Monday, March 31, 2014

a box of chocolates

Oh bury me beneath the willow,
under the weeping willow tree
So He may know where I am sleepin' and
perhaps He'll weep for me

- Weeping Willow, The Stanley Brothers

A tough week. That's an understatement, no? Life is tough. And sometimes, despite the effort, the sleepless nights, the suffering ... things simply don't come out the other end like you expected. Like you wanted. So we sit down, take a moment, re-visit, re-assess, re-evaluate ... all those things good MBA's are taught. Last term was tough, no doubt. Did my efforts pay off, those long nights studying, those sunny weekends spent at my desk? Maybe. Maybe not. As in all things, it's a matter of perspective. But of course, that's not how the world works. There are rules. And regulations. And guidelines that must be enforced, in the name of standards. 

We move onto happy things. I went out for calçotada last weekend, a seasonal tradition in Catalunya. Calçots are a type of spring onion that are in season now. A local custom, they're grilled, and eaten with a dipping sauce, sort of like a tomato-y hollandaise. And they're fantastic. Tender, yet retaining that beautifully robust texture, sweet and soft in the mouth. Delicious. A fantastic Sunday lunch with my favourite people in the program.

No complaints man, no moaning. The things that've transpired ... it's over and done with. Let's figure out next steps, what we need to do to move on. 


Sunday, March 30, 2014

taking a moment

We get so caught up in day to day nonsense, don't we ... or rather, I get so caught up, worked up, messed up, thrown up. We need to take a moment, and smell the roses. To remind ourselves yet again that while the MBA is our absolute priority, there are other things too that we can't neglect. We need to be good to ourselves and take a beer - a good one, undoubtedly, but you already knew that. A quiet afternoon, alone, doing some work, doing some thinking, a good brew alongside. Who cares what this beer was. It served the most noble of purposes - a faithful, constant nod to the old ways, when honesty, respect, and integrity still meant something.

Going south here. But it's late, and this weekend has been all over the place. I can't deal with so many emotions man ... from finishing final exams to starting a new term, to finally feeling like I can hang out with my friends to getting grades back ... it's just too much for this wino to handle. So like all introverts, I go to my safe place, to sort out my head, to get things straight. At the moment, maybe I don't know which way is up, what the right thing to do is. So in these moments of uncertainty, we take a brief respite to collect ourselves, and then continue on ahead, head down, ready to work. Let's go get it. And this time, I mean it.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

settling in

Cervesa del Montseny Negra | Barcelona

First day of our 3rd term here - unbelievable how fast things are going. Yet, looking back, so many new things seen, heard, tasted, smelled, experienced. I'm a lucky, lucky man. Every term, the MBA Office likes to spice things up, and change our seating arrangement. And every term, I end up closer and closer to the front ... the hot seats. The professors all know about the (totally justified) 3rd term apathy among students, and have already warned us that we will be cold-called and quizzed mercilessly. And I've got the best seats in the house. But I'm happy. I'm sitting with my best friend in the program, and well, you take the good with the bad. 

Stout being brewed in Catalunya. Correct in every way, albeit a bit lacking in texture and roundness on the palate. But this is a good one. Satisfying. Started booking travel plans for the upcoming Easter holidays, and I'm debating whether to get my mother to bring Canadian wine or craft beer. Tough decisions.

But now that I'm all settled in here ... let's just keep seeing what Barcelona has to offer.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Beer is good. German beer, even more so. Man, I'm so behind, and when I actually get to sorting out the photos, going over notes again, I lose interest and don't even bother actually writing about the bottles. It's all good though. My drinking life doesn't revolve around tasting notes. 

So, German beers from El Corte Ingles. Decent selection, I suppose, but it's all relative. Good, solid, satisfying brews - nothing terribly exciting, but like a good hug from an old friend, something to soothe the soul. 

Just like that, our short break is over. Second term ended last Friday, with the final 2 exams. Confident about how I performed? We all know the answer to that one, so yeah, let's move on. I tried my best though. A nice, relaxing weekend of going out to brunch, enjoying the weather, going for long runs by the beach ... fantastic. Got some culture too, seeing the Le Corbusier exhibit at the Caixaforum. Spent some time with buddies outside of class (finally!), and got to know some classmates better as well. And yes, drank copious amounts of gin cocktails. A long day today, dragging myself out of bed on 3 hours of sleep to go to campus, to film a video promoting the exchange program here. A fun day of shooting, and really, really excited to see the results. Will post it as soon as it's completed. Let's make me a Youtube star chicos

Is the worst behind us? Can I finally focus a bit, and figure out a plan to get a summer internship? Let's get it on!


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Heart and soul

I walked a tightrope during our last day of Operations Management class last week, and was rewarded for it. That thin line between honesty and stupidity. A fool I remain. But at least a brave one, to the end. At the beginning of the term, we were given the option of submitting a 'Show and Tell'. Something, anything we came across, experienced, whatever, that was applicable as an operations case. And so I submitted something about wine, to the surprise of no one. I know what I'm about son. 

I talked about sherry - specifically, the complexities of the solera system, and the scale of the number of botas these bodegas manage. The night before, I get an email from the professors asking me to prepare a short presentation for the class. Right. I had to make a choice. And I decided to go in a direction opposite of where I was probably supposed to go. At a fork in the road, and I went left instead of right. But hey, always be true to yourself, right. I went up there, in front of all my classmates and professors, and proclaimed that for sherry bodegas, operational efficiency was not important, and would destroy its heart and soul. Bold statements. Maybe not the best thing to say before the final exam. No, definitely not the best thing to say. But I said it, the class voted The Cask of Fino as the best out of the 3 'Show and Tells', and I walked out with a bottle of Cava. A good final day of classes.

I'm reminded of why I love wine. In a word, honesty. Because to begin understanding and truly appreciating wine, we have to first find that honesty. In wine, and also in ourselves. A wine will never lie to you - all the marketing, all the nonsense critics come up with - it's all for naught, because what is in the glass cannot hide. But to be able to see through the smoke and mirrors requires honesty from ourselves too. To put aside egos, to know that there's far more that we don't know than what we do ... to always be curious, to always have a sense of excitement, of mystery. To still be able to be stunned speechless in wonder by a glass.

In front of an MBA class, talking about heart and soul is, well, pointless. But if I can get one person ... just one person to see what I'm trying to get at, to feel instead of analyze ... I will be very happy indeed.

Heart and soul baby. Heart and soul. 


Sunday, March 16, 2014

a bit of variety

Martin's IPA | Belgium

Belgian beer! IPA!! Sunshine and brightness!!!

Last week was, by all accounts, a shitshow. Among many shitshows so far in the MBA, but this one stood out. You see, dear reader, I came to Spain with the promise that I would be different - more positive, more social, more engaged. Ah yes, that magical, wonderful, meaningless word. We've been through periods of intense work, high stress, a crush of deliverables ... but I've always managed to (more or less) get through it all with a smile. Last week felt different. I felt defeated, overwhelmed, but most concerning, a bit deflated. Just in a bad place emotionally. And we all know how emotional this wino gets. Terrible. But last week, I let it get to me. It was a combination of personal issues, lack of sleep, stress, whatever ... but my mood was awful. 

I needed a moment.

Some time alone, just as the weather here is beginning to get balmy, was just what I needed. Had a good afternoon of wine and jamón shopping on Saturday. Perfecto. A bit of time to reflect, to get my head straight - remind myself of all the reasons why I came here, why this is such an amazing time in my life. A few sips of a Brunus Montsant, a few slices of jamón, and I was back. 

Beer is dismal here. Spanish beer is, well, Spanish beer. And the variety (and quality) of imports leaves much to be desired. But occasionally, one finds the exception. An IPA from Belgium, full of that bright, citrusy hop character. Finesse and balance on the palate, finishing with a most pleasing bitterness. Can you see I've been desperate for some good beer? What I wouldn't give for some proper North American craft brews ...

So things are getting better. I'm always hopeful. The sun is shining, Barcelona is hitting 20C, and final exams or not, I'm going to enjoy myself. Because that's what I came here to do ... to be happy. Simple, isn't it. 


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

as the night blurs

Man. I'm feeling under the weather. I need to get better soon. Why? So I can die this Saturday. And what's happening Saturday? Only the biggest show of debauchery at IESE, Multi-Culti. Straight and reckless alcoholism, in the guise of diversity and multiculturalism. But what am I saying. We're only living up to that greatest and truest of MBA traditions - push yourself to the limit, in everything and anything you do, no?

This was the lineup way back, for Christmas Eve dinner. All sorts of things - a rosado (for me), some whites, some Rioja, a bit of Ribera. All cheap and cheerful bottles. Good stuff. Things started getting a bit hazy after the 3rd bottle. But, we celebrated, we enjoyed ourselves, and I made it home, safe. Fantastic. Schoolwork's been tough, really taking a chunk off my ass this term. But, we power through. Claw, bite, punch, whack, kick, jab ... whatever we need to do to get the job done. And then we celebrate, but only if victory is well-earned. A question to keep asking myself ...