Week 1 – Team PSU On Site

Tuesday came quickly which means our first day on site at the Prince of Songkla University.   As someone who attended a technical college back in Canada, this was really my first time on a university campus and it is quite impressive! I briefly visited Ryerson university in Toronto but that was in the core of Toronto so really just felt like it was part of the city. PSU is a small but fast growing university in Phuket and its very beautiful. Surrounded by hills its also somewhat protected from the rain that occurs at any given moment. While some teams were in areas getting lots of rain, it was usually sunshine for us. And humidity. My god the humidity here is intense.

The campus was only about a 20 minute drive from the hotel which is quite nice, as we dont have to spend much time in traffic around Phuket City. Our host Dr. Tanwa met with us to get logistics setup, such as WiFi and other general items like fingerprints to access rooms, meeting room locations and how to use the AC system. After all the introductions and logistics, we sat down to start working on our Scope of Work with Dr Tanwa. As the team began to get their equipment out, I quickly found out I was in the minority. Macbooks all around the table except me. As I got my behemoth W541 out, you could hear the audible gasps. Queue the jokes and comments. Ranging from ‘has it bluescreened on you?’ and ‘is it doing windows updates?’. Hilarious! Little do they know, while it may be a beastly sized laptop, it plays some games quite well. Not that I have any games installed on it… heh… After this, I was a bit worried what would happen when I needed to get my AC adapter out. This is really the only downside to the laptop. It’s bulky and heavy. So I tried my best to be sneaky but they saw it and queue the laughs and giggles. Haters gonna hate! All in good fun of course, or at least I think.

Week 2 post spoiler: Sure the thinkpad is a beast, but at least it has all the ports a computer needs like a bloody Ethernet port. While some of my team struggles to get connected, I can just plug in without needing an dongle which most did not have/bring with them. I’ll enjoy the deliciously fast Ethernet connection from now on.

Back to the story. As we continued to chat about our SoW and expectations, a power outage hit the campus. We kept on working, using the lights from our laptop screens. As the great P. Diddy says “Cant Stop, Wont Stop”.

Anu, Ryuhsuke, New, Dr Tanwa, Eric, Nader (left to right)

After our meeting with Dr Tanwa we did a small tour of the facility, specifically where all the cafés and food shops were. As with any university campus (I’m guessing) there are coffee shops everywhere. I guess coffee and students is an international thing. However, one thing that I don’t believe is the same back home is how the prices here are reasonable. Even at my college, a slice of pizza would cost you something like $5-7 dollars (and it was garbage pizza). You can get a full meal here for around $2. I understand that living wages are different across the world, but it still seems like they overcharge back home.

For lunch during the week we went to a popular shopping mall in Phuket called Central. We went to the food court there and also took the opportunity to get a local travelers sim card.  I couldn’t believe the price difference between Canada and here. For a 15 day temporary sim, with 4GB of data and 30 mins of calls it cost me around $22. You cant even buy a sim card for $22 in Canada. Granted we do have some of the highest rates in the world. After getting the sim we went and hit up the food court, cheap nfl jerseys paypal jerseys stitched which had an interesting payment system. You give cash and they load up a little gift card which you then pay at one of the 15+ food shops they have. I grabbed a Pad Thai (surprise!) and it was absolutely delicious (double surprise).

Even though it has only been about a week since I left home one of the odd things that occurred to me is that I haven’t driven a car or rode my motorcycle for almost a week now. It’s not often that happens back in my country (CSC Inside Joke) but it definitely gives you some time to wake up, in my case, think about the project and enjoy the new city we are in. In Phuket, its also a bit of torture since motorcycles and scooters are the primary means of transportation for most. There are lots of buses, trucks and cars but the majority are 2 wheeled vehicles of some kind. As its a small city, it’s predominately smaller CC bikes and the most common are 125’s. You see some 250’s and hear the big boys (500+, remember small and hectic streets) come out at night. There are some quite cool bikes you see here, such as the below.

Upon seeing this guy, I was sad. I missed my baby back home. Don’t worry, we’ll be going for a ride on August 24 Pinner. You also see a lot of Honda MSX125s and Yamaha and Suzuki 125 variants. We call them Grom’s in back in North America and my desire to get one continues to grow on a daily basis. They are perfect for little fun rides in the suburbs, but here they are used as an all around vehicle.

Throughout Tues-Thursday we continued to work with Dr Tanwa to finalize our SoW. We had a deadline of Monday July 31 to have this finalized but as a group we decided to have this done by Friday July 28. We held daily meetings with Dr Tanwa to ensure that our SoW was inline with his expectations and what deliverables he is expecting.  We also began researching who some key stakeholders, finding IBM resources across the company regarding our project, booking meetings and creating a listing of people and organizations we wanted to invite to a mini Design Thinking session. Our first week of work at customer site was only really 3 full days (Monday was the opening ceremony) as Friday July 28 is a national holiday to celebrate King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s Birthday. We still decided to meet as a team in the hotel suite that has been booked for us here at the Novotel.

Cant stop. Wont stop Team PSU!  On the evening of July 27 we received confirmation that our SoW has been approved and finalized by Dr Tanwa. Fantastic!

Some other quick notes about Week 1:

  • People here love nicknames. Usually these nicknames have absolutely nothing to do with their real names. As some folks back home will realize, when they asked what my nickname is I was kind of hesitant. Friends have been calling me Nads since around Grade 8/9. Luckily people here have a fantastic sense of humour and quite enjoyed that.
  • Our translator, Nawaphat (nicknames New or Private Ryan for his love of war movies, specifically Saving Private Ryan) and I quickly become friends after he saw my laptop background which is the header picture of this site. He’s a big fan of motorcycles and his dream bike is a BMW GS1200. Little did he know I’ve been eyeing the GS700 as a possible adventure bike. Dr Tanwa even had a Harley when he was in the US. It’s nice to have motorcycle friends around me here, especially since its been somewhat torture to see and hear them all and can only look.
  • The ATM’s play music when you withdraw money from them.
  • There are some interesting chip flavours here, including Seaweed, Durian and Spicy Crab (the chips are even formed like a crab claw). I haven’t been to adventurous with those, as I know I will not like them.
  • We celebrated the birthday of one of the CSC team members, Moncef. Cake was delicious and we all had a jolly time.
  • When you speak Thai as a foreigner/tourist here the peoples faces light up in joy. It’s heart warming to say the least as they love that we are trying to learn their language and their rich culture. It may just be basics like Hello – Sawadee Krab or Thank You – Kho Kun Krab but it definitely helps.

We had some adventures over the weekends of July 22 / 23 & 29 / 30 including:

  • a visit to Wat Chalong
  • enjoying a fish market and a beach in the Phuket City
  • organizing a day trip to Phi Phi Islands for 15 people…
  • an attempted visit to Big Buddha and Thalang Road night market

I’ll be detailing those in a separate post as I’d like to do some photo editing when I’m back home and have access to Lightroom. I was a dummy and forgot to install it before I left.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the post and til next time.