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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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.

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.

Un Baguette

It’s dark inside our small flat. I live with Debbie; she is also in the same program at Colorado School of Mines and here in Paris with me. Each day we rise, reluctantly, gather our things and thoughts and proceed to commute to school via metro, train, and finally bus. Lately, we’ve been opting to walk rather than take the bus for the final leg of our journey to school. Our little flat is situated in Le Marais area of Paris. Our school is situated in Rueil Malmaison. They are not close, but so far I enjoy the stress free commute. We herd ourselves from one vessel to the next. That’s how I’d describe the commute…. herding. Of course, it’s always fun to see the posters and advertisements along the route. Here is Debbie and my favorite poster.

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Le Marias area of Paris is bustling with activity. It’s apparently a historic part of Paris and is now rather “hip”. We live directly next to a bakery. I imagine everyone lives directly next to a bakery. After school, we walk in with a euro coin and say, “un baguette s’il vous plait”. We exchange the euro for a baguette. I’ve been attempting to cook. Debbie and I made a carrot soup together out of a home made chicken broth. So, we’ve been eating soup and chicken. We’re the thrifty girls who bring our lunch to school amid a gourmet cafeteria.

Yesterday, I took myself for a run to a nearby cemetery. Pere Lachaise Cemetery is an incredible historical site and hosts many famous grave sites. It’s lush with greenery and a labyrinth of stone walk ways.

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This wall with a statue of a woman and faces in the stone behind her sits outside the entrance to Pere Lachaise.

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Jim Morrison’s grave site was barricaded. The barrier was covered in stickers, writings in permanent marker, and mostly hair-ties. A bamboo screen, decorated with chewed gum and small notes, encircled the tree in front of the barrier. Though this grave is possibly the most famous in the cemetery, the park is really so much more than a popular tourist spot. It’s incredible.

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Much like everything else in Paris, its grande. It’s a piece of art than you become a part of as you walk through and loose yourself among the edifices of tombs.

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Along the walkway I entered from, this tomb above stands easily 12 feet tall. Not only is it a historical site, its an active cemetery, with many graves I walked past dating 2015. Curious, I did some research about this site. I wanted to know what is the tallest tombstone there, oldest? Here are some facts I found out.

  • The cemetery is Paris’s largest cemetery and largest park. It’s 110 acres.
  • To be buried there you must have lived in Paris or died in Paris.
  • The first person to be buried there was a five year old girl who was the daughter of a door-bell man in 1804.
  • Initially, the site was not a popular place to be buried. To attract more interest and funerals to the site, the cemetery administrators had famous remains moved there and grave sites constructed.

I plan to make this a recurring trip, as there’s millions of people buried in Pere Lachaise. I have many more tombs to see. I’ll leave you with this last one- that I deem “The Batmobile” of grave sites.

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2014: You Can’t Handle Me

It’s been a rigtale tradition to compile a year end summary highlighting significant events in my life. I started 2014 with no real goals, and a lot of angst. I finished the year with clear goals and peace of mind. So here’s the highly anticipated year end report! Enjoy. 

1. In a fit of rage, I kicked and shattered a mirror in the staff house elevator in Doha. I had a meeting with HR about it. It was embarrassing. Soon after, they installed cameras in the elevators of my building.  

2.I got kicked off a rig, and subsequently banned from Qatar Petroleum offshore jobs. [A tremendous blessing.]

3. I boarded over 25 plane flights.

4. I had my passport stamped in 8 different countries.

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5. I visited Robben Island.

6. I got my PADI open water, advanced open water and enriched air diver certifications. 

7. I’ve been SCUBA diving in 3 different countries. 

The Fish

8. I spent more than a full calendar year without returning home. 

9. I got a speeding ticket in France, which my father intercepted in the mail. My father intercepts all my post.

10. I had a psychologist. She helped me.

11. I started playing soccer again.

12. I tore a muscle. For the first time. I felt so old. 

13. I went over a full year without hugging or even seeing my parents. It changed me. 

14. I really struggled at work. I also really thrived at work. Sometimes, I didn’t know the difference. 

15. I made new friends. 

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16. I approved and signed someone’s promotion.

17. I spotted three grey hairs on my head. I felt so old. 

18. I moved rooms to have roommates. We do roommate things. 

19. I swam on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Arabian Gulf, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Great Australian Bight

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20. I saw the southern hemisphere for the first and second times.

21. I went to sleep many nights thinking to myself, “My mom is the only person who really understands me.”

22. I held a Koala. It held me back.

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23. I got athletes foot on a rig. I cried from disgust at myself.

24. I won a highly competitive industry challenge with my co workers and teammates. (see maerskoilandqpchallenge.com)

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25. I didn’t sweat the small stuff. I didn’t loose sleep.

26. I let go of not letting go.

27. I ended the year by seeing my parents. I now really know the meaning when “nothing changes”

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Any Given Sunday

I attempted this post a week ago whilst sitting in the airport reading a new book. June was a hectic month, characterized by 7 plane flights, 4 countries, 2 trains, 2 rental cars and ZERO rigs. 

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June 5th, I went to Cairo. A breath of fresh polluted air, Egypt has so much soul. Perhaps I’ve been living in the desert wasteland of Qatar for too long, but I found the few days there simply delightful. I saw family, I saw old buildings, I even saw some Whataberger friends. I also ate. 

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June 9th, I went to London. I met my sister there. She laughed at me when the tube door almost ended my life. We rode the London Eye and saw a musical. We had good fish and chips and we had bad fish and chips. There was karaoke and street markets. There was duck pie and spinach muffins. I even met up with a Whataberger co worker.

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June 14th, we rode the Chunnel to Paris. As excited as I was to be riding this trophy of civil engineering, it turns out I get dizzy on trains and spent most of the trip sucking on anti-acids and throwing up on the train. In Paris, we walked. We had hot chocolate and much cheese. I saw an old Whataberger friend. We got massages in the street. We cursed at the tourists like real Parisians. We left early.

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June 17th, we rode a train to the south of France. There, I rented a Fiat 500, which my sister had to push out of the parking lot because I didn’t know how to reverse. We stayed on a little peninsula east of Nice. St. Jean Cap Ferrat! There was a perfume factory, tortoise sanctuary, canyoning, beaches and some diving. We ate Risotto and pizza. We laughed and we took photos. We picnicked on the beach. We walked around with cheese and baguettes. 

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June 21st, I spent 4 hours in Doha before returning to the airport at 1am to fly to Dubai. Here, I had a week long training course for work. I made new Whataberger friends and enjoyed my freedom driving around in a rental car. I visited SoccerDad (from the early, early blog days) in Abu Dhabi. I also remembered I have an expat cousin in Abu Dhabi. I spent the weekend with her, eating too much and talking about anything. 

On June 28th, I sat in the Dubai airport. The next day, I went to the US embassy to add more visa pages to my passport.

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