Thursday, June 18, 2009

See, Ryan DOES have fun!

Alright, so a few big things have happened to me over the last two months. First, as a final hoorah for grad school, I went to Brazil along with 50 of my classmates to meet our international requirement. Our first stop was in Sao Paulo, which is an amazingly enormous city to the tune of 21+ million people (note: this is over 2x the size of New York and about 5x the size of Atlanta!). It is a very poorly maintained city with a significant amount of poverty. The trip was highlighted by a visit to Bovespa, which is the Brazilian stock exchange, as well as to the manufacturing plant for Natura, the Brazilian equivalent to our Mary Kay. While in downtown, we had an opportunity to go to the roof top viewing platform of the tallest bank in the city. The view was unreal as you could not see where the high-rise buildings ended. Three things really stick out to me when I think about Sao Paulo: 1) Graffiti, 2) Traffic, 3) The Market. The graffiti problem is so bad in the city that the government has started sponsoring graffiti art classes at local libraries and art institutes. This is really one of those "If you can't beat them, join them" scenarios. As for the traffic, Sao Paulo has over 9 million registered vehicles. It's so many, in fact, that the government has started a program where, depending on the day of the week and your license plate number, you can or cannot drive your vehicle. Lastly, I had a chance to walk through the outdoor street market and then into the main food market. The food market was great, culturally interesting, and vibrant! The street market however was one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life. Street vendors ran six deep across the road with barely enough room to walk. They were selling everything from bootleg pornography to mops. I was told that this market was very similar to what you might find in China or India. As a 6'3, white Caucasian, I stuck out like a sore thumb. While I'm thrilled I had a chance to experience that, I'm in no hurry to do it again. I guess that is also true for Sao Paulo; it was fascinating to see but I would not go back unless I had a very specific reason.

After Sao Paulo, the entire group flew to Rio de Janiero. Rio lives up to its billing as one beautiful city, nestled between some low lying mountains and the ocean. The water is crystal blue and you can find people on the beaches at all hours of the day. It was fascinating seeing how many people were out playing soccer and volleyball, although the most interesting was a game called footvolley which is a combination of the two if you can imagine that! Our time in Rio was relaxing and included visits to H. Stern, a large semi-precious stone company, and other companies that focused on telecommunications and the like. In Rio I got to show off my adventurous side as I went hang gliding over the city and also went on a zip line obstacle course in the jungle canopy. Hang gliding was amazing; we took off from over 1200 feet up on a local mountain, glided out over the jungle, the city, and finally the ocean before landing on the beach. Other highlights of this trip were eating at the restaurant where "The Girl from Impanema" was written, taking the cable cars up to Sugar Loaf Mountain, taking a 3 hour boat tour of the inlet and neighboring islands, and taking the train up to Christ the Redeemer. The statue of Christ the Redeemer is truly magical for a Christian because anywhere you go in Rio, you turn around and there is the statue high on this mountain. The statue has a very omni-present feel throughout the city. The statue itself is one of the new modern wonders of the world and is nearly 150 feet tall and 100 feet wide. The food in Rio was great but I will have to say that the Fogo de Chau in Atlanta tops the Brazilian steakhouse where we ate that was called Por Cao. My roomate in Brazil, Aneel, and I both became hooked on Guarana which is the local soda of choice. Since my return, I have been able to find a knock off version at the Dekalb Farmer's Market which is really good. My overall assessment of Rio is that it is a beautiful city with lots to do as long as you watch your back; the crime rate is astronomical.

And finally (drum roll, please), I graduated with my MBA! As for the graduation ceremony, it was like most graduations - the highlight being that I am done with three long years of school. I truly enjoyed my experience and meeting some outstanding people along the way. Grad school taught me a lot about balancing life and work. While having a full-time job, I was able to finish my degree and start my family. Hannah Claire, as we know, is 2 1/2 (going on 10, I swear!) and I have not known life with her without school. So graduating is truly a sweet experience as it means I have more time to spend with my family. My family and friends have been amazing during the last few years. Kelly has been a constant support of my aspirations and I could not have completed this degree without her love and encouragement. My parents and other friends have also been so helpful in encouraging me and helping with the small things like keeping HC while I was in class. You all don't know how big of a help that was!! I love you all for what you have done for me and my family. Now with this wonderful degree in hand from a top 25 university, I am out to try and find a job in the worst economic climate of my lifetime. Somehow I keep getting this wrong. I graduated from undergrad in 2001 right after the bust and right before 9/11. And now this!!!! One day I'll figure out the best time to go job hunting.

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