Saturday in Uberlandia

Saturday 29th of September. This weekend, I am staying in Uberlandia. I have been out for the last weekends and we were advised to keep this weekend “at hand” in order to work at the assignments, as this is the last weekend that we’ll be here…. 😦  So I did. And evenso, there’s a lot of nice things we are doing this weekend.

So, this Saturday morning we agreed in visiting the “old” city center. We have been here, but only at night for our dancing lessons or for dinner. Our hotel is located in a fairly new area, a 10 minutes ride out of this center, which has not much of the old Portuguese flavour, but is ideally located for logistics (and is a great hotel by itself). We gathered at a very nice square called Praca Tubal Viela. A square where we will meet Larissa who will give us some shopping directions.

uberlandia praca0

Praça Tubal Viela, 1940

Praça Tubal Viela, 2013

Praça Tubal Viela, 2013

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Praça Tubal Viela, 2013

There is a nice ambience to the square. The fountains, the elderly people, young couples (lots of cuddling) and us! As there are hardly any tourists in town, we immediately get spotted but we are welcomed ever so kindly.

Larissa, prepared as always, gives us some quick directions and the promise she’s having her phone on standby for anyone needing additional directions (which will prove to be necessary). We all quickly wonder off, everyone on the quest for stuff to bring home. There’s a lot of shops, but as shopping is not really my “thing”, especially when there is a little bit of pressure to find light-weight stuff to bring back home. There’s a lot of people doing their everyday / weekend shopping. Clothing, shoes, refrigirators, drugstores…

I included some old pictures, things are quite similar, even some of the cars (Volkswagen beetles, Volkswagen minivans and Chevrolets pick-up).

uberlandia street

Downtown Uberlandia, back in the days

Uberlandia, 2013

Downtown Uberlandia, 2013

So, the men flock together and we set our hopes to the Mercado Municipal. A really nice area with small artisan shops, hairdressers and some traditional bars. We kind of find some stuff, but for me, it is really hard, as the 23 kilo’s I brought from Amsterdam did not substantially get lower. I will leave some stuff (stroopwafels, some reading material, the football and the wine gums and licorice that were kindly given to me before departure) but that is hardly weighing up to bottles of cachassa or any other presents. But, I have another week left, and, under pressure, things will materialise, I keep telling myself 🙂

The further we head into the afternoon, the more (lots of young) people come together to socialize onto the Mercado Municipal, have a drink and talk.

Mercado Municipal, 2013

Mercado Municipal, 2013

Marcado Municipal, 2013

Marcado Municipal, 2013

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Marcado Municipal, 2013

Especially when the live music starts, the Mercado is really turning into a really nice open, friendly meeting point for young and old.

After having lunch we have to move on. As the weather is quickly deteriorating, and as we promised ourselves a quick dip into the pool, we quickly head back to the hotel, pick up our gear and go to Cajuba.

Cajuba pool, 2013

Cajuba pool, 2013

Though it is weekend, there’s not a lot of people around as you can see. Maybe it’s the weather, it must be cold to Brazilian standard (18-20C). Friday evening, this place was filled with people, live music and a BBQ, there wasn’t a table left. We dive in the pool  as soon as we are in, thunderstorms start to unleash. At five it is already getting darker and we see the lightning in the background of the city outskirts. Luckily we stay dry and the temperature is not dropping much yet. So, on the terrace, we discuss. Assignments, progress, general feelings and what we miss most after three weeks of being away. It is a tough question, on one hand, I am really enjoying my stay here in Uberlandia. The new experiences, the bonding with the group, our group dynamics, our assignments, learning about different cultures, our team meetings with surprises from countries every week, our contacts with the NGO’s, our dancing lessons, the children at the Institute on one side and on the other hand I really miss my family, the social life at home and yes, even do I miss the colleagues, the interactions at work (really!). This is especially the case when there is some time for “ourselves”. During weekdays, the program is really packed from 800 till 2400 (and beyond), there is little time to evaluate what the assignment is doing to you personally. The spare time that we have is being consumed by the so many – but ever so nice – group activities.

After some time, we leave. I have to get to a supermercado to prepare for our next team assignment on Sunday evening. Larissa’s father has invited us all for a “Pot-Luck”. I did not know this word but the concept is very friendly. We all gather and everyone brings something to prepare. I have been thinking about what to prepare. A Dutch dish? Nothing comes to mind, especially with no Albert Heyn at hand. So I think I will do some appetizers, Italian style. I head off to the supermarket with Christy and we shop. We’re good and head back to the hotel. When I arrive there’s a group waiting to go for dinner. As I really want to join, I rush upstairs, put my stuff in the fridge and head back down.

The group has decided to go to a Japanese restaurant downtown which has the reputation to be very good. It will prove to be a very nice experience, lots of laughter (LOL), sharing stories and getting to know each other better and better. We go home (hotel), another day filled with experiences and emotions. Lot of them will be the last of their kind here in Uberlandia as we head for the last week. Like this Sunday morning in my hotel room. #ibmcsc brazil

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Getting in contact…

Image… with our Brazilian NGO contact of the Politriz Institute – Doris – proves to be more of a challenge than expected. Robert, who has offered/proved to be the communication focal point for this exercise, did put everything in place to be able to have a smooth introductory conversation with Doris, our contact in Uberlândia, but apparently things were not clear so we were waiting with an open Skype line and our AT&T conference call line for Doris to call in. In the end, by texting with Brazil, we understood that there was no translator available at that time in Brazil, so, with a little help of Vanessa, our local CDS contact, we were able to make a new appointment for next Wednesday. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that things will work out for our next call, eager as we are to get acquainted with the Politriz Institute team and the work that is being done there. In the meantime, we “found” Doris on Facebook and she has kindly accepted our invitation to connect with us. So we are now able to link with her, which is giving me a small peak into her life looking at all the nice pictures that she has put there.

Yesterday, during our team call, we were also welcomed to Uberlândia by Mauro Holtz, the local Uberlândia IBM Branch manager. Mauro elaborated on the Enterprise (IBM terminology, sorry) territory he is running with his (extended) team and so kindly invited us to the local Cajubá country club in order to meet up. Already such a warm welcome really makes my Northern hemisphere blood run faster. Thank you Mauro, great presentation and thank you again for the warm welcome. 

On a different note, today we received quite an elaborate package that has been prepared by CDS (Citizens Development Corps, the organization that is actually planning this event for IBM. You can read more about this organization here) with all the necessary information for our journey to Brazil. Ranging from “preparations before departure” to a “local neighborhood guide” indicating the first necessities of life (wifi, café’s but also museums) to “pictures of plug converters” and the telephone number of the Dutch consulate in Brasilia. It also unveiled, by accident or not, some of the activities that we’ll be doing. I think this document is a real add-on and a good read to getting acquinted really fast  with this new city. I’ve made a few copies also for my family at home. It is good to know that this level of detail has been put into this experience and, in any case, it physically adds up to the general feeling of getting more and more prepared (and excited!) for the big jump across the Atlantic now being at 22 days. #IBMCSC BRAZIL

We’re getting better at it…

Today, our third team call. And we’re getting better at it. The first call was really difficult to follow, the second one was already better and this third one really went well. Thanks to the moderation of Robert and the extensive Q&A we were allowed with the people from CDC. CDC being the organizing entity of the CSC experience. Thank you Tobin and Rodrigo. I expect a lot more questions to be asked and a lot more to be answered. Let’s see if our growing Greenhouse community will be of great assistance here.

Anyway, using the Greenhouse community (the “outside” variant of IBM’s communities to use with people from outside IBM) proves to be really helpful. As I am a big fan and user of the Communities concept (no more sending of large files and central storage and sharing of all information for everybody and “eating your own dog food” I have silently but gracefully accepted my role as the moderator of this community.

As our team will be joined by people from JP Morgan Chase (as they want to set up a similar CSC program), a community allowing people from “outside” IBM was imperative. It also now gives us the opportunity to add the local people from CDC (the party that is actually organizing our experience) which enables them to already start informing us about our local situation in Uberlândia, the do’s and don’ts, things to bring, etc. Really handy and proving that this Social Software can really work in practice.

Well, enough for the sales pitch for Social Software here. As promised, I made a pledge to inform about this adventure before, during and after the assignment. So, no nice pictures (yet).

Back to work. We have quite some modules to finish. Interesting material we now cover on cultural differences, practical things like immunizations and visa and other things that we should know on beforehand. It is fueling the desire to actually go, though we are still more than two months ahead of departure…

#ibmcsc brazil