Saturday, November 22, 2008

Who is Hu?

Matt and Rachael here. We are finally getting over being sick and had an AWESOME day full of very exciting people! This morning we saw:

Alan Garcia, President of Peru
John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand
Kevid Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Leader of Indonesia
Jack Ma, Founder of Alibaba
David Hale, US Economist

It was seriously so cool watching the world leaders file in and out for our viewing and listening pleasure. We sat with the media in the balcony and of course had our headset translators to make sure we caught everything that was being said. Most of the VIPs had little to no special security.....except for HU. We were so excited to see Hu that we actually waited in the balcony for an hour before the speech was supposed to begin.....we tried out several seats to make sure that we had the best ones in the house and no one would be able to block our view. Not only did Hu have extra security, but people were also asked to rise as he entered and exited the auditorium. In addition, he had one of his security guards place and remove his speech from the podium, so he never had to carry, move, or touch anything. His speech wasn't anything profound or new to the Chinese political economy, but his presence was indeed that of a very powerful world leader.

Just a note on some of the other speakers...

-this was John Key's first public address as the new Prime Minister of New Zealand, after only being sworn in 24 hours earlier
-Jack Ma was cute, tiny, and a little ball full of energy

Tonight was our last night, so all of the delegations had to put together a little presentation to showcase our cultures to the other economies. Good times were had by all....

-The Canadians gave a brief history of their great nation while humming "O Canada"
-The Mexicans hired a mariachi band to serenade us all. They also did a sort of Telemundo-style gameshow to give away a sombrero, and the final competition was to pronounce a difficult word with several r's. Thankfully we were not in the competition and a student from Singapore won.
-The Chinese students had a medley of girl sang Beijing opera, another sang Western-style opera, and then the two gentlemen did a sort of two-comedian stint.

-The Vietnamese students also sang and danced some traditional songs, as did the Singaporeans.

-The New Zealanders taught us some Maori dances and the Maori tradition of rubbing noses with each other in greeting.
-The Peruvians sang some lovely songs for us, which turned into a huge latin/salsa dancefest, as per typical Peruvian style.

-And the Americans sang a couple of songs as well.....while most of the other delegations sang songs about love and friendship, ours was more about our childhood and songs that the 5 different groups from the U.S. all knew the words to: "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and "This Land is Your Land."

We also received and gave many gifts to the other students, such as key chains, candy, etc, gave out our business cards, and said our goodbyes. Overall, it was a lot of fun!

However, even though we had the closing ceremonies, we are not done yet. Tomorrow is the final day of the summit. We probably won't have the opportunity to blog tomorrow, so we'll just tell you what we'll probably see. First, the president of South Korea. Then, President Bush. Then, President Felipe Calderon of Mexico. And certainly last but not least, Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper. Yes, it will be a busy day. We have the same access tomorrow as we did today, although security will be much higher with President Bush's address. Then, we plan to do some shopping/bargaining in the Peruvian market, gather all of our belongings and diverse gifts, and board a plane for what should be a very long but fun-filled day of travel.

Thanks for reading along with us on this little trip of ours. Words do not give it justice. That goes for both the incredible access to world leaders as well as the minor health epidemic we had amongst our delegation. Personally, I've been striving for jealousy when describing our experiences, but the girls might have more pure motivations. Thanks to the wonderful people here in Peru who have made the Voices program one we will never forget. Special thanks to Drs Fraser and Cook, without whom we would not have enjoyed our time here nearly as much. And the utmost thanks to Carol Asalon who did the wonderful job of planning all our travel arrangements, getting our visas, and talking Cindy Youssef into taking good care of us. Thanks to the Riley Institute and all who made this possible.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Back on Track

I can`t believe today is Friday! This week has flown by and I am not ready to come back yet. Now that we are feeling much better we are back to the daily hustle and bustle. Luckily the sickness only lasted 24 hours or so and we had some great bonding time in the hotel.
Yesterday we left later in the day to give everyone a chance to recover and get extra sleep. I went to the APEC media center and sat in on press conferences with several ABAC representatives and Trade Ministers from Singapore. It was really cool to be in a real international press conference with cameras, headset translators, and journalists from all over. In the late afternoon we returned to the hotel and went to dinner for Evelyn`s birthday. We went to TGIFridays in order to give our stomachs a break from any unfamiliar food. The dinner topped off Evelyn`s interesting day and I will let her expand on that.
Later that night we went to a cultural performance and watched traditional Peruvian dances and got to dance a little ourselves. We were having a great time and didnt want to leave, but when we made it back to the hotel we all crashed.

This morning we were back to our normal, early morning schedule. We drove over to the location of the media center, which is also hosting the CEO summit. Before lunch I listened to speeches by the Peruvian President, Alan Garcia; the new New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, and a couple of trade ministers, global economists, and bank leaders.
Now we are hanging around waiting for lunch and later we will listen to Hu Jintao speak at 2. Bush is speaking tomorrow morning and I think we are going to try to come!
The experiences this week have been absolutely unbelievable, and we just slide through all of the security with our official badges. We still have a lot to look forward to as the week finishes up and we will keep you posted.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Better late than...

So I've not blogged yet, and its already Thursday. Slacker? Perhaps. But I'd like to think I'm immersing myself so much here that I cannot justify pulling myself away from all the fascinating people I've met to sit in front of a computer screen.

Sorry excuse? Perhaps.

C'est la vie.

I am sitting in a cubicle in the middle of the APEC International Media Center, which has been set up next to the Ministry of Defense. If I were an actual journalist, I might question the presence of stern-faced Peruvians with AK-47s strapped to their chests. No one seems to mind, though. At the IMC, press conferences are given every few hours by various ministers. Today's headliners included the Peruvian Minister of Immigration and National Security, the Ministers of Economy and Finance from Chinese Taipei, and and ABAC advisory council meeting, which we will attend in about an hour.

To be honest, it's a little slow around here with journalists buried in their laptops, notepads, and cell phones. Or so I thought. Just now, sitting at this computer, a Liman journalist for El Comercio struck up a conversation with me. The conversation was brief, but fascinating. He teasingly scolded me for coming all the way to Peru and not going to Cusco to visit Machu Picchu. Luis told me that he goes every other year because "the energy of the place is cleansing." An overwhelming majority of Peruvians are Catholic, Luis estimated around 85-90 percent. Yet, each year millions make a pilgrammage to this ancient site because, as he put it, its a spiritual experience that touches the souls of those who visit, Peruvian or not. The discovery of Machu Picchu incited a wave of national pride for all of Peru, but according the Luis the real beauty of the place lies in its ability to provide a spiritual outlet for those who visit.

I think this brief conversation is exemplary of my week here thusfar. Sure, the speakers we've heard, the business leaders we've interviewed have been wonderful experiences. But for me, the conversations I've had with the students from other countries has by far been the best part of the program.

Well, the journalists next to me from CPN Radio in Lima are trying to interview me, but their English is not so good. I'm going to go hunt down a Peruvian to translate for us.


Sickness in the Camp!

Hey y'all! This is Evelyn. I'm having technical difficulties signing on under my own profile, so I'm writing under the pen name of Rachel Parrish.
Matt split off and did what the girls did yesterday and Abby, Rachel, Emily and I went to the Pachacarra, the ruins of an Incan village, on the south side of the city. As soon as we got out of the city, the landscape turned to a dark sand and we were in the dusty desert. We climbed to the top of the temple of the sun god to get a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean. We could see Lima, rice paddies, the ocean, the dessert and a bull fighting ring! On our way back we stopped at the "bohemian" part of Lima called Barranco, the beach, and finally the market. We bought souveniers and gifts to bring back. Luckily our Peruvian friends helped us bargain down to good prices (supply and demand curves at their finest). Yeah free trade!
Yesterday was a great day... until about midday.

Some of the North Americans began to feel bad, and it just got worse. Apparently something in the food from Tuesday night did not agree and now several Canadians, Americans and New Zealanders among others are a ill.
Of our group, Rachel, Matt and Emily stayed in the hotel last night while Abby and I went to our speakers and the night tour. This morning some feel better, some feel worse. It's very easy for me to say because Dr. Fraser and I are the only one's to come out unscathed so far (KNOCK ON WOOD) but this is an illustration of the risks you take travel in a foreign country. We've all been careful so wash our hands and stay hydrated, but sometimes you can't avoid sickness!
I don't have much time now (seems to be the theme of the week) but when I return I'll tell of the awesome activities of yesterday and the day before. Just to keep you reading, here are some teasers: Incan ruins, tail fire game, water/fountain/shows, and how I spend my birthday today in Peru!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Every day is better than the last!

It's about time I start blogging on this trip. It has been an incredibly busy week already and it's only Tues. I have been absolutely amazed by all the things we have seen and done in only a few days. I feel like part of a little VIP tour group running around Lima getting special access with our badges and business suits. Our buses even have banners on the sides saying "Here come the leaders of the future." The other students are really fantastic and I have had the best time hanging out with them.
On the first day, I was amazed to see the media and convention center where we will be spending some of our time. I was so impressed that they took us into the booth of the Associated Press! Later on we went to an orientation session and learned a little more about APEC. At that point I had no idea of all the amazing things to come.
Yesterday we began the day at the Universidad de San Ignacio Loyola where we were generously greated by the students who handed us gifts as we walked in the gates. When we arrived I felt like some sort of celebrity because they took a big group picture and students were looking out of windows all over the place to watch what was going on. After a few speeches in the auditorium, we did an extensive tour of Lima including the Government Palace (Peruvian White House), the City Hall, Congress, the ruins of the old citywalls, the Cathedral, the Archeological Museum, and more. Where ever we went the badges got us in and we had private tours with tour guides from the University. We also found out that the President of the University ran for President of Peru against Garcia and almost won. We had just taken a picture with her and we had no idea.
Once we finished the tours we had dinner and crashed when we returned to the hotel. It was a wonderful day but yet again, I had no idea what was to come!

Ok, so I have finally caught up today. This morning we had very entertaining breakfast with one of the Peruvian students and joked about accents all over the US. Then we divided into groups and set off for the ABAC Hotel (APEC Business Advisory Council). The hotel was unbelievable! It had a pool right beside one of the dining rooms with 2 dolphins swimming around. You can also go downstairs and sit in the lounge and look right into the tank as they swim by. Anyway, I was taken into the informal ABAC meeting where I took a back seat behind the table of business leaders. In a few minutes I realized I was sitting right behind JACK MA, the founder/CEO of Alibaba (China's ebay). I sat in on the meeting for a little while before cycling out so other students could enter, and then joined the others outside of the conference room where they were interviewing CEOs as they came by. We interviewed Mr. Stevens from Time Warner and then I ended up sitting next to Jack Ma while the group interviewed him. He was an amazing, very motivational speaker and said that that the crisis today is an opportunity for tomorrow. I ended up trading business cards with him (oh so professional) before heading off to lunch. I was star struck after my interactions with Jack Ma and the others.

After a quick lunch we headed to the Media Center but upon arrival I found out that I was going to go to a couple of hotels and interview some of the Senior Officials. The first was Patricia Haslach, a US SO and the only female SO at APEC this year. The next interview was with the assistant of Wendy Cutler and the final one was with one of Canada's Senior Officials, John Sloan (each economy only has 2).

After the interviews we went to a presentation on Rule of Law by Rodrigo Prado and then set off for dinner. We finally had a great traditional Peruvian meal and I got to try ceviche and a Pisco Sour. It was so much fun and I was being quite adventurous with the food. Once again it was a late night and I am now more than ready to crash. At least I get to sleep in until 6:30 tomorrow - no more 5:40, we are going to be rebels and not take the morning shuttle. I can't wait to see what is in store for tomorrow!

Monday, November 17, 2008

What's your name again?

A common phrase in a group of 130 students from different countries...but although we may not remember each other's names, we have had fun and meaning full conversations--from talking with the Peruvian delegates about their traditional foods of guinea pig and ceviche, to discussing the economic impact of the Beijing Olympics with Chinese students.

Today was once again a full and exciting day in Lima. We started off the day at San Ignacia de Loyola University (USIL), one of the best schools in Peru. We received welcoming gifts from some students at the university and were welcomed by the university's president Lourdes Flores, who supposedly ran against the current Peruvian president Alan Garcia and almost won. We also received warm welcomes from Peru's Minister on Foreign Trade and Tourism and the former Minister of Industry. We also received a keynote address from Tony Nowell, an ABAC (APEC Business Adisory Council) member representing New Zealand. He was a former senior executive for Loreal and Sara Lee and gave us some good tips on questions to ask ABAC members throughout our interviews this week.

After enjoying some traditional Peruvian dances, we went on an amazing tour of the wonderful city of Lima, which was led by several students from USIL's tourism department that were very friendly and knowledgeable about their city's history. We visited the government palace, the city hall, and a museum with traditional Peruvian art and archaelogical artifacts from the Incan period and even earlier. We also visited the home of a Peruvian diplomat, built over 200 years ago.
Finally, after a long day, we sat down to enjoy what we hoped to be a traditional Peruvian meal....unfortunately we ended up getting salad, french fries, and barbecue.....but it actually was quite delicious! Tomorrow we really will get to experience Peruvian cuisine, so we'll let you know how that goes!

Disclaimer: sorry if this is not cohesive or really descriptive or interesting....we're just all really tired from our full days!
Matt here taking over the helm for Rachael as she is doing what I probably should be and heading to bed. I had a quite different experience today than the other Furman students, in that I was randomly selected to attend the ABAC (APEC Business Advisory Council) forum on small and medium businesses in the APEC region. The event was held at the Museo del Ejercito Real. We were able to arrive just in time for a three course catered Peruvian lunch, and a scenic walk around the museum. We then entered the conference and took our seats in the press booth as representatives from Peru, Mexico, and Chile discussed the necessity of Latin America to increase its rate of economic growth, and the integral part small and medium businesses play in that effort.
After about two hours of sitting in the press booth, I admit I was getting tired. I stood up and walked to the hallway to stretch my legs when, what do you know, I got a glimpse of Peruvian President Alan Garcia's motorcade pull up. I quickly rushed to my seat, eager for a good view of President Garcia's closing remarks. As soon as he walked on stage, the small press area that had previously only been occupied by two other students and myself was filled with six additional reporters, each crowding and pushing us to the rail to get footage of the president. President Garcia stressed in his remarks the importance of technology integration into small business to increase their efficiency and prominence in economies. I left the speech early, as our group was on a tight schedule and had to catch the bus back to the hotel. We were delayed, however, and fortunate enough to stand at the curb and watch the president's motorcade leave.
We are fortunate enough to have one of the students from the Vietnamese delegation filming many of our activities and posting them online. We will try to post the link here as he posts videos online.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Estamos aqui!

After three airports, two continents, and 15 hours of travel time, we arrived in Lima, Peru at 5 AM this morning. We were greeted by the always wonderful Cindy Youssef, a Furman graduate who is working diligently with the Voices program. Today was just the preliminary settling-in period, but I can already tell that this is going to be an APEC very different from one s in the past.

Most of the day was spent getting acquainted with the other student delegations. Furman is joined by students from North Carolina, Texas, and California to make up one of the larger student delegations. The Mexican delegation from Monterrey is also large, along with the Chinese delegation, pooled from a selective national competition. Overall, there are over one hundered students participating in Voices. We are each being given the opportunity to interact with the students from other member economies, being split into diverse teams as we conduct our interviews later in the week.

Our first APEC experience was a tour of the Media Center we will be calling home for the next week. There, it became apparent to us that access to political leaders and businesspeople would be much greater than in the past. We were each issued a press pass giving us access to press conferences, reporters, and ultimately speeches at the keynote CEO summit later this week.

Tomorrow is looking to be a full day. Most students will tour Lima in the morning. I personally had the luck of being selected to attend a CEO summit dealing with issues in small businesses of the member economies.

We have truly been blessed to be given this experience. Lima is an exciting, yet starkly different place from the U.S. We each have been given the opportunity to make the most out of this unprecidented access. My first act in pursuing this opportunity is to go get some well deserved sleep!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Vamos a Perú!

Well, we're thirteen days out, and preparations for APEC Perú 2008 are underway. We are all in the process of packing gifts, ironing shirts, and brushing up on our high school spanish, eagerly looking forward to our departure. We are extremely privileged to be accompanied by two educators: Dr. Cleve Fraser from Political Science, and Dr. Nathan Cook from Economics.

On Saturday, November 15th, we will depart for Lima, Perú to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Leadership Week. Formed in 1989, APEC is a group of 21 countries from around the Pacific Rim. Member economies account for almost two thirds of world GDP and nearly half of world trade. APEC aims primarily to facilitate regional trade liberalization, although its portfolio also includes a broad range of issues like human security and climate change. APEC is a forum for consensus building, so its agreements are all non-binding. Leaders Week will be attended by heads of state, high-level ministers, and business leaders from across the globe.

Our trip is coordinated through Virtual Trade Mission’s Voices of the Future program. We’re fortunate to have the assistance of Furman grad and National VTM Fellow, Cindy Youseff.

Follow Leadership Week at APEC Peru's official website:

We will be continually blogging and updating the Furman Community on our activities in Lima. Please feel free to comment on our posts. We are all tremendously excited and look forward to updating you on the experience.