So, the start of yet another year heralds the start of round of sales kick-off meetings at SAP to plan for the year ahead. Each region (US, Europe and Asia-Pacific) plans its own event and gave me the opportunity to contribute to global warming by producing buckets of CO2 emissions by flying to them all.
This year, the US went first and opted for a traditional event in Las Vegas. Great, thinks I, looking at the weather forecast and pack my t-shirt and shorts. Arriving though I realized my mistake – the temperature on Yahoo.com was 29°, but 29° Fahrenheit (-2° Celsius), not my interpretation of 29° Celsius (85° Fahrenheit), but at least I had some warm clothes from Germany. As the hotel hosting the event, the MGM Grand was full (yes, all of the 5,000 rooms, full) I stayed “next door” at the Aladdin / Planet Hollywood / building site – it was originally the Aladdin, but ever more glitzy attractions in Vegas means this hotel is desperately needs of a face lift and boy was it “under construction” i.e. tip. Next door was also a bit of a misnomer; it was a 20 minute walk to the MGM conference center – quite a trek though literally freezing streets. There was ice on the roads every morning, not something you would expect in a region known for its heat.
Europe was second and chose a far more sedate and stylish location – Rome. Elegance, opulence and Italian laissez-fair contrasted starkly with brash and sparkly Las Vegas. I made the mistake of hiring a car. I had forgotten how crap Italian drivers are, but it was bought back with horrible reality in within 2 seconds of leaving the airport parking garage, when the 2 lanes suddenly became 3, then 4 as cars squeezed by. Thank heaven for GPS navigation systems otherwise I am sure I would still be trying to find my way out of the airport.
These 2 locations were, however, trumped by Asia-Pacific who went for Hong Kong – and Ralf, my trusted SAP colleague and I, jumped at the chance to go – even if it was only economy class (ok, we upgraded on the way back). The trip didn’t start off too well; first on the Frankfurt – Munich leg, the steward sprayed coke all over my laptop and then in Munich the plane had a puncture, necessitating a 2 hour delay while the wheels were changed.
It is a good 8 years since I was last in Honkers and not much has really changed, well apart from the airport and a couple more skyscrapers. One small change I noticed was the signage – it is still in English and Mandarin although before the handover it was big English text on top, small Chinese characters underneath, now ALL signs are just the opposite.
The 100% employment guarantee still seems to be still in force – at the conference center, there were about 40 people whose main occupation was pointer. They just smiled at you and pointed you in the right direction, normally toward huge doors marked “in”. We had little time for sightseeing but managed to squeeze a voyage on the Star ferry, as tram ride and a trip up to the peak to see the peak building which was partially designed by my architect brother (it is really nice). We also managed a bit of shopping, but horror stories from people who have been stopped at customs stopped me from splurging on fake watches, badly recorded DVDs and surprisingly expensive hardware. I did get a nice belt and some recommended medicine against insect bites, which I will be using on my next trip – which will be a real vacation – we leave tomorrow I can’t wait.