I just hung up the FaceTime chat with Eva and Maria, my dear colleagues and friends at NEC. Hearing their voices brought be back to reality - one that realizes that I’ve left Boston only two weeks ago today (on June 3rd) ... and I'll have been an official HGSE grad three weeks from tomorrow. The amount of meetings, conversations, and experiences that have been packed into the last two weeks makes the past two weeks feel like a year. My new normal is with my fellow Trekkers, all unique and wonderfully interesting people each in their own individual way. The intensive time we’ve spent together makes it seem like we’ve known one another for longer than two weeks … This trek has provided access to information, experiences, thinking, and conversations that I wouldn’t likely have otherwise encountered. Granted, we are only seeing the tiniest sliver of what each country is has to offer, yet these experiences have been pretty unreal …. or at the very least, surreal.
Yesterday was one of the most impactful meeting days for me. Our first meeting had me almost in tears. Our presenter, Mr. Francis Ngai, is the founder and CEO of Social Venture Hong Kong (SVhk). He’s a marathoner and ultra-marathoner, and told his story through drawing parallels between NGO work and long-distance running. It’s something that I’ve often though about on my long runs, but he had an extremely elegant way to articulate his parallels, sharing his own personal story of motivation and the stories of inspiration he's found from other runners. In short, he makes the case that the NGO/non-profit work we do is like a marathon, not a sprint. In describing his work and helping ventures in Hong Kong make an impact, what I was most impressed was that Francis isn’t just trying to solve problems for people. Instead, he’s working with NGO’s to try to fundamentally change the mindset of people in need. Instead of just giving them something or a service, he’s trying to instigate ways that people in need can help themselves. He’s providing hope. He’s providing opportunities. And he’s aiming to fundamentally change mindsets, therefore impacting the long-term possibility of solving social challenges. Like running a marathon, it’s beyond the physical challenge (or pain) that we ensure - it’s the mental stamina and commitment to achieve that goal, for whatever reasons it may be, that drives us in the work that we do. It's a drive that gets to the foundation of our being - similar to the "why's" of non-profit dedication.
The remainder of the day was spent with Diamond Cab (a start-up taxi service serving wheel-chair bound customers in HK), the Asia Miles company and Cathay Pacific Innovation Center. The day prior, we met with BluePrint (a co-working space for tech innovations and an accelerator program), InvestHK, Hong Kong Council of Social Services, and the Education Constituency of the Legislative Council. While this is a gross over-implication of these meetings, innovation was a theme in our Hong Kong trek. (Hoping to write more about this at a later day.) Additionally, all of the presenters made a great case for why HK is the best market for launching ideas and working creatively within companies. Aside from the housing challenges and the fact that all the landfills in HK will be filled by 2018, HK seems like a pretty cool place to live and work. I really loved the energy and environment here.
Today was a free day in Bangkok, and the food here is the best that I’ve had on the trip so far (I LOVE the spices!). I took time to go sight-seeing, though I didn’t get some needed work done …. hopefully tomorrow! A group of us Trekkers together visited the Grand Palace and The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, then walked a bit further to see The Reclining Buddha. These were both stunning! Tonight, another group of us took a dinner river cruise together, seeing the city sights from the water. As we finished dinner and were snapping a few pictures at the front of the cruiser, the rain rolled for a brief but heavy evening shower. The crew ushered us back upstairs, and we helped instigate an impromptu dance party with the live cover band (2 vocals, soprano sax, and piano / synthesizer) for the last half hour of the trip. The Trekker’s karaoke night in Hong Kong a few days ago was great practice for tonight’s spectacle - great dancing and quasi-controlled yelling (aka singing) among the group. We had a blast, and a few of the littlest passengers came out dancing with us (and their parents). Our night was complete after piling into a tuk-tuk for a wet but speedy right back to the hotel.
After only two weeks, I’m exhausted but absolutely inspired. Tomorrow, our meetings begin with a meeting with the Chairman of the Stock Exchange of Thailand. Onward!