Monday, December 21, 2009

Montfort School Yercaud - My Alma Mater

I am in India now as most of you possibly know already. I made a trip to my high school - Montfort School, Yercaud after like 6 years! I was stunned and shocked by the number of changes in school - both Physically and in the culture. There were new structures at every possible place - in my sister's words, a "Concrete Jungle". Bro. George for sure is a visionary leader but he is now lacking in space to put up concrete structures. As we enter school now, they are putting up a statue of Montfort 100 feet above the ground! Now that's gotta be a landmark of some sort! I wonder if he's got permission from the Civil Aviation ministry for that - We gotta warn the planes bout that thing. They're also in the process of building what will become Asia's largest indoor stadium at a phenomenal cost. The new 400 m track is amazing! Being maintained like it were fit for use in the Olympics. All this apart from a number of other statues and structures around school. Ah yes... They're also building another floor above the dormitories. Apparently, they are moving the Junior school classes here. Junior school is to become another school for Montfort - Montfort ICSE! Whew.... too many changes.

On a cultural note, I felt kind of disappointed when I first walked through school. I hardly could meet anyone who knew me! Most of the staff in the office had changed. Bro.Augustine couldn't remember me (That was disappointing) and Bella (Robert Bellarmin, my Physics teacher and dorm warden) had moved out of school since he was now married. It was also Bro. George's birthday and hence I couldn't find the time to meet him. So, I wandered around aimlessly in school for about half an hour before I went to SHY (Sacred Heart Convent, Yercaud) - my mom and sister studied here. It's a girl's school just opposite to Montfort. The welcome we got here was so overwhelming! All the nuns (including the Principal and the Provincial head) were out to fuss over us. They took us to the parlour, gave us tea, biscuits, bread, butter and guava jelly and even put out some cake for us. I really had no words - I was disappointed with my school but let it pass.

Here are a few pictures, will upload more when I get the time!

However, I went over the next day and met Bro. George. It was a pleasure as he welcomed us whole heartedly (I presume!) and actually took us to the parlour for some tea too! Look at me getting so excited over a damn tea! ha ha... I did meet Bella, ID (Irudhayaraj - My Maths Professor) and Bio (Francis - The Biology Professor). Was glad to see that there were few of the old faces still in school. They all remembered me very well and were glad to spend time speaking to me! Felt nice to be back at school.

 Have a couple of very interesting and exciting posts lined up. Coming up right after will be one on the Yercaud Mafia, which is no doubt more interesting than any soap on television!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Auto Sir... Auto... Taxi Sir... Taxi - Back to India

"Auto Sir... Auto... Taxi Sir... Taxi... Cheap and best sir.... "

To hear the familiar sound of Auto and Taxi drivers run out to you when you come out of the International Airport in Chennai brought back nostalgic thoughts of my days in Chennai. I guess the Autos and their drivers will always remain an Integral part of what Chennai means to us. It was refreshing in many ways to hear the deafening sound of cars "honking" for the smallest of reasons and for the longest of times. I guess Manila has made me realize that it is possible to drive a car without having to honk every 20 seconds!

Even as I waited to clear immigration after landing at the Chennai airport - I was reminded of the "openly" corrupt nature that India was in. The Philippines is known to be as corrupt as India but I still am yet to see the brazen openness that we see amidst the cops and politicians here. While we stood in serpentine queues to get our passports stamped - there we see a police guy (pretty senior official) wait inside with his wife (Though us "normal" folks aren't allowed to come in to the aiport). They were waiting for their son to arrive. As soon as he gets to where we were standing, there are a few cops who take his luggage, take his passport and run to the official at immigration and get it stamped for this guy. Why, even the guy sitting at immigration stood up to salute this chap! Lol... I actually smiled watching all of this and then reminding myself that India was still the same! Well, I carried on waiting for the next half an hour in that line and I was tempted to call a friend's mother to get help with all of this (She was in a senior position in the airport), but then I realized that there would be no difference between that Cop's son and me then.... and that I would have no right to crib about such things in India... and so I didn't make the call.

While I waited to get my check-in baggage from the baggage collection point, I saw this young couple struggling with a huge bag. Before I could offer to help them, I see this guy (With a badge and stuff - I presumed that he works at the airport) offering to help them. He brings a strolley cart and starts lifting their bags to put it on the cart. In all, he would have spent about 5 minutes carrying and arranging about 3 suitcases/bags onto that cart. I was impressed! But at the end of it, I saw him asking this guy in the classic Indian fashion for money! While the couple looked at each other and the guy pulls out his wallet, this guy goes saying, "Please give me Rs.100"! Whew! 100 bucks for just that???? And the audacity to ask for money like that. How I wish I had the authority to fire that guy! But then what difference would it make - That's how our system works... right from the top to the bottom! And there are more than enough people to point fingers at but not enough people to take these people to task.

Well, this was my sweet welcome back to India.... I sat and thought of what all needs to be done in our country before we can become truly competitive in the Asian context (not even Global). Maybe we do need a dictator to rule us for a few years to set things straight and to change the way most of us think. We take our life for granted and don't even want to change any small aspect of our lives! I kept thinking... and my eyes closed... as I sat at the domestic airport waiting for the next flight.

Monday, December 07, 2009

iPhone Battery Issue - Finally Resolved

I have the iPhone 3G for close to a year now. In the recent past, my battery had become a pain in the ass! I would charge it in the morning (say 7am) and then by 1pm I would need to charge it again. It was really killing me to carry a charger wherever I went. I was cursing Apple for this reason. I however love the iPhone on all other counts and was doing my best to put up with this "curse".

However, I recently upgraded my firmware from 3.0 to 3.1.2 and the battery issue just disappeared! Brilliant! I din't know that a firmware update could improve battery life so drastically. It now lasts me more than 15 hours! So for those of you facing the same issue as I was, you should upgrade your firmware - even if yours is a jail-broken (unlocked) phone, it would make sense to upgrade and then again get your phone unlocked.

Another observation is how Apple has such a "Halo effect" with its followers and fans! A friend of mine whose a hardcore Apple fan (He was the reason as to why I bought the Macbook Pro too) would keep telling me that the battery issue was probably coz of my usage! When I told him that I had upgraded the firmware and the battery was fine, this was his response: "See, it was your fault all along. Why didn't you just do the upgrades as they came by"!

A classic example of the "Halo effect" in Branding and Consumer Behaviour going on to Cult Branding.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

First Time Mac User - The Mac is growing onto me

Well, its been a week now since I started using my Macbook Pro. As you know it's my first time with a Mac... So this would be a continuation of my previous post - Previous Post - First Time Mac User .

As I do go to office already with my Macbook, I really am on the job with it. I installed Microsoft Office for Mac a few days ago and Entourage comes along with it (Entourage is the Mac version of MS Office). The look and feel was similar to Office except it did look better. I however chose at this point to stay with the native application - Mac Mail. It's not given me any issue till date.

I've just gotten used to the four finger thingi with the Mac - swipe the trackpad with four fingers and it shows you all the open windows/apps and you can choose which one you want to go to. Also if you swipe it upwards with four fingers, it moves all windows and shows you the desktop. This is very useful and cool!

The native Pages application (Equivalent of Word) is very simple to use and after i updated my entire software (Yes, you can install all software in the computer from one single interface - The update went on overnight), I can now export files as a Word document or PDF or many other options. These options are also available in Keynote now - which means I can export as a ppt or PDF or even a movie file. This is pretty cool. However, I must warn you that heavy PPTs take time to open on Keynote. It sometimes even Hangs while trying! This is one of the reasons as to why I installed Microsoft office for Mac. Just in case I need it to open some ppts.

I still haven't figured out an alternative to Microsoft Groove which we use at office. There is something called Microsoft Project Connection that installed along with the Office Package. I need to test whether that can connect to Groove to be able to access my workspace. Will let you know if that works out just fine.

I connected my iPhone to the Mac and they synced so beautifully! Picked up all the contacts from my phone and brought it into the Mac Mail.. Even got the pictures to be synced to the contacts. It was absolute brilliance! I do at times miss Winamp. Maybe they do have an app for the Mac. Will have to look it up. I just realised that I don't have iLife installed (Includes Garage band, Movie Maker etc). So will have to install that. To play movies with the drive, you need to set your region preferences - this is a little irritating for me coz you can only change it 5 times! That sucks! Anyways I guess most movies we watch nowadays are online or via a USB! So I'll let this one pass to Mac's benefit!

Some of the documents I transferred from my PC which were created using Microsoft Office 2007 for PC are not opening properly with Pages of Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac! Don't know the reason but am still trying to figure that one out.

Keynote still has various unexplored options and I'm having fun trying to create jazzy presentations but it still is taking me time to work on. I was almost born and brought up with Microsoft Office - That kinda makes it my mother tongue! But I'm sure that over time I won't have to look Microsoft's way again!

The trackpad just grows onto you and you begin to love it! It is absolutely a fantastic bit of innovation from Apple. I just bought a netbook for a friend today and was trying to navigate using the old touchpad and it was absolutely a disaster! All of this just after a week of using a Mac! No kidding! The trackpad is brilliant! You have to experience it to even comment! I love it... Along with the brilliant battery life that this Mac is giving me. I get an easy 5 to 6 hours on my battery!

Have also gotten used to the Command + A for all actions similar to Cntrl +C in windows. So that's a good sign!

And I'm the kinda person who really spreads the good word about any product. I've been speaking to all my colleagues about it. So a colleague has already purchased a Macbook and there are another 4 of them from work who want to get one too! Awesome right! I think Apple owes me a commission on these sales!

I haven't been missing anything else from my PC over the last week. Hence, so far so good!

Goodbye and Hello - Carry AIM high

The time has come when the only mails that I see in my Asian Institute of Management (AIM) mail box are those to say Goodbye... People writing a number of lines talking about how this phase of their lives have changed them for the good or better... Or how they would miss the people etc. If you ask me, the most important thing for us (The graduating batch - Cohort 3) to do would be to hold the name of our school very high. I understand many of us do have an issue with some of the things that happen in school (specially with regards to campus placement) but at the end of the day, nothing will ever change if we don't go out being proud of AIM. When we're out - we are the ambassadors of the school.

Never once, have I ever put my school down. Even today, when I met some folks from Megalink, they looked up to us AIM students. They were truly in awe of the school. The issue here becomes that we intimidate them and hence they feel that it would be impossible for them to have an AIM student as their intern or hire. They automatically feel that we would be way too expensive for them! What they don't realise is that we aren't as difficult to handle monetarily. Specially when it comes to internships. When I did tell them that it would be possible to have interns in AIM for a monthly stipend of around P30,000, they showed a lot of interest. I promised them that I would get them through to the Career Management Services (CMS) so that they could have interns.

The internship program should be given more importance than it is given right now. It is all the more important for foreign students. Foreign students at AIM should understand that local companies should value their talents even more because we expats cost more to the company to retain - one on a monetary front as they need to pay for our expat visa and two they need to give decent reasoning to the government as to why they hired an expat instead of a local. Thus, its during the internship that one should be interested in selling oneself. If true value is seen in a person, I doubt any company would have any issues with hiring that person - no matter what the cost is and no matter what hurdles they would have to deal with. Good talent is a huge challenge for all companies today. Will elaborate more on what I feel the CMS needs to do over time in a different post.

I just hope that each and every one of us would take the name and fame of our school to a whole different high and let the world know that a new batch of leaders have just been nurtured and let into the world.

Saying Goodbye is never easy... in fact.. I hate saying Goodbye... More often than not, I try to avoid goodbyes... as they make me feel uncomfortable! I just look aside and tell myself that this aint a goodbye... rather a stepping stone to meet elsewhere.... I hope to keep my school and my batch proud... I look forward to any reunion days down where people look up to me and say "This guy made it"!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Anawangin Cove - Disconnect yourself from the World

When my friends told me that they wanted to go to Anawangin Cove - a Cove that is not known by most people (Even Filipinos don't seem to know bout it), I tried to look for it on the internet and found that its an isolated island without electricity or anything. Foreign tourists don't know bout it too - Probably because there is no mention of it in Lonely Planet!

I wasn't very open to taking a holiday in such a place. I couldn't imagine myself in a place for two days without electricity, without signal on my cell-phone, without a roof over my head (You need to carry tents) and without restaurants! After days of slogging, my idea of a break was more about sitting in the spa of a huge resort and getting myself pampered. But then my friends persisted with the idea. What finally did get my buy-in was the fact that it would hardly cost any money to do this trip (It cost me about 1500 pesos - USD 30 for the whole trip).

I did find information on the place on the internet and the pictures were stunning! I include some images here which I have sourced from other blogs. I will add my own pictures as soon as I transfer the pics from my camera. Take a look below:

Stunning isn't it? A perfect cove with white sand - Now wait a second, that isn't sand! Basically that ain't sand but sediments (or something) from a volcanic eruption years ago! And that's true. It doesn't feel like Sand in anyway. Look closer and you would see pine trees on the beach. Now has anyone seen Pine trees growing on a beach? Apparently (not verified information), this is the only beach in the world with Pine Trees. Again, because that's not sand but stuff from the volcanic eruption! Along with the sediments, the eruption sent with it Pine Seeds and hence the trees.

Well, now how do we get there from Makati? Below are the steps to get there along with the cost:

  1. Take a cab or jeepney and go to Cubao Bus Terminus or Calocan bus terminal. The cab should cost about 100 pesos to Cubao and 200 pesos to Calocan. 
  2. From there, take the Victory Liner Bus going to San Antonio via Olangopo city. This should cost about 220 pesos
  3. From San Antonio bus stand, take a toda (Three wheeler transport) to get to the dock - costs about 50 pesos per person
  4. Hire a boat to take you to Anawangin Cove (The boat ride costs about 200 pesos per person and takes about 45 minutes)
Simple and inexpensive isn't it? However, don't forget to pack a tent if you plan to stay overnight. Also, canned goods as there isn't any food there save for one small store selling Cup Noodles and eggs (Overpriced of course). Also, take a sleeping bag, or atleast a couple of sheets (bedspreads). Take some candles too as there's no light there (We didn't have to use them as the moonlight was bright enough and we lit a bonfire for most of the night). Also, of course - beachware and a beach volley ball if possible to play around. Shoes - if you are planning to trek around (Oh yes, instead of taking the boat to reach the cove, I was told that its also possible to trek there but that would take about 5 or 6 hours).

We reached there and were amazed at how beautiful the place was. Just a small stretch of beach (Can walk the entire stretch in about ten minutes). We scouted around and found that the locals there had staked their claim to their bits of land by putting up boards in small stretches reading "Private Property"! They had these small fences.... Basically, you could set up tent in their area for a price of 100 pesos per person. This is worth it because they have a few toilets built there, bring you fresh water, clean up the place after you leave and basically help you out with whatever you need.

We however chose to setup our tent in a secluded area and we didn't have to pay anyone for that. We would just pay them to use their toilets. We bought some firewood (they ask for about 100 pesos per bunch), went for a swim in the water. The water is calm but not as calm and clear as Boracay (I love the beach at Bora and that's always the benchmark for beaches in my vocabulary). But this place is far better than Puerto Galeras (I've been there) and Bataan (My friends' had been there).

We then sat by the beach and started talking around a bonfire. As we went further into the night, stories from the first day of school (The Asian Institute of Management - MBA) came out and it was fun reliving our 16 months in that one night! By the time, I fell asleep, it was about 3am in the morning! I slept on the beach instead of getting into the tent. It was pretty comfortable at night but I woke up feeling so damn cold (The sand gets so hot during the day and so cold during the night). So people, don't forget to carry a jacket and something to keep you warm at night. I woke up with a back ache and a cold!

I went swimming in the beach again, we had fun eating out of the many cans that we bought (in the excitement, we had bought enough food to feed about 20 people - we were just 6 of us).

While going back, we found it difficult to find a bus to take us back to Olangopo City (From San Antonio) since most of the buses that passed that way were already full and there were many people waiting. We however did manage to find a bus (not air-conditioned though)

The way back:
  1. Take a ferry to get to San Antonio
  2. Take a tricyle to get to the Bus stop
  3. Take a bus to Olangopo City
  4. Catch a Victory Liner going to Cubao
  5. Catch a cab to get to Makati (Could even use the local buses or jeepneys)
I strongly recommend travelling to Anawangin to detox and go "offline" for a while! Leave your computer and mobile alone for a while! It is refreshing.

Will update my pics later.... :)