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.

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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).

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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

Friday evening, we are all invited to have happy hour at Instituto Ipê. This organisation is really into ecologic sustainability. Collecting platic bottles, old wood and more products that peole will just abandon. They’ll turn it into really cool stuff like chandeliers, chairs or any other beautiful product. They’ll also make beautiful clothing in a ecological-friendly way. 

Set aside the activities that they do, there’s more to it. The Institute supports creating lays that incentives ecological sustainability and partners with supporters, be they individuals or legal entities, based on the principle of transparency, values. It also promotes and prouds itself on being totally transparent. 

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Nice gathering at Intitute Ipê. Admiring the nice pieces of furniture being made from collected materials

The place is already filled with an interesting group of young people and we are welcomed by Toni, the really bospitable owner of the place. With live music and nice capirinha’s, nice lighting and cool furniture this place is a little sanctuary in this busy city of #Uberlandia. Thank you for inviting and having us here. #ibmcsc brazil

Boys will be boys; playing football…or futebol… at the Instituto

Friday, 14th of September. Sexta – feira 14 de setembro. This will be a good day. We have a clear view on what we are going to do today. There will be work and there will be other things. We have a lot of material that we got from all our interviews and we are in a phase of consolidating it to come to a clearer picture for the work that we will, and also will not be doing. We also have a go at creating the layout of the so-desired web page that they want. When done, I’ll all ask you to “like” it to create more local visibility for it (I am not disclosing the www address now!). Then, I am bringing with me today to the Institute something I brought from The Netherlands. A football. Dirk, my brother-in-law but foremost a very close friend of mine, donated it to me before I left to Brazil. I thought it would be like bringing water to the sea as we say in Dutch. For me, Brazil is like the place football was invented. Or at least adopted and ammeliorated (I guess, like so many sports, it has it’s origins in Great-Brittain). So I brought this uninflated-mother-of-all-men-like-irresistable-piece of leather with me in my suitcase. I remember even the customs lady at Schiphol airport checking my bag looking really surprised with the combination of the ball and my destination.

And now, you must know that the Institute is being run by fabulous people, lots of them are volunteers, so no evil word about them here, on the contrary. But there’s only one thing. They are practically all women! So, since we’ve been here, I have not seen any futebol around. And I was soon to discover why……….. #ibmcsc brazil

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Thank you Dirk, for having me take this fellow along!

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pumping the ball

So imagine, the Institute with some 60 kids in the Friday afternoon shift… Silently at work in their classrooms. Being monitored by teachers… or singing, being instructed… And then, when I finished pumping the ball with the small pump that was included in the package, I bounced the ball on the concrete floor of the Institute.

The sheer sound of it turned the Institute upside down!

So yes, Dirk, I took you ball along. And it was – and will be – a great success! These little Brazilian guys are really passionate when it comes to playing futebol (fu-zji-bôl). To an extent that we were about to take the ball in as we thought that there were going to be accidents and injuries. Luckily, it turned 16:30 and the kids were having to prepare to leave for the weekend. Otherwise, we would have spent many hours playing the noble game of football inside the Instituto…

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Boys will be boys! Playing futebol in the Center Court in the Instituto Politriz.

Thursday, 13th of September. Today, after our day at the Politriz plant, we invited the HR director to come and visit us at the Institute which she kindly accepted. We sat down with her, together with the CEO who joined her and we elaborated on some ideas we worked out the evening before. It appears that she is quite willing to cooperate and even sees opportunities in us being there to help her boost volunteering at the Politriz plant. So we discussed for two hours and we agree that we’ll be following up on some of the items that were discussed on a really short timeframe, taking into account that she’ll be off next week. I have high hopes, but we need to be realistic in terms of possibilities on short notice.

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Silent witness of our meeting

After the meeting we have lunch. And while we finish it, a truck announces it’s presence at the gate. It’s the long awaited materials for the flower area that are there. Without any moment of hesitation we are being linked to this devine moment. It is of course no coincidence that this present is coming while we are there… Hmmm… Though I really think we can make a difference here, I would not want to associate my work here with that of greater powers (whatever you would call them). Anyway, there will be hugging and lots of talking and the men will set to work. 

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Archimedes law at work to get the poles at the same height

In the afternoon we are getting some really in-depth views on how “things work” in Brazil. It would not be the place here to elaborate but it is good to have some background on forces that drive activities here. Or don’t…
It’s a long day, the laptop batteries are flat. We are ferried back to the hotel for dinner. But, we decide to have our dinner at a Japanese restaurant so Terumine can show what his country has to offer. Unluckily his restaurant of choice is not open. So we go for a restaurant that claimes to be Japanese based on the sign. It’s in the Mall foodcourt. Needless to say that Terumine is disappointed but is giving the restaurant an average critic. A little 6. Well, we’ve enjoyed some sushi and have bonded. A 10+ for me! #ibmcsc brazil

 

Visiting the Politriz plant

Wednesday, 11th of September. Today, we continued with our assignment with some serious questioning of Doris and the Politriz staff members. The more questions we ask, the more information we are getting on the all the aspects of the Institute. It must be strange for the the team having to answer all these questions, as the initial question was to just get a website. But we try to get the broader picture and so we are kindly invited to visit the Politriz factory, the organization that is co-sponsoring the Politriz institute. We leave at noon to be driven to the plant that is situated in an industrial area just outside Uberlandia. Some really big names have facilities here as Uberlandia is a hub beween Rio, Sao Paulo and Brasilia. As Doris is a former Politriz employee, she – again – seems to know just everybody. The CEO is a warm friend, but also workers on the floor seem to know her well. We are being dragged to all these specific places in the factory that she knows so well. But, we have lunch first. With the CEO in the factory canteen. Nothing fancy, amongst all the workers. I really like that and you can really feel that the mutual respect that people have here for each other. The Politriz “family” tagline on everyone’s shirt under the logo is not some sort of window-dressing, but seems to be genuine. Then we visit the bottle-making plant which is producing the plastic bottles to contain the different soaps this factory is making.

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In this area, bottles are being made from a plastic cylinder into containers for the final product

We then move to the filling area, that is also containing the laboratory. There we meet with Michael. He is the actual plant production manager. He speaks English really well and will be with the group for the rest of the time. Also present in the laboratory is a young woman, a chemical engineer, who is a great result of the work that the Politriz Institute has been doing. She explains how she the Institute helped her getting her life back. Impressing!

Michael will also show us another production facility that concentrates more on cleaning products for lavatories and shows us the new products that are currently under development. Very interesting and you can see his heart opening when we talk about products that are available on the European market.

We visit the plant administration center which is also containing the IT department. Sadly, no IBM there but people are listening eagerly on things like on-line ordering and order management. The local “whitespace” rep will have a hard time convincing them to go to online ordering as they assure me that online trading is not their piece of cake. The sellers here like to do Face-to-Face business and send in their orders through mobile devices.

It is now time to present ourselves to the whole management team of the Politriz facility. They are all gathered in their weekly meeting and we are kindly invited to join them. So, again, we present ourselves and we are quickly dragged into discussions on how this team could co-operate in supporting the Politriz Institute. Either directly or indirectly. With or without their suppliers. Through the help of the marketing supplier supplier or by generating more interest in their workforce. New ideas are born on the spot and I see the HR manager making a lot of notes. Unfortunately she is having to travel tomorrow, but she is making sure her colleague is coming to visit us tomorrow in the Institute to pick up and maybe work out some ideas. The new awareness is contagious and we see the team picking up the ball. We leave the meeting with a team picture. We will have to make sure we get that to the team to keep the ball rolling.

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Nice picture of the Politriz Management team during their weekly meeting. In the middle, dad, daughter and son.

We leave and are being dropped off at the hotel. As we are somewhat early (17:00), we decide to work out our notes in the Cajuba Country Club. The nice area I described earlier. We take the taxi and are quickly there and jump into the refreshing pool. We then set to work and try to make some structure into all the notes that we have been making. Clearly, we need more time, but a beginning is there. #ibmcsc brazil14