jdenparis

 Welcome to jdenparis.com.  I'm jd, and I just graduated from college.  For one year before med school, I'll be working and living in Paris, and traveling the world with my job.  Below are my stories, photos, and videos.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

happy new year from Scandinavia!

Yesterday Damian and I took a side trip from Amsterdam up to Copenhagen to stay at the wonderful Hotel von Essen and bring in the new year in Scandinavian style. After fighting on the phone with Orbitz til 2 in the morning the night before our 8am flight, we woke up at 5 and were on our way. We met Sarah (Danish cousin? fam friend? hotelier?) at McD's in Copenhagen Central Station, and she showed us the streets and pointed us to a few good sites, but not before treating us to our first Kringle and 6 pack of Carlsburg - mmm.

First up was the Carlsberg brewery. At first we thought it was totally lame compared to the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam, but then we got to the bar at the end of the tour. We made friends with two of the bartenders while our indecisive American / Dutch palettes sampled almost every beer on tap. They decided not to collect our drink passes, and so we each had 4 free beers, with tickets to bring back on Friday :) !

Next, like true world travelers, we went to Hard Rock for dinner. I had this awesome burger with guacamole and something spicy. Mmm. Afterwards, we went to Tivoli Gardens.

This is a big amusement park in Copenhagen, and apparently served as Walt Disney's inspiration for that place in Orlando. For us, the best amusement was the big open coal pit to warm cold fingers. We only stayed 33 minutes. I know this, because that's exactly what the clerk told us when we asked for a refund. We could have gotten it before 30 minutes.

Today we decided to squeeze in one last country excursion for 2008, and so we hopped on a train and went to Malmo, Sweden. 66% of Scandinavia in just 2 days! There, we saw this cool ice show with dance-skaters and music. Feeling kinda hungry, we went on a hunt for some Swedish meatballs. We wound up in a restaurant that smelled like Ben's, and so I was confident they'd have the goods. Unfortunately, they did not. We asked our waitress the best place to get meatballs, and she told us Ikea. Ha! We found a few at this hole in the wall nearby, and we froze while eating them.

This guy from Chicago sat down next to us and started talking to me. And he kept talking to me. With no end in sight, I had to jump in and tell him it was nice to meet but we had to run. Apparently he was this finance guy from Chicago who worked at a firm on Long Island and spent time in DC (Georgetown) too. He was trying to convince me that hospitals on boats that went from poor coastline to poor coastline were a good idea. I was just confused how the patients were supposed to get home if they're discharged in a different country than they were admitted in.

Tonight we're back in Copenhagen for the New Year, and currently intend to spend it outdoors. That may change when we actually set foot outdoors, but who knows.

See y'all in 09! Happy new year :)

A bientot,

(ps - I'll have the rest of Egypt w pics this weekend and hopefully be caught up w posts soon!)

*edited by Damian

Saturday, December 27, 2008

let me tell you something about cairo...

After my amazing trip to New York, there were exactly 0 minutes of down time. I went straight from the Bloomberg Brunch to the airport with Jose (my boss), and we landed in Paris on Tuesday morning (middle of the night NY time). I went to the Union apartment, took a 1 hour nap, showered, and went in to work. The next two weeks were absolutely crazy, as The Union was hosting its annual World Conference in Paris (last year was Cape Town, SA, next year Cancun!). 2,000 of the world's leading Tuberculosis experts descended on this big conference center, and I was assigned to man the International Management Development Programme booth. At this point, I had been working for 27 days straight, including weekends and travel. After the conference (it ended on a Monday), it was straight off to Egypt on Saturday (25 oct)!

The flight to Egypt was pretty cool. I got to see the Alps, which looked to be just about as high as we were flying. Jose and I were on the same flight, and so I was able to talk to him at length about some really interesting things, like his involvement in the tuberculosis program in India that expanded treatment availability to 500 million people when the funds were meant for just 250. I speculated that someone he knows was sure to win the Nobel prize (he said "our circle" which made me feel important), and he replied that one of his professors at UPenn did.

Anyway, we got to Cairo, and found the driver from the hotel with the sign with our name on it. As we walked to the car, he looked at us smiling and said "the only car available was the Hummer." I started hysterically laughing, as Jose is such a straight-laced guy, and we were about to ride like 50 cent's entourage. When the driver went to get the car, I told Jose that a Hummer is one of those huge cars that gets <10 miles to the gallon and usually transports people blasting rap music. Sure enough, our Hummer was no exception :p

The hotel was incredible - best I've stayed in so far for work (didn't beat Cheeca Lodge and Resort). I had a big queen size bed, 26in flat screen, robe, slippers, the works. I was even able to set my wakeup call from the tv! The course started immediately the next day, so again there was no time for rest. After work, Jose and I went to dinner. He was really excited about this restaurant they have in the mall adjacent to our hotel. He said it was like being in the jungle. It was.

My first dinner in Cairo was a Safari Burger at the Rainforest Cafe!

The next day after class, I met up with Lauren Linakis for dinner. She's working the second best internship in the world as an assistant to the president of one of the American Universities in Cairo (or maybe The American University of Cairo?). Anyway, I had one of the Egyptian Union staff help me out getting downtown from the hotel. We went to the concierge together to ask about getting a cab and negotiating a price. There are two types of taxis - legit taxis that have meters and stuff (yellow), and black taxis that you have to bargain. still legit but perhaps less regulated.

Concierge: "Well, you can the black taxis, but just know it costs about 30 - 40 Egyptian pounds to go, so thats what you have to ask for."
Union Employee: "But sir, I, as an Egyptian, would only expect to pay 15-20 Egyptian pounds for that."
C: "No. I... AS AN EGYPTIAN... pay 20-25 E pounds, and so he should expect to pay 30-40."

and so on...

I wound up taking a yellow taxi with a meter. I had a hard time getting the cabbie agree to turn it on, but he finally did. As we were driving, we turned right off the main roadway, drove for 5 min, turned around, and went back to the main roadway. He did this 2 more times, always returning to the same roadway. I wonder what he was looking for on those detours...

Driving in Cairo is the worst I have ever experienced. Even worse than stand still tuk tuk Bangkok (though maybe not during the protests). First of all, there are no traffic laws. As a tram approached, cars crossed the tracks until the very last second. I don't remember if there are traffic lights, but if they were there, nobody obeyed them. Secondly, the air is UNBREATHABLE. It's a combination of the constant stand still traffic (resulting from no traffic laws and overwhelmed streets), super old cars with nonexistent emissions standards, and smoking in restaurants. We finally got to downtown Cairo, but it was not where I asked to be let off, and i felt sick after the detours and smog. At least the ride only cost 2-3 USD. Regardless, I had to ask a bunch of people for directions to the address I had, and it took about 20-25 min more to find it.

Finally I met up with Lauren in this restaurant downtown and not far from the Nile. We had a nice Egyptian meal together and it was great to see a familiar face :) After the meal, she showed me the Nile. On the way there, she was getting lots of stares for not being veiled and for showing her ankles. Apparently that's 'ok' there, but it's so shocking to actually see it rather than hear on the news. Crossing the streets was a death wish. We had to traverse a traffic circle. God was on our side.

When we safely got to the river, she pointed out that there were so many people on the bridge looking over the water. They were all the young men and women courting each other as part of the arranged marriage process! There's no real dating in Egypt - nuts. I had to go back to my hotel at this point, and I decided to take one of the unregulated black taxis. Lauren tried to negotiate a fair price for me before I got in the cab, and she told me to get out, throw the money in the window, and just walk away at the end. Good advice! I made it home safely, and not ripped off (that was lucky as I would soon learn...)!

Ok will share more + pics later

a bientot,

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Business Trip to NYC :)

(October, 2008) After a few days in Cuernavaca, Mexico, I made it up to New York Citayy for the tail end of Rosh Hash and Yom Kippur. Being on the road for so long (at this point it had only been 1 month living out of a suitcase. Now, 4), I was happy to get back to America. There really was some reverse culture shock. Primarily, I was SHOCKED to always be able to understand and communicate with everyone! Language is something I can't take for granted anymore.

Since I came to the US a few days ahead of schedule, I had to live at home on Long Island and commute to the financial district for three days before my hotel reservation downtown kicked in. I'll just live close to work in the future. Luckily, I wound up working on Wall St. during the most fascinating time! There were a ton of protestors every day out there -- big rats, people scaling flagpoles, you name it. Apparently there was some economic crisis... I don't know.

In any case, it was great to be back, and I don't think I stopped moving for one second. I went straight from the airport to Rosh Hashanah dinner night 2, then home to LI, then to work the next 3 days, etc. I spent the weekend doing winter shopping and still commuting to the city to go out at night. The whole next week I lived at the hotel, woke up at 7 for work, commuted to NYU after work, got home by 12, and started over (my goal was to make my schedule as crazy as Sam's, but I don't think I could ever come close). I didn't even have the second weekend off! After a long night at nyu Friday, I woke up early Saturday morning to go hang with Dad's side of the family at Aunt Sandy's brunch. I really miss bagels and tuna, mmmm.

On my way to the uptown bus, I missed my subway connection by less than a second, and watched my early arrival to brunch pull away into the darkness. When I finally got out of the subway, I found out that Ken and the other NYC commuters had caught the bus 5 mins before I got there, and I had to wait an hour all by my lonesome for the next one. I took that opportunity to have a pre-brunch breakfast and get a quick haircut :) It was great to see everyone on Dad's side of the family - thanks so much for putting it together aunt sandy!

Straight from brunch, I went home to check on Mogen, as he had some surgery on his leg (see slideshow). When I decided he was doin alright, I hopped back on a train to the city to go to the Bloomberg Initiative Partner's dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Rockefeller ice rink / Christmas tree. The next morning (Sunday) I was up at 6am to go to the meetings. What a great experience. I got to meet so many of the LEADERS of the global fight against tobacco - people who have lobbied city and national governments for Smoke Free laws, tax experts, CDC representatives, and more. I met Tom Frieden, who's the commissioner of the NYC Dept of Health - the guy responsible for smoke free, no trans fat, and calorie counts in the city's restaurants! Sweet. They even let me sit in on the smaller breakout sessions where these people developed plans for the specific countries. I made the presentation that our representative gave to the whole group :)

The next day was definitely the highlight though. Monday, Columbus Day, I was up at 6 again to get uptown to the Bloomberg building for brunch with the Mayor.

The entire group of tobacco control experts was waiting with coffees and juices before brunch when the Mayor made his way up the stairs. He began shaking hands and moving through the crowd with his photographer, and settled first on the group of people I was standing with! In the photograph, you see Jose's hand and cup (my boss), Mayor Bloomberg, Stephen from WLF, me, and Peter from WLF (World Lung Foundation, The Union's sister foundation, conceived of and founded by my boss Jose).

When the Mayor walked up to us, he introduced himself, shook hands, and began with his clearly prepared, but very entertaining schmooze-script. "You know when you're mayor, you never get a day off. Right after this brunch, I have to go to the Latin Americans Columbus Day Parade. Yesterday, I had to march in the Italian Columbus Day Parade. Why can't they just join together and have one parade? One year, I closed fire houses, raised taxes, and banned smoking in the City's restaurants and bars, and I still managed to march in a parade in Staten Island. If you can do that, you can do anything!"

He was also hysterical when congratulating the entire crowd for our great work in fighting tobacco. "Last month, I attended the European Respiratory Society conference in Berlin with 20,000 attendees. One reporter asked if I would do a lung capacity test. Everyone with me kept trying to persuade me not to do it, it wasn't planned, we didn't know the results - it would be a PR disaster if I didn't pass. My people have great faith in me. Anyway, I took the test, and it turned out my lung capacity is just where it should be for a 66-year-old sex symbol!"

My trip home was amazing. I got to see just about everyone I miss while abroad, and I finally got to live in the city, if only for a few days! Look forward to being back in Feb (ish).

Merry Christmas, and a bientot!


Monday, December 1, 2008

this is NOT what I signed up for!

ps. (I just posted below...)














note* temperature is presented in Celsius.
This is Paris.

was john mellencamp french?

This morning I developed an interesting hypothesis. After waking up, I opened up my computer and started up the music for my morning shower (yes, I got the whole system straightened out), as I went to bed last night just as a great song was starting up (it was a live version of "with a little help from my friends" by Joe Cocker, straight off the United We Stand collection, courtesy of Seth's cd collection).
(here for your listening enjoyment:)



The playlist ran throughout my shower and while I dressed, and then a miraculous thing happened as Jack and Diane was played while I did my hair. A French police car drove by with the usual European drone of a siren goin (mehhhh dahhhhhhhh mehhhhhhh dehhhhhhhhh), and it went PERFECTLY with J&D! The rhythm, the pitch (as the alarm was incident), the whole thing!

Was John Mellencamp French, or were the developers of that siren just huge Mellencamp fans?

A bientot,

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday, November 9, 2008

j'ai quelques photos!



Enjoy :)

A bientot,

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

cuernavaca, mexico

In honor of Barack Obama being elected in a LANDSLIDE victory over John McCain, I've decided to finally make a real post, despite recovering from an early afternoon migraine...

So I was scheduled to be in Cuernavaca, Mexico, city of eternal spring, from 23 Sep - 4 Oct, and then head up to NYC for a week or so. I knew it was gonna be an interesting trip when I got there and couldn't communicate with the locals. While my French is not on par with JCVD's, I can manage to get around here, I haven't gone hungry yet.

I got to the hotel at around 8 or 9 pm, but after being in transit for 20+ hours and jumping back in time 7 hours, I was exhausstedddd. The restaurant was closing soon so I just had time to drop my bags and get there to eat. Luckily the receptionist gave me a free upgrade to the corner room, cause the initial room he showed me seemed...lacking. Anyway, I got down to the restau, and couldn't understand a word on the menu (naturally). I couldn't communicate with the guy to get seated either, but this lady there helped to translate. She was actually kind enough to invite me to join her and her friend for dinner. They were meeting for the first time in like 30 years after being friends in middle school. I should have eaten alone.

Anyway, I had some nice Mexican fare, and the guacamole was delicious. The ladies were nice - wrote down lots of info for me of things I could see in and around Cuernavaca. One even offered to give me a personal tour of a zoo where she used to work (she was a biologist).

The next day I got up bright and early, still exhausted from the grueling day of travel just hours before. I showered, got all dressed up in my CUSTOM tailored Bangkok suit, and went down for breakfast. As I walked down thru the lobby, I noticed a sign for our course which said 25 - 30 Sep. I stopped in my tracks.

"What's today's date?" I asked the reception guy. "Uh senor its 24th."

This was gonna be a great trip.

I changed, had breakfast, went to the gym, sat out by the pool, and finally in the afternoon met some of my colleagues from the Latin America Resource Center. The course started the next day.

When I got back to my hotel room that night, I noticed there was a GIGANTICCCCCCC black moth chilling on the door right next to my room. This thing was like a pterodactyl. It was gross and made me nauseous to look at, think about, or be in any sort of spitting distance of it. I quickly got the key in my door and slammed it behind me, careful not to let the Land Before Time recreate itself in my hotel room.

The course was ok - it was all in Spanish so I didn't follow much (read: anything.). I just waited for Jose to show up and give me instructions. Unfortunately, that day I received an email that Jose wasn't coming! I was like a fish out of water. Everyone spoke spanish almost exclusively, everyone asked me what I was doing there, and everyone was mad Jose wasn't coming. I did learn SOME spanish though (donde esta la comida? yo quiero carne y pollo con guacamole y riz y queso). The LARC staff was really nice to me, and always translated menus and stuff.

That night, and each night, as I returned to my hotel room, I still noticed my friend the gigantic nauseating moth chilling in the same spot on the door next to mine. Every time I went in and out of my room I was careful to be swift and stealth-like, like a veloca raptor.

The day off was cool. I slept in (til 8), got up, had me a nice hearty mexican breakfast (they serve like... beans and quesadillas), went to the gym, sat in the hot tub, went for a swim, and then got a nice massage.

Like a fish out of water though, I was pretty determined to get out of there. Luckily, Continental made that possible, and I was able to make it home for Rosh Hashanah!

The last night, as I was all excited to get back to my room and pack, I noticed the moth was not there. As not much was going right this week, I figured he had somehow snuck into my room with the housekeeper / plumbing expert (that's a WHOLE 'nother story) or something. I was partially right - nothing was going my way this week. The moth was not in my room. Rather, he was RIGHT on my door!!! I was effectively locked out cause I was not going anywhere near that hairy beast. I guess I'm like Ace Ventura - lover of animals, petrified of bats.

I tried to go find some rocks to throw at it. I came up with some dirt from a nearby potted plant, but the moth didn't budge under the dirty attacks. Then I found my water bottle. I gave it a little spritz, but nothing. Then I gave it the monsoon treatment, and in one fell swoop it beat its tremendous wings and flew RIGHT at me and away into the afternoon sky. I dove out of the way with my big nerdy backpack on and dressed in my work clothes. Just at that awkward moment, some of the LARC staff was downstairs and saw the thing fly away and me freak out like I had just been assaulted with napalm. They cried in laughter and encouraged me how horrible those things are.

Anyway, here are some pics from the night I went downtown with the LARC staff. Still to come: NYC and my meeting with Bloomberg!



A bientot,

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

internet in cairo = video chat with Jane and Georgia!

Yes, I saw the pyramids and yes I can't breathe the air, but that won't stop me from sayin hi to my favorite brooklynites

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Twitter

You may have noticed a new element here at jdenparis. The Twitter gadget pulls 140-character messages that I am able to post via text message from my cellphone, anywhere in the world! Here's what Twitter is all about:



I have been pretty bogged with work, travel, and med apps, so jdenparis has noticeably taken a seat on the back burner. Twitter allows me to keep you updated in between blog posts!

You can even get the updates via text message, delivered right to your phone (here's how)! For you iPhoners with 200 txt limits, I'll try to keep the twits to 3 or 4 a week.

You can also get them by RSS, and I think they may start updating my Facebook status too. The possibilities are endless! I also encourage you all to Twit, so I can hear about your lives 140 characters at a time :)

Monday, October 20, 2008

je regrette!

hellooo! sorry its been so long.

posts will resume after secondary med school apps go out :( (or maybe i'll write one en route to egypt on Saturday)

bloomberg wants more posts too, so you're not alone

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mes nouveaux amis Europeans

My new European friends

Sorry for losing so much time between posts! It’s been BUSYY since comin back from Bangkok. Please note my other new post qui a ferme’ les lumieres directly below this one.

I’ve been spending all my free time trying to get an apartment for when I return from Mexico/NYC, but to avert any suspense, I’ll still be homeless (aka in the Union apartment, which I am SO grateful for!) upon my return.

Monday and Tuesday I sent a million emails to “landlords” and people looking to rent out a room in their apts, mostly from Craigslist. I also Googled a million websites for colocation (just like it sounds), apartager (to share), apartments in Paris, etc.
At one point, I found the “housing wanted” section of Craigslist, as opposed to the “housing offered,” and decided to have a look. That day, there was a post titled “21 year-old American exchange student looking for roommate” or whatever. I decided to click it, and the girl seemed to be in exactly the same situation as me, so I decided to send her a message of solidarity rather than of housing, as I didn’t really have much to offer in that department. Also, she didn’t mask her email address, and had “@ucsb.edu,” so she had to be a real person and not a scam (at least that was my reasoning – turned out to be correct in this instance).

After exchanging a few messages and our phone numbers, we decided to meet up the next night for a drink. So the next day, after the electrocution, I went and met up with my new California exchange friend. She turned out to be this really great, funny girl. We had a lot to talk about (thanks Fine Art of Small Talk!) over our 1-1.5 hour mojitos (stupid place had no Long Island iced teas – my fav when I’m ‘homesick’ :p), and parted ways.

Next, I went to have dinner, and walked around the Latin Quarter a bit to find a place. I have this little rule that I try not to go to the same place twice just to keep things fresh around here (Paris), but this one place I had already been (my food was mediocre the first time...) had a live band this night (+1), and they were playing “Lonely Day” (fitting) by System of a Down (+10). I decided it was fate that of all the bands, and of all the songs, there prob wasn’t a better match for going to eat dinner alone :)

I sat down and ordered my vin rouge, poulet roti, et frites (red wine, roast chicken, fries) and enjoyed the music. They were pretty good (the band -- the food was mediocre again).

After a few minutes and a (mediocre) chicken thigh, four British girls came in and sat down next to me. I was sorta listening to their convo and complaints about American girls in their class and sorta minding my own business, sorta making eye contact with the cute one, sorta just drinking my wine, etc.

Eventually, two of them got up and went to have a smoke outside, and the other two remaining had a lull in their convo. Feeling nice from my mojito and wine, I jumped in with a friendly, “so where are you guys from?” They both immediately lit up and slid down the bench to chat. Turns out one was English and the other Welsh (you NEVER call a Welsh person English I learned). Again, really sweet girls, got along well, so after a while, we exchanged numbers and parted ways for the evening. I wound up hanging out with them the next night in Bastille. Got back after 2 which was bad, as I had to be up at 8 for work the next morning.

Anyway, during all of my emailing throughout the days, I wound up at clickflatshare.com, and emailed some Dutch guy named Damian. He actually got back to me and sounded like a real person. He was coming to Paris this past weekend (19 Sep) just to search for apartments, so we decided to meet up too. Why not?

Friday night I was having dinner with a friend of a friend, so I invited Damian to meet up for drinks after. He didn’t have a functioning French phone, so we were keeping an eye out for the guy in a black jacket and white hoodie. Finally we saw him, so I ran out to meet him cause it looked like he’d been waiting a while.

When I got there, he mugged me. Just kidding. HE turned out to be really cool too! We wound up hanging all weekend, going apartment hunting, and more. Saturday, we actually met up with Sarah, the girl from Cali, and all three of us went to see one apt I had made a reservation to see. That guy was kinda crazy as the moment we walked in, he’s like “OK, normally, I require that everyone who enters removes their shoes immediately.” Totally caught us off guard. Obviously I was NOT taking that place…despite the fact that he had met Jeff Buckley and Ice-T (he’s a photographer).

That night, the three of us met up with the two British girls (+ 1 of their visiting boyfriends) from the past few nights, and all 6 of us went out and had a great time! It was really awesome, I’ve never been the nighttime activity coordinator before, and everyone got along great :)

So it seems the lesson HERE is that you can ALWAYS trust people you meet on the Internet!



A bientot,

Friday, September 19, 2008

qui a ferme' les lumieres?

Who turned out the lights??

Right now I’m sitting in Charles de Gaule airport waiting for my 12 hour flight to Mexico. It should be interesting, cause flying West during the day, the sun never sets! Thus I take off at 1pm Paris time and land at like 5pm Mexico time, but that’s y’know like 1am Paris time! So, uhh, no sleep “tonight.”

Obviously when I post this, I’ll be in Mexico, but I’m just trying to make the best of my ample time at the airport. Since there’s a metro strike in Paris right now, EVERY TAXI WAS BOOKED for this morning. The logistics people couldn’t get me a car! Luckily Jose gave me his guy’s number and I arrived about 3 hours early :p

So Wednesday (17 Sep) was an interesting day.

I was getting ready to meet one of my new friends for a drink (will tell you about my friend adventures, friend-ventures, in a subsequent post) and wanted to listen to some music in my bedroom. Well, I figured I’d just get that handy world power adapter mom bought me before I left. The way it works is you plug in one half to the wall outlet anywhere in the world (there are like 6 or so possibilities), and then the second half is a universal female side, fits anything. So I look at all of the possible wall pieces, and two looked like legit possibilities. I tried the first, but I was plugging into a French extension cord, and the adapter wouldn’t fit quite right (kinda like the recessed headphone jack on 1st gen iPhone – ask Uncle Bob or google).

Next I tried the second, and it went right in, and ZAPPITYY ZAPPP ZAPPPPPPP ZAP-ZAP-ZAPPPPPPPPP.

Yeah. I got electrocuted. Bad.

Threw everything on the floor I was so shocked (pun intended) and sat on the bed for a moment thinking about what I could do, touch, etc. I settled on the plastic blackberry, and shot a quick email to Seth and Vishal (a fellow biophysics major at GW). Seth told me I was probably fine, and Vishal said I should touch everything not metal to try to ground myself, and that I was an idiot, and GW should take back my bachelor of science.

I was so freaked out too cause this summer at the hospital internship, a trauma surgeon spent an hour showing us pics of patients he’d treated, and one or two were of electricians who didn’t quite know the proper way to test a live wire. When electricity goes in, it comes out someplace else. ANYWHERE else (often between toes, for example). And the exit wound is ALWAYS worse.

Luckily I must not have been electrocuted so bad, cause I haven’t been able to find an exit wound yet :)

Well, a little shaky but not deterred, I still wanted my music. I figured out that it was best to assemble the two pieces of the adapter BEFORE plugging half into the wall. Duh. They SHOULD take away my BS, ha!

With this assembly in place, I noticed that the adapter piece lit up, so I figured that somehow indicated it was cool to plug anything into it, without the 8 pound transformer I have (I am a little resentful of the transformer, cause I think it bumps me into excess baggage territory every time I travel, and those fees are EXCESSIVEEEEE).

To err on the side of caution, I thought it a wise idea to plug in my American strip to the adapter, so as not to blow out my favorite little $10 bathroom speakers. So I plug in the strip first, and all seemed well. However I noticed the switch wasn’t lighting up.

I flipped the switch, and BOOMM!!!!!!!!!!! POOOFFFFF!!!!!!!!!

Yeah. The thing BLEW UP in my face. There was a flash of light, an audible explosion, and a poof of smoke that smelled awfuulllll. (Turns out I exploded the bulb, which is rated only for 110V and not 220). My idea to use the strip was good though, as it DID save my speakers in the end :)

Again I was startled, and still thought I couldn’t really touch anything from the electrocution 5 minutes earlier. I was running a little late, wanted to shower, but didn’t want to blow up from touching the knob.

I grabbed a magazine, rolled it up as though to strike a dog (no, I’ve never done this, I just don’t know how else to describe a rolled paper…), and tried to flip the light switch (there was no way I was touching THAT – what am I, a sadist?). Nothing. Shit. I tried the hallway, bedroom, other bedroom, living room, kitchen, WC, nothing. Crap. Dumb American.

Luckily it was still light out, so I just washed my face in the dark (obviously now I couldn’t shower at all…) and left before I couldn’t find my way out. The light in the hall wasn’t working either, so I started freaking that I blew out the power in the whole building, but it turned out to just be my floor. This is actually the worse scenario, cause I think I’m the only person on my floor, so no one was calling LIPA or ConEd on my behalf (which is to say that I have NO idea who to call, I’m in France!).

I was a little nervous that the digicode (door code entry security thing) wouldn’t work and I’d be locked out in the cold all night, but that wasn’t the case (probably would have been better off that way so someone else would get the electricity back on).

After meeting up for my drink, having dinner, and keeping sh’ma on repeat in the back of my head, I came back to a dark apartment, despite my prayers. I used my bberry as a torch to navigate before sleep (its good for one thing at least!), and went to bed.

Next morning, of course still no electricity, so no hot water. I tried to take a cold shower since I hadn’t been able to shower the night before, but it was too cold. I got dizzy after about 5 seconds so I just got out and washed my face in the sink again.

The logistics guy at work couldn’t figure out how to get the electricity back on and I was freaking out that I’d have to pay like 1,000 EUR out of pocket for an electrician. But when one arrived, it turned out he just needed to press this black button extra hard, and that’s all it took!

Moral of the story, ALWAYS shower without music in Europe.




A bientot,

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

mama, mama je vien a la maison

So I don't think that's the exact translation, but in the famous words of Ozzy Osbourne, "mama, mama I'm comin' home." That's right! Travel is booked :) If you'll notice in my calendar, I've added a nice green strip representing my 1 week stay in NYC (4 Oct - 12 Oct), directly following my 10 or so days in Mexicoooo - very exciting.



I'll be staying someplace downtown (not quite a hotel, but not quite an apartment. Jose described it to me as a hotel without room service), and working from The Union's NYC office! I'll also have Yom Kippur off. Great - the week I'm in town with all my favorite food, I have to spend 15% of it fasting. hmph.

Anyway, Paris has been great so far since my return from Thailand! The apartment search is in full swing, but I don't know how many scammers and how many legit people I have exchanged emails with... I'm gonna try to see 1 or 2 places this weekend, but if my bank account winds up empty, at least I'll KNOW its cause I gave out my account # and pin to a 'land lord!' (JUST KIDDING MOM, I would never.) I've been using the free McWifi on the weekends, and working diligently from my desk during the week (staying past 7 most nights to attempt to work on med school application and scour Craig's list for an apt). The weather here is sunny and cool with a slight breeze, REALLY nice contrast to the heat, humidity, storms and dirty streets of Bangkok.

Sunday night, one of my coworkers was kind enough to invite me over for dinner AND did my laundry, including ironing a few shirts!! What a treat. I would have had to go to work naked the next day, so she is really a lifesaver. Thanks Selma!

Anyway, back to work - just wanted to give a quick update - see you all soon!!

a bientot,

Friday, September 12, 2008

iuatld course on bppm, 1-13 sep 2008, bangkok, thailand (+ I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free.)

...aka the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease course on Budget Planning and Project Management, is a two week course offered by The Union (my employer) designed to equip healthcare professionals with the skills necessary to run a National Tuberculosis Programme (NTP). Basically, doctors may be brilliant in medicine, but probably lack the skills required to develop, manage, and implement a budget, for example. Thus the course (and the others in the IMDP series, to which the link above connects) fills a void left by obtaining only a medical education (and why programs such as Noah K's MD/MBA will increase in popularity). Recently, The Union has been charged to adapt the courses from Tuberculosis programmes to Tobacco programmes (yeah, I spell it like they do in the UK) to help develop and manage national anti tobacco campaigns! It's really great stuff.

The ~35 doctors and administrators here for this course come from 25 countries on 3 continents (Europe, Asia, Africa, as far as I can tell) - it is a diverse group! At each of the seven tables in our conference room, there may be doctors from two warring nations working together on an Excel sheet on a single computer. It's really inspiring to know that in the face of political conflict, individuals can rise above the transience of fighting governments to come together and work for a common cause. As one of the moderators has said, "tuberculosis doesn't need a visa."

During the opening presentations on budget last week, it was crazy to see these people shaking their heads in agreement that the government had cut funding to buy microscope slides or vehicles, thus halting tuberculosis care in a given region. Or that state-of-the art microscopy equipment sat packaged in hallways because the funds for hiring lab personnel were cut. It seemed that for every example the moderator provided, at least one participant had experienced the scenario.

I have also been fortunate enough to speak with some people who have changed the way tuberculosis is treated throughout the world! (one actually has taken quite a liking to me, I share my computer with him so he can check his email)

Before I share more with you, I'll address the burning question that you (mom) have regarding what it is I actually do here. Basically just a little of this and a little of that... I help modify slides before they are presented, I staple together handouts to be distributed, I answer emails, I do some clerical stuff, some photographing, some CD burning -- whatever anyone needs help with, I offer to help.

Anyway...

Through the course of, well... the course, I have had the opportunity to talk with some amazing and world-renowned people, and hear some stories that left my jaw hanging (no, the trip is not all massages, sites, and rock 'n roll).

It's one thing to see war in Iraq through Three Kings (clooney / wahlberg flick) or even the news, but to hear from an Iraqi doctor that he must go to work in a different car each day to avoid being murdered by terrorists is quite another.

Likewise I found it difficult to watch Blood Diamond because of the unimaginable violence against humanity, but to hear from a former UN employee stationed in the Democratic Republic of Congo that she was forced to sit in the corridors of her house glued to a transistor awaiting UN evacuation, away from windows and doors while the bullets of a civil war whizzed down her street and mortar shook its very foundations is again, quite another experience.

Sure, in America we complain about high gas prices and and a leader that can't properly pronounce nuclear, but at least in our upcoming election, the polls won't be riddled with the bullets of thugs forcing us to vote for a particular candidate. Similarly, our police force is by and large there to protect and to serve. It is not so in all parts of the world, and I think it's important to be cognizant of how lucky those of us brought up in America really are. I've been told from those who have experienced it first hand, that often the police are not there to protect, but to get your money for protection should you need it.

All in all, I am very thankful for the way I was brought up (location, parenting) and for the opportunities I've been provided. I look forward to spending more time speaking with more people and learning about more cultures, customs, and countries which vastly differ from those with which I am familiar. It has just been 3.5 weeks since I left home, and this has already been an amazing experience for me. I can only anticipate what the next 10 - 12 months will bring. Stay tuned.

Anyway, here are some pics of the people I've been hangin with in Bk (the southeast asian bk, not 11201)




A bientot,

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

sky bar / amazing bangkok cyclist


Good morning (EST)!

When I last wrote, I was getting ready to head over to Sky Bar, a bar on the top floor of one of Bangkok's tallest and nicest hotels. The group consisted of myself, Nathalie, Jayson, and Selma (pictured in that order). We enjoyed the AMAZING view of the city, but had to head indoors when the lightening, thunder, wind and rain became unbearable and unsafe. Our 500 baht cocktails were delicious and a not-so-welcome reminder of the NYC / Paris drink prices we must return to after Bangkok. It was a great night, and we headed back pretty early in order to be energized for our bike tour the next day!

After our enjoyable Saturday night, Nathalie and I took a bike tour with ABC - Amazing Bangkok Cyclist. This tour promises to take you to sites you wouldn't normally see as a tourist, including a wholesale market, a floating market, narrow back streets and alleyways, and a brief stop on the river.

The company was founded by a dutch guy (very friendly in his emails - he actually wrote me "okidoki") -- a perfect fit since the dutch are very friendly and use bicycles as a primary means of transportation. The dutch, apparently, also stick together, as on our tour of about 10 or 12 cyclists, Nathalie and I were the only non-dutch (she is Parisian, and I, a native of New York). Before heading out, we were given a briefing in ABC's headquarters, 2 metro stops from our hotel. Here we were introduced to Apple and Boom, our young Thai guides. The two girls were full of energy and very enthusiastic, and from the moment we arrived they were extremely welcoming and hospitable.



During the welcome session, we met the other bikers - a young dutch couple, a flight crew from KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, and maybe one or two others I can't remember right now. We mostly spoke with the flight crew, who are put up in the luxurious hotel where in which the sky bar resides! Now THAT'S a dream job. I had the great pleasure of speaking at length with Frank, a bursar (I'm told this is like an in-flight flight manager), about the impending energy crisis and its implications on air travel. Jerome, the 21-year-old 747 pilot (the first 20-something I've interacted with in about 3 weeks) told us that it takes 130 tons of fuel, or 7 full tankers, to power a 747. Damn. We spoke about the cost of diverted flights (hotel costs, fuel), and some interesting stories about in-flight emergencies they've experienced (blown engines, which is no big deal cause the 747 doesn't NEED all 4).

The tour was AWESOME! I'm so happy we went. It may even be the highlight of the trip, because they completely delivered on all of their promises. We saw so much stuff I'd never otherwise have the opportunity to see. The best part, though, is that Frank and Jerome had each done the tour before, and said its different every time! Sweet - I'll treat anyone that meets me here next trip.

As we headed out, the dutch were all asking if I'd be ok on the bike - apparently America has a reputation for producing non-bikers. Little did they know that I biked to work for 1 MONTH this summer (... 1 mile from my house). We wound through narrow alley-ways, across 4 lane divided highways (yikes!), and finally arrived at a bustling wholesale market. Here, all of the restaurants and hotels buy their supplies for the day early in the morning, and serve it to the unsuspecting public that night! mmmm. There were live chickens, live fish, dead chickens, dead fish, whole pigs, pigs legs, chicken claws, bugs, insects, SACKS of peppers and other fresh veggies, snakes, and more, just to name a sampling.

Apple led us through while Boom stayed behind and did a little shopping for our first snack. We sat down at an old wooden picnic table in a clearing and awaited Boom's arrival. She brought with her rambutan (red spiky fruit - see pics), logan (another fruit), and angel's hair and crepes. Fantastic, fresh, and refreshing! Good pick-me-up, but I was ready for more.

Next, we continued biking under the railway, through more narrow passages, and passed the rather depressing site of what must be Bangkok's poorest. They live in literally these one room shacks. The children are all in high spirits though, hi-5ing the dutch that are skilled enough to do so while riding :) (I was mostly videotaping with one hand).

Next stop was a trip across the river. The riders and bikes were all loaded into a long and narrow boat that is propelled by what looks like a tremendous jet engine. After the Heart of Darkness / Apocolypse Now opening sequence, we biked some more on some REALLYYY narrow cement pathways through the jungle (wore my deet) and arrived at the weekend "floating market" (I put this in quotation marks because this isn't the REAL floating market, it's just A floating market). Here, we parked our bikes and walked through the narrow and busy aisles, stopping periodically as Boom and Apple bought us traditional Thai snacks. The highlights were curried fish heads, quail eggs, Thai pancakes, and these little leaf pockets filled with prawns, ginger, chili, and peanut. This was honestly the best food I've had on the trip. I wish I knew about the market before so that I could have eaten and shopped there more, but even now I wouldn't be able to find it :/ - guess I have to do the tour again!

Finally, we saddled up and biked a bit further, arriving at a "restaurant" several minutes later. This place was actually a lean-to / deck on top of a river with a picnic table. Famished, we gathered around and waited for our meal to arrive. We were given a big plate of fried rice and one of noodles. Not spectacular, but very delicious and VERY welcome after a long day of biking.

Crossing the river and heading back, I was tired, dehydrated, and fully saturated in my own sweat. After our 6 hour journey / guided tour, I had sampled the best food of the trip, learned a great deal about the Dutch, made some new friends, seen markets, streets, and produce I'd never otherwise have seen, and gotten exercise to boot! (Haven't quite been making it to the gym on a daily basis as planned...) WELL worth the 2,000 baht (~60usd) all inclusive fee (bikes, food, water, guides, all provided).

Well, I'm off to go get my 'first fitting' on my custom tailored suit!! Wish me luck :)




A bientot,

Monday, September 8, 2008

hey, hey - i wanna be a rockstarrrrr


Well, this may prove to be a slightly embarrassing post...

The other night, I went to Khaosan Road with Jayson (Union guy based in NY) and Selma (based in Paris). This area of Bangkok is known as a backpackers paradise, and is filled with loud bars full of live cover bands. I thought one was playing 'Baba O'Reily,' so I suggested we sit down and have a drink there. Turns out they weren't playing The Who, but it was a decent band nonetheless. We had a few Heinekens (I don't know why this beer is so popular here...and cheap!) and enjoyed the music, and I told them that a dream of mine is that I always wanted to play in a (cover) band and be a rock star. They told me I should definitely try to sit in with the band, but as shy little Jordan, I of course abstained as much as possible, satisfying them by saying maybe after 2 beers.

As the second round of Heinis was finishing up, Selma said to me, "so when you're done with this one, you'll go sing?" Just as she said this, the lead singer was requesting a volunteer from the crowd, and they started egging me on to go. I was still holding out like a little girl before her first ballet performance, and thankfully another person sitting in front of the band got up. That didn't save me though. Selma called over the waitress and told her that I wanted to sing too. Before I could object, the waitress went over to the band and came back with a pen and paper for me to write what I could sing. I've recorded myself 'singing' before, and it literally makes me cringe (I got 8 out of 30 points in a karaoke contest at hosted by the Asian Society of GW once. The average score was probably 24 or 25. I think this has to do with my horrible voice, but it could also have to do with the fact that I ripped my boxers out of my pants and threw them at the judges at the end to try to win :) ... grand prize was an iPod touch!). While the waitress was gone, I struggled to conjure up a song I could play well start to finish. So with pen and paper in hand, I shakily scrawled "can I play guitar on 'more than a feeling' by boston?" and handed in the paper.

When the current song finished up, the guitarist (the only member of the band I could see from my vantage) waved me up, and I knew I was in for some trouble. I handed over my Flip Mino (thanks alli and seth!) and went to meet my doom. When I got up there, I motioned that I could play guitar and not sing, so the guitarist gave me his guitar and the singer (a white dude, not sure from where, but English was his first language, so he knew the songs - a departure from the linkin park cover band in patpong from last week) asked me what I wanted to play. Unfortunately, the group didn't know Boston, and the singer started flipping through the songbook and told me stop him when I saw something I could play. I saw 'hotel california' and told him to stop.

I think probably the most important factor when making your debut performance as a rock star (or any performance, for that matter) is to really KNOW the song you volunteer yourself to play. I did not know hotel california. The performance was pretty awful (I know this cause I watched the video - cringe factor 8.5). The singer then wanted (needed after hearing me I'm sure) to smoke a cigarette, so he told me to sing the next song. I pleaded that I could not sing, but he and the crowd were telling me to do it, so I took a stab at "time of your life" by green day, encouraged by the fact that the band would "back me up" even though they did not know the song. Rule number 2, if you expect the band to back you up, make sure THEY know the song. Hearing myself sing on the playback the next day, I realize that allowing myself to sing, and sing a song out of my limited (well, nonexistent) range, AND a song no one on the stage knew, was a bad decision. Cringe factor 11 out of 10.

Close to striking out, a little buzzed, and realizing that 3rd time's a charm, I decided to try one more song, as the set would conclude if I didn't keep going (the other guitarists strings had popped, it was late, etc.). Finally, I realized I could do 'Sweet Home Alabama' by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Now, this isn't a movie, and I'm not gonna lie and say it was a grand slam, but for my rock star debut, I think it was at least a base hit...

This one's for jake! (my drummer in jericho) --- Thanks jayson for filming and selma for rockin out in the crowd :)



A bientot,

Saturday, September 6, 2008

little bits: foot massage, suit saga, da media, more

So dee kaaa (sp?)!

One of the really great and charming things about Bangkok is that whenever you walk into a store or restaurant, you are kindly greeted with a welcoming, "so dee kaaa..." (it sorta trails off). Also, when you are leaving, your waiter or cashier or whoever always takes a second to put her hands together and give you a bow to send you off. Just takes a second, but there's nothing like it in America. Really nice touch.

Anyway, right now it's Saturday afternoon here. I should be napping, as again I find myself on 4 hours of sleep (this is becoming a trend), but I write. Today we have the afternoon off on account of it being Saturday, and tomorrow we have the day off! Nathalie, a girl from The Union in Paris (her office is en face de mine - that means 'facing') made a really wise investment of a Bangkok tourist pocket book (she calls it her Bible). Tonight, a few of the Union folk are going to Sky Bar on its recommendation, and tomorrow we are doing a bicycle tour of the lesser known sites of Bangkok! So excited.


Before I get into the foot massage and suit saga, I'd just like to point out that I got some bandwidth recently (plugged directly into ethernet in the conference room), and uploaded a bunch of media - so in case you missed it...

l'elephant (vid of me feeding elephant)

frungerque pics (self explanatory, I think...)

pics of the royal palace and wat po (sp?) temples here in Bangkok

Sweet.

So foot massage. Yeah, had one! Milli (Union employee based in India), Andrea (WHO employee based in Geneva, Switzerland - taught a class here for the course), and I (jd, Union employee based en Parii) all decided to go get foot massages. They're famous for them here, you can't walk 5 seconds without being offered one, and its dirt cheap, so we decided why not?

It all begins in a back room where you sit down and an employee washes your feet. I imagine there is a similar first step for a pedicure, but since I've never had one, I am unable verify this claim. Next, the massage-ee (me, in this case) is escorted to a really comfy couch (eerily reminiscent of the two comfy chairs in the living room of the Jaff-Inn), one in a line of about 5 on each side of the main room of the parlor. The area where the feet go are covered with two towels - gave me a real sense of cleanliness :)

When settled, the masseuse comes over and gets right to work. It felt (and smelled) like each of my legs (up to about the knee or lower thigh) was covered with icy hot or bengay or something. The actual massage is more or less what I was expecting: some rubbing, poking, prodding, and straight up massaging of the foot, calf, knee, and lower thigh. It was very mediocre for the first 50 or so minutes (pay by the hour - 300 baht, just under $10 - holla.), but then, as my masseuse was finishing early (Andrea's started first and was still goin!), and I was debating whether or not to dispute the charge, she jumped around my back, and began a 10 minute Thai massage on my neck, shoulders, and back. A Thai massage differs from a Sweedish, or oil massage, in that the body is mostly stretched and contorted to massage the muscles, as opposed to rubbed down with oil.

This sampler was awesome. She really earned her Baht during that concluding performance, and probably also won herself a new client (me) for a full Thai massage next week. I tipped her 100 baht... why naht??? (<~this should rhyme.) So Jon, you perv, my ending was QUITE happy, especially relative to the beginning and middle. It was not, however, a ::happy ending::

As for the suit saga, I've been in to this tailor that all of the Union people use. First time, he quoted me 4500 baht (~150 usd - custom made top to bottom, multiple fittings - sweet deal) for some linen cloth. Then I spoke to Jamshed, a boss or supervisor of mine, and he advised that I go wool all the way. So I went back the other night and had another chat with the dude about wool. He showed me some nice cashmere wools, 120 ____ (I forgot the word that follows) or maybe 150 (not thread count, maybe they call it super 150? i have no idea...). My ignorance, however, already put me at a disadvantage, as did my non-Thai-ness (apparently there are Thai prices, and not-Thai prices), AS did my lackluster bargaining skills. He quoted me 7,000 baht, almost double the linen. He lined up 4 cloths, and told me 7,000, 6,000, 5,500, and 4,500 baht. All felt the same to me!

I figure you get what you pay for, sure, but I'd really rather know what it is I'm getting, too. I tried to read a bit online, but my efforts on that front weren't terribly fruitful. Jamshed has promised that he'll return with me next week or so.

Ok, time to go check out that Sky Bar! Keep in touch, I love getting emails and comments from you all!! :)

A bientot,

Friday, September 5, 2008

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Bangkok: East Meets West, Part II - An Eastern City (sub-unit 2 of 2)


Good Morning US and A!

Its a new day, and I am slightly refreshed and ready to finish up East Meets West with 'An Eastern City (sub-unit 2 of 2). I gave you a slight preview in the previous post of how I would start this one (as my original intention was to just soldier on). Without further ado, I present:

Bangkok: East Meets West, Part II - An Eastern City (sub-unit 2 of 2)
The Final Cut


(con'td.) Anyway, our tourguide from the hotel went by P.C., and was very kind, smiley, and knowledegable (Thailand is the 'land of 1,000 smiles'). He drove us in our own mercedes (the make is circa 1980, but still cool!) to the sites, and then walked with us the whole day. If you intend to go (and I HIGHLY recommend it, as you'll see...) see the Royal Palace and Temple compounds, be sure to wear pants and closed-toed shoes, as you won't be allowed to enter the royal compound without this appropriate attire (they revere the monarchy...quite unlike the Prime Minister). First we saw the Temples, chapels, and several towers (I feel so uncultured, I don't remember the proper names of these, Manju, help!!). They were all breathtaking. Actually.

The outer walls are lined with tiny little glass pieces, about 2 cm^2 (square centimeters), which are all hand cut and applied individually. The entire compound is under continuous restoration, and each piece is replaced once every three years to maintain the shine (the guy is constantly working, it just takes 3 years to complete the cycle. Then he begins again). The effect is spectacular! The outside of all of these buildings, shrines, and Temples are truly like nothing I have ever seen (including Rome, Florence, and Paris, as well as the Bahamas, Hawaii, and Mexico, etc.), and I was really awestruck the entire time. Another more astonishing site awaited around every bend.

Whereas the sites in the European cities I have seen are all in ruins, these are still in very much in their prime (I think this effect is compounded by the insane shopping experience right across town - the whole city is growing at an astounding pace I'm told). The experience is just incomparable. Imagine jumping into one of those tour guide books with the semi-transparent pages that shows what you see today on one page, and what you would have seen a couple hundred years ago on a clear page overlaying the modern photo. In Thailand, these books don't exist because this stuff is still in its magnificent prime.

The architecture too is quite different from Europe. Here, there are radiantly colored overhanging eaves, golden wings flying up from the roof peaks, and a conglomeration of the curved roof top patterns I imagine of China and Japan. This contrasts the flat tops of the ruins in Europe. As some of you may remember from Europe, some of my favorite pictures are of the rooftops contrasted against a bright blue sky (see: Rome, Florence, Vienna, Europe). In these photos, the buildings are gray stone, but still look gorgeous against the clear sky. Even the still modern churches, which are magnificent to see, pale in comparison to the bright reds, blues, greens, and golds, which are electric and lively against the blue sky we were blessed with (I am a fortunate travel-photo-logger-tourist).

One of the coolest sites we saw was the Reclining Buddha. This gigantic replica is 49 meters long (yeah - half an American football field), and 16 meters high at the head. To walk its length took about 10 minutes with snapping photos and video, and I really couldn't believe it was still going as I reached the thighs and knew there was more to go. The feet are inlayed with an intricate mother-of-pearl design. Again, this pattern is comprised of tiny pieces cut and placed individually by hand. The Buddha is a site to be seen.



After sweating between 3 and 5 gallons (i couldn't get my shoes back on after entering the Temples because my socks were so sweaty and my feet swollen. Can't even imagine what Grandy's feet would have looked like!), we took a break from the sites and checked out the regalia museum. Worth every penny for the air conditioning, otherwise it can be skipped. Its just some dresses, swords, coins, crowns, etc. But at least it was cool.

All in all, the sites were fabulous. Definitely the most beautiful place I have been yet in my life. I suggest you make any and every effort to see them too.

After the sites, we were quite famished, and I took a page out of the Jon Jacobs book of eating and asked PC his favorite place (Jon always asks wait staff, "what's the best thing? Your favorite?" This tactic doesn't work as well in Thailand, as nobody really understands what I'm asking. PC did.). He told us of a place he knew that was nearby, and hailed us a tuk-tuk.

A tuk-tuk is a small little automobile powered by what must be a lawnmower engine. Think a pizza delivery scooter modified to hold 3 people in the back, instead of 3 pies. They are loud, zippy, open, and quite uncomfortable. They are decorated with some lights on the inside and other hanging colorful things. The roof is a cheap tin thing, like the fence bordering a construction site. It is a legacy form of transportation here, and I imagine is kept around just as a novelty (and probably because the cabs, which are all bright pink, idle in traffic). It was an experience to do, but I don't think I would do it as my main form of transit. I did take some fun video though, so I'll share that for you all someday!

We arrived at a lovely and inexpensive restaurant (240 baht for the two of us, ~8usd), right on the river. Manju and I sat at a table overlooking the water. It was very relaxing to have a slight breeze, the calming sound of a lightly moving river, and the occasional boat drift by. The food was delicious too (I have some nice pictures), but especially enjoyable because we garnished it ourselves (I wasn't certain why they gave me a cup of chopped parsley and one of chopped onion to accompany my dish, if NOT for garnishing!). After only 4 (or less, Manju woke up around 6 to get Milli from the airport) hours of sleep and a long day of touring in the HOT (and humid!) sun, this was a much needed lunch. The shade was welcome too :)

When we finally returned to the hotel, I went and showered and skipped my nap to write an entry (this is a few days ago now, I can't quite remember exactly. Of course I could look it up, but I don't want to open another browser tab.). Just as I began dozing off, Manju called that she and Milli were going out to the mall and then to dinner. I got up with no sleep, and hit the town again!




Now in these three short posts, I have more or less filled you in on my first 24 hours in Bangkok. I've been here 4 days since then and still have 9 to go. I've already had a massage, done some market shopping, eaten, eaten, and eaten some more, and I've still got ton more to eat and experience.

I'm sure we'll talk soon, but until then, for your VIEWING enjoyment, I present PHOTOSSS!!! (I found a hard ethernet wire here in the conference room, and it still took like 3 hours to upload the 20 or so pics I've got to share. These are whittled down from the 120 I STARRED (forget the 300+ I've taken...) and I think they are the best of the best of the Temple sites. More to come, obviously.



A bientot,

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bangkok: East Meets West, Part II - An Eastern City (sub-unit 1 of 2)

Well, it has certainly been a BUSY couple of days! Since the course here started on Monday, I have been running straight through from 7:30am (barring the one day I forgot you can't snooze a wakeup call, and showed up 15 minutes late :( )to midnight wishing there were more hours in the day to email, try uploading photos (still no luck), and write here. In any case, with no further ado, I present to you:

Bangkok: East Meets West, Part II - An Eastern City (sub-unit 1 of 2)

To refresh: after arriving at the airport, Jose (my boss) and I took a cab to our hotel. Jose went to sleep. I went to the gym. We met up in the lobby around 6 and headed out.

Our stroll down the road the hotel is on was my first taste at the Eastern-ness, and I skipped a quite a bit of this description in the previous post. The road is narrow (one lane that runs both ways) and very busy. There is a begger every 10 meters, a pushy cab or tuk-tuk (i'll get to this soon -
taxi? you want taxi? where you go? taxi? taxi?) driver every 5 meters, a food cart every 4 meters (STILL haven't tried the street fare), and counterfeit apparel, movies, and/or deadly and nonlethal weapons for sale every 1 meter (brass knuckles, knives, machetes, pellet guns, tazers - you name it). It is this way almost everywhere we walk in Bangkok.

During this first foray outside the hotel, I was most shocked, however, to find a huge elephant bumbling down the road toward us. As he and his handlers approached (don't think circus handler, think poor-looking, dirty, ragged clothes and shoeless handler - ok bad image, this could describe a circus handler too), Jose said to me in his Cuban - Spanish - American accent, "So you want to feed the elephant?" I thought he was joking, but sure enough, as pushy as any of the other vendors, taxi drivers, or peep show promoters, the elephant guy came up waving a plastic bag in my face, "you want to feed elephant, feed elephant, elephant ride, 100 baht." (baht is Thai currency. 1 USD = ~34 baht - cheap city! woohoo!) Jose, as the Director of Finance and Development (actually, promoted TODAY to Deputy Executive Director, congrats!) for The Union, was able to bargain the guy down to 50 baht, and I got 3 bags of sugar cane to feed the adorable (and intimidatingly large) elephant. I whipped out my Flip Mino (thanks jaffin/ungers!! can't wait to share the vids), hit record, and let Jose take it away as I fed the elephant! It was crazy, he would lift his trunk to my hand, I'd drop the cane into his nose, and he'd usher it into his mouth. I imagine eating this way would be quite inconvenient and uncomfortable - I don't want no sugar cane up my nasal passages.

The video is great - I'll upload it when I can :)

As we walked on, we passed a number of custom suit shops (I think I'll hit one tonight - get me a nice light suit for all these tropical climates). The turnaround is a matter of 2 or 3 days, including 2-3 refittings. I checked, and was quoted 4500 baht, ~150 USD for 100% linen. I've been told this is reasonable, but still advised to bargain.

This is the part when we walked to the huge malls (see Western City below), had dinner at the nytimes restau with Manju, after which we went to one of the night markets here.

The night market was, like the streets, crowded (although not to the extent I would have expected - maybe its the bad tourism, or the 'state of emergency'), full of shops (duh, its a market), and their pushy keepers. I needed to buy a pair of capris (because I like them, yes haters, but also cause that's what everyone wears here - and i didn't pack shorts cause i'm an idiot.) and found a nice pair at an air conditioned shop. I tried to haggle with the guy, but lacking Jose's finance experience, I wasn't able to get him down to the price I wanted to pay. Instead, I wound up with a pair for 180 baht, $6, and believe me, they're uhh worth just about that. Where's H&M when you need it? It was a minor victory for me though, as it represented my first bargaining victory - she wanted 250 baht! Thanks Manju for also sweet-talking the shopkeeper.

After meandering the tight aisles of 'Rays Bans' and 'Versaces' (not just Versace, but MANY Versaces) for a little while longer, we hunted down a taxi willing to take us on the meter (this is a real challenge!) and headed home. Jose went to sleep, and Manju and I went to Patpong as I have already explained in 'Western City.'

Patpong is another area, I guess known for its own market there and the 'night life.' By night life, what is actually meant is strip clubs. Literally on every sidewalk tile (or equivalent, I didn't notice if there are actually sidewalk tiles...) is a man with a card - a menu if you will, and you must - of different shows you can watch. Their favorite is ping pong show, "ping pong show, ping pong show, come on you see, ping pong show, ping pong show..." Now, I have no idea what a ping pong show is, but if this is their advertising strategy, I can only conclude that through their extensive marketing research, ping pong shows are the current market leaders. If I decide to go to one, I'll let you know what it is. I actually tried to buy the menu off one of the guys, but he said it was his only one. I told him to print up another and I'd return the next night. We'll see if I make it back.

You can see through most of the open doors about 10 or 15 'girls' dancing on the bars in matching bathing suits. It's sorta like Tuesday's vs Friday's if you will (for my non-American readership, Tuesday's and Friday's are low quality American chain restaurants where the wait staff dress in ridiculous outfits - usually red and white striped aprons or something...), but instead of aprons its matching bikinis. Anyway, I put 'girls' in 'quotation marks' because Manju warned me that some are trannies. I replied, "I guess you can get more than you paid for." Buh dum ching.

Eventually we took a cab back and went to bed. I stayed up til 4am and wrote "Western City" (my sleep-deprived-ness may be reflected in the interesting style and diction of that post - I reread it and was surprised at some of the things I wrote). Manju called me at 8 am, I had my "Egg McMuffin" (read about this in Western City), and then Manju and I took our private tour of the Royal Palace and Temples.

This could (and, well, probably should, but it's really the whole point of writing 'Eastern City'...) be a post in itself. I should also note that I'd rather wait for the pictures, but that'll be too long it seems :(

Ok. I've decided to make it its own post. I need to sleep and nobody has the attention span to make it through what I've got left to say (nor do I have that required to type it).

Here's a preview:

Anyway, our tourguide from the hotel went by P.C., and was very kind, smiley, and knowledegable (Thailand is the 'land of 1,000 smiles'). He drove us in our own mercedes (the make is circa 1980, but still cool!) to the sites, and then walked with us the whole day. If you intend to go (and I HIGHLY recommend it, as you'll see...) be sure to wear pants and closed-toed shoes, as you won't be allowed to enter the royal compound without this appropriate attire (they revere the monarchy...quite unlike the Prime Minister). First we saw the Temples, chapels, and several towers (I feel so uncultured, I don't remember the proper names of these, Manju, help!!). They were all breathtaking. Actually.


A bientot,

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bangkok: East Meets West, Part I - A Western City



Hello and welcome to Bangkok. After spending about 24 hours here, I have decided that my next two posts will be a miniseries, "Bangkok: East Meets West." I've ALREADY seen SO MUCH here, and have so much to talk about (watch, I plan a couple of long posts, and they'll be one paragraph...), that I'm splitting it up. Here in Part I - A Western City, I'll talk about my transit, arrival, and impressions of the Western-ness I've observed. Tomorrow (or so) I'll write Part II - An Eastern City (bet you didn't see that coming) and talk about the Eastern-ness I've experienced (royal palace, temples, architecture, etc). I already have a ton of pics and video to share, but of course I'm still having difficulty uploading, so they may, unfortunately, have to wait. So without further ado, I present:

Bangkok: East Meets West, Part I - A Western City

I arrived in Bangkok on Saturday 30 Aug around noon bangkok time, after getting in a taxi Friday, 29 Aug, at 1 pm paris time. Sure there was a 10 hour flight involved and a 5 hour time warp, but I think it was still a lot of traveling for whatever period of time I was actually in transit (still not sure how to calculate that :) ). Although protestors here have shut down 3 airports in Thailand, they left open the international one (sukhumvent or something) - I guess they still want the tourists to arrive (although we aren't numerous...damn weak US dollar.).

The flights! Were awesome (barring the 36 euro i paid for my luggage being 3 kilos overweight. ugh. and this was AFTER i moved stuff to my backpack, which then clocked in at a svelt 11.8 kilos - plenty of room to spare with the 12kg limit!). I slept on both - CDG (paris) to Amsterdam (just north of 1 hour) and Amsterdam to Bangkok (10 hours on the nose). Amsterdam airport was cool. It's like a big ol' shopping mall, complete with American food court! Burger King was packed, so I just had Sbarro's...served by Mario (of Super Mario Bros. fame) himself! (creepy resemblance now that I think about it) During my layover, I listened to some music and did a little shopping and reading (I bought a book on how to make small talk, cause I think I suck at it. the book seems to be helping! if you need advice on the matter, just contribute to the 15 euro i spent on it, and I'll be glad to share :) ). The Bangkok flight was great. Had a nice seat in the aisle that seemed to recline a degree or 2 more than usual - a welcome miscalibration. Also, the headrest had little flaps you could fold up, so you could roll your head and have some support. sweet. This was the first flight in recent memory I used the blanket and pillow provided (are these still around on US flights?). They showed Iron Man, but having just watched that, I opted for the nap session. I awoke to an interesting first meal (there were two): like three small cubes of beef, green beans, rice (all three hot), then a cold green bean salad (KLM, what's up with all the green beans, did you stockpile when spinach and tomatoes went bad 3 years ago?), a piece of bread, and some puddingy dessert. Pretty lame compared to British Airways.

After dinner, went back to sleep for a few more hours, watched a little bit of the new Indiana Jones (snooze fest), and went back to sleep again. This time I awoke to a rather delicious breakfast! I was a little timid to try the western omelette egg hash looking concoction, but looking to make good on my promise to myself to try everything presented to me, I dove in. It was great (relatively speaking - we're on an airplane here people, don't forget)! I also enjoyed three mini puffy pancakes over apple preserves, a roll, this fluffy yogurt / raspberry sauce dish, and one other cold thing I can't recall right now. I didn't speak to anybody around me on the flight.

We landed right on time (at least that's what they told us - I had no idea, so thrown off from time changes) at the international airport, which is a behemoth. It took me like forever to get to customs and the money change people (not a terrible rate... at least I don't think. def wasn't rip off fest '08 like in rome when $200 turned into 100 euro in March). Going through customs was a pleasure, primarily because I was ON MY GAME and was first on line when the new teller opened!!! Boy those poor saps waiting in front of me on the old line must have been sad. Prob saved myself 30-45 minutes, which was great, cause Jose (my boss) was waiting for me outside (I actually saw him through customs grab his bags from the baggage claim, but wasn't about to scream past the national security people. he took a direct flight from paris to bangkok, which he told me was almost diverted to land in India on account of a passenger seizing onboard. there were 2 doctors on the plane that came to his rescue). Jose and I shared a taxi to the hotel, as the guy with my name on a placard never showed up!! (there really was supposed to be one!)

Once at the hotel, we split up to our rooms. I unpacked (finally not living out of a suitcase - never unpacked in Paris, didn't feel like home. plus i'll be in thailand longer - incredibly hard to believe right now) and then went to the 'gym.' I hope they don't advertise it as such on the website, cause it isn't. There is a treadmill, a bike, a stairmaster, and a rowing machine. I tried all 4 for a nice cardio warm up, and NOT ONE was functional. Since it was hot, I was already sweating at this point, and felt 'warm' enough - so I just hit the weights. I did bi's and tri's and then some abs (the equipment for all of these is lacking). It felt great to work out for the first time since the MCAT (may 10)! I'm still feeling high today from it. The hotel describes its fitness center as,
Taking regular exercise is good for your health, so we provide you with choices of quality exercise equipment and sauna in our superb fitness centre. Or you can experience a soothing feeling while enjoying the limpid water in our large outdoor swimming pool. Stay fit and healthy whether you are on a business trip or vacation.

I think 'quality' is perhaps the adjective farthest from accurate in describing the facilities, and 'superb fitness centre' is the funniest thing i've read in asia yet!

After my workout, I went back and showered, and then waited for Jose in the lobby. He came down around 6, having overslept (I was down at about 4:30 cause I wasn't sure what time we agreed upon. I just read and watched people come in and out of the hotel... and I actually fell asleep too). Jose took me on the metro here a few stops down (skipping the 'Eastern' stuff - that's for next post), to what must be the shopping capital of all of eurasia. We went to one tremendous freakin' mall. We must have rode the escalator about 7 flights up and down - past a bowling alley (think lucky strike), several car dealerships (bmw, maserati, porsche, ferari, I kid you not - IN the mall!), fitness center (now HERE was quality), and movie theater (think muvico, jon) with IMAX. My jaw hung low the entire trip. I was NOT expecting to see this here. Next, we walked along the sky route outside (its above the street) and passed THREE MORE equally ginormous malls. We took a taxi back to the hotel, and picked up Manju (really nice girl in her 30s, she works at the India office), another Union employee, and went to dinner.

Along the whole western city theme, we had dinner at a place Jose read about in the Times. Apparently so too did everyone else there, cause they were all clearly expats (don't worry, the staff were all Thai). The place was great. I tried a Lychee drink (anyone know what that is? i had no idea before i tried it...) cause Jose and Manju ordered it as well. For appy I had these seafood skewers with spicy sauce. Pretty good! Came with shrimp, eel maybe, and salmon. For dinner I got massamum lamb. This is the same dish (though I usually get with beef or chicken) that I've had twice at this Thai place in hicksville matt likes. Having had the authentic Thai version now (or what I imagine is authentic...I still haven't hit the street vendors), I can say hicksville does a pretty good job (i think its #49 on their menu... maybe 59, or 52?).

After dinner, we went to one of the night markets which I'll save for 'Eastern City,' and then Manju and I went out to a bar (Jose went to sleep) in patpong. This too was pretty interesting, as one of the waitors there tried to sell me cocaine (I think - it was a little folded up piece of paper with something in it... and he was shady about it...). Once he got the message I didn't want (he tried 3 or 4 times?), he offered to get me another heini. I happiliy accepted :p This bar was also funny because they had a live band covering American rap songs! I took a video of "In the End" (Linkin Park), and will post when I have better bandwidth.

Manju and I finally convinced a cab to take us home on the meter (most try to rip you off), and I went upstairs, got my wifi on, and posted to you all. I went to bed at 4am. Manju called at 8 to wake me. I got up and slowly made my way downstairs to the free breakfast included with my room. I paroozed (can't figure out how to spell that one properly...) the buffet to make sure I made a wise decision before taking food. There was some (what i imagine to be) traditional thai breakfast stuff (noodles, chicken dish, veggies - looked like takeout from yim's wok), and some american stuff (lots of rolls, bfast meats, an egg station). I started with a roll cause lots of the stations were running low (I showed up about a half hour before close), but then I noticed a magical thing, a new plate of pancakes!! I jumped up, got me two pancakes, when just then, the egg guy put out an egg! I took that too. I topped my fresh egg with a slice of cheese which melted, took the fresh pancakes, two pieces of old oily bacon, some 'artificial maple flavor syrup,' (thanks for the warning, Royal Benja!), and made myself an egg mcmuffin. delish!

At 1030 I headed out for my private tour of the royal palace and temple with Manju, but that's all Eastern baby.

On account of being 5 hours behind and on 4 hours of sleep, I am going to nap.

A bientot,

Saturday, August 30, 2008

frungerque



Hellooo! As you may have guessed from the new blog photo, heading, and title (jdenbangkok - no the URL hasn't changed), I've arrived safely in Bangkok! I'll tell you all about the flights and my first day in a future post (ie tomorrow night - bangkok time - that is, 11 hours in the future relative to you EST'ers).

For now though, I'd like first to direct your attention to le chien et margaux jouent au foot. Yes, I finally uploaded the vid from un jour avec les frungers. You can also access the vid by clicking the vid link over there ~~>

In other news, Wednesday night (8/27, or 27/8 depending on which side of the pond you reside), Sophie and Aaron were kind enough to include me in the Frunger/Amieava (sorry Sophie, I prob won't ever spell your last name correctly, doesn't mean i don't love you) - que! Wow. What an affiar! First of all, as you'll see in the photos below, their house is awesome - it's like a little French cottage with this rockin garage in the back (Sophie's father, coincidentally named Jose Luis, same as my boss at The Union, is a chauffeur for the Cameroonian embassy in France) where the dais was assembled. On the ride to the Parisian suberb, Aaron explained to me that they had food for like 200, with only about 30 guests.

**Clarification: Sophie Amieava (?) is married to Aaron Unger. Aaron is the first cousin of Seth Unger. Seth is married to Alli. Alli is my first cousin. I affectionately refer to Aaron and Sophie, as well as their bilingual 21-month old daughter Margaux as the Frungers, or French Ungers. The Frungerque referred to in the title is really an Amieava(?)que, as it was hosted by Sophie's parents, the Amieava(?)s.**

So after an exciting ride to say the least (M. Amieava(?) is an aggressive driver... though I think that's an understatement. I shouldn't judge. It was super kind of him to both pick me up and drop me off, not to mention invite me to his house in the first place! I had a great time, thanks Luis(?)!!), we showed up at the charming cottage, and went around back to enjoy the first bit of appetizers of wine, champagne, pate (don't know how to describe it... nor what's in it.), pain (bread), olives, and shrimp. While the guests degusted (I think this means 'sampled' in frenglish), Luis(?) assembled the two half steel drum grills. This was quite a site, and I've got the video to prove it (though I don't know how long it'll be to get THAT uploaded, I'm having enough trouble with the photos which, unfortunately, won't make it to print).

Anyway, next came the churrizos, spanish sausage. This is what Aaron was referring to when he said they had enough for 200. Not an exaggeration. They were absolutely amazing too, so I don't think the excess was a burden on anybody's stomach. For les plats principales (main dishes), we had some ribs, lamb chops, steak, pork chops, salad, rice, haricots-verts (green beans), and prob some more stuff i'm forgetting. All unbelievably good. I don't know how Luis(?) was able to grill it all for simultaneous service, but he came through in a big way.

The green beans were funny. Well, the way I ate them was funny. Margaux was sitting in my lap during dinner, and she figured out that her reach above her head aligned perfectly with my mouth. Then, she figured out that if she put a green bean above her head and thus in my face, I ate it. So it went until all the green beans were gone. And then the pork chop I cut up for her to eat. She didn't eat much (was full from pate), but I sure did! Mmmm.

For dessert, a fam friend of the Amieava(?)s baked some damn good pies. A fig one, pear, and something else they forced Aaron to eat (I capped it at a slice each of the other two - finished both after downing a pound each of pig, lamb, and beef, plus haricots verts, champagne, wine, pate, bread, etc.) .

When it was time to leave, Margaux was falling asleep, but came through and gave me a big hug goodbye :) Thanks Frungers for 2 great days in Paris!! Hope to see you back here (or in US and A) soon!

On account of it being 3:42 AM in bangkok right now, I'm going to go to sleep. Will try my very best to get these pics and vid up soon, as well as tell you all about BANGKOK (i LOVE it so far.)

A bientot,

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

la tour


pardon my french...