Thanks Kenna and Butch sorry to keep you guys waiting so long between posts, I’ve been kinda lazy feeling, the atmosphere is much more laid back than EKU so it is easy to procrastinate ha ha. I actually wrote this post on my birthday but never posted it. Well… Anyways… Check it out!
March 22, 2010.
Today I am twenty-three years old! The international community of students here has gotten quite strong and my group of friends are great. On Saturday about fifteen of my friends organized a birthday dinner for me at a restaurant in the city center called Gaucho’s. Gaucho’s is a pretty pricey Argentinian steak house, and the food was seriously delicious. My friends asked me earlier in the week what type of food I wanted to eat on my birthday, and I said that I wanted a BIG steak, so it was perfect. The dinner went really well, and it was nice to have a decent meal. I really appreciated the gesture especially being so far from home. After dinner, it was raining, but we still rode our bike’s back to my apartment, which is only about five minutes away from the center. The rain didn’t seem to stop anybody that night. I had made a facebook event letting everyone know that they could come over to have a drink with me for my birthday and that we would go to this “hole-in-the-wall” bar in the center of town called Cafe Friends. Within an hour my apartment was packed. They sung happy birthday to me, and signed my wall in the kitchen; both in about 10 different languages.
Today on my actual birthday, Avans took all of the international students to visit Antwerp, Belgium. Antwerp is the 3rd largest port in Europe, and includes over 1,150km of railway track. In addition to the enormous amount of sea-trade coming in and out of the port, 80% of the worlds diamonds pass through Antwerp. The regulations and standards that govern the diamond trade are determined here as well. We started the day at eight in the morning when we met at Avans. After a 2-hour bus ride , we arrived in Antwerp where we met at a local business school for a lecture on differences in business culture within the US and Europe. The lecture highlighted punctuality, rapport, procedure, methods of problem solving, and the strengths associated with both the Us and European culture. The presenter was an American so I was really surprised to see how he had presented the information to make it seem like Americans were all lazy, wasteful, fat, and ignorantly self centered. The lecture was supposed to be about business and all it talked about was stereotypes of Americans and Chinese people. To say the least I was disappointed, and almost approached the speaker afterwards. For the next 30 min to 1 hour I was bombarded by jokes about how bad the US sucks. I never let it get to me though because everyone always wants to get the guys who are in 1st place, so I understand their jealousy because compared to Europe the US really does a great job at just about everything. Honestly Europe is just a different place all around and it is hard to compare something on a fair scale when things are just so different. Europe is a great place, and my opinion is as bias as theirs though so I guess you’ll just have to come make up your own mind. There is alot to be learned from all of the different cultures your surrounded by in Europe. The adaptations people have made here are awesome. I am jealous over and over again about their ability to speak so many languages with relative ease. I’ve heard conversations start in Dutch, switch to English, and finish in Spanish. If you drive 2-6 hours in any direction there is a whole different language, culture, architecture, history, and people, so adaptation is crucial. Ok back to my Antwerp story ha ha! After the awful lecture we collected in the city center and then divided up into small groups for a city tour. The tour included some beautiful churches, typical side street cafes, a three hundred year old slaughter house, a view of the harbor, the town hall, and my personal favorite, the first official stock exchange in the world. From the street you approact a common looking, arch shaped, green door which is propped halfway open during the day. You walk through the doorway and through a short hallway. It appears as if a building had been built around the old exchange because once you are though the hallway it leads to an open air type structure that appeared much older than the surrounding building. The stock exchange itself was in the shape of a square with pillars supporting an awning on 3 of the 4 sides. Vines climbed the fourth side, which was simply a verticle brick wall with some old looking windows. Cobblestone layed in a circular pattern constituted the majority of the floor in the exchange with mud and sand coming through the cracks as evidence of the age. I had my picture taken standing directly in the middle, where I imagine men yelling and trading hundreds of years ago. After the tour, we stopped for about a half hour to have lunch in the center of the city before we got back on to the busses.
Next on our trip we arrived at a company that handles the logistics of distribution for Roxy and Hurley clothing brands. There we toured their facility observing modern methods of inventory control, safety innovations, space management, as well as other logistical innovations. I was able to introduce myself to the plant’s operational manager. He was a down to earth guy about thirty years old. We discussed an internship over the summer too which would be great. Some of the things I noticed about their facilities included the fact that all incoming goods come in one side and outgoing leave from the other, the shape of the shipping and recieving walls was a diagonal stair step to allow more trucks to dock at a time, the warehouse was divided into 4 equal sections of 32,000 square meters divided by fire doors to minimize the loss in a fire, the warehouse shelves were placed very close together with a special forklift that can run on a track system between the shelves, every so often the concrete that the tires of the forklift ran on in the aisles was flattened to ensure stability when carrying a load, an elevated conveyor system could scan and direct specific boxes to their appropriate location for shipping, a picture of an employee was laminated and hung at the end of each rack to show who was responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of the aisle.