Thursday, December 25, 2008

Life After Uruguay (LAU)

I am writing this post from North America, having flown back last weekend. My eleven weeks in Uruguay passed very quickly and now I am moving on to whatever is next. In the immediate future I have two weeks of vacation time to relax and decompress. I have a ton of pictures to sort through, family to reconnect with, and the longer effects of food poisoning to fight through. I have about eight more blog posts concerning Uruguay scheduled, so you are going to see some more about Uruguay as I finish out my experience from a blog perspective.

Last week was a week of many, many sad farewells. I had four holiday parties, a farewell dinner, and a farewell party. The party I missed because I was laid low with a nasty bug that took me down and still has not yet fully released me. In some ways the gentle care I received from those around me was the best kind of farewell. Some things can not be put into words.

Am I happy to be back? That is a hard question with no easy answer. My work had a very singular purpose in Uruguay, which was refreshing and invigorating. I focused on whatever I thought would help Clausen the most. I really miss all of my newfound friends and colleagues in Uruguay. It was nice to eat in great restaurants every night and to have someone else worry about the cleaning and laundry. On the other hand, it is great to be home with Elly and Sammy the dog. I can go outside here without being sun burnt. Spending holidays with family is nice and normally with my family I do not see them nearly enough in the regular course of the year. I am now enjoying many of my favorite foods and luxuriating in my book collection, magazines, etc.

So what comes next? After a few weeks of vacation, I will move onto another client. There are a couple ideas floating around, but nothing definite yet. I will be putting together a presentation about my Fellows experience to share with some local EY offices to build support for the program and to possibly recruit a few people from my region to apply next year.

The blog I will be continuing, though will a slightly different focus. Up to now, the main focus has been on interesting things I have seen and done in Uruguay. Going forward, I hope to keep you interest with more travel dispatches, food and restaurants, ruminations about the state of the world, and whatever else I think will be of interest. It will still serve the same purpose of being a way for me to keep in touch with friends wherever you may be.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Final Speech at Laboratorios Clausen

My speech I planned to deliver on my last day at Clausen. They planned a small party with all of the employees for me. Unfortunately, I got very sick during the day and I had to leave early, so the party got cancelled. I emailed this speech instead.


Thank you to all of you for making me feel so welcome over the past eleven weeks.
Gracias a todos ustedes por hacerme sentir tan bienvenido durante las últimas once semanas.

It seems like just yesterday that I arrived here at Clausen.
Parece que fue ayer que llegué aquí, a Clausen.

The day I arrived I felt alone in a country very far from my home.
El día que llegué me sentí solo en un país muy lejos de mi casa.

I was sick, surrounded by strangers, and overwhelmed with all the work I needed to do.
Yo estaba enfermo, rodeado de extraños, y abrumado con todo el trabajo que necesitaba hacer.

From your perspective, I am sure it was very strange too.
Desde su perspectiva, estoy seguro de que tambien era muy extraño.

Here I was, this gringo who knew nothing about Clausen or the pharmaceutical industry coming to give advice on how to improve the company.
Aquí estaba este gringo que no sabía nada acerca de Clausen o de la industria farmacéutica y que viene a dar consejos sobre cómo mejorar la empresa.

I didn’t even speak a word of Espanol!
Yo ni siquiera habla una palabra de español!

Something happened very quickly though.
We made progress and ideas and changes started happening.
Last week, I was putting together a list of all the accomplishments we have made over the last eleven weeks, and it is an impressive list!
I say “we” because this has been a group effort all along.
Without your help I would not have accomplished anything.
You deserve as much credit as I do for what we were able to do.

I want to specifically thank:
Gabriel, for introducing me to Clausen, showing incredible patience, intelligence, and concern. We shared many excellent conversations. Gabriel is the sort of boss that everyone wants to work for.

Leonardo, for taking the time to explain the intricacies of the pharmaceutical industry and trust me enough to ask for my opinion. You are a gentleman and it has been an honor to work with you.

Lucia and Gustavo, for supporting my proposals and giving me so many new ideas. You were both a big part of the success of this project. I don’t know how you found the time to attend my weekly meetings but they were so much better because you were there.

Adive, for your big smile, enthusiastic welcome, and the inside information on how the company was working. It was your suggestions that gave me the start I needed. It has been such a pleasure to see you every morning.

Cecilia, for taking the time to explain the intricacies of the production process even when there were a million other things going on that were more important.

Carlos, your positive attitude is infectious and I imagine that there are few problems you could not solve. The tour you gave me of the maintenance facilities was one of the highlights of my time here.

Gabriel Cassese, I have really enjoyed getting to know you and your team. Thank you for taking all the time to explain how Axapta works and the problems that lie ahead. I am sure with your talent and leadership you will be able to get to a solution.

Maria Noel, your energy and enthusiasm make you stand out. You have a mind to solve problems and I am expecting big things from you.

Patricia Vila, you took some of my ideas, combined them with your own, and did beautiful things with them. I love the quality committee slides that you made, I think they are a huge step forward for Clausen.

Matilda, who taught me how to make Mate even as she had so many other things going on.

And of course Maria who did everything she should could to make me feel so welcome. Maria, you are an incredible person and I could never thank you enough for all of your kindness.

I wish I had all afternoon to keep going as I have something to thank every one of you for if we had the time.

Clausen is a very special place and I am very honored to have the opportunity to work here, if only for a short time. I have worked with many companies and very few have the feeling of Clausen.

As Gabriel always says, Clausen is not a building or a slogan or even a product, Clausen is the people who work here.
Como siempre dice Gabriel, Clausen no es un edificio o un slogan, o un producto, Clausen es la gente que trabaja aquí.

Today, eleven weeks after arriving I feel as though I am a part of that.
Hoy, once semanas después de llegar me siento como si fuere parte de esto.

You opened up the door and invited me in.
Ustedes abrieron la puerta y me invitaron a entrar.

And for that I will always be grateful to all of you.
Y por es siempre voy a estar agradecido a todos ustedes.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cabo Polonio - Provoking the Sea Lions

Friday, December 12, 2008

Kick-Start Your Priority Focus

From Les Hewitt's "Power of Focus" workbook.

1. Say no.
2. Delegate more effectively.
3. Communicate better.
4. Set well-defined boundaries.
5. Let go (do you really need to know all the details?)
6. Think more about targets and goals.
7. Plan and prioritize each week.
8. Reflect one hour each week
9. Celebrate your victories

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Omnivore’s Hundred

I found this list on an interesting blog. It is the 100 foods that he thinks every omnivore should have tried at least once. As he says "The list includes fine food, strange food, everyday food and even some pretty bad food - but a good omnivore should really try it all." You can find his original post at:

To join in, follow these steps:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

I will point out that very few of these items conform to my US based diet, but what the heck. In looking at my responses I realized that a lot of odd things have entered my mouth! I have had 57 out of 100, not too bad considering things like brain and sea urchin are on the list. What do you score?

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

The Dulce was a good start, but where is the Chivito?

La Rambla

One of the things I will miss most about living in Montevideo is the Rambla. It is a wide sidewalk and bikepath along the coast that continues for many miles in both directions. Uruguayans spend considerable amounts of time sitting along the Rambla, drinking Mate or Pilsen, and pondering the fate of the world. It is really nice at the end of a long day at work to put on some comfortable shoes and hit the rambla. The sun is setting, dogs are sniffing, and everything is calm.

The Holocaust Memorial right across from the US Embassy

Starting the Process of Saying Goodbye

It is hard to believe but my time in Uruguay is nearly over. I have mixed feelings, though overall I am happy to be going home. Eleven weeks away from home, wife, Sammy, friends, good beer, mexican food, and chinese food is a bit long. I can not imagine what the soldiers who are posted overseas for a year at a time go through.
We were invited to the beautiful home of Fernando, the entrepreneur one of the Fellows here is working with. In attendance was the staff of Endeavor, each Fellow, and our entrepreneurs. It was a nice, quiet party with good conversation and great food. They served homemade pizzas with all kinds of interesting toppings. They even made a vegan pizza for me. The highlight of the night was the speeches. I took the opportunity the individually thank the Endeavor staff who have been so good to us. It was also good to be able to publically thank the people I work with at Clausen for tolerating all of my crazy ideas and suggestions, and for making this such a good experience.
While we still have over a week left and I am as busy with work as ever, everything does have a feeling of winding down. I am starting to sort through my stuff to decide what to bring back and what to donate. I am trying to figure out how to fit it all in my two suitcases. I now ask myself questions like "Did I really need to buy TWO pairs of cowboy pants?"

Monday, December 8, 2008

San Pedro de Timote

I have had the fortune of being invited to many events sponsored by the non-profit Endeavor. Endeavor is working hard to foster the entrepreneurial community in Uruguay, and one tool to accomplish that is knowledge sharing. This weekend, the Fellows attended the 2008 Annual Promises Entrepreneurs Retreat at the fantastic San Pedro de Timote. San Pedro is one of Uruguay’s most beautiful tourist farms. It is located in the former mansion of an old time land baron and is surrounded by hundreds of acres of open landscape. There are cows to see (and eat), horses to ride, a wide open sky to enjoy, and campfires to fight off the night chill. It is a place where it is hard not to relax and it served as the perfect backdrop for the Retreat.

The retreat started with an early morning bus ride to Florida, about two hours due north of Montevideo. As soon as we arrived we were issued color coded T-shirts and told to report to the ropes course. The four teams (blue, pink, orange, and green) competed in swings over a river, a high rope course, shooting arrows, and assembling huge puzzles. It was a great icebreaker and introduced me to many people. Most of the participants in the Retreat are Uruguayan small business entrepreneurs and they all have interesting stories.

The next day was filled with horse rides (one sunset ride, and one early morning ride), lots of good food, and much lounging. Because the Retreat workshops were in Spanish, I was excused from attending them and instead I could focus on relaxing. I am told I missed some great workshops, and I am sorry for that. Got to keep learning my Spanish!!!

The highlight of the trip was the keynote speaker, Roberto Canessa. Roberto is one of the survivors of the plane crash in the Andes in 1972. He survived on the mountain for three months and had to eventually hike down off the mountain to seek help. The story was eventually made into a book and movie entitled “Alive”, which brought him worldwide fame. Roberto’s talk was just plain great and I do not do it justice by even trying to describe it. It was really interesting to hear about how even in the worst of circumstances he was still a teenager who paled around with the other survivors on top of that mountain. His described knowing in his heart that he was going to die when he heard on a small radio that the search for them had been called off. His main message is that you never really fully know what is inside yourself.

All over the ranch there were these tiles placed into the walls with virtuous sayings. From top left clockwise: "Idleness is a theft from all", "Only God is great", "Idleness consumes a man more than work", "It is better to give than receive".

Friday, December 5, 2008

Jobs you never knew existed

I have a friend who has made the lifestyle choice to drop out of industrialized society as we know it. He lives deep in the Appalachian hills of southeast Ohio on a small farm tucked between two tall ridges. For the past couple years he has been making a living by farming worm poop to sell to gardeners. More recently he has expanded out to bat guano. Look for his products in the Whole Foods in Columbus, Ohio. Matt is by no means wealthy, he eats simply and when he has a truck it is old and unreliable. Matt is also happy and doesn't need to get up at 6am unless he chooses to do so. He is an extremely talented musician and picks up a few dollars here and there by taking requests.

Image by John Halley of The Athens Messenger

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bust it Time

Only two weeks left here in Uruguay. I have been extremely focused on trying to finish many of the projects I have started. Unfortunately at the same time I have been also agreeing to do so many little side projects too. Got to keep my focus and execute, execute, execute!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Lucky in Life

It has been a week since my last entry and I apologize for that. I have been enjoying the company of mi esposa (Elly) who took the long series of flights to visit me here in Uruguay. Something many of you may not realize is that part of accepting a slot with the EY CR Fellows Program has meant leaving my wife behind in Columbus for the duration of the program. This has been the most difficult part of the program and I do not think it is coincidence that there is only one other married Fellow among the ten of us. I was delighted when Ellys very kind bosses at Ohio State allowed her the week off to come visit me. Elly was here for a total of six days, which we packed full of adventure and fun.

Days 1 and 2 – Buenos Aires, Argentina

No trip is complete to this part of the world without a sample of Buenos Aires. BA is a wild, crazy place with more action in one day than Montevideo has in a year. It is home to huge steaks, tango, and an extreme form of national pride. We took the fast ferry on a three hour voyage from Montevideo to Buenos Aires. We got good seats and it was a comfortable ride (cost about $75 USD each). In quick order we hit Casa Rosado (where the President lives), the National Cathedral (impressive! but I couldn’t find any relics), and Florida Street which is pedestrian only and home to many street vendors. We saw the National Congress Building and almost witnessed a confrontation between riot police and protestors wielding long sticks. We enjoyed the music and dancing at a Senor Tango show. Props to the extremely classy Hilton Buenos Aires for upgrading us to an amazing room that left us feeling spoiled.

Days 3 and 4 – Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

See my earlier entry for more detail on Colonia. It is historic and beautiful. We enjoyed two leisurely days there full of walking the old stone streets, enjoying good food, and soaking in the small but unique museums (admission to all six museums for only $2.50 USD). We stayed in the Posada Plaza Mayor in a tiny room with 18 foot high ceilings and old stone walls. The room faced an inner courtyard with a colorful garden and fountain. Thanksgiving dinner consisted of a meal cooked entirely over an open fire at a little outdoor restaurant overlooking the ocean (technically river at this point). We had roast potato and red pepper, tuna steak, and blood sausage with some jugs of cheap, bad wine.

Days 5 & 6 – Montevideo, Uruguay

We hit all of the best that Montevideo has to offer. The Biarritz Street Market, the Old Town, Mercado de los Artisanos, and the market at Tristan Navaja. Elly got to experience some of our favorite restaurants, including El Veijo Y Del Mar, Tandory, and Taco Munoz. We hit the number one tourist attraction, the Mercado de Puerto, which is a huge building full of asados selling meat cooked over wood fires. The whole place smells of grilling meat and wood smoke. We got the BBQ for two, which consisted of about six pounds of various meats, as well as a bottle of Medio Y Medio, the specialty of the Mercado. The food was delicious and cost less than $30 USD for everything.

Day 7 – Clausen

I brought Elly to work with me for a short tour of Clausen and to meet many of the very kind people I work with. Elly won them over by carrying a load of 140 homemade buckeyes from Columbus to share. The employees enthusiastically loved the buckeyes and poured on the charm as I have come to expect from Uruguayans. Then Elly hopped on the plane out of town and was gone. I miss her immensely.