Rio de Janeiro

As we crossed from the Norther to the Southern Hemisphere, we also changed from summer to winter. Even so, it certainly doesn’t feel like winter here in Rio de Janeiro.

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It’s close to 90º, and despite my SPF 50, my entire face is sunburned. Good thing the iglide bearings in the car can handle this heat better than I can – they’re still working perfectly, which isn’t surprising as they’re used so often in harsher environments than these. One of our bearings, iglide T500, can even work in long-term temperatures nearing 500º! Despite the heat, Rio de Janeiro is completely beautiful.

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One of our first customer visits in Brazil was outside Rio, at a factory that manufactures equipment for Brazil and Latin-America’s biggest TV network. At their factory, they were creating a custom chairs for a TV singing competition that will sound familiar to some of our readers. The chairs use igus’ PRT slewing ring bearings to rotate around smoothly, used by the TV show’s ‘singing coaches.’ The coaches will hear the contestants sing – without being able to see them. If interested in working with that contestant, the coaches will rotate their chair around to face them (sounding like any show we have here in the US??) The PRT slewing rings from igus are used because they are almost completely silent, so they will not compromise the sound quality of the TV program, and they are also maintenance-free, so the coaches can turn to face as many potential rock-stars as they want without worry.

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We also had some time to explore a bit of the city, much of which is located between mountains, including the Pao de Acucar, or Sugarloaf Mountain, which rises 1,300 feet above the harbor below.

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If you aren’t feeling quite ready to climb the mountain, you can take a cable-car ride to the summit, where there is a breathtaking view of the City.

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From the top of Pao de Acucar, you can also get a glimpse of the ultimate symbol of Rio de Janeiro, the statue of Christ the Redeemer, located on the peak of Corcovado Mountain.  The 130 foot statue was built to celebrate 100 years of Brazil’s independence from Portugal, celebrated in 1922.  We visited the statue around sunset. The giant amazing statue, coupled with the sky’s changing colors was a sight I don’t think I will ever forget.

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As a tourist in Rio, there are 2 very obvious passions of the Brazilians. Obviously, with the World Cup happening, the first one is football. I found an amazing place to join in the football obsession, at the FIFA Fan Fest at the Copacabana!

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The Copacabana is one of the world’s most famous beaches, and when Brazil’s football team is playing, the Fan Fest extends across the entire thing.

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At the Fan Fest, you can also experience Brazil’s second most notable passion – Samba. Before and after the matches, and throughout the night in the city, you can hear Samba music everywhere. They even have Samba schools throughout the city!

We also came across a Brazilian favela. These neighborhoods are notorious for crime and corruption – until recently many were governed by gangs and criminals instead of Brazilian government. Over the past few years, gangs are starting to be expelled from the area, and local police stations are being built.

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Despite its problems, Rio is a city with many facets, and surely one of the most beautiful cities worldwide.

Soon, we will leave Rio and head South until we reach the Argentinian border.

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Until then,

Sascha

Farewell, Japan!

Over the past three weeks, we have explored many areas of Japan. Wrapping up our travels through the country, we drove more than 800 miles south to reach Mt. Aso, the country’s third largest active volcano. From there, we looped around and headed 1,000 miles North. If you add up this daily driving, we have reached a total of about 3,250 miles through Japan.  Our car and it’s bearings endured these miles just as easily as the 10,000 miles before. While driving North, we passed through the Miyagi prefecture. Located North of Tokyo, Miyagi was in the international headlines when a giant tsunami hit and destroyed large parts of its coastline in 2011. Near the shore, about 80% of some town’s buildings were destroyed. The blue sign on the building below marks the height of the wave as it crashed onto the area.

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An astounding amount of reconstruction has happened in the area in the last three years. All the rubble was removed, and many new houses and buildings have popped up, including many with added safety features, like the one below. The wave signs on the this building signals that it was built to withstand a possible tsunami; in case of emergency, area residents can climb up to the roof.

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Life has continued on for the people of Miyagi. There are still some physical reminders of the terrible tsunami, like massive areas of former urban landscape, left truly abandoned, and many of the city’s houses still stand, but are not fit to live in.

Some citizens never returned after the wave, same for many businesses. Many facilities that were destroyed are either out of business, or have relocated to different areas of Japan. Some residents not only lost their home, but their jobs as well. Some are still living in temporary housing, which are often too small to provide adequate privacy.

The Hatachi fund is just one of the several foundations that is helping residents, children in particular, with the aftermath of the tragedy. Hatachi means “20 years old” in Japanese, named such because the foundation follows children until their 20th birthday, when they are legally officially an adult. The foundation serves as an umbrella for various other charity organizations, each specialized in a certain aspect of aid, one of which being the “Chance for Children” foundation, which focuses on education.

igus Japan is supporting CFC, donating one Euro for each km driven, and the money will be used to help with educational things like study rooms. In these rooms, children are able to learn, play, and get help with their schoolwork. Also, CFC gives “education vouchers,” which children can use as a form of payment at a wide range of institutions, such as tutoring centers, sporting clubs, museums, and music schools accept the voucher from children, then exchange the vouchers with CFC for their actual payment.

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Now, our time in Japan has come to an end. I want to take the time to say “arigato” to my Japanese colleagues, who showed me great hospitality and support during my time here. What a great tour!

We are now on the way back to Tokyo; from there the car will depart to the other side of the globe. The next time I write will be from Brazil!

See you soon,

Sascha

Japan Press Conference and igus Social Responsibility

This morning we officially kicked off the Japanese leg of “iglide on tour!” igus Japan hosted a press conference at the luxurious Palace Hotel Tokyo, and 32 journalists came to get an up close look at our car and hear about our plans for the tour.

Kunihiko Kitagawa,  or Kenny, which is easier for us non-Japanese speakers, is the Country Manager for igus Japan. Kenny gave the journalists an overview of igus history, our line of iglide materials and products, and the plans for the Japanese leg of the tour.

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A highlight of the conference was the speech from a representative of the German Embassy to Japan, Mr. Sickert. He and the embassy helped us with the complicated registration process of the car.

Sickert referred to igus as a highly innovative company that represents the German “Mittlestand” business model. The Mittlestand is comprised of mid-sized companies that are considered to be the economic backbone of the German economy. Mr. Sickert went on, saying that “With its highly specialized products, sales, and production on several continents, and obvious knack for marketing, igus is a prime example of a successful Mittlestand.”

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After Mr. Sickert’s speech, the press had their chance to ask questions, as well as walk around and take a look at a wide range of igus products on display with information about their uses and applications.

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Following the press conference, we left Tokyo for Iseasaki, where we will begin three weeks of driving and customer visits tomorrow. We are going to explore the entire island, planning on completing a full lap along the coast of the island, about 2,800 miles. For each mile, igus will donate one Euro to a Japanese charity that is helping children affected by the 2011 tsunami.

igus has been coupling with a new charity organization in each country along the tour. While in Taiwan, we partnered with two organizations that help developmentally disabled children and their families, especially regarding education.  One of the organizations, Maria Social Welfare Foundation, came to visit at our Taiwanese Press conference.

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In Korea and China, we donated aid in the form of rice, giving 1 kg (2.2 lbs) for every kilometer driven.  The donations from the Korean leg weighed in at almost 4,500 pounds – almost 4 times as heavy as the iglide car!

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Each local igus branch decides how to best give back to their communities. We like to think that igus stands for not only high quality, but social responsibility as well!

I’ll keep you up to date on our Japanese adventures!

-Sascha

Taiwan to Japan!

The Taiwanese leg of our tour has come to an end. For two weeks, we’ve been exploring the entire island, driving more than 1,670 miles. One thing I will surely remember, apart from the beautiful landscape, is the amount of scooters on the road! They are everywhere, ruling the street. igus can help increase the lifetime of the country’s most popular mode of transportation. AEON, a well-know scooter manufacturer, relied on igus bearings in the front and rear suspension, as well as the throttle valve of their scooters.

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The smooth movement of the throttle valve is ensured by two iglide bearings. They can not only stand the heat of the engine without a problem, but are also light in weight and low in price, making them a perfect alternative to conventional metal bearings. iglide bearings are not new to the automotive industry; they are being installed into new cars all over the world every day! The iglide on tour car is also relying on two iglide bearings in it’s throttle valve, it’s worked perfectly now for nearly 100,000 miles, driving through heavy tropical rains in Taiwan, incredible heat through the deserts, and cold temperatures in mountain regions.

Driving through Taiwan, we saw countless rice fields. Driving along the Southern coast they begin to appear, and become larger and more abundant as you head inland – some of the fields are so huge you can hardly see where they end.

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We drove to Kaohsiung, a major port city in Southern Taiwan. There, we had a booth set up at a famous boat show being held. As the last day of the show coincided with Mother’s Day, we had a special area where you could write a postcard to your mom, which even the city’s mayor took advantage of!

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We also paid a visit to a local kindergarten on our journey. A teacher reach and heard about the orange car traveling the world, got the children excited, and they all asked for a visit! More than 130 children between the ages of 3 and 6 were there to welcome us, and even performed some songs and dancing, and loaded up the iglide car with balloons to take back to the office!

https://youtu.be/H4A6HwHtDks

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After our travels across Taiwan, it was time to head to Tokyo!! I said my goodbyes to the car as it was loaded up, I would see it after arriving in Japan and having the proper modifications done (for example, Japanese regulations require the headlights must be moved, among other small changes.). Eventually, we received the proper permits, and were free to start exploring beautiful Japan!!

For now, we are mainly in the igus Tokyo office, putting the final preparations into effect for the tour.

I will keep you updated on our travels!

-Sascha

Welcome to Taiwan!

The iglide car has arrived in Taiwan!

Our first stop in the country is Taichung City, in the Western part of the country. Taichung is also the home to our Taiwanese office, where the car and I received a warm welcome. It felt good as always to be reunited with the iglide car; after spending so much time together over the past months I’ve grown attached!

The first day in Taiwan, we were stuck waiting for driving permits for the country, but still managed to explore a bit and have some fun – someone managed to get our dry-tech box away from us and add it as a prize in an arcade machine!

After a day of waiting, we received all the proper permits for the car – the tour can officially begin!

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