Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gazpacho and Gaudí

Clearly, I don’t have the slightest bit of free time to explore Barca. This will change, I am assured. However, this sad fact implies that the continuation of my “things I love about Barcelona” list is on hold for the time being.

Deep Breath.

This doesn’t mean that the lists have to stop. Not at all actually- only the subject matter will incur a small alteration. But I'm an MBA student- a veritable chameleon- I can attack any problem from any angle- I can do this! 
So...below is an inventory of the small pleasures- the tiniest of details that make me smile- or make my heart skip a beat in my day to day life. Because for someone like me, its always been about the small things. 

First off, I want to mention that the Christmas lights are up and alight throughout the streets of Barcelona. Christmas lights make the world a more joyous place (despite the waste of energy, light pollution, complete disregard for the fact that Thanksgiving comes first, and oh yeah- I’m a Jew. (But when has that ever stopped me from eating too much santa-shaped chocolates and buying Christmas trees?)

So, without further ado, here are the small delights I’ve come to hold dear:

-Eating tangerines in class and smelling them on my hands throughout the day (even though my laptop keyboard is perpetually sticky)

-Reading the paragraph long synopses on the left hand side of the front page of the Financial Times every morning and then pretending like I actually know what’s going on in the world

-Listening to Hotel Costes, Vol. 9 ~ Stéphane Pompougnac on my trek home from school between bus 63 and the blue metro line

-Continuing my perpetual search for a comforter cover that doesn’t have bizarre patterns or inappropriate color schemes (its been three months now)

-Walking innocently along the street, glancing up, and remaining astonished by the fact that I am standing next to one of many Gaudi buildings that tourists flock to from the world over

-Weekends in Italy

-Face bubbles on BBM (if you don’t know, don’t ask)

-Skype dates with friends I thought had forgotten me

-Overdoing the pan con tomate and Rioja with friends at Cervezeria Catalunia after 16 hour school days

-Planning extravagant weekend trips…whether they actually happen or not is irrelevant- it’s the prep (the fantasy) that counts. Isn’t it always the fantasy that matters most?

-Arriving at the bus stop as the bus is arriving (as opposed to arriving as its pulling away- which is the case 95% of the time)

-When something is presented in class and I realize I actually enjoy the subject matter. Moreover, when something is presented in class and I have an intelligible opinion I can share with my classmates

-Drinking store-bought gazpacho straight out of the carton while standing barefoot in the kitchen

-Deleting any number of the manifold “mbacareerservices” emails without reading them (although I don’t recommend this as I’ve had quite a few close calls regarding workshops and speaking events), it’s a great stress reliever. Particularly the ones with the “urgent” notification attached. Totally liberating

-Discovering hidden corners concealed within the packed hallways and floors of school between classes in which I can exist in my own world- nothing like the reality of what I am living

As a final note: Barcelona has gotten cold. They didn't mention that in the brochure!
It was practically arctic in my apartment this morning...I woke up shaking and blue. Thus, I overshot my target and showed up to school in five layers of clothing (including waffled long underwear- yes bottom and top), uggs with fur peeking out around my calves, gloves, and coat. I haven’t stopped sweating since I ran after the bus this morning. 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

MBA identity

No one tells you before you do an MBA that the MBA takes the place of your life- all your interests, your pursuits, your relationships, friendships, the things that make you happy- the things that MADE ME HAPPY. This is what I’ve decided- this is my melodramatic statement for the day…

I knew what an MBA entailed- I wasn’t fooled about this- we all knew business school is no easy task. But more than the content being hard, it’s the time-consumption that’s getting to me- the sheer bulk of daily hours being legitimately stolen away from me. And then I have to remind myself- I am paying for this.

How was I supposed to shift gears? Especially when I’ve always driven an automatic. 
How am I intended to push aside- leave behind- the things that I love? And furthermore, prohibit myself from gaining new pursuits. I am an MBA student. Why does that mean that I cant be anything else? Because right now- that’s how it is. That’s who I am: an MBA student and nothing more. 

Up until this point, I have tried to secede from this identity. I’ve continued to explore my curiosities and rummage through the things that fascinate me- to a lesser degree of course- and this week, that came to a screeching halt. Reality set in and I finally grasped the fact that as good as I am at sorting through my desires and necessary battles, it’s the battles that are winning and everything else that is being extinguished. It’s a choice I didn’t think I would have to make- and a choice I didn’t intend to make. I arrived at school on Monday morning, after a weekend of “being me” and I could no longer put on the face of the student that I am- and fully appreciate every concept being presented to me in my unremitting hours of classes. How does one fight that? How does one fix that?

How do I explain what I feel I am losing? My fervor is being extinguished- I have misplaced myself. Whatever it was inside of me that I could point to and recognize as mine, is gone. I came to Barcelona to acquire new passions, give my heart to other things…I decided to do an MBA because I wanted to explore more of the unknown, to create a broader understanding of the world so I could grow to love it even more. And at this moment, I think all that is lost and I need to redefine my purpose here. 

I know I wont find happiness in career web portals and market data research. As great as this MBA thing is, as much as I am learning and growing, an excel spread sheet will never take the place of a good novel and a revered guest speaker will never take the place of a good conversation. Not for me.

I watch my fellow students- and they are finding fulfillment and satisfaction in being enveloped by this MBA- not only the full days of classes, but the group work lasting until the morning hours, the dinners with fellow students, the weekend club meetings, the mba-related festivals, events, promoted affairs. 

There are couplings of students- budding relationships between colleagues- the possibility of love, the excuse for a distraction, any number of associations for any number of purposes are unfolding before me and within this little society of ours. There are promising friendships- of which I can’t seem to understand because I don’t even have time to work on my old friendships. And both these losses make me sad. There are plenty of individuals constantly reminding me that “things” will calm down second term- that we just have to get through this part- but that’s never been how I live my life- to merely “get through” it. Because who wants that? I don’t want to have an existence that I just “get through” I want to be devoted to every moment to the degree that I attempt to hold onto it with all my might. I want my fingers to bleed from their grasp. Yet now- I’m waiting for tomorrow and the day after and the day after- but for what? The next phase? What about this phase? THIS is what I wanted…this is what I aimed for and consequently attained. And now? I’m trying to “get through” it. 
That’s not how I live my life. And therefore, I have to ask who I have become- what did this MBA do to me? 

I lost the things I knew I would lose coming here- and then I lost a few things I wasn’t prepared for. Now I’m losing myself. Something I never thought possible. And I have to ask- is it all worth it? Ultimately, I know I will “get through” it- but I’m more concerned, at this impasse, about getting through it and coming out at the other end having preserved what I came here with- in hopes of adding more substance to what I already had.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

appropriate ecards

p.s. ESADE ranked 6th in International MBA programs. Go us!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The MBA- a quick update

About halfway through term-one and knee-deep in work. 
Work, in the form of: school work, homework, group work, resume work, and something I totally didn’t expect- work on myself. 
Yes, I am working on myself…or learning to accept the fact that maybe I have some more work to do on myself than I thought at the outset. 
I’ll leave it at that. 

Linear modeling baffles me to no complex end. 
Marketing is interesting but far too time consuming considering the weekly presentations amid SEVEN OTHER COURSES. 
My Spanish sucks so I am grasping for dear life at the walls of level four so as not to disappoint Señora Obragon from elementary school and sink to level three. I am, after all, a Miami native.
Financial statement management is interesting, but we should have had it pre-term. It actually seems that someone mixed up a file somewhere in the mix and inverted the order of pre-term and first-term- but that's another issue altogether. 
Managerial accounting, I am told, is relatively easy- but at 8:00 am.. on Friday mornings- nothing is “relatively easy.” 
Organizational behavior is second-nature.
The Global Context of Management is brilliant due to our small-group professor and the discussions/debates that are actually relevant to the world we live in. 
And finally- economics…the one subject I managed to avoid throughout my educational career and now I know why.

And on other fronts, in the words of a friend back in the States, “you’re missing out on a lot of action here.” 
The global economy is crumbling. 
Words are thrown around merely for shock-value so frequently that they are starting to lose their impact. I hear- and read- and utilize in my own daily vocabulary, expressions comprised of “disaster,” “catastrophe,” “emergency,” “devastation,” “upheaval,” “staggering,” “crisis,” “turmoil,” etc… They don’t make the impression they should be making at this point due to overabundance in daily discourse. Additionally, because I am so focused on learning how to analyze income statements and create linear models that I have had a hard time actually conceptualizing the fact that we are in the midst of the worst financial crisis since The Great Depression (according to the IMF). 
I wont drone on about this- firstly, because it’s no secret and secondly, nothing I can say will provide any more insight than yesterdays Wall Street Journal or the guy who sat next to me on the subway this morning.

And apparently, we have a new president. That was fast. I feel like Obama just arrived on the scene- (I will leave my personal opinion regarding his experience (or lack thereof) out for the sake of this blog remaining unaffiliated.) All I can say is that I hope- for his sake, my sake, America’s sake, and the world at large- that President Obama delivers. He has promised great things and as wonderful an orator he has proven to be, I hope he is half as good in action as he is with his powers of persuasion.

But in the end, change is what its all about. Obama, taking into account all that his election represents- one of the biggest defining factors was change. Change. Change. Change. And as I mentioned before- I am changing, I am learning what I need to change about myself, what I shouldn’t change, how to change what I should, and what use I can make of this change.
I’m just hoping it doesn’t break me down too much before I can build myself up again and put this change to good use. Maybe I’ll take a page out of Obama’s speech-writers book and mention….”Yes We Can!”

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Las Canciones De Mi Vida

I recently moaned about the lack of time I have to listen to music. This is a mockery considering that up until this point, music has played a sizeable role in my life. I fear that in the end of this whole MBA/Barca experience, I will not be able to find a list of music with which to compile a soundtrack. 

I’ve always managed to assemble these anthologies- from the boom-box era when I sat around until the radio played what I wanted to hear- and I would rush to push “record” before I missed too much of the song, to burning CD’s that I would later listen to and consequently scratch due to excessive “repeat” on my disk-man, and now the simple pleasure of labeling playlists in my itunes- there have always been compilations of significant songs that serve as the souvenirs of momentous times in my life…

And of all the significant times I have had, I am sure that this is going to be up there with the best of them. A memory without music is a memory lost. For this phase of my life, I believe that would be the biggest shame imaginable. 

To that end, I began compiling a playlist. It’s comprised of the songs I listen to as I walk in the rain (whoever said it never rains in Barca was lying) to the bus stop. Some of the songs are the songs that randomly come on my i-pod as I sit outside the school waiting for my next class to begin, thinking to myself, “this is exactly how I feel,” whether the words match or not. Because with music- its rarely about the words- it’s the fact that every note, every melody, every chord touches something in your soul and makes you feel connected somehow to something you cant see, or touch, or explain- but you know is there. Certain songs possess the beats and rhythms I have danced to at 6 a.m. in Barca’s discotecas- when I should have been dressing for class. Others in hotel rooms on the Amalfi Coast or fashion-week parties in Paris. And a few are the songs that play in my head without any explanation- they just begin out of nowhere and linger for days.

And so these songs will become my soundtrack- a vehicle to carry me back to here- at some point down the road- in a moment of clarity or sadness or nostalgia when I want to feel how I feel now- where I am now- where, despite the rain and the lack of free time, I am extraordinarily happy.

Lastly, there are songs on this list that my best friend, Dana has sent me- in a package full of mixes. Not only did she listen to me when I made an offhand remark about not having a soundtrack- but she heard me...because the two of us have innumerable soundtracks together. She gets it...she named the mixes “Barca Mix 1, 2, and so on” She gave me the gift of the music that I haven’t had time on my own to discover. 

So here goes, the beginning of Barca memories via la musica….

1. Regina Spektor, Samson
2. The Killers, Human
3. Amos Lee, Baby I Want You
4. Ray LaMontagne, You Are The Best Thing
5. U2, Running To Stand Still
6. Leona Naess, Ghosts In The Attic
7. Jehro, All I Want
8. Coldplay, Viva la Vida
9. Rocha, Ya No Te Veria Mas
10. The Verve Pipe, Freshman
11. Eddie Vedder, Society
12. Jewel, Barcelona
13. Me’shell Ndegoecello, Beautiful
14. Kings of Leon, Cold Desert
15. Freedom Dub, Emotional Rescue (Hotel Costes 9)
16. Moby, Dream About Me
17. Patrizio Buanne, Luna Mezz o’ Mare
18. Damien Rice, 9 Crimes
19. Amy Winehouse, Back to Black
20. Yves Larock and Jaba, Rise Up (pref. club mix)
21. Black, Wonderful Life
22. Adele, Hometown Glory
23. PhonJaxx, Sensual
24. Coldplay, Lovers in Japan
25. Laurent Wolf, No Stress
26. Ben Harper, Fight Outta You
27. Juanes, La Camisa Nera
28. Thievery Corporation, Beautiful Drug
29. Shakira, Estoy Aqui
30. Black Kids, Love Me Already
31. Stephan Pompougnac, The Ballad of Sacco and Vanzetti
32. MGMT, Kids
33. GlasVegas, Daddy's Gone
34. Shout Out Louds, Very Loud
35. Kings of Leon, Use Somebody