Je Suis Chaude Patate

After 2 months of courses in my Petroleum Economics and Management program in France, I had a very sad realization. I miss my job.

I don’t miss the fatigue and stress brought on by being awake for days. I don’t miss the gut wrenching feeling every time my phone rings. But I miss my job. Lately we’ve had several lectures about rig operations. Yesterday we had a lecture on wireline. Yes. In a few hours, a lecturer attempted to teach 30 students of various backgrounds what I learned in four years of practical experience with the industry leader in wireline. I wasn’t bored; I was nostalgic.

Going to class from 9-5 every day is hard for me. I miss the flexibility and my “non routine”. I miss Lynn and our two woman band, Simon’s Bender. I miss going out at night being a causal affair. I miss working and always having disposable income. I miss my kids and teaching science.

I don’t miss the food. Or the traffic. I like Paris. I feel very fortunate to have lived in Qatar and struggled with my expatriation in an extreme situation. Compared to that, Paris may as well be home.

The best way to make a place home is to get involved in the community and do the activities which you would be doing at home. I joined a crossfit gym. I paid for 6 months up front, so I’m absolutely committed. I spend my evenings with the good people at Crossfit Original Addicts in Paris. I’ve made a couple gym friends and am always happy to see them. At first I was terrified, forcing myself to go and just barely getting through the exercises. I was embarrassed to not know any French and would hide in the back and copy everyone else, hoping to go unnoticed. Occasionally I would whisper to the person next to me for clarification. I’m not shy, but new settings are always intimidating. Now, I skip into the gym and greet everyone in French. The coaches know me and teach me key words like, “toes”, “knees”, “stand”…etc. I’ve become proficient to counting to twenty. I feel energetic all the time.

It’s not Denver. It’s not Doha. It’s not Dallas. And it sure ain’t no rig. It is Paris.

Metro, Meetro, My Tro

I’d be lying to pretend I don’t enjoy riding Paris’s underground metro. I’ve developed a loyalty to the metro line which deposits me 10 yards away from my front door. I proudly ride line 8 to and from Saint-Sebastian Froissart several times a day. Line 8 is the best line in all of Paris. Its usually purple on the map.

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Each metro line has its ambiance. The advertisements differ as you traverse the areas of the city. The many events, banks, cellular phone companies, theatre performances and concerts never escape my attention. Today, I saw an advertisement of “ABRACADABRUNCH”. I frequently see advertisements for the NBA, with larger than life posters of Lebron James dunking a basketball. The other day I saw an advertisement for an agricultural fair next weekend. I will be attending.

All metro lines have their soundtrack. I admire the artists who play guitar or violin on a moving train. Today I heard acoustic covers of Lenny Kravitz and Justin Timberlake, played in a medley with French wrapping in the transition. I held out my coins for the artist. Sometimes riding the metro is more interesting than seeking out a live music venue, which I have not really done yet.

Some metro lines are more crowded at night, while others are more crowded during the morning and after work commuting hours. I’m learning that rush hour is a dynamic concept. Catching the last train home on a Saturday at 1:30am, I encountered such a rush hour, squeezing between two people as the doors closed behind me. I was standing next to a man with a karaoke machine. His voice boomed from his microphone. The metro patrons laughed at the hilarity of trying to perform a song in such a packed environment.

Most metro stations house the homeless. They sleep in sleeping bags laid out on top of boxes, usually near a vent producing some heat or wedged in a corner to block extra wind and air flow. The sight of homeless people sleeping in the corner or begging in front of the trashcans has become part of the commute, like the advertisements on the wall.

The metro is a fashion show. I make a note of the best dressed people as their polished shoes step into the train. I notice women in tailored suits and coordinated hats. Their tassels boogie around their shoe laces as the metro jerks through Paris’s under ground. Some men are very tall. Some men are very handsome. Some kids smoke pot in the back of the train. Some people bring their dogs. I only bring my backpack.

After dark, several metro lines will play host to rickety men, shouting what I can only assume is some version of French. These people will often flail their arms if seated on a train or pace around the station. It is evenings where I see these people, clearly having a break from reality or perhaps never were connected to it, that I really wish I competent in understanding French. As there are many other people on the metro or in the stations, I never worry; however, I wonder what they are saying and if I in any way would or should change my behavior, expression, or seat choice based on what I did understand. Instead, it becomes an exercise in reading other people’s reactions. I stick to couples who clearly notice the ranting person or the most populated train.

Armed with an all access public transport pass, I never hesitate to go out. I take M, T, L, RER trains and buses. If you are on the metro by 12:30am on weeknights and 1:30am on weekends- its a guaranteed ride through the many sites of Paris.