Departing via DCA, JFK, SFO (01/04/10)

January 23rd, 2010 by under China. No Comments.

I arrived at the Ronald Reagan airport (DCA) around 9am. I had a luggage, a carry-on and a Terps school backpack. I had to transfer some clothes from the lugguage to the carry-on due to the 50lb weight limits by the American Airline. The flight departed at noon.

It took about an hour to get to JFK from DCA. JFK has 8 different terminals and I had to take an Airtrain at the airport to go from one terminal to another. I think JFK is way bigger than Dullas. When trying to depart JFK by Delta, it took me about 20 minutes to go through the security gate. A security guy throw away the followings from my carry-on: shower gel, shampoo, lotion, mouth wash and shaving cream. He asked if I wanted to deliver them somewhere via post. I didn’t bother doing that.

On the way to SFO from JFK, I read HBS book about How to do Business in China. I thought I could finish the whole book but I only finish two chapters. I took time to absorb numbers and stop a lot to think and relate facts being presented. I tried to figure out patterns and information that might be applicable in transforming Burma. I think I got lost in doing that.

My parent’s friend picked me up at San Franscisco International airport and I spent the night at their house. I haven’t seen the host’s family for a year now and it was good to meet them again. The host lives at the Freemont. I got to see the Freemont area landscape on the way to the airport in the morning of Jan 5th. It looks dry when compared to DC. But, it was good to see mountains at one side of the highway. It reminded me of my hometown, Mandalay, Burma, where there are mountains at the east. I like looking at the mountains when the sun rises up in the morning from the back.


Trade-off between a customized trip, pricing and negotiation power (Nov,Dec 2009)

January 23rd, 2010 by under China. No Comments.

I couldn’t find any flights, leaving BWI or Dullas, that would go through San Fran and Tokyo. Since I wanted to stop by San Franscisco on the way to China and Tokyo on the return trip, I found a deal on back in Nov. It costs me $1011 and here is the itinery:

01/04/10 7:15 pm   departs    New York (JFK)             01/04/10 11:25 pm   arrives  San Francisco (SFO)                                 

01/05/10 12:10 pm  departs  San Francisco (SFO)      01/06/10  5:00 pm   arrives  Narita, Tokyo (NRT)

01/06/10  7:00 pm  departs  Narita, Tokyo(NRT)         01/06/10 9:45 pm  arrives Shanghai- Pudong , China (PVG)

01/18/10 4:40 pm   departs    Beijing, China (PEK)      01/18/10 9:00 pm   arrives  Narita, Tokyo (NRT)        

01/19/10 3:05 pm  departs  Narita, Tokyo (NRT)       01/19/10  2:00 pm   arrives  New York (JFK)

I bought a round-trip ticket between Ronald Reagan-JFK for $199.

After I got the ticket, I wanted to change the depart date from Jan 4th to Jan 1st. But, the Priceline would charge me about $2000 more for the schedule change. So, I had to stick to the original schedule. Otherwise, I could have stay in San Fran for a few days and wonder around before I leave US.

Lessons to be learned>>>>plan and prepare long before the departure. Obviously, getting an air ticket 2 months before the departure did not give me enough room to find better deals.



At the Japanese Embassy in Washington DC (12/14/09)

January 23rd, 2010 by under China. No Comments.

I arrived at the Japanese Embassy in Washington DC at 9am. Since I was the second person, I didn’t have to wait much. At the application window, I submitted all the documents. A staff very carefully looked at my passport, letter from the school and the transit visa application form. She then gave me a receipt. No questions asked. Nice. The whole process took about 5 minutes. I was out of the building by 9:20 am.



At the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC(12/08/09)

January 23rd, 2010 by under China. No Comments.

I arrived at the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC around 10 am. There were about 20 people waiting to submit their visa applications. There were 5 female embassy staffs handling visa applications. I don’t think I’ve seen any male staff expect the security guy who is an American. The office was a small room about the size of a class room from DC campus. I was quite uncomfortable with the room setting where you can hear the conversations between the applicants and staffs. Well, it was entertaining for me to hear all of those conversations for 2 hours.

 I saw 2 fellow Smith MBA students from the business plan competition group. One of the students was trying to explain to the embassy staff that he was applying for a tourist visa. But, I saw that the embassy staff got confused after hearing so many words about business, school, tourist, etc. The second student stepped in and explained that they just wanted tourist visa. He did not mentioned anything else at all. It worked.

Since I wanted my passport back by Friday, 12/18/09, I paid $20 extra. As a result, I paid $150 for the single entry tourist visa. During my conversation with the staff, I could feel a bit of the language barrier between us. It took me about 15 minutes answering questions and waiting at the window.



WPP, Landfill Visit – January 12, 2010 – Cartago Province, Costa Rica

January 19th, 2010 by under All, Costa Rica. No Comments.

Last Tuesday, with much anticipation, we visited a Grupo WPP landfill, in the Cartago province. Solid waste management, or trash disposal, is a serious problem in Costa Rica, especially since the population and businesses of the country seem to be growing faster than the country’s infrastructure can supports them. In our meeting at the Ministry of Health on Monday, solid waste management was cited to be one of the biggest problems facing Costa Ricans. For this reason, our group was both looking forward to, and dreading, our visit to the landfill.

The day we arrived was a cloudy, cold and rainy day. We were met at the gate by a WPP employee who walked us down to the site. While it was muddy, the site itself was much cleaner than we expected, with no visible trash.

Trucks come into the landfill from each canton (or county) in Cartago daily. They are weighed upon entering and again upon leaving, and the canton is charged by weight for the trash they deposit. We were shocked that trash disposal is so inexpensive, only a few dollars for each ton. The solid waste is compacted, with each ton pushed into roughly a 3 ft cube, and then buried and covered with dirt. After the solid waste is buried, methane gas is collected, and piped to the surface, where it is burned immediately, to reduce the smells and remove the health hazard. Runoff water is also collected, and treated, before being returned to the rivers.

After a landfill is closed, the site continues to be supervised and treated for 15 years, until it is eventually reclaimed as parkland. Unfortunately, we were not able to take pictures, as WPP was worried that other companies would steal their technology.

While the system in place was impressive, and well managed, there are still areas for growth in solid waste management in Costa Rica. Zoning laws prohibit homes within 50 feet of a landfill, which means impoverished neighborhoods like La Carpio may have landfills literally on their doorstep. Additionally, solid waste management remains unregulated in Costa Rica, leading dumps which pose a variety of health and environmental hazards to the population.

-Kristin Danilczyk & Helena Rocha

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A Day in Manuel Antonio National Park

January 16th, 2010 by under Costa Rica. No Comments.

While hiking through Manuel Antonio National Park, we learned about the history of the park. The land was originally bought by a Canadian family who intended to keep it private and even put up gated entrances. Due to the law in Costa Rica, that land within 50 km of the beach must have public access; they were asked to allow public access to their land. In fact, the Costa Ricans were so angered that the family tried to keep them out with the gated entrances that they campaigned for the government to step in and turn the property into a national park. Thus, Manuel Antonia National Park was established in 1972.

The park consists of over 7,000 hectares and is responsible for preserving many species. Thanks to our terrific tour guides, Stella and Roy, we were able to see quite a few of these species. We started the tour by seeing several rare lizards through a telescope. Roy was also able to catch a small lizard off a nearby leaf so that he could show us his “colors.” We also saw a sloth carrying its baby up a tree. We saw a few very colorful crabs through the telescope, which were very different than the Maryland crabs that we are used to. Thanks to the 200 bird sounds that Roy had saved on his cell phone, we were also able to see quite a few unique birds that were attracted to the calls that came out of his phone.

As we got closer to the beautiful beaches located within the park, we were amazed to see approximately 35 monkeys running, climbing and swinging throughout the trees. We were told that they are often referred to as the “Monkey Mafia” as they are known to steal any food they can get their hands on. In fact, while we were there we say a monkey in the trees with a visitor´s bag of food. He shared it briefly and then rolled up the bag presumably to save for later. It was amazing how close they were willing to get to us. We even saw one monkey jump on a nearby trashcan and pull the handle to try to get it open. When he could not get it open, he began jumping on it in hopes to loosen the bungee cord that pulled it closed.

After marveling at the monkeys, we headed to the beaches within the park. They are known as some of the best beaches in the area and we know understand why. The beaches offered privacy, white sand and crystal blue water that was refreshingly warm and welcoming.

Map of Manuel Antonio National Park by Entrance

Map of Manuel Antonio National Park by Entrance

A Monkey Trying to Get into the Trashcan

A Monkey Trying to Get into the Trashcan


Costa Rica Humanitarian Foundation – Jan 14th, 2010, Santa Ana, Costa Rica

January 14th, 2010 by under All, Costa Rica. No Comments.

We went to visit the Costa Rica Humanitarian Foundation today. We went to La Carpio, where they have an important project down there. That village is very different from rest of the Greater San Jose area. Mostly very poor people live there. When people mentioned La Carpio, local people would take it very different. For example, people would say “Oh my god, you went there?”, “That’s a terrible area to be and you shouldn’t be there.” Today we visited that area and had a much better understanding of the people there and Humanitarian Foundation.

Costa Rica Humanitarian Foundation is non-profit organization committed to develop creative and economical solutions to social problems, especially to at risk group, such as women and children. The foundation started in 1997 and the La Carpio project started with just $300 budget per month. Now it’s managing about $10,000 per month. With the expense on hotel, buses, etc, it’s $15,000 per month. However, the things they accomplished there is amazing. They built day care centers, schools and clinic down there, which help the local community a lot. And a lot of the people in the foundation are volunteers.

Gail gave us a tour inside the La Carpio community. Most of the house there is very simply. They are made of metal pieces, cardboard pieces, etc. Most of the people just started here with a very simple shelter. Once they have a little bit money, they start to replace one wall. Right now, the entire company do have electric and water, where they used to drink and wash from the dirty river. However, there are issues with the water down there. There are pipe leakages, where the street water/dust and grey water goes in. On the other hand, the people there are very nice. They are friendly, pure and simple.

The Humanitarian Foundation also helped to build the first piece of cement down there for $4000. After that, local people think it made a huge improvement for the dusty and uneven road. Overall, the local community tries to extend little by little. Now they also found the literacy rate along cement road improved a lot.

At the end of the tour, we are introduced to Michael, a local young man. He was shot by a gun, and has to stay in the wheel afterwards. However, he is very talented in art and determined. Thus he started to concentrate on drawing and teach the kids in the community to draw as well. And a lot of his drawings carry great meaning as well. The organization did a charity sale on different kinds of hand made arts, such as necklaces, bracelets, purses, baskets and drawings. Our entire group made donation to the foundation as well.

In summary, this is a very meaningful visit. It showed us a vivid picture about the community and how determined effort and help can improve people’s life dramatically.

By the way, more pictures of the this site visit will be uploaded once we are back.


CIMA Hospital Visit – Jan 13th, 2010, San Jose, Costa Rica

January 14th, 2010 by under All, Costa Rica. No Comments.

Today we visited CIMA hospital in San Jose. This is the high end private hospital in Costa Rica. Costa Rica used national public health care system called CCSS. Compare to all the other health care facilities we see in Costa Rica, this hospital is a big contrast. Since most of the public health care facilities are free to public, the waiting time is a lot longer and service level is not as good in the public sectors.

 CIMA Hospital Visit Group picture with CEO Arden BennettCIMA Hospital Visit

CIMA hospital is one of the 3 private hospitals in Costa Rica. It’s established in 2000. It’s operated by International Hospital Corporation, headquartered in Dallas. It has other medical facilities located in Brazil and Mexico.

The CIMA CEO Arden Bennett, having 30-years experience in health care, gave us a brief introduction on CIMA today. Through the video, presentation and Q&A session, we learned a lot about CIMA and health care conditions in Costa Rica. Below is some new information we learned today.

  • CIMA is a general hospital with a lot of specialists, who are good at surgical areas
  • CIMA started to focus on the quality of service for 6 years
  • CIMA still uses mostly manual record, though it would like to go to electronic records in the future
  • The nurse salary in CIMA is only about $1000/month, which is a lot lower than US, but is quite decent in Costa Rica
  • CIMA is undergoing remodeling, thus to gain more competitive advantages over other two private hospitals in Costa Rica
  • CIMA received about 30% of foreign patients
  • CIMA’s cost is about 30% cheaper than US
  • CIMA receives similar profit margin as US hospitals
  • 30% of CIMA’s revenue is paid by insurance, while another 70% is paid by patient directly
  • CIMA has 100 patient beds
  • CIMA is governed by Costa Rica ministry of health as well

CEO Arden also informed us about the CIMA’s future direction and focus listed as below.

  • Further improve technology, such as buying more advanced equipments
  • To work on more complex patient and surgeries
  • To establish a new hospital in Liberia, where the other international airport locates
  • Maintain both local and international growth
  • Encourage more finance on the surgery to make it more affordable

CIMA officeCIMA equipmentCIMA Treatment Room 

After the informative session with the CEO, we did a hospital tour. The tour is a very intuitive and helped us to better understand the different levels in Costa Rica’s health care system. The overall impression we had on CIMA during the tour is very nice. CIMA is conveniently located in a valley, which has Marriot next to it and very close to a nice shopping plaza. The view for certain CIMA rooms are very nice and it might be easier for patients’ family to find parking space. We also saw the patient room, which seems to be as friendly as those in US hospitals. In contrast, people in public hospital might have to share beds due to the supply and demand imbalance. CIMA maintained a good practice of keep patient’s record private as well. And CIMA has a lot of advanced medical equipment as well.

Overall, CIMA is a very impressive hospital and it’s similar to US hospitals. From the visit, we gained a better understanding of how private hospital plays a role in Costa Rica’s health system.



January 14th, 2010 by under Costa Rica. No Comments.


Pfizer, Inc:

Today, the class had the pleasure of visiting Pfizer, the world´s largest research based pharmaceutical company.  The Pfizer facility in Costa Rica is a warehousing, marketing, and finance hub for its Central American and Caribbean operations.  Here we met Dr. Generao Cuesta, who is the Medical Director of the operation, along with Dr. Eric Heilbron, who is a clinical research manager for Central America and the Dominican Republic.  The site visit consisted of a robust presentation regarding the operations, as well as a question and answer session.

Important information about Pfizer, Costa Rice include:

1. The first Pfizer facility in Costa Rica was constructed in 1969.  It currently is located in one of the many free trade zones in Costa Rica, where there are no import or export taxes levied on the companies within these special economic zones.  Although the company cannot sell its products in Costa Rica without taxes applied, it is a favorable environment to do business in.  The company saves substantial amounts of money on import and export taxes, while the country of Costa Rica gains many high-paying jobs for its population.

2. Costa Rica is a favorable site for pharmaceutical research, because its political system is stable, and its educated population has easy, reliable access to good medical care.  For this reason, Pfizer is conducting over 70 clinical trials in Costa Rica at the present time (far more than any other Central American or Caribbean country).

3. Pfizer is an avid proponent of corporate social responsibility in the areas it serves.  For example, each year the Costa Rican Pfizer employees build a complete health care center in impovershed ares of its territory.  Furthermore, they carry out large scale recycling and tree replanting programs that are aimed to help the environment and bolster the local rain forest.  Lastly, Pfizer donates time and money to treating the medical conditions of over 12,000 children each year who could otherwise not afford or access proper health care.


Baxter International

January 14th, 2010 by under Costa Rica. No Comments.

Baxter International

The class had an opportunity to visit Baxter International´s Costa Rican manufacturing facilities.  Baxter is a global player in the healthcare industry with the manufacturing of medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology products.  We were first met by a top plant manager, Jose, who provided us with an educational video outlining Baxter International and its operations.  Then, after a question and answer session, Jose took us on a full plant tour.  The facility was exceptionally organized and followed lean practices and 6 sigma opertional guidelines for quality. 

Jose was proud to tell our class the following information:

Baxter has existed in Costa Rica since 1987 and is the country´s is the fourth largest exporter of goods.  The company employs roughly 1,200 people to manufacture its major products of intravenous administration kits, blood monitoring sets, and cancer screening kits.  Employees are paid high wages for the country and are treated exceptionally well.  The company provides a 60% food subsidy in its cafeteria and has an on site dental clinic that can be used free of charge for the employees and their families.  The plant we visited is internationally known for high standards in quality and safety, evidenced by its ISO 9001 certification and its receiving of the Shingo Award for operational excellence. 

Some additional facts about the plant include:

1. The plant´s lost time incident rate per 100 employees has decreased from 0.63 incidents in 2000 to just 0.06 incidents in 2006.  This is a strong indicator of increased safety measures being successfully carried out at the plant. 

2. The facility has also reduced its lost time days per 100 employees from 3.85 in 2000 to 0.6 in 2006.  

3. The manufacturing facility is carbon neutral, using high efficiency machinery and fixtures while purchasing carbon offsets to reduce its burden on the environment.

4. The facility exports $190 million of products worldwide, with 90 percent of the goods going directly to the United States.