It’s Business Time

This blog entry about the events of Sunday, December 16, 2007 was originally posted on December 27, 2007.

DAYS 26-27:  Like I said previously, my trip to Costa Rica would be a different one from the regular tourist.  While I had done the touristy thing of going to Monteverde for my fix of ziplining, the rest of my stay would be — surprise! — a business trip.  Like San Salvador in El Salvador, San Jose, Costa Rica has become one of the new havens for outsourced tech business for American companies, including the interactive ad agency I work for in New York — a company that shall remain nameless.  For legal reasons, I have been requested by my boss not to write about my business time in San Jose, but I assured her that if I did I wouldn’t use any company names.  (Who knew that the secrets of multi-million dollar business deals hang in the balance of this stupid little travel blog?) 

IN A NUTSHELL, I volunteered to work and present a two-day practice training session for our outsourced production house in Costa Rica — let’s call it “Company A” — situated in a converted old shoe factory in an industrial park of the eastern suburbs, which doesn’t sound as bad as it does.  It was in a nice, secured industrial park that also housed FedEx, frozen food distributors, mobile device companies, and a lovely shared medical clinic that gave me some good drugs to combat the pain of my torn abdominal muscle fibers from rafting in Honduras. 

“Welcome to [COMPANY A] Costa Rica, Erick Trinidad” (sic) read a sign in the reception area of the Company A office.  Down the hall, another printed sign said, “Remember to speak English.”  Once into the main office room, I saw that some elements of the shoe factory remained — ventilation fans to keep fumes away, for example — but mostly it reminded me of CTU in the show 24: a hard industrial, but somewhat tasteful decor with computers on desks on a main and mezzanine level (picture above).

My time with Company A was an interesting look into Costa Rican office life, and I came to discover that it is very similar to my American one in New York.  Company A employed over a hundred like-minded people — mostly in their 20s and 30s — dressed down in jeans and ironic t-shirts, all working in front of computers at their desks.  And by “working” I mean, getting their work done and spending the rest of the time chatting in the breakroom by the coffee maker or on instant messengers, surfing the web, watching on-line videos, and occasionally pranking each other with office pranks.  (All companies are like this from my experience.)  I have to admit that being back at work, sitting in front of a computer all day, was very comfortable and familiar (even with its red tape, office politics and gossip) and I embraced it.  I regret that I really couldn’t put faces to names when hearing stories of what really went on at their recent holiday party.

I did my presentation in a conference room that was booked for me on the first day.  With a laptop hooked into a projector, I trained a small team of seven people in a new version of a software component we both use, and the presentation went better than I thought it would.  (I had actually been stressing since Michigan with what exactly I was going to say.)  In the end, it was fine and much appreciated, especially with my news: “Don’t worry, at least there’s pizza coming.”  And just like back in New York, there was more than enough pizza to go around (Domino’s) and the usual office scavengers who weren’t a part of my presentation arrived anyway for a free lunch — just like back in New York.  Not that anyone minded the freeloaders — I’m guilty of it myself after someone else’s meeting let’s out — and my American liasion Eddie made it known, “[Thank Erik for the pizza.  We got it because he’s here.]”

THE BEST PART ABOUT a business trip is that when you’re on the client side (which I was in this case), you are entertained with dinner and drinks — and more — all on the host company’s dime.  My American Company A liasion Eddie and my Costa Rican Company A liasion Ana took me out on the town that first night, a night complete with numerous happy hour drinks, an incredible Japanese dinner, bar clubs and nightclubs.  Eddie was glad I was up for a late weeknight (Monday, til 3 a.m. Tuesday) since he knew that having to entertain me was entertaining for him as well.  I shocked him the next morning with my “superpower” I have in New York:  the ability to have a late drunken night out and manage to be back at work the next morning completely sober, and early too — 7:30 a.m.!  (Sometimes my superpower in New York is to even ride my bike to work the next morning, completely sober.  I’ll admit an Egg McMuffin usually helps.) 

Lunchtime the following day was also nice, when we carpooled to a Spanish restaurant for a filling paradilla platter.  I sort of felt bad to be out gallivanting with upper management that two-hour lunchtime while the worker bees back at the office were busy with my practice projects — but I knew they’d find a way to entertain themselves anyway, even without a Nintendo Wii like the one we have back in New York.  After the proverbial office whistle rang that second day at five, I said farewell to my Costa Rican co-workers and head back home with Paulo, who worked in a different department at Company A.  For my last night out in Costa Rica, Paulo, my gracious host, took me where he takes everyone in town, a fancy and tastefully decorated (and formerly gay) dinner spot whose name escapes me, in a trendy area near the city center, where we chat about life and movies over fish dinners. 

In the end, my business trip to Company A was actually a highlight of my Central American Eviction Tour.  I don’t know why many people complain about their jobs — it can actually be fun if you know where to work, may it be in the States or Costa Rica.  And if you’re job isn’t like that and you’re now searching Google to figure out what the names of these companies are, please don’t mention them here or else we’ll have to sue you.

Next entry: Rendezvous In Bogota

Previous entry: EXTREMO!!!

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Comments for “It's Business Time”

  • Great to see you back blogging, Erik.  Hope you’re doing ok.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/27  at  08:09 AM

  • i wouldn’t mind liaising with ana…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/27  at  04:07 PM

  • although i never mind spending on the company buck, it’s usually with guys…NOT of the likes of Ana…i need to get out of computer security and roll in some Web 2.0 stuff!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  01:41 AM

  • That is a “superpower” I wish I had.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/02  at  07:27 PM

  • Erik, glad you had a good time, and thanks for leaving out the story of the tradition.

    Perhaps we can do it again soon.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/03  at  07:35 PM

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This blog post is one of thirty-nine travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: The Central American Eviction Tour* (*with jaunt to Colombia)," which chronicled a six-week journey through Central America, with a jaunt to Bogota, Colombia.

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