A Travellerspoint blog

Schools and Homes in the UK - Day 1

Orientation begins

all seasons in one day 19 °C

This morning began with a wonderful surprise - SUNSHINE! The forecast was for rain so it was great to wake up and see the sun shining when we opened the curtains in our room. A little bit of Arizona we brought to the UK!

We were up early - 7am (11pm in Arizona) so that we could get ready for our first day of orientation. Stephannie and I had a great breakfast at the hotel restaurant - buffet style with eggs, sausage, toast, etc - tomorrow we may venture to the omelet and waffle station. After we ate we took a brief walk around the grounds while we waited for our counsellor for the day - Susan. While I was taking pictures out from of the hotel, Susan found us and we headed off on our adventure for the day. Susan drives a hybrid car - the Toyota Prius - which is one of the cars Stephannie is interested - so that worked out great. Our objective for the day was to visit one of the schools and then look at several towns and properties around that school. We will repeat this process for the next 3 days.
Front of School
Our first appointment was with ACS - International School at Hillingdon. The school was about a 45 minute drive from our hotel but we got to see some of the towns and areas without going on the highway (they call it a motorway here). The entrance to the school has a welcome house with a guard and then we drove onto the grounds - an absolutely amazing place! The building the school is in was built in the 1800's as the Manor House for Lord Hillingdon. There have been several expansions as the school has grown. The grounds include acres and acres of grass, beautiful gardens, playing fields, and tennis courts. There is a separate music building which has it's own music lab and recording studio.

We met with the Assistant Dean of Admissions here and got a great tour of the entire school.

From here, we met back up with our guide, Susan, to continue on the house researching expedition. We were scheduled to see 7 homes today but many of the ones scheduled had been rented out since Friday when the schedule was made. Apparently the rental market moves very quickly and most good homes are gone within a week. The purpose of this trip is just to get a feel for what homes are like and know what areas and schools to focus our efforts on when we return with Hannah and Madisen in August.

The first home we saw was called "Oakdean." Many of the homes we visited didn't have addresses - just names - we found that very cool! This was a very large home, nicely decorated - in what we would call a "country" location. In looking at the map, we thought this area would be too far away from the school for daily commuting.

We grabbed a quick lunch with Susan at a brasserie; we all had burgers (no buns, though!) Our next stop was our favorite house of the day, even though the location probably wouldn't have worked for us anyway. It was a house called Bigfrith End; built roughly 100 years ago, it was LOADED with character. 7 bedrooms - and the gardens were amazing - 2 acres of beautiful English gardens, complete with pond and sundial.

We looked at a couple more homes closer to the school and we could certainly appreciate that the quality / size of the homes get less as you move closer to London. In the end I'm sure it will be a trade off but we both feel confident that we can find something that will be wonderful for us to live in while we are here.

After our day with Susan, we returned to the hotel for a quick "freshen up" and then headed out to the Cytyc UK office in Crawley. Stephannie and I met up with the UK team for a quick tour of the new facilities and then had dinner at the Blue India. It was a long day but I'm glad we had a chance to meet up with everyone. Our taxi picked us up at the restaurant around 10:30 and we made it back to the hotel. Tomorrow begins with another school tour and several homes to view - promises to be another full day!

Posted by mquick70 16:47 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

UK Orientation Trip - Day 1

First day impressions of life in London

sunny 20 °C

Today was our first day in London as part of our UK Orientation trip in preparation for our move here in September. Stephannie and I left Arizona on Saturday afternoon. Our first stop was Los Angeles. From here, we boarded a Boeing 777 on 7/7/07 - interesting, huh? to head to London. After several hours, we were finally heading EAST in the direction of what will become our new home.

The flight was good. We ate dinner on the plane and watched a horrible movie - Premonition - I certainly wouldn't recommend it! After that, we curled up for several hours of sleep. When we woke up, we had some breakfast and then it was time for the plane to land - just under 10 hours from Los Angeles. When we arrived in London, we had a little bit of a tough time finder our driver but then we heard our names called on the overhead speaker in the airport - we found him right away. It was a half hour drive out to the Hilton hotel in Cobham where we are staying. It was a B-E-A-UTIFUL day in London - sun shining even!

After a quick shower and change of clothes we arranged for a taxi to bring us to the closest train station - Weybridge. Like old pro's, we bought our day passes for the train, got on the right platform and headed into London. The train made several stops along the way but we were in downtown London in 40 minutes. The train dropped us off at London Waterloo station right near Westminster Bridge. We walked across and saw Big Ben, Parliament, and the London Eye. We walked along the South bank of the Thames until we came to our first pub where we stopped for a pint and some dinner. I can usually understand most of the accents here but I had a hard time with our waitress at the pub. When I ordered at the bar, I had to ask her to repeat the order several times and finally just nodded like I knew what she said. When dinner came, steak and mushroom pie had become a chicken and stuffing pie - but it was good all the same. Loaded in brown sauce - yum!

After our first pub visit, we continued walking along the Thames taking in all the sights: The Globe Theatre, The National Theatre, OXO Building, Tower Bridge, and much more. We decided to cross London Bridge and had a great view from the middle. We met a couple from North Carolina there - we must have stood out as Americans - they were asking if that was in fact London Bridge! From the north side of the river we walked up to St. Paul's Cathedral and rested our feet on the steps outside. Every so often we would stop and think if this was real - are we really in London - who would have guessed?!?

From here we took the underground to London Victoria Station, saw the theatre Wicked is playing at in London, and walked over to Buckingham Palace. We watched the guards outside as they marched back and forth. It's an odd contrast to see the black fuzzy hats along with the automatic machine guns! From here we walked through the beautiful gardens at St. James Park and then made it up to Trafalgar Square and Picadilly Circus. We indulged in a little taste of home at Ben & Jerry's here and then took the underground back to Waterloo station. Here we switched to the train which took us back to Weybride, where we called a taxi, and returned, after a very full day, back to the Hilton in Cobham. We both started falling asleep on the train back from London - the combination of the rhythm of the train, the tiredness of our feet, and the jetlag was setting in - luckily one of us kept awake throughout the ride and we didn't miss our stop!

It was a great day and I was glad we got to spend a little time in London before the orientation work begins tomorrow.

Posted by mquick70 16:12 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

A Day in the Office

Returning to the office in South Africa

7 °C

Hi there!

Today was a full day spent at the Perryhill Offices in Marlborough, South Africa - not to be confused with Marlborough, MA! The focus for today was on preparing for training this weekend, preparing for interviews tomorrow, and finishing up one of the national health contracts.

I was able to find the microscope slides from the training set but they were in different boxes so missed. Belinda and I sorted through the training materials and built binders for the participants this weekend and I cleaned microscopes - ah, the fresh smell of ethyl alcohol and the stain of of blue marker on your fingers - how I've missed it!

Herman, Belinda and I had lunch at a nice little sandwich place next to the office and then it was back to preparations. I reviewed the resumes and interview questions used by PHI with the hiring manager and discussed some of the characteristics of successful CAS vs. ones who have really had a hard time. We have 5 or 6 candidates coming in for interviews tomorrow... another busy day!

We got the contract proposal submitted and feedback regarding the timeline. It's expected that a decision won't be made until the end of the summer. That's actually not a bad thing as there is plenty to keep busy right now with the private labs.

We left the office around 5:00pm and it took over an hour to get back to the hotel. The traffic was awful. And the jet lag is starting to catch up with me... I was starting to doze off in the car! I was supposed to have dinner with Herman and his wife tonight at their favorite restaurant, the Hillside, but decided I wasn't going to make it. It's not even nine o'clock yet and I'm starting to fall asleep already! It will definitely be an early night.

The hotel I'm staying in was not available for tomorrow night so I'm packing up my things in the morning to move to a different hotel for one night and then I'll be back to the first hotel for the rest of my stay.

That's all for now... I apologize for STILL not having any photos. Hopefully tomorrow... Drop a line when you get a chance. Thanks for reading!

Posted by mquick70 11:47 Archived in South Africa Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

First full day in Africa

sunny 6 °C

I was actually surprised how tired I was last night considering it was relatively early in my home time zone - but I was ready for bed at 10:00pm local time (1:00pm in Arizona). I fell asleep with little trouble despite my chilly room and single bed... However, I woke up - wide awake at 3:40am. I laid in bed thinking about many, many things until 5:15am. I told myself that if I was still awake in 15 minutes that I would just get up and start my day. The next thing I knew I received my wake up call and it was 7am!

Being at the half way point in my trip and not wanting to bring as much luggage as I did on my last trip - today was laundry day. The laundry costs are roughly 1/2 - 1/3 US costs.

I thought for sure that it had snowed last night when I looked out my window. There was frost on the ground and it looked like the lake might freeze over! It really isn't that cold but it's a long way from the 107F temperature of Arizona today! I was able to get ready and grab a quick breakfast at the hotel restaurant (coffee #1) before heading out.

Belinda picked me up at the hotel around 8:15am to begin our very busy day. Our first stop was to meet with the CEO of one of the national laboratories for South Africa. While we waiting for our appointment, the receptionist brough coffee (coffee #2). Our purpose was to answer any final questions regarding their national contract with ThinPrep. The meeting went very well and despite a few loose ends to tie up, should be completed in the next week or two.

After the meeting, I met with Belinda and the distributor's chief financial/finance person to discuss another national contract - we met at Wimpy's - I would place it as a cross between Jack in the box and Denny's (coffee #3!). We spent about an hour working on spreadsheets, pricing, etc - good stuff!

Then Belinda and I met Herman at another laboratory to review their current market evaluation of ThinPrep and to discuss their plans with implementing both gyn and non-gyn cytology using ThinPrep. We had a very positive meeting and the lab is excited about moving forward.

After this meeting, we headed across town to meet with a final laboratory for the day and stopped to discuss the plan for non-gyn training and to catch up on phone calls (coffee #4). From here we headed over to the lab where I conducted non-gyn processing training for 2 pathologists, 3 CT's and 1 prep tech and did a non-gyn morphology review at the multiheaded microscope. The lab was very pleased with the results they saw from our quick demonstration and looking forward to getting started tomorrow.

After our training, we went to another coffee shop to finish up a national contract, pricing, differentiation from the competiton, etc (coffee #5). Lots of numbers - I get a new appreciation for putting together contracts only in US dollars when you have to convert from Euros to South African Rand to US Dollars - fun stuff! Talk about checking and double checking your math! Especially when putting together a $6,000,000+ proposal!

We finally finished that up between 6 and 6:30pm and headed over to Belinda's house for dinner. Her husband prepared a nice Brai (BBQ) for us and we were joined by Simone and Herman. We had a great evening with a good meal and great friends (and coffee #6!) - we rounded the evening out when Arno brought out his guitar and Arno, Herman and I took turns playing songs and we all sang along - good fun!

I finally made it back to my hotel room around midnight to catch up on email and some phone calls and will start again tomorrow around 7am with another fill day. It was a very busy yet productive day in Africa.

(I apologize for yet another day without photos... I actually do have photos for today but am having problems with my camera card reader - hope to have it fixed tomorrow :-))

Posted by mquick70 15:37 Archived in South Africa Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

Return to South Africa

sunny 6 °C

If you were to ask me if I thought I would ever be in Africa this year in January, I would have given a definite answer of no. To have the opportunity to come back a second time in 3 months is simply unbelievable.

I started my journey this time from Boston, having worked for the past week in our corporate office in Marlborough. Friday seemed like a surreal day. The big news was the annoucement of my transfer to the UK as the Regional Business Manager for Northern Europe. Having the news took a huge weight off of my shoulders - the weight of the unknown. Now the real fun begins! I'm sure it will be a somewhat hectic summer as we prepare for our big move but I'm very much looking forward to the adventure for me and my family.

The announcement came in the midst of a day long schedule of conference calls and the day wrapped up with a VIP visit with a pathologist from South Africa. This pathologist was visiting Boston this week for a conference and was invited to come take a tour of our facility and meet some of our people. Despite having just flown in and having 6 hours of jet-lag, he was a great sport and enjoyed the time in Marlborough. We wrapped up the evening with a wonderful dinner in Boston before saying our good-byes. How ironic that he arrives into Boston less than 24 hours before I leave for South Africa!

My route this trip took me from Boston to Washington, DC and then continuing on to Johannesburg. There was elderly indian man in front of me checking in at the Boston airport. He managed to push his way up to the front of the line as he seemed in a hurry but found that he was on the same itinerary as I was. He made me smile the whole trip because everytime we needed to get in line, he would rush up and want to be there first. I don't know if he realized that we would all get there at the same time!

On my flight from Washington to Johannesburg, I sat next to a young girl (high school sophomore) who attends boarding school in Maryland and then returns to South Africa for the summer. She was looking forward to seeing her parents. I couldn't imagine being away for such a long period of time.

The flight was uneventful - the best kind. I had dinner on the plane and watched a movie (Breached - very good) and then went to sleep. I had a harder time sleeping this time than last because of the time difference not being as great (east vs. west coast). We arrived in Johannesburg around 2:30pm on Sunday. My little friend raced me to the passport counter, I collected my luggage (first bag out!) and Belinda and Simone were right outside to pick me up. In case you've forgotten, Belinda is the Women's Health product manager for Perryhill, Cytyc's South African distributor. Simone is her 15 year old daughter.

The weather today was sunny but much cooler than when I was here last. This is the start of their winter and it has been unusually cold. I checked weather before I packed and thought I'd be fine - high's in the 60's but Belinda told me today that the evenings and nights have been below freezing! I think I may be shopping for a new jacket tomorrow night.

They took me to my hotel, Irene Country Lodge so I could unpack and take a quick shower. They came back to pick me up at 5:00pm so we could get dinner, review the plan for the week, and discuss the National Health contract which is due tomorrow. We had sushi for dinner and I was back at my hotel by 8:00pm local time. I think I've already adjusted to the time zone because I don't think I'll have any problems sleeping tonight!

Tomorrow we have meetings with a lab in the morning and then I'll be conducting training in the afternoon. Belinda has my schedule packed solid for the next 8 days with meetings, interviews, and trainings. It will be challenging, I'm sure, but I'm reminded of how great the need is here and know that each step makes a difference in lives of people throughout the country.

That's all for now. Sorry to be so long-winded and not have any nice pictures yet - I'll work on photos starting tomorrow. I need to find an adapter for my electronics tomorrow as well!

Thanks for reading and if you have a minute, please drop a comment in the "Comment box" - it helps me feel not quite so far away!

Posted by mquick70 11:43 Archived in South Africa Tagged business_travel Comments (1)

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