was the security at the hotels. You have to go through 2-3 checkpoints to get in, including metal detectors and bag searches. I was not prepared for that.

Marian and I headed out this afternoon to explore and find an ATM. We made it as far as the ATM. Had we kept going, we would have walked right into a mosque. (Okay, that was different.) Also, the two of us trying to figure out how many rupees to get was funny. I'm still not sure we figured it out. We decided that since the shops were closed downtown, that we would just head back to the hotel, grab some food for the day, and wait for Rohit at 4pm. That was a good plan - we were able to relax for a bit, and now I have a few minutes to blog and send emails before heading out. I'm glad to have an experienced person to guide us, because Marian and I clearly didn't know what we were doing. :)

So... I anticipate seeing much more this evening and starting tomorrow. So far, it's pretty calm. The things most different I've seen so far are 1) the rickshaws, 2) the dying dog on the side of the sidewalk, 3) the mosque, and 4) the security.

Oh, one more thing - the hotels are so nice. Upon arrival at Shangri La, someone brought up fresh squeezed OJ to my room. Delicious! In the bathroom, in addition to soap and shampoo, there are toothbrushes, lotions, combs, personal kits, etc... Very upscale.

Also, I am still so tired. But I will stay awake until at least 9pm tonight. Even though I so want to take a nap!

Alright, that's it for now. I'll check back in later!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Across the World...

Tomorrow I head across the world to India!!!! I will be updating my India blog, and if I'm particularly motivated I'll transfer it over here as well.

By the way, I'm not sure exactly what happened, but I have finished packing at least 20 hours before my flight takes off. I don't know if this has ever previously occurred! I must be excited. :)

First, however, I must pass my business analytics and modeling class.  Ironically, this is the class I have probably learned the most in so far at UT! And yet I am still so far beyond the rest of my class. Crazy finance folks. Oh well, here's hoping for generous grading and partial credit. 

And this time tomorrow I will be a few hours in to my ~30 hour journey.  Until then...