“Happy”  – the version from Myanmar

This video, inspired and following the awsome song by Pharell Williams, has been published a year ago. 

It has been shot and directed by one of my colleagues at the time, Carlo Zappa while we were working in the start up of Ooredoo Myanmar. Building a greenfield mobile network in a country which is in a phase of change more obvious than in most places in the world was a priviledge. 

And the video is a treat – Thank you Carlo!

http://youtu.be/KFscErjqSew

The feature image is from Steve Rich, taken at Inle Lake. 

Why Have Hobbies?

Reblog: Why have Hobbies?

I have always struggled with the question about my hobbies and suspected that I was the most boring person on planet Earth as I did not know anything interesting (for others…?) to say. Who wants to hear “reading, writing, hiking, cycling” I wondered.

This Blog gives an answer… and a relief if you allow it to.

Enjoy a beautiful read and I would like to thank Aunt Beulah for this wonderful post.

Aunt Beulah

In a recent Peanuts cartoon, when Lucy told Charlie Brown she was thinking of starting some new hobbies, Charlie said, “That’s a good idea, Lucy. The people who get most out of life are those who really try to accomplish something.”

Looking appalled, Lucy replied: “ACCOMPLISH something? I thought we were just supposed to keep busy.”

In the past, I thought like Lucy. Viewing hobbies as busy work to fill my idle moments, I pursued decoupage, macramé, origami, tatting, and yodeling. Each endeavor enjoyed the same success as my wish to be 5’6”.Wreath

My search for a busy-work hobby peaked when I scoured fields and ponds for nuts, pinecones, grasses, and twigs, which I used to make Christmas wreaths. I gave these creations to loved ones, who exclaimed happily and hung them in their snug homes.

I had used liberal amounts of a smelly liquid adhesive to attach my found…

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Different country, different habits…

What is it that makes living in a foreigh country so exiting? So fascinating? So…. mysterious?

Is it exotic looking buildings, unfamiliar sounds, a language we don’t understand? Yes – but more than all of that the mystery is in habits and unwritten rules which differ from what we are used to. All these litte things we never thought about – and we preferably don’t have to think about because it makes the daily routine so terribly laborous. Being a German Expat from Rhineland in an assignment in The Netherlands feels like “Expat light”. It is only some 350 kilometers away from home, the climate is comparable, people on the streets look like the ones at home, no time differences to cope with – easy! If there just would not be the devil in the detail. The common German stands in stiff surprise looking at many day-to-day experience.

Like what? Imagine the following: You leave in the best of moods the office on a normal day. It is around 5:30 and you feel

… This is THE perfect day to have a look at those gorgeous shoes I have seen in town, try them on and make them mine! Yes!!

So let’s jump on the bike, get into the city centre and a quarter to six we are in from of the shoe shop the object of our desire is waiting for us. But while we lock our bike we see hoovers swirling around the shop, the cash desk checked and closed for the day… all intents for raising attention are being actively ignored (it’s a good day. On bad one we get thrown out without much ado). What is happening is that the opening times until 6:00pm means in The Netherlands, that not only the shop closes at 6:00pm but that all the people working there will do their best to go home at that time – so they prepare before that. Never heard of in Germany like this… These opening times plus the unwritten rules that come with it means for me that I will never manage to go shopping during the week. It did cause a severe culture shock to me when I was living in The Hague for the first time. I was in front of closed doors over and over again – all of The Hague closed down at 6pm… at the bottom of my heart I still don’t get it. The average employee concentrates shopping activities to Thursday evenings (which are slightly longer), Saturday and Sunday (from 13:00 – 17:00).

Exceptions are supermarkets. They have significantly longer opening times which saves me! And here we find another difference to Germany: Besides of groceries you may find medication here as well. Whether it is Aspirin, Antihistamin & co – just grab it. And as pharmacies are having even more restricted opening times than normal shops I happily accept it.

So who says that there is no fascination in a daily routine? 

Andere Länder, andere Sitten…

Was ist es, das das Leben in einem anderen, fremden Land so spannend macht? So faszinierend? So… geheimnisvoll?

Sind es exotisch anmutende Gebäude, die fremdartigen Geräusche, die Sprache, die man nicht oder nicht so gut versteht? Ja – aber viel mehr als das liegt das Geheimnisvolle in den Sitten und Gebräuchen, die sich von dem unterscheiden, an das man gewöhnt ist. All die Kleiningkeiten, über die man nie nachgedacht hat – und über die man bevorzugt auch nicht nachdenkt, weil das so schrecklich anstrengend sein kann.

Als deutscher Expat aus dem Rheinland sind die Niederlande gefühlt Auslandseinsatz light. Man ist nur rund 350 Kilometer von zuhause weg, das Klima ist vergleichbar, die Leute auf der Strasse sehen so aus wie zuhause, man hat keine Zeitverschiebung – alles easy. Wenn es da die Tücke im Detail nicht gäbe… Denn im Alltag staunt der Deutsche dann doch an vielen Stellen und kommt bestimmt ganz wenig locker rüber bei den niederländischen Mitbürgern.

Wieso? Also, stellt Euch mal die folgende Situation vor: Ihr kommt an einem x-beliebigen Tag aus dem Büro.

Es ist ungefähr 17:30 Uhr und Ihr seid bester Laune.

… Der ideale Moment um in der Stadt noch nach diesen hinreissenden Schuhen zu schauen, sie anzuprobieren und zu kaufen! Ja!! 

Also rauf auf’s Rad, in die Stadt und um Viertel vor sechs stehst Du dann vor dem Schuhladen in der Innenstadt und darfst staunend mit erleben, wie die Verkäuferinnen mit Staubsauger durch das Geschäft wirbeln und Dich sehr offensichtlich ignorieren (es ist ein guter Tag – an einem schlechten wirst Du sofort darauf hingewiesen, dass es zu spät ist und Du ein anderes Mal wieder kommen sollst). Auch wenn das Geschäft “erst” um 18:00 Uhr schliesst, so heisst das noch lange nicht, dass man bis dann auch einkaufen kann. Nach Niederländischer Sitte wird alles so vorbereitet, dass um 18:00 Uhr wirklich Schluss ist und nicht noch aufgeräumt werden muss. Für mich heissen die Landenöffnungszeiten plus diese ungeschriebene Regel aber vor allem eines: Ich schaffe es nie unter der Woche einkaufen zu gehen.

Mein erster Aufenthalt im Land war von einem tiefen Kulturschock diesbezüglich gekennzeichnet. Ich habe immer wieder vor verschlossenen Türen gestanden – ganz Den Haag mit hochgeklappten Bürgersteigen ab 18:00 Uhr…. im Grunde verstehe ich das noch immer nicht. Aber immerhin renne ich keine geschlossenen Türen mehr ein. Na ja… meistens….  Der durchschnittliche Arbeitnehmer shoppt also am längeren Donnerstag Abend, Samstag und Sonntag (ab 13:00).  

Die Ausnahmen sind übrigens Supermärkte. Die haben deutlich länger auf – meine Rettung für die Grundversorgung!

Aprospros Supermärkte: Dort findet man neben Lebensmitteln auch Medikamente. Auch das in Deutschland undenkbar. Und da es nur wenige Apotheken gibt mit extrem restiktiven Öffnungszeiten (man lese: deutlich weniger “lang” als der Schuhladen) versogt man sich mit Aspirin und Co, Allergiemitteln etc im Supermarkt um die Ecke. 

Und da sag noch einer, es gäbe keine Faszination im Alltag! 

Memories of Myanmar…

The start of 2015 for me has been a focus on my new job. I started in November in a new position it has been the same as it always is for me when I face a change: Trying to understand the new environment, people, detect and understand the unwritten rules that help to move ahead. I find it exciting to go through that, start getting a bit of a grip on it. Unfortunately that has a significant impact on blogging – it slows down significantly as does physical travelling on and off the beaten tracks.

What it is instead is an intense mental and emotional journey. It is one of the most satisfying things I can imagine to meet people, start carefully sharing ideas and a few insights into each other, start discussing differences and come to the conclusion that differences might have nothing to do with being right or wrong. And nevertheless that the  (the fact that each teams goes through the phases of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing) is something I work with for years – experiencing it feels new each and every time.

Besides of a lot of new impressions I have started running through my photographs from Myanmar which sparks many sweet memories. From August 2013 to August 2014 Olli and I had the pleasure of being part of a very special enterprise. Myanmar, which has only recently started to open up again has awarded 2 new telecom licences in 2013 to foreign companies. They were to build 2 new mobile telephone networks in a short amount of time – and we were part of it.

For me it was the first time to work on a different continent than Europe, a different climate and culture. Although we had hardly any opportunity to travel the country as the work task at hand was not an easy one to achieve, we nevertheless have a stack of pictures which we took on our Sunday morning walks.

Yangon, Sunday Morning Walk

So let me start sharing some of our memories of this fascinating, beautiful country full of contrast. More than anything else though I will remember Myanmar for its kind people.

Public Transport Yangon Style    Public Transport – Myanmar Style! 

Boys playing a table game in the street next to a marketIMG_0616

Girls delivering newspapers – it takes all four of them to make the cart go around corners as it is seriously heavy

Girls in Myanmar