Friday, March 31, 2006
Actually, I am in a somewhat reflective mood this morning. Last night we went to pizza to celebrate a birthday and I am not sure if it was the presence of Duane or the grinding lack-of-caffeine headache, but I just wasn't feeling like going to the party afterwards. I came home and msn'd the Barrister who very kindly talked to me and kept me company until I fell asleep.
Last Sunday was daylight savings time here so there is now an 8 hour difference between here and home. The only benefit to this is that the Barrister could call me to wake me up as he went to bed last night.
I am almost packed and ready to go to Paris. I have no idea what to expect from the experience. I have been spending a lot of time thinking and reflecting over the past few months and I am hoping to continue with that in some ways even though I will now have roommates!
More than I anything, I am very excited to have the opportunity to live in the conveniences of a city again. Not that this wasn't a good experience. . . As long as you don't look at any of the buildings, the campus is quite beautiful. The winding paths, the blooming trees, and the emerging green are all very exciting and make me want to explore the woods all the more. However, I have not felt very energized lately and part of it I think is due to the fact that it is very difficult to exercise here. There is a weight room-- sort of. If you count one rowing machine and 5 broken machines with no pins, then yes, HEC has state of the art equipment. With the weather being what it is and the lack of indoor facilities, I have really used that as an excuse to eat way too much chocolate. Tomorrow morning's top priority?-- find a gym!
Interruption-My cleaning lady just came in and we were able to get through an entire conversation with only one pantomimed action. She was talking very quickly and she used a word for something that I didn't know. I am now the proud vocabulary owner of the word dust. Who knew. . .
So to end this rambling entry, I will say this: Despite the neon green curtains, shitty weather and inconveniences of Jouy-en-Josas, I am a *little* sad to leave this place. In a short time, I have come to identify it as home and will miss many of the little quirks of living here. (I will not be missing the mud!)
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
-Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Kay greatly alleviated my first true Duane day by leaving me surprise gummies outside my door. I might want to bring another 'too cute for words' European home with me in my pocket.
Barrister, there is room right?!
I am half way across the world and still lucky enough to find good people.
If it weren't for my addiction to online news, I wouldn't have known about the protests. It isn't that the students here don't care, it is that they are privileged in a way that I have a hard time even beginning to describe. If you ask the students directly how they feel about it they will say that they support the student efforts. However, by supporting I mean that they are most concerned about the possibility of class cancelling.
Now, let's talk about this privilege. When we first came to campus, the international student advisor touched on this fact during our orientation. She said to not be surprised if we hear phrases like 'we are the best' or that 'HEC is number 1.' Which made me giggle, Then she followed it up by saying that it was true. These students are the top of the field for their age. Each year HEC admits 300 students from 50,000 applications. Here is where the privilege becomes prevalant. In order to be accepted at HEC you must be tri-lingual and have completed 2 years of preparatory work with excellent marks. This is where things start to bug me a little bit- from what I understand preparation work for HEC means a intelligence yes, but also a considerable family financial contribution. Not to diminish the hard work that these kids have done in order to get in here, but I am sure that the fancy schools and private tutoring helped too.
So why are these kids not worried about job security for the under 26 market? Because they aren't worried about job security at all. HEC is a pretty sweet resume booster and they are guaranteed a job once leaving HEC. Students do not take academics seriously at all once they are here, but rest assured they do take 'networking' very seriously. It is because of the diminished academics, which mind you I am not complaining about too much, that I have time to reflect on life's greater issues.
What are the kids worried about? Drinking? Yep. Student government elections are this month and each group that runs is sponsored by a corporation. Now for a point of reference, when you run as an individual at CSOM you get $25 to help in your election, which almost no one uses. Each team of 20 individuals or so is sponsored by a corporation and is given $200,000 to campaign. Not a typo. There are 3 teams, so that means $600,000 being spent on drinking and bribing. Again, not a typo. I have heard that there are helicopter rides next week. Can't wait.
Last week was the week of 4 Thursdays, with each night a different party in the cafeteria (. . .this is the room ikea built) being transformed by each of the groups running. Yes, we are choosing our elected representatives based on their ability to throw a good theme party. Two
themes stuck out to me. 1. Girl Power- which had posters featuring pictures of lipstick and Kellogg's corn flakes- pointing out the fact that Corn Flakes is Fat Free. Yes, women can and should be epitomized by lipstick and fat free corn flakes. Yes I am being sarcastic, don't hate-mail me. The other theme was 2. Cowboys and the Rouges (the reds). I think the title alone is enough to see why it bothered me.
Part of the reason, I am a little thoughtful about this topic lately is because of something I witnessed in London during the March 18 protest of the war in Iraq. The 3rd anniversary was commemorated around the world with various protests and we were fortunate enough to particpate while we were in London. What struck me so powerfully about this event was the diversity of the protesters, many carried signs, many carried children and many carried Starbucks. All were in community and all were present to the issue, passionate about the cause. photos
So, due to the fact that HEC is 20 minutes outside of Paris, the greatest inconvenience is the fact that the trains haven't been running. In the meantime while Paris is off protesting the greater needs of student rights, we are playing Cowboys and Indians in the woods.
The Easter Bunny, Santa and French customer service simply do not exist.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
I fought the unbeatable foe, I went where the brave dare not go in an effort to right the unrightable wrong. That's right folks, some would even say that I dreamed the impossible dream.
I stared deep into the evil eyes of French customer service and got what I wanted!
I successfully changed a class for the second 1/2 of the semester.
To my clever opponent, France: You may be winning the war. But this battle was all mine. Next week on the agenda, marching into hell for a heavenly cause.
Here is what I will add as my abridged addition to her post:
A. I ATE WAY TOO MUCH SUGAR. HMM CHOCOLATE. HMM WAFFLES.
B. Brussels, kind of non-descript
C. Brugge, very cool. See letter A.
Friday, March 24, 2006
It is 1 am and I am leaving for Belgium in 3 hours- let that set the stage. There was a knock on my door. But wait- it wasn't my door as much as the psycho neighbors door. She lives above the loud dude and can't sleep- it is the 3rd time she has complained! She asked howI was able to sleep. . . then I lost her and we switched to English.
If my french were better I would have asked her if it was more the explosions that bothered her or the women screaming.
Funny thing- I have pretty much tuned it out. I didn't even hear it tonight!
Often the morning after big parties, students will put a sign on the door asking the cleaning lady not to enter at 8 am. Think of it as the French equivalent of the Do Not Disturb Sign.
Here is why this is funny:
George speaks French much better than English. He is from Quebec.
The Clean Lady only speaks French. Frantic miming sessions can vouch for this fact. Ponder this: What is the universal symbol for garbage can?
I was walking to the bathroom this morning and passed George's door and immediately ran back to my room to get my camera.
In George's defense- he blames this on the fact that so many of his friends (me) prefer English.
George I will not clean your room. Promise.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
My hair. Yes, it is an odd subject for advice but this is desperation on my part.
I can't get my hair clean. The water here is very hard and my hair is getting sticky. Yes it is gross.. I thought at first that I wasn't rinsing all the shampoo out of my hair but that was over a week ago now and the situation is only growing more urgent. This is a new experience for me and I don't really have any thoughts on how to fix my issue. My hair doesn't really 'dry' anymore and the ponytail is becoming no longer a convenience as much as a band-aid for the situation. Oh wise internet--please advise!!
your friend in need,
dirty mop head.
A boy ran up to me in the cafeteria yesterday and started talking rapidly in French. I started to drool, which is generally what happens when people don't make a conscious effort to speak slowly. I responded the only way I knew how. . .Please slow down (in french. )
He said that I got a t-shirt because I learned their dance!
If I wear it, I will get my drinks faster. At least. . . that is what I think he said.
That's right- that makes me an official, 'shirt carrying' member of the team!
The dance team.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Pip- A 20 something from MN who is frequently a bit immature
Kay (KIE)- a 20 something from Norway who is soooo considerate and kind, that several international students have dubbed him, "Cute Kay."
Pip: . . . . . . . .oh booger.
Kay: What does "booger" mean?
Pip: UMM. Nasal discharge?
Kay: Nasal Discharge-- you sound so formal.
Pip: Right. Wasn't sure if "snot" would be considered slang or not.
Kay: No, no. I know what "snot" is. So what does "booger" mean other than "snot?" It is good for me to learn slang.
Pip: Uh Kay. . . "booger" isn't really slang that people use regularly. Um, just me. yeah.
Scene may have been altered slightly due to lack of memory, presence of alcohol, and to allow it to run in the time alotted.
So the Barrister, Matty and I spent the weekend in London. First and foremost I found it such an unbelievable relief to be able to speak in English all the time. I didn't realize how taxing it was to be confronted with a bit of fear every time you approach someone on the street for directions or try to buy anything- even a pack fo gum. (I certainly do not know the french translation for peppermint. I was half tempted to stock up on gum in preparation for my return to France where I pick my gum flavor based on the color of the packaging which I imagine is closest to what I think peppermint might be. Okay, I got distracted. . . .)
London was interesting to experience after being in France for a while. As odd as this sounds, I felt lighter somehow. The little things were more enjoyable. I was pleasantly amused by just reading the advertisements in the metro- which is not something I have the luxury of in France, or being able to read the tube map without having to translate. I also found the metro's loudspeaker announcements of "mind the gap" commentary to be somewhat funny. To be honest, it isn't that Paris is scary, I feel more comfortable in Paris many ways because it is so far from what I expected and so far out of my comfort zone that it just forces you to operate in a completely different way and without customer service in any way whatsoever, whereas London culture is just slightly different than US culture which messes with your mind.
London was great all in all- although it is quite a bit more expen$ive than France. We did a lot of touristy type things including a bus tour and a visit to the Tower of London. I liked the Tower quite a bit and realized that I am way too tall to have lived in the 16th century. I would frequently have to mind my head. I mean, mend my head. We also spent an evening watching a rugby match in a bar and we spent another night at the Lion King. Like most theater productions, there were parts I enjoyed quite a bit and parts that drove me to giggle in the not-so-nice way. Matty was no help with the giggling thing. Can you feel the love tonight? Also the movie certainly did not feature a musical number, "Chow Down!" The stage version shouldn't have featured it either. . . The dance was great and many of the scenes were quite beautiful. A good spectacle that I rather enjoyed.
Being with my family in London was great. A brief moment where the gap between myself and home didn't seem so far apart.
There is something about having everything
You think you'll ever need
Sitting in the seat next to you
Indeed, life has a soundtrack.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
bad blogger. bad.
(and bad student)
PS: Arnholt, Jay and Matt-- I took a very campy picture of myself at Tesco over the weekend. . but I can't find it! I am crushed. Tesco-who?
Monday, March 20, 2006
new pictures on flickr.
again. 2 points for the pun. I kill me.
I'll be here all week. Try the veal. Tip your waitstaff well.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
I was thinking Yesterday about why the French are in France yesterday on our train ride to Normandy. As Dana has mentioned, the weather here is strange, it isn't particularly green right now, and the countryside of northern France is reminiscent of Central Minnesota with its mandatory two cafes and a tall church steeple in every village. Everything old was crumbling; everything new was, well, strange.
On the way back, after visiting the beaches of Normandy (which were entirely devoid of French visitors, which I thought a bit odd), I figured it out. The red sun was setting into the clouds over the ruins of a Norman castle and with Dana resting her head on my shoulder, France was perfect. It was just us together sharing a moment that nobody else seemed to see. I had the love of my life next to me enjoying the same sights, and there was no place we had to go, no rush to be anywhere, no language barrier to restrict our options, and no time mattered any more. No further words could better describe it-- it was perfection in life.
Maybe you can have a scene like that anywhere. But here when you do it, it becomes an art form-- a picture meant to last, an image burned into memory that generations later still exists and glows brighter than ever before.
From the graffiti covering every square inch of Metro walls to the halls of the Louvre, the French enjoy their art. Not to say they're the only ones, but the French certainly figured it out-- the art isn't just on the walls in France. You live it here-- being with the one you love here makes life not only bearable, but beautiful.
Yesterday we based a lot of our trip on chance. We got up in the morning and took a trip to Bayeux which is the closest train stop to Omaha beach. I had a hard time finding solid information about how to actually get to the beach but I was hopeful that we would be able to figure it out once we got to the train station. I believe I said the words. . . "I am sure we will find a large sign that says TOURS OF OMAHA BEACH THIS WAY -->"
We went into Paris to look for the large UBER station that would take us to Normandy. We eventually found the large train station and the attendant was nice enough to let us get on an earlier train which meant that we wouldn't have to transfer at Caen. Win number 1. After passing through Caen which looked like a pretty big town with signs everywhere to visit beaches, we continued on for 20 minutes or so to Bayeux. Okay- so Bayeux is not the metropolis that I had hoped. In fact, it was smaller than Jouy. Quaint, with a big, beautiful, gothic church and a bar. . . . and in the middle of fucking nowhere. Drats. So, trying to be optimimistic we left the train station and started walking toward the bar. About 10 seconds later we saw a giant sign pointing to the bar that said: TOURS OF OMAHA BEACH THIS WAY --> win number 2. The tour place was 'quaint' as well. . . but the tour man was very nice- especially when he told us that we had unfortunately missed the last tour of the day but he could get us a driver to take us to all the sights. win number 3.
So we all piled into an old van and the cutest french man ever, who we later realized was probably just the cook, drove us to the cemetary, Omaha beach and Pont Du Hoc. Very cool . . . very very cool. I also got a message from Aunt Sparky that mentioned that my grandfather had landed there in WW2, so that was pretty neat to think about as well. The final win of the day came when we missed the last train from Versaille to Jouy. Right, doesn't sound like a win-- in fact we thought we might need to get a hotel 10 minutes away from campus. But wait there is more! We walked out of the train station towards the town of Versailles in hopes of a bus or cab that might out of pure luck be willing to go to Jouy en Josas. Right in front of the train station was a cab, I asked the cab driver in French if he spoke English. And he said "No. . . (pause). . .HEC?" Win number 4. 15 euro later, we were back on campus and we didn't even have to walk the mile uphill from the train station in freezing weather. That is a damn bargain if you ask me.
As Matty put it: "God must be in France this time of year"
Few pictures included and more available on the flickr site:
The last few days have been really fun. The Barrister was pretty sick when he got here and now Matty has come down with it as well. We have been taking it easy just kind of heading to Paris as people feel well enough. Tomorrow we head to London. With our luck, let's hope God has a timeshare in London as well.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Thank you SO much for the cookies and the movie, it totally made my day! I also have to say thanks for taking care of Sophie while we are gone! (hide the ham!) I got a letter from Andy last week as well which was pretty awesome- it makes me feel so happy to be a part of such a wonderful family! I miss you all and can't wait to see you again.
I thought you might appreciate this- the french translation for mother-in-law and father-in- law is La Mere Belle and La Pere Beau. (Beautiful Mother and Beautiful Father)
Thursday, March 09, 2006
step 2: share a cup of very famous (read between the lines. . . . expensive) cup of hot chocolate with a friend.
step 3: don't get out of bed the next day.
halfsies with halfsies didn't work out so well. oops.
post script. After an entire box of kleenex, I am feeling much better today!
Remember the scene where Belle is walking down the street in her village. . . .
Jouy en Josas reenactment compliments of yours truly.
Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour!
Monday, March 06, 2006
Random french guy who didn't do any work: (whispered)(during the presentation) "What's the name of the company?"
Pip: (gulp) "Mercatronic."
WHA?!?! I spent how many hours trying to read this case in French and he doesn't know the name of the company.
Je suis salty.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
I save these for very rare occasions. . . but!
It is cold, and dreary and dank and I feel like a crank.
If the weather and my mood does not clear up these puppies will be my foundational undergarments for tomorrow.
I miss my friends and family ;(
*thanks for all your your warm thoughts and messages- it has really meant the world to me and has kept me from having to wear these yet!
Remember how I was saying that the french do the Macarena? Or at least some group aerobics type dance that looks like the Macarena? Well my public, for you I have answers. . .
Ok- so the Thursday parties are still one of the most fascinating events at HEC. This particular Thursday was the "big party"-- meaning they take the entire cafeteria, which looks like a room that was furnished entirely with neon, plastic, Ikea furniture and turn it into a dance club. Note the picture.
So, anyway before the party- there is the "pre" party- complete with as much vodka pomme (apple juice and vodka, the HEC drink of preference) as you would like. It just so happened that pre-party was in the same building as the french YMCA convention! Yay! Answers!
So, after more than one (or two. . . or. . . ) vodka pommes I hopped over to the room with the dancers/ exercisers and got the scoop from my new 19 year old friend, Pierre.
They are first year undergrads running for student senate- each team of about 40 students or so has to create a dance and perform it the day of elections. So you guessed it. . . I am a proud honorary member of SeenInnocence*, one of the groups campaigning. *I don't get the play on words. . .
Pierre and his posse taught me their dance (to Touch Me) and it has all of the following "moves":
guns shooting in the air
rocky like bag training
hands pulsing over a beating heart
I am sure I can find a way to integrate this into the Music Man.
*my favorite part is the 20 or so students all calling out the moves in unison:
Friday, March 03, 2006
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
At HEC, there are 6 cards needed to operate as a student
1. student card
2. student activities card
3. printing card
4. copying card
5. dining card
6. coffee/vending card
Operational efficiency at France's top business school.