Japanese eCommerce Platform Selection for American Companies

The two main eCommerce platforms in Japan, Rakuten and Amazon Japan, hold a combined 43% of total eCommerce market share in the country. Amazon Japan currently holds 24% of total eCommerce market share in Japan while Rakuten holds 19%. Since 2013, Amazon Japan has made efforts to increase brand presence and eventually eclipse Rakuten in market share in 2016. It is important to note that the remaining percentage of Japan’s eCommerce market share is largely segmented. Rakuten and Amazon offer customers unique shopping experiences. Amazon appeals to consumers looking for quick and easy shopping experience while Rakuten appeals to consumers looking to browse and explore new products. By pursuing selling strategies on both eCommerce platforms, American companies would be able to reach a wide array of Japanese consumers.

American companies should consider entering the Japanese market on Amazon before debuting product on Rakuten. The high fixed and variable costs associated with selling on Rakuten make the platform a less profitable entry point. When selling on Rakuten, merchants take responsibility for creating store content in the native language. International merchants are also responsible for providing customer service support in Japanese. Although Rakuten has partnerships with third-party service providers that specialize in these areas, they come as an additional cost to the merchant.

Cross Cultural Insights in “Outsourced”

“Outsourced” is a film about an employee named Todd and his experiences while working as an expatriate in India. Todd is an employee in a customer service call center for a company that produces America-themed novelty products. At the beginning of the movie, Todd’s boss informs him that their call center is getting outsourced to India. Todd is faced with a tough dilemma. His boss has required that he move to India to train his call center replacements or lose his pension plan. Todd chooses to go to India to train the call center but received essentially no preparation or cross-cultural training. This is evidenced by Todd’s total lack of knowledge about Indian culture and business practices. After facing a drastic learning curve, Todd is eventually able to effectively motivate and communicate with the employees at the Indian call center. He connects with the employees at the call center and even enters a romantic relationship with Asha, one of the employees. The following report aims to analyze some of the situations and interactions from Todd’s experience and relate them to themes of cross-cultural management.

When Todd first arrived in the call center, he had a very ethnocentric attitude and truly had no idea how to communicate with his Indian counterparts. With little to no knowledge about Indian culture, Todd behaved in a way that was arrogant and naïve. He treated his employees like children and could not comprehend how the call center employees did not understand what he was asking of them. For example, Todd tried to teach the call center employees to speak “proper English,” despite the fact that many of the employees were fluent in the language and even spoke it as their first language. Todd even tried to teach the employees Chicagoan accents and instructed the employees to tell customers that they were in Chicago when asked. The Indian employees did not respond well to this request. They even told Todd that they thought it was dishonest to lie to customers. Todd also committed several other culturally insensitive errors. He tries to explain one of the company’s products, a branding iron for beef products, to the call center employees. The call center employees were horrified as Todd explained the process of sticking a hot iron onto the flesh of a cow, as cows are sacred in the Hindi religion. This incident is evidence of Todd’s low cultural intelligence. If he was familiar with his own biases, characteristics of Indian culture, or even how to relate to people from a culture that differs from his, then this situation could have been avoided. Additionally, Todd has a fundamental lack of understanding of basic principles of Indian culture. Culture and the ways that people behave are often influenced by religion. In this case, Todd’s coworkers are influenced by a shared value of the Hindu faith. It is crucial when visiting or working in a foreign country that one understands the influences of culture and how they shape the society’s behaviors and attitudes towards certain practices.

Throughout the film, Todd slowly comes to the realization that he will not be able to teach or motivate the Indian employees in the same way that he could motivate the American employees that he traditionally worked with. After not being able to meet the expected goals of the call center, Todd realizes that something needs to change. At this point, he had begun to recognize some of the cultural differences and identified that he would need to adapt his leadership style to match the people that he was leading. Todd went directly to the people that he was leading and essentially asked “What can I do to motivate you all? What would make this a better working experience for you all?” Todd got some interesting and unexpected answers. The employees wanted to be able to wear traditional Indian business wear to work, rather than the Western business attire that had been previously required. They also wanted to be able to decorate their cubicles with photos of their families. Lastly, they mentioned wanting to be able to order some of the products sold by the company. Todd mentioned that he would set up a program where the employees that had the best call statistics for the week would have their pick of one of the products offered by the company. This practice, specifically, motivated the employees and was a game-changer for the call center’s overall statistics. Todd was somewhat surprised that Indian employees would be motivated to improve by the incentive of receiving a choice of the company’s novelty goods. According to modern motivational theory, however, the things that motivate people are quite different across cultures. What motivates an individual to perform well in the United States may be different than what motivates an individual in India. Additionally, research indicates that multi-national corporations should focus on giving physical rewards, such as novelty items, to lower-level personnel, whereas middle and upper-level employees are more motivated in a climate that fosters challenge and autonomy. Employee motivation is not something that translates perfectly between countries, even employees of the same experience level. In order to effectively motivate an employee, one must consider the cultural implications of the situation.

As mentioned previously, Todd had little knowledge of Indian culture prior to arriving to the country. When he first arrived, he was bombarded by taxi drivers who wanted his business. They totally defied the American norms of personal space and got very close to Todd. They also spoke in elevated voices, which would probably have been perceived as very aggressive in American culture. The verbal communication variables including volume, rate, and intonation of speech have different norms in both Indian and American society. These variables contribute to Todd’s inability to effectively communicate with the taxi drivers. Additionally, the taxi drivers got very close to Todd and essentially encircled him. This is an example of the taxi drivers using proxemics to communicate a message of “I want your business” to Todd. In order to fully understand a message, it is crucial to understand the body language that the person is conveying. This can be especially difficult in cross-cultural situations. It is crucial to understand the non-verbal communication tendencies in a culture, as non-verbal communication carries about 65% of the total message in a two-way conversation.

Upon Todd’s arrival in India, he is essentially forced to stay in a family’s house rather than the hotel that was previously setup. Although this was supposed to be a kind gesture, Todd really just wanted to spend time alone in his hotel room. Todd was quite confused by some of the interactions with the family that he was living with. The mother-figure in the home asked Todd some very personal questions immediately upon his arrival including the following: “Are you married?, “Do you have a girlfriend?,” “Why aren’t you married?,” “Are you looking for an Indian wife?” Todd had no idea how to respond to these questions as he did not really know the woman on a personal level. These questions make Todd quite uncomfortable as it is typically against societal norms in the United States to ask this level of personal questions upon just meeting someone. This uncomfortable situation stems from the fact that culture influences the topics that are appropriate for discussion between members of a society. In every culture, there are certain topics that are not appropriate to discuss. These topics include, but are not limited to, family relations, illnesses, politics, religion, and more. While these may have been normal questions to ask one-another in India, these personal questions being asked by a stranger caught Todd off guard.

India is a country with major cultural differences when compared to the United States. Indian employees are motivated by different factors and expect different leadership styles than American employees. Additionally, there are some engrained social aspects that seem strange and almost unacceptable to people unfamiliar with the culture. When going to India for work or leisure, it is crucial to come with a general understanding of Indian culture. Without a basic understanding of what to expect and cultural dimensions, it is easy to commit a cultural faux paw or even insult someone, much like what Todd did. When visiting cultures that differ greatly from one’s native culture, it is also crucial to avoid adopting an ethnocentric mindset and to be aware that there is no “right” or “wrong” culture; every aspect of culture is both subjective and valid. In addition to understanding the basic behavioral characteristics of Indian culture, it is also important that travelers understand some of the social norms and expectations of Indian culture. For example, Todd did not understand how to properly tip (or not tip) service providers in India. Todd tipped a snow cone machine operator and it was clear but the employee’s behavior that the tip was abnormally large. It is always important that one learn some of the cultural norms and expectations prior to visiting or working in any country. However, when visiting or working in a country that is culturally very different from one’s home country, attaining this knowledge is exponentially more important.

Social Responsibility, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability at Anahuac University

This past week, I went to a lecture by Miguel Angel Santinelli and Klaudia Sanchez from the Anahuac University in Mexico City. Anahuac University has collaborated with the University of Oklahoma to establish the North American EcoInnovation Network. The EcoInnovation Network encourages young innovators and entrepreneurs, with emphasis on sustainability. The representatives from Anahuac University talked about their school, their upcoming innovation lab, and many of the social responsibility projects that they have worked on. The presenters discussed the distinction between the concept of “sustainability” in Mexico and the United States and discussed the importance of global collaboration on these issues. Lastly, the presenters asked the audience for feedback about how they can structure their new innovation hub in a way that best fits the needs of the students.

Germany Offers a Model to Corporate America on Labor Relations

The following blog post discusses this article published by the Wall Street Journal.

The article discusses Germany’s consideration of employees in labor reduction decisions. In Germany, employees expect to be involved in important decision making, a certain level of job stability, and high labor protections. This is particularly evident in the way that German companies approach mass lay-offs and staffing reductions. There are ways that companies reduce their number of employees either voluntarily or without completely eliminating their positions including short-time work, early retirement, or buyouts.

Chapter 6 discusses the extent of a host country’s environment on human resources practices. There are two concepts discussed in the chapter that I found particularly relevant. The chapter talks about the differences between “Fordism” and “Toyotaism” in the production of their respective automobiles. By minimizing employee decision making, Ford reflected the United States’ focus on short-term employment. Toyota, on the other hand, drove its production based on human knowledge and therefore fit the Japanese expectation of long-term, lifelong employment. This parallels the situation in Germany where companies are taking a long-term, lifelong employment approach to their employees. German employers would rather retain the employees at a part-time level rather than eliminate their position, signifying an employment contract that expands past what the employee was initially hired for. This contracts the mass-layoff approach that is unfortunately common among American corporations.

Chapter 6 also discusses the differences of industrial relations systems in various countries. The article mentions how sometimes the government will subsidize the salaries of workers when companies are needing to downsize. Variations in government participation with the corporate sector, legal arrangements, and the role of unions also play an important role in creating these differences between employment practices in the United States and in Germany.

I was intrigued by how the article tied fluctuations in economic demand to the different ways of dismissing employees. I thought it was interesting how dismissing employees in a mass-layoff during a recession was initially cost effective, but then made the company less flexible in production capacity when demand started to increase (especially in a short-term recession). On the other hand, providing short-term staffing or subsidized staffing options when reducing a company’s workforce is beneficial in short economic downturns, but costly in long economic slumps as the company retains excess employees during the course of the recession. I think that this explanation really helped me realize how understanding international human resources concepts not only promotes positive employee relations, but it also improves the bottom line.

India’s Performance Management Problem

The following blog post discusses this article published by Gallup.

This article discusses the challenges India faces in companies’ performance management systems. The article emphasizes that above all, “Indian employees need to establish an emotional connection with their superiors or peers at work” to further establish employees’ faith in the evaluation process. Although this is somewhat true in all environments, it is particularly relevant in India where, according to a study by Hofstede, personal trust among members of a workgroup is particularly important. Although Indian employees respect the processes required to run a business, they also tend to doubt whether standardized performance management systems can actually identify and reward good performance.

The article talks about how many Indian employees feel that the performance management systems cannot adequately recognize superior performance. The book discusses several performance management system recommendations that could mitigate these employee concerns. Some of the recommendations include “decide, design, and publicize the evaluation process,” and “ensure clear and obvious links between performance an outcomes.” By effectively designing a system and ensuring that employees are aware of the decisions behind the design, it would help employees understand the purpose of performance evaluations. Furthermore, by clarifying the links between performance and outcomes, employees would understand that existing performance evaluation systems properly recognize and reward superior work. According to article, reassuring employees of the existence of this link would increase employee engagement. Chapter 12 also talks about the importance of establishing clear goals and evaluating employees based on the accomplishment of these goals. The article indicates a strong association between employees who understand the main objectives of their job and employees who are engaged in their work. When employees feel validated in their work and that the evaluation system is fair, they are more likely to be emotionally engaged in their work. For Indian employees, this emotional engagement is crucial for a successful working relationship.

I was really intrigued by the fact that the emotional connection with coworkers is such an important aspect of employment in India. I thought this somewhat paralleled the book’s discussion about how Indian managers’ evaluation were often skewed because of the paternalistic nature of Indian culture and managers’ unwillingness to give low ratings to subordinates. I also really personally agree with the article’s point that employees who are aware of their job’s defined primary objectives are more engaged in their work. I tend to perform better when I am given a clear outline of what is expected of me.

Cross Cultural Insights from an Intern in Sevilla, Spain

Caroline Postelle is an American college student who spent eight months (January 2017 – August 2017) as an intern in Sevilla, Spain. Caroline is a student at the University of Memphis and was placed in an internship program in Sevilla for the Spring semester. After greatly enjoying the city of Sevilla and the work that she was doing in her internship, she opted to spend the rest of the summer in her internship position. Caroline interned at Senderismo Sevilla Viajes, which is a travel agency located in Sevilla, Spain. The agency provides “adventure tours” for Spaniards and international visitors throughout the south of Spain. Senderismo tasked Caroline with providing English translations to their website to increase the number of international customers that participate in their tours. They also asked for her help in establishing a social media presence. Lastly, Senderismo also wanted Caroline to contribute a strategic plan for how to get more study abroad or Erasmus students to participate in their weekend-long excursions. Caroline was excited about these projects. She was majoring in Advertising at the time and had experience running social media accounts for a small restaurant group in Nashville, Tennessee. Although Caroline did not have any previous experience travel abroad, she was excited to learn about a new culture and to have the opportunity to practice her Spanish skills. While Caroline admits that she was initially nervous about her internship abroad, it ended up being the most valuable experience in her college career.

Caroline chose to participate in an internship abroad because she was eager to learn about the cultural differences in the workplace. She had learned about Hofstede’s dimensions in her International Advertising class and was curious how they shaped working culture abroad. Caroline’s parents lived abroad prior to starting a family but returned back to the states as soon as her mother became pregnant with her brother. Caroline always enjoyed hearing stories about her parents’ time abroad and one day hoped to have a similar experience. Prior to departure, Caroline participated in a series of pre-departure orientations geared to facilitating her transition into Spanish culture. She even had several sessions geared towards preparing her for the Spanish working culture and the differences that she may encounter. Although she did learn about some basic differences between American and Spanish working culture, she knew that nothing could truly prepare her. She knew that there would still be a learning curve in adjusting to the new culture and the new people around her. When asked if she had any expectations for Spain or Spanish culture, she said that she did not. She truly did not have any idea what to expect but knew that she was in store for an adventure.

Caroline admits that she had culture shock when she first arrived in Sevilla. Although she had been studying Spanish for seven years, she had never been fully immersed in a language other than English. She struggled to navigate the airport and find a taxi to take her to her Airbnb for the night. Upon arrival, Caroline was exhausted and “wanted to sleep for days.” However, she knew that she had to report to her internship orientation bright and early the following day. The next morning, when Caroline finally met her new supervisor, she was immediately anxious. Although Caroline was expecting to work in a Spanish-speaking workplace, she did not realize that her supervisor would speak absolutely no English. While Caroline was “somewhat confident” in her Spanish abilities, this made her nervous that she wouldn’t be able to complete the tasks asked of her with precision. Caroline’s concerns were put to rest when her supervisor laid out her plan for the semester. She had three main tasks: translate Senderismo’s website to English, establish their social media presence, and strategize on how to get more study-abroad students participating in their weekend excursions. Caroline was confident that she could do these tasks, even with the language barrier.

Caroline spent fifteen hours in the office each week and began to notice some difference between her Spanish coworkers and the colleagues that she had previously had in America. First of all, Caroline noticed that her supervisor was very direct when speaking to her. Although she had had seven years of Spanish classes and felt quite confident in her communication skills, her supervisor told her that she “should really learn how to speak Spanish.” Caroline found this kind of ironic, as her supervisor spoke no other language than Spanish. Caroline also noticed that her supervisor had no hesitation in telling her when he did not like portions of the work that she prepared.

One of the business practices that surprised Caroline was the frequent “taking of breaks” among everyone in the office. In addition to the “Spanish siesta,” which was a four-hour-long event in the Senderismo office, all of her colleagues took a one-hour-long break in both the morning and the afternoon. To compensate for this absence, all of the employees worked until 8:00 PM. Caroline was shocked at the number of breaks all of the employees, including the CEO of the company, took throughout the day. At all of her work experiences in America, breaks were frowned upon and productivity was the main priority for the business leaders. Caroline also found it noticed how many of the employees would use their breaks to go get a coffee and chat with their supervisors. Caroline thought it was interesting that supervisors and their subordinates interacted on such an informal basis. Caroline especially found it confusing that although they had a luxury espresso machine in their office, they would leave the office to get a coffee at a café or small restaurant instead. She came to understand that these breaks were not about just a quick caffeine-fix, but rather about taking a moment to enjoy life and connect with the people working around one-another.

After just a month of living and working in Sevilla, she learned that Spanish culture was much more focused around a “work-to-live” mentality, rather than the “live-to-work” mentality that many Americans have adopted. This was something that many of her coworkers acknowledged, as well. Many of them who had visited the United States noticed that many of the people that they had met centered their lives around work. This ideology is reflected not only in the daily working schedules of Spaniards, but also in their holiday schedules. In Sevilla, there are two large week-long celebrations (Féria and la Semana Santa) where many businesses get the entire week off of work. Most American companies do not even grant their employees a full week off for Christmas, thus, two full weeks off would be unheard of in the United States. While at times Caroline really enjoyed the lower-stress associated with the “work-to-live” mentality, she also recognized that there was a lot of wasted time and reduced productivity as a result of this mindset.

After acknowledging the cultural differences, Caroline worked to adapt and adjust to the new environment. There were several things that helped Caroline adjust to the new culture. She began trying to network and connect with other expatriates (both from America and other European countries) to learn about their experiences making the transition from working in their home country to working in Spain. She met with expatriates of various ages from Scotland, France, Germany, and Sweden, and noticed that many of them had the same first impressions of Spanish working culture that she did. She liked knowing that she was not alone in these thoughts and that she was “not crazy to think that some of the Spanish working practices were a little strange.” Additionally, Caroline also began to feel more comfortable in Spain the more that she practiced and improved her Spanish. Soon enough, her supervisor was no longer able to make comments about her language abilities.

In summary, Caroline Postelle had the fantastic opportunity to be an intern at Senderismo Sevilla Viajes, a small travel agency. Although initially anxious about her experience, she had a great time and event elected to stay three months longer than initially anticipated. Caroline identified many cultural differences between Spain and America by interacting with her colleagues on a day-to-day basis. By networking with fellow expatriates who were working or studying in Spain, Caroline learned that she was not the only one who identified these differences. Through her experiences and interactions, Caroline gained a solid understanding of culture and how it impacts the daily lives of people across the world.

Student Group: International Business Association

This semester I have been associated with the International Business Association. We meet every month to discuss international issues and how they impact our education. At the most recent meeting, we heard from an International Business professor about her upcoming study abroad trip to Taiwan. I realized after the meeting that this is a trip that I am very interested in and have proceeded to investigate the opportunity throughout the past few weeks.

Prague, Vienna, Budapest

Mia and I in the baths in Budapest.

After spending one day at Feria, Zoë, Mia, and I headed out for our final trip of the semester. We started in Prague, then made a quick stop in Vienna before finishing up in Budapest.

The John Lennon Wall in Prague.

The trip started off a little rocky when I hit the ATM in the airport to withdraw some Czech Crowns (the local currency). I accidentally withdrew 11,000 Crowns (approx. $500 USD) instead of 1,000 Crowns (approx. $50 USD) as I had intended. Oh well, I was able to exchange what I had left to dollars which will be useful as I am returning home in less than a week (!!!). After the ATM trouble, we went to a traditional Czech restaurant for dinner and ate some trdelníks which are the traditional Czech chimney cakes. The next day, a friend of Mia’s came into town to show us around. We hit all of the must-see sights in Prague and finished at a beer garden to taste some more famous Czech beer.

Me in front of part of the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.

The next day, we headed to Vienna for less than twenty-four hours. We saw the cathedral and the Belvedere Museum, which houses Gustav Klimt’s  indisputable masterpiece, The Kiss. That afternoon, I tried some traditional potato dumplings for lunch before we hit the contemporary art museum, which was a little too “contemporary” for my tastes. The next day, we explored the Schönbrunn Palace before heading to Budapest as our last stop. We also stopped for some famous Viennese pastries which definitely did not disappoint!

In Budapest, we visited the Szcheni Baths and did a boat cruse along the river. We grabbed dinner in a food truck court and then explored some “ruin bars” which are eclectic bars placed in recycled / run-down spaces. They had a very cool vibe!

Overall, we visited three beautiful cities and had a great time in the journey along the way. I can’t believe that I am currently studying for final exams and that I will be home in just three short days. This semester has flown by – I have no idea where it went!

Feria de Abril

Gabby, Mia, and I in front of the main entrance to the Feria.

Feria is a spring fair that occurs every year in April (except this year when it was in May- HA!). Most of the students in Sevilla get the entire week off of school for the celebration which occurs on the opposite side of the river.

It is a festival filled with horses, lights, drinking, flamenco dresses, and traditional Sevillana flair. The majority of the women wear flamenco dresses while the men wear suits. There are thousands of casetas (drinking tents), set up around the fair grounds. The majority of the casetas are private, meaning that you have to know the family who is paying for / running the caseta to get in. However, once you get into the caseta, there is endless rebujito (sherry and sprite), which is the traditional drink of Feria.

As I only got to see the Feria for one day before heading out on another week-long trip, I did not invest in a flamenco dress. I guess it gives me an excuse to come back for the full week in the future!


Desert >>> Dessert

I spent the past five days traveling throughout Morocco with a group of study abroad students from all over the world. I was initially skeptical about traveling with tour agency, but the trip proved to be nothing short of amazing.

As the trip was called the “Sahara Desert Adventure,” we had to eventually make it to the Sahara. This required some long days of travel. On the first day, we left Sevilla around 5AM and took a ferry to Morocco. After we arrived in Africa, we drove pretty much all day until we arrived in Fes. The trip was incredibly long and we were all exhausted. I was just hoping that the time spent on the bus would eventually be worth it! Things started to pick up a bit on the second day with a tour of Fes. We walked through the Medina (the city center) of Fes, as well as the Zoco (the marketplace). The city was like something I’ve never seen before. There were donkeys carting carrying trash throughout the city, goat heads waiting to be purchased in the market, and a million stray cats. There were a million street vendors all selling mainly the same food, fabric, and leather goods.

The leather tannery. If only you could experience the smell!

We got to visit a leather tannery in the city center which was interesting. When we neared the area, there was an awful smell. When we entered the building, however, a man gave us each a piece of fresh mint to hold to our noses to distract from the smell. As you can see in the picture, there are various different types of animal skins being dyed various colors. In the tubs of dye is a mix of water, limestone, and pigeon droppings (!!!) to help soften the skin and remove the hair. I guess that seeing this process is supposed to make you want to purchase the leather goods that they are selling, but I can’t say that it had that effect on me.

Zoë and I at the carpet / tapestry co-op.

After the tour of Fes, we had another few hours (more like seven) of travel before we arrived in Rissani. We arrived around midnight and ate dinner before heading straight to bed. Day three was when things really got interesting. First thing in the morning, we toured the city of Rissani and saw the market, a Mausoleum, a handmade pottery factory, and a fabric factory / store that produced handmade Moroccan rugs, tapestries, etc. I bought a lovely little black tapestry that I am excited to put on my wall. In Morocco, bargaining with the shop keepers is the thing to do. He originally quoted me at 55 EU and I got him down to 20 EU. SIDE NOTE: Truthfully, this was all I had in my wallet after my debit card nearly got eaten by an ATM. Thankfully I was able to get the card back after nearly causing a scene inside the bank, but I was still unable to withdraw any money. That was an adventure.

After the tour of Rissani, we had a 4×4 tour of the desert. We whipped through the dunes in an old Mitsubishi and made several stops along the way. The first was at the home of a Berber nomad. She served us Moroccan mint tea (this quickly became one of my favorite drinks) and told us about her life in the desert. We also stopped at an archeological site which, at one point, was the bottom of the ocean. That is just insane to think about. You could see all the little fossilized critters in the sheets of rock – insane.

After the 4×4 tour, we mounted our camels and headed straight into the Sahara. We were told that we would ride two hours before arriving at our campsite (Berber tents). After about fifteen minutes, we were all in pain. Turns out that riding a camel isn’t the most comfortable experience out there! To make things even more interesting, a giant sand / wind / thunderstorm rolled in. The dark clouds were looming above, rain was coming down, sand was crashing against my face, and I was on a camel… in the Sahara Desert!! It was a memorable experience, to say the least! Eventually, we arrived at our campsite where we had dinner, a bonfire, and were joined by nomad musicians. The storm clouds cleared up and we were able to have great views of the stars.

The next morning, we woke up (in the Sahara desert!!), and rode our camels back to where we began. Luckily, there were no storms this time. Once we made it back, we had the chance to shower before beginning the long drive back to Fes. We stopped at the Ziz Valley, which is an oasis. That was cool to see.

On the final day, we stopped in Asilah for some free time. We grabbed a traditional Moroccan lunch, did some shopping, and got to see the ocean. I won’t bore you with the rest of the details of our final day because, as you might imagine, it was a long day of traveling. By my calculations, we had spent thirty-five hours on our bus by the end of the trip. Somehow, every minute of it was worth it. This was one of the most incredible experiences and I am thankful to have it in my heart forever.