Belgium Adventures >>> Ostend

This is going to be a short one I hope.

Well I got to see a bit more of Belgium than I had expected but it was full of the good parts. My trip to Ostend included a day at  a sandy beach and a visit to a ‘historical’ site. I also got to see the Flemish side of Belgium and some very beautiful homes.

We went to visit Diane’s sister who also lives in Belgium and we were there for the weekend. The hosts were beyond amazing! They made this delicious snack from East Africa which is also made in some parts of East Asia known as Samosa. I had not had samosas for a while so I was beyond excited when they were served as starters. Yes we had a fancy 3 course home- made meal including wine. Being that they had never met me before I was so humbled that went all out to make me feel comfortable and happy. All this and they had two young babies, wow! I have to say I learned a lot from this visit about hosting guests. You are either all in or just don’t do it!

We got there on a Friday evening and didn’t do much other than enjoy the meal. On Saturday we went out to the beach bordering the North Sea. It was called Blankenberge if I remember correctly. It was busy outdoors with a lot of people on the streets. It almost had a carnival feeling with the vendors outside and the huge crowd outside. we had waffles and ice cream of course and spent all day strolling and having fun. This has to be one of the best days for me in Belgium. The company, weather and mood all came together to make for a splendid day.

On Sunday, they took me out for sight seeing. This was mostly the ‘high and mighty’ side of Belgium. Mainly Flemish with a lot of holiday homes. Street after street it looked like one of those places from a suburban movie street- like a modern day Wisteria lane. In the middle of all the fancy lay  an beautiful country home 3 story or so. It was a hotel I was told and some many years back the one and only Albert Einstein spent some nights working his genius in there. The trip was indeed epic! Fun and serious – my kind of a good time

Next Adventures : Last stop in Belgium >>>> Antwerp

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Belgium Adventures >>Brussels

I can remember planning for this trip like it was yesterday. This has to be my best summer in my life so far. Well, I’ve only had two  official summers, unofficially, its always summer where I come from.

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Belgium national day celebrations

A quick snapshot on this series. This was a self-planned, 2 and a half week  budget summer vacation. I had planned to tour different cities in Belgium, Luxembourg, Paris and Amsterdam. Well I didn’t make to complete my itinerary but you’ll just have to keep reading to find out on the places I managed to explore and the incredible adventures that ensued. Basically, I had all things figured and pre-booked – flights, trains, buses, walking tours and hostels and this helped a lot as I didn’t have to worry about this when I was on my ‘vacay’.

My first stop was Belgium, Brussels to be specific, this is where I booked my inbound and outbound flights from Copenhagen airport which was the most convenient route near my uni in Sweden. How I managed such a trip as a student one might wonder? Well, I made a friend in Uni whose mum  happened to live in Brussels, just 3 train stops from Brussels central 🙂 – how prime? and they offered to have me for some days in summer when I told her I wanted to travel.

Side note:This is an incredible way to travel when traveling on a slim and lean budget. It was a wonderful stay for me and the hosts were amazing. My friend Diane, actually joined in on the trip which made it super! Pleasure and great company, I couldn’t have asked for more.

I arrived in Brussels around 5pm and of the few lucky times someone gets to picking me up at the airport, this was one of them. Diane had traveled 2 weeks prior and offered to pick me up. We took a bus instead of the train straight back to her mums apartment, it was around a half an hours bus ride.  I remember thinking to myself how normal and real Brussels was. The city, the people, the streets. With Sweden, I had seen in my opinion,an ‘unimaginable’ level of order and working systems. But with Brussels it was more real, more imprinted with  a sense of human recklessness. I’m not saying that this was necessarily a better thing but it felt warm and imperfect, that made me feel a bit relaxed, perfect mindset when vacationing. I didn’t do much for the first day, just went in to enjoy a delicious home cooked meal. Since I was in and out of Brussels (you’ll understand why once I write about my next trips ) I got to see different parts of Brussels in different days.

As usual I took a walking day tour around the city to learn about the city, its history and culture. To be honest, I wish I had written this earlier maybe I would do a much better job of writing this piece but don’t worry my recollection is pretty decent. We visited some churches, the town hall, the grand place, the royal square which was quite busy plus many more places. For me the  places that stood out on the tour were the church of St. Nicholas,

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the comic art strip,

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and manneken pis. (sorry guys couldn’t find this photo on my collection)

On the comic art strip we managed to view a few of the murals  in the streets of Brussels. This is quite an interesting twist to promote city tourism. What was particularly catchy with the church of St. Nicholas were the Gothic -like, demon-like sculptures on the walls, probably famous in its century of construction. Then there is manneken pis, my most vivid recollection i have to say. This is a small pissing  man mannequin on the streets of Brussels. It had a huge flow of tourists I have to say and a hilarious story of how it had been stolen previously and also severally. Well there was a lot to see and after the tour we were hungry and tired. Of course we went for some Belgium waffles! and No they did not  disappoint. I wouldn’t leave Brussels without visiting the atomium. We went there on an afternoon and just sat down in the gardens for an hour and talked about our summer trip (I was at the atomium the last day before heading back to Sweden). Its quite huge and you can see it from different locations when in the city, I saw it everyday I was at the apartment in Brussels and when I was there it was in deed humongous. Well  those are the memories  of the places I wish to hold with me forever on Brussels city 🙂  and the beer, that was great too;)

Next stop after Brussels was Ostend, Belgium- lots of sunshine, sand and met a genius too!

Next Up: Belgium adventures >> Ostend

Amateur photos taken by Xperia Z2

 

 

Stockholm impressions

Well,I think this is long overdue. Today I try and re-live my trips to Stockholm. I studied in Sweden for 2 years and as such managed several trips to Stockholm both for business and pleasure.

I can vividly recall my first self-organized trip to Stockholm. I had been there before for a conference but was in an out-of-city location and just saw the city in passing. Now, I had an appointment at 9 am in the morning and as such traveled to the city the night before. I was studying in a university around 500 kms south of Stockholm. To be cautious I decide to travel the night before and sleep in a city hostel and just take a bus to the appointment venue.whatsapp-image-2017-01-20-at-10-16-34-am-2

I was pretty nervous since this was my first trip there but thanks to good planning and google maps it was quite an easy trip that I think I managed quite well. This was a  one night two day trip so I was really crunched on time plus it was a business trip so I didn’t book any tours or touristic activities. After checking into the hostel, I took a walk around the city and also visited a park near the hostel and confirmed the bus route I would be using for my appointment.

My first impression of Stockholm was – this was the ideal city. Coming from a kinda populous city I felt it had just the right amount of commotion and chaos. Just the right number of people and cars on the streets. I didn’t feel over burdened or as pressured as I had expected. I managed to maneuver my locations quite easily. The park was quite and relaxed not so many people, but I guess being a weekday in the city this could be expected.

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On my  third trip however which was a mixture of business and pleasure with friends, I got a chance to really enjoy the city. We went out to a pub for dinner and drinks and later went to visit the palace and did an Stockholm old town tour. The Stockholm old town should definitely be on your list of places to visit if you ever find ourself in Stockholm. It was a good day (in terms of weather) for Sweden  and we took long walks around the narrow streets, enjoyed a knights match across the town and typically fikad ‘had coffee’. Oh did I mention we visited the Nobel Museum and got to learn about the laureates, I was particularly interested in professor Wangari Maathai, being the first Africn woman to receive the award. To learn about the competitive process of how the laureates are chosen. On display they also had some artifacts from different winners. This  was quite a treat especially because I was just from attending an event at the Blue Hall in Stockholm city where the Nobel banquet is usually held.

On another different more of a leisure trip, I did the usual walking around the city and visited the Vasa Museum. This is definitely a must see. Its a preserved ship from the 17th century that sank on her first trip or if you like to be fancy,its maiden voyage. Quite a bitter sweet story really.

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I always believe in leaving something to do for next time whenever you visit a city. Stockholm is intertwined with numerous canals and a boat tour should definitely be on the to do list, even for me.

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PS: After visiting H&M I soon discovered why I though the streets had just the right amount of people:) The queues there were massive for a clothes store, especially to get into the changing room.Good luck shopping there!

Amateur photos on Sony Xperia Z2

A day in Berlin

This is one of those trips that I will never forget about – hopefully.It has its goods and bads almost in equal measure, today I remember its goods 🙂

Berlin Trip 01. May 2015 – 03. May. 2015

I woke up at 5.20 am in the morning in a panic. My friend and I were supposed to pick the trip bus to Berlin at 5.30 am this was  around a 20 minutes walk from where my friend lived and where I spent the night. I had traveled to the town – Lund , the previous day. My friend lets call him Sam had given me a wonderful tour of the place and then we went back to his place for food. It was 30th April and Walpugis night so there was big celebrations downtown which Sam and I decided to join and that’s the beginning on the story of how we missed the bus! Missing the bus costed us time, money and a smooth stress-free bus ride but we made it. We first checked for last minutes plane tickets before we settled for the more affordable option of taking the train through Denmark.

01. May

I spent most of the day on the train going from Copenhagen through Odens and Flensburg. The rail passed through some beautiful landscapes, thankfully. I had late lunch in Hamburg where I would connect my last train to Berlin.When I got to my hostel in Berlin I was super tired. Sam and I went out for a drink, tried to queue at a kebab truck outside the hostel which had an insane queue (but gave up). I was asleep by around 11pm.

02. May

I woke early had breakfast at the hostel and joined the group (the people we were supposed to travel with in the bus) for our Berlin city tour.This was an approximately 3 hour walking tour where we got to learn about the city and its history, as well as visit the famous spots. What stuck with me was the marked bricks of where the Berlin wall used to stand, the Jews memorium, Brandenburg gate and for some reason Alexanderplatz – which is just a busy city square. There were other interesting places that we visited like Hitlers bunker site and Checkpoint Charlie. I really got to learn a lot about the WWII and having previously visited Auschwitz  I started to get a glimpse of the magnitude of the war.

For me, Berlin is very rich in culture with a mixture of modern architecture with some remnants of the strong fortified structure, which I imagine  were essential during the war. It was good day overall and I spent the afternoon shopping  for some souvenirs, lunching and finding our way back  to the hostel since the group split after the tour.

The evening was quite a surprise we walked into a pub and found that it was African night at the place. It was kind of weird I have to say, but I prefer not to go into the details. I met a Kenyan guy living in Berlin and we talked most of the night about his life there and  how I was finding Sweden. It was a great homely night with some familiar tunes in the background and the place was a walking distance from the hostel. I left there around 3 am. When I think about it now, It was a great day overall, I got to experience the a day in Berlin! and with a friend.

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03.May

Woke up around 8 am to get ready to start the journey back. I honestly don’t remember a lot about the hostel or breakfast meaning it was quite basic – probably. We started the journey around 9.30 am. I would say the highlight of the journey back was crossing the ferry to Denmark from Germany with our train. Like the train was literally loaded onto the ferry , how cool is that?  It was at least for a Kenyan girl like me! Oh and everybody was carrying a crazy load of alcohol because when it came to booze Germany prices were very friendly.

The original cost of this 3 day 2 night trip to and fro Lund, Sweden was 180 Euros I think, but I ended up spending much more for missing the bus.

Organizational Culture: values over symbols, HBR tips

Today I want to share something I consider very important to any business that is keen on identifying as a brand. HBR management tip of the day has this amazing tips to consider. The piece is short and informative.

Below I have left a link it’s a handy app for people interested in learning from the business world. This is a must have app!

How to Think About Organizational Culture

Organizational culture shapes both employee productivity and business results, but often it is ambiguous and hard to define. To help, think of culture as three layers with increasing levels of importance: Culture is seen through symbols, rituals, stories, and organizational events — the first things we experience when we join an organization. Culture is reflected in how people in the organization think, behave, and feel — in other words, it appears in individual values, team norms, and unwritten rules. Culture is the company’s identity as perceived by its best customers, representing an outside-in view. For example, Apple wants to be known for its design and simplicity; Marriott, for exceptional service; Google, for innovation. By shifting the focus on culture from symbols to
(#1) values
(#2) to customer expectations and company identity
(#3), leaders can better create and define a culture that wins in the marketplace.

Adapted from “Your Company Culture Can’t Be Disconnected from Your Customers,” by Dave Ulrich and Wayne Brockbank

https://hbr.org/tip/2016/05/how-to-think-about-organizational-culture

iPhone app: http://web.hbr.org/mobile/tip/ios
Android app: http://web.hbr.org/mobile/tip/android

Want to become an Ethical leader?

Leaders should be a key source of ethics in their organizations, promoting ethical practices and guidance for the employees.There are four things leaders should consider to foster ethical leadership: integration of ethics into leadership styles, cross-cultural influences on leadership, decision making in ethical leadership and employees role in ethical leadership. This list is not exhaustive but this are basic steps leaders can take.

  1. Integration of ethics into leadership styles: This is the leader asking themselves what kind of leader I’m I,  Do I inspire others? Do I have a vision? I’m I striving to empower and improve? Carrying out a self- evaluation on your leadership is the first step to ethical leadership.
  2. Cross-cultural influences on leadership: The world is growing diverse and leading multi-culturally is not easy, different cultures hold different value systems and beliefs. However, there are shared premises of all human behavior that may act as tenets and  guide against unethical practices in leadership. This are attributes that describe ethical leadership across cultures and include:  character, integrity, people orientation and accountability.
  3. Decision making and ethical leadership: Making decisions based on rational choices is the underlying idea to fostering ethical decision making. However, being rational is mucked by numerous challenges that arise as a result of being human. The key here is to be aware of the weakness ‘man know thy self’. Being aware of ethnocentrism, inaccurate theories about the world and honesty  when making decisions helps in building ethical leadership.
  4. Employees role in ethical leadership: Two scholars asked a very crucial question “what if leaders don’t behave ethically- who is responsible then?” This is when it becomes important to empower employees and build them up to be creative thinkers and making them able to actively respond to unethical leaders without fear.

In Conclusion

It is important to note that unethical practices are not something rampant in most organizations. Most organizations to the contrary, have strong ethical cultures and policies to prevent unethical practices perhaps due to organizational beliefs or laws that protect against such conduct. However, bad news is easy to sell especially in today’s capitalistic society characterized by heavy competition. One wrong decision by a few leaders/employees can have a multi-national company with thousands employees dragged into unethical scandals, but this may not be the true representation of the situation. Of course there are some few exemptions of outright unethical companies whose vision, mission and goal is just profit at whatever cost, but this unethical journey does not last long thanks to laws, regulations and awareness in the business industry.

Leaders have a huge and tough role to play in establishing an ethical culture in an organization. Apart from developing formal documents and policies on ethical conduct, they must display ethical leadership in their leadership style, relations with others, daily behavior, conduct and decisions. They must send out strong messages on the importance of leadership and establish clear reward and punishment systems to hold employees accountable. Their focus must be on promoting ethical leadership instead of the avoidance of unethical leadership. Over and above these they must ensure that they have an empowered workforce that can actively respond towards unethical practices within the organization. Additionally, the organizational climate should be one that eludes ethical practices and behavior, it is not an easy task but such are issues that deal with ethics and morals.

In the words of Martin Luther King, the time is always right to do what is right.

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The above text is a summary and extract from the paper Ethical Leadership: Beyond What Meets the Eyes for complete article click here