11:28 AM

Doing Good is... Good

I am super excited. I got approved today to be a mentor with the Canadian Youth Business Foundation. Some lucky young entrepreneur has no idea what's about to hit them. (Hah.)

I've been wanting to figure out some kind of volunteering to do for ages, but couldn't figure out what was meaningful to me. I mean, there are a million things that matter, how on earth do you pick one? Finally, I decided that it should be something business-related as that's pretty much what I'm good at and I really do care about economic development and communities and that whole story.

So recently, I started volunteering with MBAs Without Borders and now this. Both are a pretty minor time commitment, but it feels really awesome to be doing something that actually might help someone. When your day-to-day life circles around effectively selling people gadgets, it's pretty nice to think about doing something that doesn't.

7:14 PM

The Shopping Game

Inspired by It's a Monkey, I've just won an imaginary $5000 shopping spree at Bergdorf Goodman. This is my theoretical loot. Grand total? $4936.

Chloe Shirtdress: $1260

Michael Kors Sheath Dress: $1695

Michael Kors Jackie dress: $1495

Juicy Couture Terry Shirtdress: $101

Manolo Blahniks: $385

God, that was fun. Now you play and show me what you bought!

2:15 PM

Getting Fresh

I absolutely love Fresh.

Today, my parents are traveling from Edmonton to Portugal for a little vacation and had an overnight in Toronto. We met up with them for lunch before they headed back to the airport. In my ongoing effort in forcing them to try new things, I suggested Fresh. (Actually, Dave originally suggested it, as it's near a guitar store he wanted to show my dad, but I ultimately agreed and suggested it to my mom, so it's still kind of my choice. Hah.)

In any case, if you haven't been there before, you must go. It's the yummiest veggie restaurant in town (and in any town that I've ever tried) and we had yummy smoothies, Thai burgers, sweet potato fries, and miso gravy (heaven). In any case, the thing that cracked me up about this experience was the waiter's introduction of Today's Special.

"For brunch today, we have scrambled tofu, veggie back bacon, and..."

I didn't even hear the rest, as I was too focused on quieting my internal laughter.

Everything I've ever tried at Fresh is clearly veggie. It's no veggie food trying to make itself out to be non-veggie food. It's all "Hey. I'm a big delicious salad. This is my buddy, big delicious bowl of rice and veggies and sauce and tofu. And, hey, I know my brother's name says burger, but that's just for format -- it's pretty clear that he's made of veggie stuff and soy and the like. Good? Good."

Scrambled tofu? Veggie back bacon?

Kills me.

10:06 PM

The Rebrand: Core Values

Things I know about myself and my work:

(1) I love to study and research.
(2) I don't love going to meetings.
(3) I love being by myself.
(4) I don't love performing.
(5) I love thinking and planning.
(6) I don't love sameness.
(7) I love the old freedom.
(8) I don't love financial instability.
(9) I love the idea of making a contribution.
(10) I don't love the idea of being lost in norms.

Yep, that's about right.

10:30 PM

I Have Lots of Bad Habits

I may be vain, but I am also all kinds of imperfect. It's okay, though, because I like to work on it.

(1) Not attributing actions/situations to people. It's a very, very bad and distressing habit and I need to get out of it, stat.

(2) Self-regulation. I used to be really good at this one, but in the last few years I have developed a tendency to VERY MUCH react to external factors. I need to chill the eff out, or at least keep it on the inside and process there before reacting. Ick.

(3) Tuning out. I am kind of impatient by nature and I notice that sometimes, when people start talking for a long time, rather than simply telling them that I'm busy, I instead tune out. I am trying to put my hands on my seat when people come into my office so this tactic isn't made all the easier by just stealthily staring at emails or documents I'm working on. So bad.

(4) And, as always -- I swear I've been working on it for a few months and am getting better at it, but still -- not interrupting people. It's again connected to the impatience.

10:27 PM

Age of Love

I just saw a commercial for a show called Age of Love. This is the tagline.

"It's the cougars versus the kittens. Can you say catfight?"

I am not kidding. This is a kind of Bachelor-esque-looking show starring women in their 40s versus women in their 20s. They want to see who wins the man. They literally called it "the ultimate social experiment".

I am so skeeved, I don't even know where to begin. Not only is this grossly offensive, it totally objectifies women, and it manages to point out the icky superficiality of our culture -- all at once.

Yay television.

11:33 AM

The Nestle Case

So this whole thing with Nestle baby formula and developing countries and tainted water has been going on for over thirty years now.

No matter what Nestle might do, I can't quite get my head around how they can possibly prevent tainted water from getting into the formula.

As much as I'd like to think it's possible, education is not the answer. They're dealing with people living in poverty, which implies a level of desperation. If you have the choice of whether to feed your baby possibly tainted formula or feed your baby nothing, I am pretty sure the choice is pretty clear.

And as much as I think they could theoretically supply pre-mixed formulas, that cost factor would have to be passed along (Nestle isn't a charity) and the people would likely end up either not buying it at all, or buying and diluting it with potentially tainted water.

And as much as I like the idea of them providing clean water, there's a cost to that as well, and Nestle isn't a market leader in the H2O business.

And as much as I like the idea of them investing in infrastructure, that really isn't where they have competitive capacity. (As a classmate of mine mentioned: when cars in a remote area of Venezuela start crashing because the country didn't invest in proper roads, nobody expects Ford to rebuild them.)

Thing is, I just don't see an alternate solution. Yes, the business has continued to exist there, so it's obviously profitable. But is it fair? Is it right? Does it promote long term social objectives? Is the corporation making a commitment to positive global citizenship?

I would venture to say no to all of these things.

So why the eff does Nestle keep selling its wares there?

Well, what about the mothers who are unable to breastfeed? What about babies who won't latch, who need alternate nutrition to thrive? What about the fact that illnesses like AIDS are rampant and can be passed through breastmilk? Where's the alternative? Isn't Nestle filling a legitimate need?

It seems to me that it's not Nestle's obligation to fix the structural problems, per se. The company shouldn't take a loss to provide its product. But it also seems like it's incredibly irresponsible to provide what is effectively half a product to consumers, knowing full well that they're unlikely to have the capacity to safely obtain the other half. And the risk inherent to the second half isn't just a bad taste or an allergic reaction -- it's toxicity and death.

So what can be done? I think the answer is a partnership of some sort, but I'm not sure what.

9:22 PM

My Stomach Feels Empty

I don't know if it's the transitioning back to my proper time zone, but my stomach has felt seriously empty since I got in last night. Nothing will fill it.

As for the rest of me, it's amazing how a small change can point out so many inconsistencies in one's life. Funny, that.

I'll tell you, I sure wish I could've traded returning my sad self home with importing my much-adored husband over there.

5:11 AM

A Quick Synopsis Before I Go

Just so I don't forget:

- Germans love spargel (asparagus). Every restaurant has a spargelkarte (asparagus menu) in addition to the regular menu. It's in season, and they just can't get enough.
- Germans love Lionel Richie. The Hoff is dead to them.

- No German person I met fit that loud-talking stereotype at all. In fact, I found them to be a rather soft-spoken group. I had to lean in to hear the professors speak at all times and had to be super attentive even in bars to ensure that I wasn't missing words.
- Germans love mixing things! The Radler is beer + lemonade (or soda pop or grapefruit juice or whatever, just a beer mixed drink). There are ten zillion schorles, i.e. apfelsaftshortle (apple juice with mineral water), kirschesaftshorle (cherry...), weinschorle (like a spritzer), and a gazillion others.
- Spundekรคse is to die for, especially with pretzels. I will make it the next time people come over.
- Germans have a particularly hilarious sense of humour. They love to laugh and do so very frequently.

- If I could eat a ham and cheese croissant every day for the rest of my life, I would.
- The European approach to doing business is that numbers support concepts, as opposed to the Anglo-Saxon approach which suggests that numbers lead concepts. This worked incredibly well with my personal approach to strategy.
- Squirrels here have faux-hawks!
- German dogs seem to be cuter than dogs anywhere else.
- Comprehensive transit systems make the world a better place.

- The claim about Americans being highly individualist in terms of culture measurement seems to me to be false. No doubt a small portion is, but it seems to me overall to be highly inaccurate.
- The Red Cat rules.
- The European approach to valuation of business includes both emotional and financial figures.
- Learning languages is crazy fun.
- The education system here is seriously out of this world in terms of both accessibility and quality.
- If Frankfurt is truly (as reported!) the most dangerous city in Germany, the country is doing something very, very right.

I'm sure there's more but I must head out.

Three of the best weeks ever, no questions asked.

11:58 AM

The Adrenaline Stopped

So at about 2AM last night, all adrenaline resources died within me. I nearly fell asleep at a bar WHILE DANCING.

I was not even remotely wasted, being entirely committed to water during the huge wine party so that I could make the most of my last night.

But yeah. 2AM. Dead to the world.

Anyway, regardless, I had to meet up with family friends for a day of sightseeing.

I think I fell asleep in their car on the way back. I seriously hope they didn't notice.

As I'm too tired to even write out all the hilarious stories from the last few weeks, I will just leave the pictures. Suffice it to say, I go home tomorrow afternoon and am already dying to come back. Not just the silly stuff, but not being in school daily is really going to be hard to switch off again. Ah, but it was amazing while it lasted.

This is a photo I took by the Kurhaus the night I arrived, and it's how my silly, dreamy girl-heart has felt the entire time I've been here.

Berlin: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=22411&l=1158d&id=887940095

Frankfurt: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=23383&l=2c539&id=887940095

Mainz: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=21783&l=8ad88&id=887940095

Munich: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=24399&l=f0ac8&id=887940095

Oestrich-Winkel: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=25886&l=51214&id=887940095

Other: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=22797&l=26c35&id=887940095

Wiesbaden: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=21722&l=81880&id=887940095

Boo. Saddy sad.