Monday, June 14, 2010

World Cup Fever, Continuing the Internship, and a Period of Immense Self-Doubt

It's a bit of a lengthy blog post, but eh, you've got the choice to read it or not. Apologies for having this post be relatively poorly written and choppy, but I couldn't get into the greatest groove when writing it.

Going into my study abroad in Hong Kong, I had the arrogant mindset that culture shock was a load of garbage. I’ve always thought that people who couldn’t handle adjusting to new situations or environments were either weak, uncultured, or unwilling to put forth the effort needed to adapt to their new environment. I more or less thought I confirmed this idea upon arrival in Hong Kong, when I had absolutely no trouble adapting, and within a couple of weeks had a solid crew of people and was really enjoying my time in Hong Kong. The difference in cultures between Chicago and Hong Kong, while vast, was not a hindrance, quite the contrary it made it much more fun when hanging out with this new group of friends, in that together we were all discovering and adjusting to this great, foreign place.

However, these first couple of weeks in Holland have really changed my outlook on culture shock, adjusting to new lifestyles, etc. I knew when I left Hong Kong that I’d really miss everyone there, and that it would be a tough adjustment to Holland. At this point, I’ve more or less come to terms with separation from the individual people in Hong Kong, but what I find myself missing is just the feeling of cohesion within a group of friends. As I said in my last blog post, the host family I’m staying with has left for the USA for the next few weeks. Yesterday morning I woke up to a house that was entirely empty with the exception of two Filipino maids, who don’t really offer much in terms of human contact, to say the least. Yesterday during the day I was in a pretty right state. Essentially, I was mulling over the slim possibility of going into the office today and simply telling my supervisor, Henning, that I can no longer do this internship and will be leaving for the States as soon as possible, due to the difficulty of adjusting to life here. However, I then took a couple hour bike ride and realized that I’m Blaine Curcio, and I’ve never tried and failed at anything in my entire life, therefore the only realistic thing to do here is go into the office tomorrow (today) and just thoroughly dominate the rest of this internship in every way possible. Additionally, I realized that it would be massively hypocritical of me to look so adamantly down upon people that give up in difficult situations, and then to do the same thing myself. Besides, as is the popular adage, go big or go home. I guess a good long bike ride is a good way to clear one’s head, and what better place than Holland to do such a thing.

Ok so now that all 6 readers have had a good, thorough look into the mind of Blaine Curcio, let’s talk about the last few days. Friday was epic, the start of the biggest sporting event in the world. I remember in September of 2006 when Tom Nielsen and I started a monthly countdown to this World Cup. Thank god it’s finally here, and I’m in one of the best countries for watching it (the Dutch fans are psychotic). Friday afternoon I was able to sort of sneak away from the desk for awhile to join the boys downstairs watching the opening match. I walked into the executive conference room to find the match being played on a projector screen, and to find, among others, no less than 1 Senior Vice President and a few Sales Directors anxiously awaiting kickoff of South Afirca-Mexico. I was able to watch about the first half hour, went back to work for an hour or so, and returned for the final 20 minutes. I don’t really care to get into what I thought of the match, as ESPN, BBC, Eurosport, and every other sports news agency have already had every match covered by every analyst and their mother. Plus, anyone who’s reading this blog probably isn’t reading it to get my opinion of the World Cup matches. Anyway, Friday night I got a random facebook message from Andrew Cohen, a friend from HS that I hadn’t seen since my going away party back in December. He happened to see my facebook status regarding watching the World Cup in Dutch, and said that he was in Amsterdam until Monday, having completed a study abroad in London, and was working his way down through Europe. So of course, being about 45 minutes from Amsterdam by train, I headed into “The ‘Dam” on Saturday morning to meet up with him. Met him and his friend Drew at Centraal Station, and more or less played tourist for the day, something I’ve not done in Amsterdam. We walked around for a bit, went to the “I Amsterdam” sign, something I’d not seen since December, and then went to a canal cruise. This was very interesting, as we got to see a lot of Amsterdam via the city’s extensive canal network. The cruise was about an hour and 15 minutes, and, in addition to seeing a fair few things from the canals, the boat had an audio system that told us what everything was in English, which made the cruise much more pleasant. After that we got some “Dutch pancakes”, which, according to Andrew’s friend Drew, are something of a specialty in Holland. Basically, it was a flattened crepe (i.e. not rolled up at all, very much in “pancake form”, if you will) with a few different toppings. I got mine with some cheese, tomato, and garlic, which was very nice. We also had some sort of syrupy sauce (it was kind of a cross between syrup and vegemite), which was decent. After that, I headed back to The Hague to watch USA-England. Again, don’t care to offer World Cup analysis here, but overall I was satisfied with a draw.

Woke up Sunday morning to an empty house, as I said. However, it was quite nice, I was able to Skype Elliott and Paris from Ulaanbaatar. Apparently they’d taken a 32 hour train ride from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar, and had just arrived. Talked to them for awhile, and, as I said, it was very nice to see their faces and hear their voices again. The phrases “is that all?”, “that is shocking”, and “are you still here?” were used repeatedly, rest assured. I found it a bit amusing, at one point Elliott asked if Paris would want to go catch the Aus-Germany WC match, to which Paris replied, “that starts at 2:30am, and the guidebook says don’t go out after midnight unless you want to get robbed or harassed by drunks”. Welcome to Mongolia, as they say. It should probably be mentioned that, for nostalgia’s sake, I’m turning on “The Seeker” by The Who right now. Shoutout to you, Mr. Roy Sandaver. Brings back memories of bundy rum and coke zero in the 4th floor common room.

Anyway: last night was spent watching World Cup matches and doing a bit of preparation for a meeting with Henning today, the point of which was to discuss my image for the final product of this whole internship. Henning seemed to really enjoy what I’d put together, and this week will involve me getting into some “nitty-gritty” (for want of a better word) stuff, such as customer analysis, speaking with sales managers, etc. I plan on absolutely demolishing the work like it’s nobody’s business, so we’ll see how my loads of confidence hold up throughout the week. If nothing else, it’s not as though I’ve got anything else to do, given the fact that I’m currently living alone in a huge house in a country where I know like 4 people outside of work, so I’ll have plenty of time to work. That statement was not necessarily bitter or sarcastic, it was more a general acceptance of the situation that I’m in. Despite the fact that it’s not ideal, it could sure as hell be worse, and the fact is I’m still spending a summer working in Holland with the rest of Europe at my doorstep, more or less, so I can’t be complaining too much.

The whole South America idea is starting to look more and more feasible, and interesting. Frankly I’d only go if I were to meet up with Madlien down there, as otherwise I have no real reason to not be home the week before school, given that I’ve not been in the U.S. in something like 168 days, so I think it’s safe to say I’ll have a few things to take care of upon arrival. Anyway, that being said, if I can meet up with Madlien somewhere in SA, it’d be worth going, as she’s a lot of fun to travel with (she’s also very good at figuring out where exactly we are in Seoul at all times… much better than I am anyway) (Madlien, if you’re by some chance reading this, that is as sincere and genuine as I’m ever going to get, so relish in the compliment! :-P). So yeah, there is, at this point, realistically, maybe a 40-45% chance that I’m in South America the week of August 16-22. Another option would be to go with Dan and Steve to Foxwoods in Connecticut, and on the way hitting up some Giants games in Philadelphia. Definite possibility, but given the fact that I can’t imagine I’d sacrifice that last week to go to somewhere in a region that I’ve already been, I don’t think it’s too likely. Although I have been known to occasionally do things on the fly like that…

Further facts, musings, etc: today Holland plays Denmark in our first World Cup match. The atmosphere in the office is intense. A fair percentage of the people are wearing orange (or Oranje, if you’re Dutch…), and I’d expect more to be wearing orange if this was actually a Dutch company, but the multinational influence causes there to be a lot of diversity. Consequently, however, there is rarely a match that no one in the office has some emotional stake in, so maybe the diversity will make the WC all the more interesting (and by maybe, I mean it will).

I’m attempting to get an override to take 22 hours next semester. The courseload would be as follows: MQM 227 (some management course), FIL 185 (business law or something similar), FIL 241 (investments), FIL 242 (financial markets), GEO 207 (natural disasters, just finishing core requirements), ACC 270 (information systems), and, drumroll… LAN 111.12 (first year French, part one). Why French, you ask? I honestly have no idea, I just sort of woke up one morning and decided it sounded decent. Welcome to the mind of Blaine Curcio I guess, it’s a strange place.

Spoke with Profe Lisa the other day, my old Italian professor (and by old, I mean I had her before, but will also have her next spring). I emailed her about 3 weeks ago regarding writing me a reference letter, and when she didn’t respond, I knew the culprit, her massive incompetence at reading email! She’s definitely the best professor I’ve ever had, but my god is she incompetent at checking email (partly due to general computer illiteracy. However, as I said, my favorite professor ever, and a decent candidate for sainthood.) Anyway, called up her cell and we spoke in Italo-English for a good 15 minutes, she’s write the letter, etc. so that was good to get that finished.

Anyway, this post is getting a bit long, and, frankly, I’m really unsatisfied with the structure, flow, tone, etc. anyway, so I’m just going to stop writing before I feel obligated to change anything, because that would involve far too much work. If you’ve read to this point, many thanks, I do appreciate knowing (or not knowing, but assuming) that some people find my life at least somewhat interesting. More to come later in the week most likely, or when I feel like writing something that’s not as sloppy and unorganized as this piece. Forza Azzurri, beat those Paraguayans.

Also: in brief summation relating this all to the initial point of this blog: overall, despite finding it very difficult to adjust to life here, I definitely view this as a good experience. I’ve been massively humbled by the fact that my arrogant attitude about being immune to culture shock was proven wrong, and I feel that that’s a very important step in becoming a successful international businessperson, so even if I don’t get anything else out of this internship (which I very much hope to not be the case), it was worth coming here, if only because it caused me to reassess myself as a world traveler.

That is about all, more to come later

Also, been listening to a fair bit of Rod Stewart lately. That's been enjoyable

Also: A happy birthday to my Dad, Mark Curcio. Doubt you'll be reading this today, as I believe you guys are returning home from Italy so you'll be in the air most of the day, but happy 54th, see you on August 16th, love, Blaine

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