MBA Peregrinations

Charting the course of my travels through the MBA experience.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Say Cheese!

The day after Jerusalem, we planned to head south to the desert. But before the long drive, a big brunch was in order at a dairy farm/restaurant. This place is very charming and serene, with a tiny fish pond and a patio just steps away from where the sheep hang out, so you can pet the sheep that provide the milk for your cheese. It was just the environment to have a long and lazy meal. The selection of cheeses is extensive - soft to firm, mild to sharp, and really interesting ones flavored with various ingredients like peppers, mushrooms, and bay leaves. We tasted 7 or 8 different cheeses and decided which ones we wanted, and then took a seat on the patio. After starting on our cappuccinos, we were quite pleased when presented with our meal.

I do like cheese, but usually don't eat it in large quantities - a taste or sprinkle is usually adequate. Israel has really tasty cheeses - dairy here is high quality. So I've been eating more than usual. The stuff that we got for brunch was the real McCoy - all fresh and delicious. I ate more cheese that morning than I have in the past month. Ecstatic for the tastebuds, brutal for the waistline. But it was certainly enough to tide me over for the long drive into the desert, which I'll post on next.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Job and Life After Chicago GSB

I just got back yesterday from a week-long jaunt from all over the country. I have to upload a bunch of pictures before I can post on my recent travels. So I thought it an appropriate time to update you all on my job situation. Despite the mental flip I had before deciding to come to Israel, I became pretty calm about my job situation when I came out here. Being removed from the GSB, recruitment activities, and no longer having the ubiquity of the job search looming over my head gave me a bit of time to relax and regain perspective. I suppose that some people are really good at shutting out all of the white noise, but getting away from it was a good thing for me.

Right before leaving for Israel, I ended up getting another couple of job offers. One came about a week before I left, the other one literally on the day of my flight. I was very pleased about the opportunities, but had little time to think or feel good about them since I had to deal with traveling and settling in here. After a few weeks, I started to think about what I had on my plate, and did due diligence on the opportunities that were available to me, those that I was still pursuing, and those that may come up in the future. I had many conversations with people at the various firms, long chats with those people in my life that matter the most and whose opinions I trust, as well as some quiet time away from everyone just thinking on my own. I decided to take one of my offers, based on some of these conclusions:

1. I didn't come to business school with the plan to do this afterwards. But I've changed a great deal in the past 2 years, as have my perspectives, goals, and priorities. To stick to the original plan would be taking a path that no longer suits me.

2. I'm going into a completely different industry. Perhaps I won't like it at all, but there's only one way to find out. The variety will add some breadth to my resume, and give me the opportunity to bring a fresh perspective to the field. Plus the nature of the job allows me to experience various functional roles.

3. I was worried that it wouldn't be the best short-term step for my long-term career. But in this day where the economy and jobs are evolving so quickly, there are no guarantees that the long-term picture won't be obsolete in a few years. Remaining flexible and adapting are worth more effort than planning the future out in great detail.

4. I was confident that I would be able to get another offer if I chose not to take any of the ones I had. This isn't due to an inflated sense of self-worth on my part - I do believe that I have saleability, but its also a good market and a great year to graduate from a well-respected MBA program. But I was very excited by the offer that I took and thought it provided certain advantages that were not a guarantee in future offers.

5. I may not be doing what I thought I would, but I'm going into a job that I think will give me the opportunity to gain both hard and soft skills, interact with smart and senior people at the firm, and provide continuous learning. I should be able to leverage many of these skills and the ability to learn no matter what the next role or where I end up.

So I will be working for a company in San Francisco. I am very excited about reconnecting with my family and friends out there, though I think that based on the transformation I've undergone in the past 2 years, it will be a totally different experience upon my return. I didn't expect to move back there after school, but I suppose that donating a kidney to pay for a house is something that I can live with... you only need one kidney to live, right?

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Saturday, January 27, 2007


Last Wednesday I went to Jerusalem, and it was pretty amazing. Its a major source of conflict among the Israelis and Palestinians - both of whom want to lay claim to it. Right now, Western Jerusalem is inhabited by Jews, and Eastern Jerusalem is inhabited by Palestinians. Called Yerushalayim in Hebrew and Al-Quds in Arabic, Jerusalem houses the intriguing old city. It has a complex history, and holds significance in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. It was also conquered multiple times and had many rulers - Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Turks to name a few - which was demonstrated by the various influences in different parts of the city. Old City had many nooks and crannies, and I'll probably go back at least one more time so that I can find a few more. Here is a picture of the beautiful Dome of the Rock located in Temple Mount, or Haram es Sharif as the Muslims call it.

We explored the Jewish quarter, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Muslim quarter. You can see more pictures here.

The last few days were spent traveling to the Negev - the desert in southern Isarel, the Dead Sea, Eilat, and a brief jaunt into Jordan. More to come on this!

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Dinner on Tuesday night was at Mul-Yam, which is the Mul-YUM. From the garlic aioli spread offered alongside the butter for our bread, to the sommelier who did well in recommending a light Chardonnay from a winery in the Golan, to the cuisine that was delicious and artistically presented, the meal was a pleasure. The restaurant is known for excellent seafood, which is just what we ordered in a variety of forms.

Starting out with 2 dozen oysters, and moving onto dishes that incorporated crab, langustin, lobster, shrimp, scallops, and fish.

And then there was dessert...

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Anee Lo Medaberet Eevreet...

is the phrase I have used most since coming to Israel (okay, maybe 2nd to Shalom). Which is kind of silly since I'm saying "I don't speak Hebrew" in Hebrew. I got sick last week and then the internet was on the fritz, so this post will have to sum up several days worth. All in all, Sloop and Faisal have been putting everyone to shame with the regularity of their posting. I suppose I could step up and post more regularly, but I know better than to make empty promises, so I'll just settle for posting today.

I had dinner at a great resto last week with a fellow GSBer. He told me that on his way over, he saw someone in a cafe that looked exactly like me, but with shorter hair. I've already met one Doppelgänger in the States, so imagine my surprise to find that I have another one here in Israel. The Ashkenazi look is more coveted here than the Mizrahi because its less common. Individuals with (naturally) blond hair and fair complexions are not as common as the ones with darker hair and olive skin, which just goes to show that everyone can be exotic in some region of the planet. During her visit to a resort area, the tall, blond Czech exchange student in our program was offered a proposal of marriage along with 1600 camels. No joke.

In general, I've eaten really well over the past several weeks. Dinner at Pastis with a GSB alum working just outside of Tel Aviv, and another dinner at Beni Hadayag in the Herzliya marina with a new Israeli friend N., who will be coming to the States next year for b-school. Beni Hadayag translates to "Beni the Fisherman". Nice! I like! The dinner was, for lack of a better term, ridiculous. For two of us, we were served 15 different salads along with our meal. As I may have mentioned before, the definition of a salad here is broader. It can mean mixed greens with chopped tomato, cheese with herbs, roasted eggplant, or fish in a spicy sauce as long as it is served during the meal and in a small dish. I think the closest analogy is that of Korean side dishes - many different ingredients, flavors, and textures, but all in small portions.

N. was gracious enough to pick me up and show me around the Herzliya marina, which has a swish new mall (with a mariner's theme a la Vegas). Apparently, even though Tel Aviv is where much of the action is, all of the really affluent Israelis live in Herzliya. And park their yachts in Herzliya marina - duh. We saw some beautiful boats there, one can only imagine how they looked during the daytime. We also had some interesting discussion over dinner. According to N., who travels to Europe often for work, many Europeans and particularly the French are rather weary of Israelis. This is pretty amazing to me because I figured that given the riots last year in the suburbs of Paris, the French would be more weary of Arabs (even though I believe that the rioters, though Muslim, were mostly of African descent). Not to mention the fact that everywhere I go in Tel Aviv, I hear people speaking French and there are several French exchange students in my classes. I'm rather curious to find out whether this falls under anti-Israeli sentiment or general xenophobic tendencies. The last time I was in France (about five years ago), I didn't really encounter much xenophobia, but then again I was able to speak reasonably coherent French (although I'm sure that this is subject to interpretation) and this was prior to the Freedom Fries debacle. Perhaps I'm missing some existing political tension - any of my Israeli or French readers (I know I have at least one of each) feel free to correct me.

In other news, last Sunday marked the 2nd time this month that there was a strike at Tel Aviv University. Apparently, every time the University tries to increase the fees, students go on strike. This is surprising because the students here pay peanuts to attend the top universities in the country. Apparently, loans to pay for school here are uncommon - while education is an investment, few choose to get into debt to pay for it. Perhaps the job prospects after graduation are not as rosy unless you go into a high-tech or biotech role? Or maybe the mandatory military service makes the student population older and more risk-averse?

Several of you have asked to see more pictures. Honestly, its been a quiet week here - I had class assignments to work on and my roommate is off in Ethiopia for a vacation. The dog is currently spending time in the country at a doggie resort. But I took a picture of her before she went off to the Doggie Hamptons. Her name is Toobab, and she is the princess of the apartment.

I thought I'd share an anecdote about how social transactions (and perhaps business transactions as well) are carried out here. The exchange student coordinator, a lovely woman named Sharon, suggested a get-together for us to have dessert at Max Brenner last week.

Sharon sends out an email saying something to the effect of "Max Brenner is a great place. Interested? Let me know if you want to come so that I can make reservations - how about meeting at 20:00?" I respond with "I'm interested, and that time works for me." So time passes and I hear nothing back. On the day of, I call Sharon and finally reach her at 19:00 -

Le V: "Sharon, are we meeting at Max Brenner tonight?"

Sharon: "Of course! Didn't you get my email?"

Le V: "Well, yeah. But you never confirmed that it was on. Or the time."

Sharon: "I did, I said in the email that we are meeting at Max Brenner at 8 in the evening! Are you coming?"

Le V: "Erm, ok. Yeah. I'll be a bit late though..."

Note to self: When in Israel, unless you speak up and say you have a problem or that the "suggestion" doesn't work, there is no confirmation. ITS ON, SO BE THERE AND MAKE IT HAPPEN.

Over the weekend, I explored much of the city by foot and found some new neighborhoods with bars, cafes, and shopping. Sunday night was drinks with the exchange student program crowd - vodka shots and martinis. To be honest, the vodka shots were way better. I have not been impressed with the ability of bartenders here in Tel Aviv to mix drinks, so stick with the beer and shots unless you know who's mixing.

Drinks with the exchange students is like drinks at the UN - reps from Israel, France, Italy, Finland, Norway, Czech, Germany, Latvia, and the US. Hmm. Okay maybe more like drinks at the EU with Israel and the States crashing the party. ;)

This week, I am wrapping up my classes and taking final exams. But this won't stop me from hitting the best restaurant in Israel tonight. WoOt.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Aubergine Dream

After living in the San Francisco Bay Area for 20+ years, I could never go anywhere without running into someone that I knew. I'm not just talking San Francisco here, literally the entire region between San Francisco and San Jose, both on the peninsula and the East Bay. Its a pretty extensive plot of land, but somehow I managed to see someone or the other during nearly every jaunt to a restaurant here or a bar there.

After living almost 1 month in Tel Aviv, its already happened here. Granted, central Tel Aviv is not expansive, but this will definitely not occur regularly given that I know very few peeps here. It felt weird and kinda nice. Despite my thirst for the unknown, it felt comforting to see familiar faces, even those of fellow students that I barely know.

I went loafing about last night. It was a rainy weekend in Tel Aviv, with blustery winds not at all conducive to venturing outdoors. I decided to take a little walk and head over to a falafel stand that is known for a particular dish called sabich. The thing is, there are no actual falafel in it. After getting it wrapped up for take away (to go), I ran into a fellow student, an Israeli gal that praised my willingness to try it but then chastised me for not having the true experience by eating it standing up in the cramped establishment. I have to admit that she's right - that really is the way to enjoy fast food here. Standing up, with an all-you-can-stuff-into-your-pita-before-it-explodes selection of pickled vegetables, eggplant, and sauces at your fingertips. Eggplant is so underrated in the States. Not only is it ubiquitous here, they sometimes call it by the much cooler moniker of aubergine. Granted, I've never been to Italy so I can't compare, but the aubergine lasagna and coffee I had for lunch on campus today were damn tasty. Woot on the Israeli versions.

I met up with the Round 1 Israeli Chicago GSB admits last week. We all gathered at the house of one of the admits, located in the suburb of Ramat Yishay. Luckily, some of them were kind enough to give me a lift out there - public transit wasn't really an option. It was great to meet the admits and their families, and its fantastic that they have already started to get to know each other. Later this week, I'm planning to meet a GSB alum working out here.

My project group presented in our Organizational Behaviour class last week about Online Reputation, and it was well-received by the professor and other students. With plenty of real-life examples like eBay, bloggers, and MySpace, who wouldn't be into it? The classes so far have definitely been less rigorous than those at Chicago, but I'm not complaining. I anticipated that the majority of my education from this experience would not come from the classroom.

That being said, I was initially surprised by the forthright nature of the professors and students in my classes. One professor in particular is very abrupt in telling students to wait until he is done with his thoughts before he will answer their questions. And the students themselves will often speak out whenever they wish. I've certainly been privy to heated debate in a classroom, but people here seem to be consistently more vocal and at times bordering on aggressive. However, the level of aggression in discourse is certainly relative and I've been told that the Hebrew language tends toward being direct. Its actually fun, because I tend to get engaged in this atmosphere. But it took a few interactions for me to adjust my frame of reference from "aggressive" to "direct". :)

I also find that the students are less deferential in the classroom. Along with speaking out often, many will be checking email on their laptops, getting text messages on their mobiles, have a side conversation while the professor is lecturing, or simply walk in late or out early. The professors here take this in stride and I suppose that each of these happens every once in a while during my classes in the States, but the consistency and number of occurrences is what surprised me. But by now, I've learned to tune out the distractions and focus on the important things in class, like the animation on the prof's powerpoint slides.

Tel Aviv and University aside, its time for me to get out of dodge and explore the rest of the country. Hopefully, I'll be able to figure out how to get around and then take off soon enough. Smile y'all. Monday is done with, so the week can only get better.

p.s. Okay Miz Megha and Sloop Doggy Dogg. I've posted. Tag, you're it.

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