Protestants

As usual, I keep myself busy. In the first week of April, my big sister came to stay with me for a week in Paris. I felt like this was truly my home, as I took her out to meet all my friends and enjoy the warm weather that week. She helped me buy groceries and made me food, just like we were in college again. We slept side by side on twin beds and I made sure to wake her up before I went to school, asking silly questions or just pestering her in her sleep.

After my sister left, I went on spring break. I joined my friend, Cyborg, who has been backpacking around Europe for about 2 months now. We met in Florence Italy and proceeded to explore Tuscany by rental car. I had some unforgettable pasta. We went to a goat farm. We made cheese.

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^Florence

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^ The world famous foundations faux pas

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^Scuba, art, and me

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^All I want for Christmas is to go scuba diving

In my first week of class returning from spring break, I attended the “17 annual International Oil Summit”.  We we warned by the class president, “This is France, so there will be protestants”. Indeed, not long after I arrived at the hotel, the protesters arrived. They were laying down in the street, chaining themselves to objects in the hotel lobby, and chanting a variety of slogans.

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We waited for the excitement of the protesters to die down before beginning. After this, I heard talks given by some top executives in the oil industry, as well as a few international organizations such as OPEC and the IEA. We were served a fancy lunch.

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Because You Loved Me

Prior to entering the 6th grade, all 5th graders were required to take a math placement test. The incoming batch of 10 to 11 year olds were grouped into two categories: advanced math and regular math.

As a 10 year old, I placed in regular math. As a 10 year old, I was relieved. Truth be told, I hated math. I sat inside alone many a recces in the fourth grade on account of math. My math homework of addition, multiplication, subtraction and division worksheets took me too long to do at home, subsequently, I would ignore them. Ignoring math makes it go away. All 10 year olds know that.  Math was boring and time consuming, and as far as I knew I was not good at it.

My  relief of placing in regular math was, however, short lived. With a couple phone calls to the school administration, my mother saw to it that I was in advanced math upon entering middle school. I remember thinking, why!? I didn’t even pass the test…how will I survive.

“You are good at math” Mom didn’t rely on a school administered test to indicate my abilities in math. “You are good at math” she would tell me, despite my perceived inability to do simple division and multiplication. “You are good at math” Mom would say, ignoring all the signals that I wasn’t.

Mom was right. Math quickly became a subject  in which I excelled. The older I got, there were times when math was the only subject in which I excelled. I went on to study engineering in college. Sometimes I struggled, but Mom always insisted, “You are good at math”.

There are countless things my mom has done throughout my life to empower and encourage me, challenge and inspire me. Lately I’ve been thinking about this example. Mom always believed in me and pushed me when I was too young and didn’t know how to believe in myself. I was too young to see beyond missing recess and results from a placement test.

Happy Birthday, Mom! I’m everything I am because you loved me.

Saloon

This past Sunday, I went to the Salon International de l’Agriculture in Paris. In short, it was the fair sans Ferris wheel. It was indoors in a series of eight large pavilions, or approximately 8 times the size of the Animal Show in January.

I went with a new friend I made at crossfit and another friend I have in Paris. Over 6 hours, we covered the fair, sampled cheeses, meats, milk, fruits and vegetables. I learned about the different regions of France and ate a Foie Gras sandwhich. I saw cows, sheep, chickens, pigs, rabbits and horses. I came home exhausted and full of duck sausage.

20160306_122250Rows and rows of flower bulbs occupied a pavilion.

20160306_103039Award winning cows!

20160306_121054This is by far my favorite thing in the agriculture show. It is the “Tour F L”, where the F and L stand for “Fruits” and “Legumes”, respectively. This tower was on a display complete with strobe lights, much like the actual Tour Eiffel.

In other news, I registered myself for a half marathon race at the end of May. First day of training was a success. I have not run a sub 10 minute mile since college. Today I ran three miles, each under 10 minutes. I’m excited to keep active and see how much progress I can make in a few months.

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.

Longhorns in the Rain

I’ve often wondered how horned animals maneuver their heads with such large protrusions.  How does the longhorn know where his horns are? Do they get stuck in fences or trees? Can he feel them? 

It rains a lot here in Paris. My little umbrella stays tucked in the side pocket of my backpack, ready for a quick draw. When the rain comes down, the umbrellas come out. Nearly everyone on the streets is carrying an umbrella.  Some are long and tall with a “J” shaped handle.  Some are colored or patterned.  Mine is a grey and compact.  I hold it just above my head and it partially obscures my view. The first few times I had to walk carrying sn umbrella, I came close to running into pillars, poles and parked cars.

This morning on our walk from the train station to school, I looked down and avoided puddles while balancing my umbrella in the wind. As we walked on tight sidewalks past the other umbrella toting commuters, I saw a dance of the colored awnings spattered with droplets.  We walked in silence. Tall umbrellas shift up to let little umbrellas pass under. Some twirl subtly to the left while others sway gently to the right. We navigate the street with these large protrusions over our heads. I think we’re like longhorns, aware of our horns.

Having Tea

According to the calendar on my computer, it is my third weekend in Paris. Debbie and I found a tea house next to our flat. Unique necklaces adorn the walls and dangle down from the ceiling. Some walls are covered in shelves holding novelty teapots, cups and books.

20160117_141411.jpgEach with our pot of green tea, we sit and reflect on the days and weeks so far.
Things I’ve done in Paris in three weeks:

  1. Cut my own hair.
  2. Saw a homeless/drunk man get escorted off a metro. It’s difficult to imagine what that scene would have looked like in a US city. The security officers seemed very kind as they shook him saying, “Monsieur”.
  3. Ate snails.
  4. Saw my high school Latin teacher while she was here visiting!
  5. Paris Animal Show. Easily the highlight of my time here so far.

On the daily commute, we’re bombarded with advertisements in the metro station. One advertisement has caught my attention from the first day riding the metro.

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After three weeks, the date for the Paris Animal Show has finally arrived. Along with our French classmate Le Python, Debbie and I had breakfast and took ourselves down to Porte De Versaille, a large exhibition hall. I know myself in large public exhibitions. I want to interact with the animals and ask a lot of questions to the animal breeders. Prior to entering, I asked Le Python how to ask some basic animal questions and wrote them down in a little notebook. I was sure to preface all my questions with the statement “Ju suis etudiante” before reading from my notebook, and everyone was very friendly with answering my questions and understanding my rough French. I asked things like, “May I hold [insert animal]?” “For how long does [insert animal] live?” “At what age does [insert animal] reach sexual maturity and start breeding?” “How many babies does [animal] have at a time?” “How much for [animal].”

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Needless to explain, I was very excited and ran away from my friends and held all the animals I could get my hands on. I held several snakes, puppies, and cats. I tried to bargain with the breeders to buy an animal. Unfortunately, no one wanted to give me a pet for free, despite my pleading “Ju suis etudiante”

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The above photo depicts me with a little curly haired cat I tried to barter for on the basis of us both having curly hair and clearly destined to be together. The woman would not budge from her price of 500 euro. I suggested 200 and moved up to 250. Sadly, we did not reach a negotiation and I had to leave this little fuzzball with the breeder.

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I saw these cat carriers made out of small oil barrels. I also saw these cat paintings.

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Le Python and Debbie had a great time playing with cats and dogs as well.

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Upon entering the venue, Debbie was approached by a lady in a cat costume and correctly answered some trivia questions and won a large envelope of edible money.

After seeing thousands of animals, I had to be escorted out of the exhibition by Le Python and Debbie. I consoled myself with a Mille-feuille when I got home.