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!

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


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...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

je travail

i work.

Bonjour! I thought I'd take a brief (I always plan my posts to be brief...) moment to talk about my work, maybe address the blog layout and some changes I'm planning (believe me, they're small.), and maybe talk about my first encounter with a ham and cheese sandwich (they were out of brisket and matzah ball soup, sorry Rabbi).

To begin. You may have noticed that I posted an interactive calendar with my travel schedule on it (thanks Google Calendar, you rock!) front and center beneath the main picture and title. After debating with my blog adviser, we decided that it's totally inconvenient to put there. I have since moved it to the tippy bottom of the page, but here too it is inconvenient. Henceforth, it shall be moved once and for all! To right here (subject to change):

You may think, "but jd(enparis), this post is gonna disappear from the homepage in 6 days when August is over," to which I'd reply, "yeah Seth, mom, and dad, but I've also labeled this post 'Calendar,' and will add a 'labels' section someplace easy to find. With this method, one can click the 'Calendar' link, which will pull up this post, and thus the calendar as well." So you see, the calendar will only take up space a little while longer (until August expires), and henceforth will be accessible via a 'Calendar' link.

To clarify why it is that I have a travel schedule in the first place, I'll tell you about my job! I am (get ready - take a deep breath) THE Technical Assistant to the Director of Finance and Development for The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. The Union is an 80+ year old scientific organization operating in many low- and middle-income countries to help fight the TB epidemics there. Contrary to what you may believe (Matt), such an effort requires a tremendous amount of resources and coordination, hence The Union's 80+ years of operation.

My specific work as I understand it thus far will be in association with the Management Development Courses offered by The Union. These courses teach health care professionals in the various countries the skills necessary to implement, operate, and manage national tuberculosis programs (programmes, as they say here). The courses are offered several times each year in various countries throughout Asia, Africa, and Central America.

Inspired by The Union's coordination and success with Tuberculosis, The Union has been charged by philanthropist and New York City's mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, to co-manage the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use. Accordingly, The Union now offers courses in tobacco management parallel to those directed towards TB.

So I'll be working ON SITE (hence the travel) with these courses and their coordinators. Sweet. I'm really excited. As you can see, I leave for my first course THIS FRIDAY, Aug 29. I'll be spending 2 weeks in Bangkok (Scott you gotta give me some restaurants and stuff). (Hopefully things will settle down there before this weekend. Don't worry mom, I'm told our site is far from the gov't. compound) As the course is offered in English, I'll get to be a participant :) so watch out, cause I'll prob be an awesome manager after that - and although my new knowledge may be directed towards TB control, I'm sure management is a transferable skill (add THAT to your resume' ms. chiu, premed advisor).

It seems I've let my words get the best of me again! Anyway, the reason I haven't updated pics in some time is that I haven't been able to get WiFi on my mac. Quel domage. As soon as I do (this may be in Bangkok), I've got a bunch of stuff to share!! (ps. i moved the archive up front so you know if you missed a post, ken! all formatting is subject, and likely, to change)

A bientot,

Monday, August 25, 2008

ascenseur de la mort

("ah-sen-sore de la more" - it sort of rhymes...it means elevator of death)

Here's a funny story from when I arrived en Paris. After waiting with my 2 huge roller suitcases, bursting backpack, and baby Taylor (that's the little guitar I bought!), the first Union employee arrived and helped me out with the bags into one of the offices. Several minutes later another employee arrived, a member of the logistics team in the actual office location in which I work. I went across the street, introduced myself, and got the instructions for accessing my apartment.

The email printout included a door code, inner door code, apartment locale, and elevator instructions ("take to 3.5, walk down half flight"). I left my bags at the office and walked up just to check the apartment out (there was another employee staying there at the time, he has since moved to a hotel - I believe he is normally stationed in India, though I'm not positive). Now, I believe the area of Paris I live in is really old. As I've said, there are scars from WWII on buildings, as well as plaques hanging commemorating fallen soldiers. In any case, my building seems pretty old too, and has very narrow winding staircases. I knew it was gonna be trouble getting my stuff (the bags were about 70lbs, 30lbs, 30lbs, and unwieldy small guitar) up to the apartment.

I decided to check out what this Harry Potter / Being John Malkovich half-floor-elevator-with-an-access-code was all about. If I tell you it is the size of a phone booth, I am being generous. In reality, as I'd soon find out, the footprint of the elevator is almost exactly that of my large rolling suitcase! I had to squeeze it through the door.

Since I didn't want my luggage to go the way of Akeem of Zamunda's when he moved into Queens, I knew I had to bring it all up in one trip. That immediately ruled out the stairs. The only other option was the elevator. I figured I'd load up one piece at a time, punch in the code, run up the stairs, meet my bag at floor 3.5, and repeat as necessary. I could, in reality, leave my stuff in the 'lobby' as the door to the outside is locked. Plan set, I opened the middle school locker, shoved in my largest piece of luggage, and looked at it for a moment. I immediately realized I could put the other piece on top...and the backpack on top of that...and the guitar on top of it all!

I got all 4 pieces in with just enough room to put my hand in to type the code, shut the door, and watch it go up! So I reached in, punched in the code, shut the door quickly...and nothing. I tried again, making sure to close the door even quicker. Nothing. My degree in physics helped me realize that the time required to close the door was approaching zero (physicists deal a lot with limits). I would have to be inside the elevator for this to work.

Since I had loaded my belongings into the elevator, the elevator floor had fallen about 5 inches below ground level, so I wasn't too confident it could hold me as well. I looked around for a weight limit, and found a nice placard informing me that it is 150 kilos. Luckily, British Airways baggage requirements are given in both kilos and pounds, so I knew that my 70lb bag was about 30 kilos, and since I'm a nerd, I calculated that I weigh about 67 kilos (I'm also about 150cm tall I think). My thought process went something like, "67 + 30 + ... there's no way I'm over."

I contorted myself around the luggage, breathed in, and closed the door behind me. I was literally straddling the big roller and hugging the little one, with my head cocked into the cranny left by the guitar angled against the ceiling and wall.

Next, I reached into my pocket, got the code, and careful not to exhale, I punched in the code. All at once, the green light lit up, the machine beeped, and the jaws of death - or big metal doors I didn't expect - clenched down upon my protruding buttocks. As this is an old building, there was no safety feature that opens the doors back up when something is in the way, they just close, and the elevator goes. It crept along at like .001 km/h and after an eternity in claustrophobia hell and several verses of aleinu, my 50 kilos of luggage and I arrived on the 3 1/2th floor.

Once I caught my breath, I began a brief struggle unloading everything onto the wedge of cheese that is the 3.5th floor / winding stair-step, and carried everything down .5 flights one piece at a time.

still to come: vid from un jour avec les frungers, and my first visit to la tour eifel!

ps. please comment / email - i wanna hear about all 2 of your lives too (if anybody's reading...)!

le chien et margaux jouent au foot

Sunday, August 24, 2008

les frungers

Bonjour! As you've probably seen, I posted my first batch of pics this morning in the post below this one. I didn't have time to write up any stories or post the next album (embedded with this post) because I was using my weekend wifi hotspot (aka the sidewalk outside my barred up office where the wifi penetrates the gate :) ). Now, I've found a much better alternative: after eating a big pizza and half-liter of gazzeuse (seltzer water), I bought a 1 euro burger at Micky D's and am using THEIR wifi! Tres bien.

Anyway, a few days ago Seth emailed me, Aaron (his 1st cousin) and Sophie (Aaron's wife - she's French!) to remind us all that we are all currently in Paris. Not one to pass on an opportunity to see family, I emailed the Frungers (French Ungers, that is) to try to set up a meeting. Sophie and I exchanged phone numbers and set tentative plans for Friday. Unfortunately, Friday there was a monsoon here, so they didn't make it into the city. Also unfortunate, my phone didn't work. at. all. Idk why people still use blackberrys! Friday night I wound up walking around and saw Notre Dame (as you can see in the 1st slideshow) and then had dinner featuring des escargots (some snails) near the seine. Two doctors sat down next to me (they identified themselves as such only after we began talking - they weren't wearing scrubs or anything). Their dinner of steak-frites looked way better than my rather feminine duck breast salad. In any case, they were really nice, gave me their email addresses, and offered me the last glass of their liter of vin rouge (red wine).

Saturday morning, I woke up pretty late (that one tasse de vin wasn't the only thing I drank that night...), took a quick shower, and hurried out to my weekend wifi hotspot to see if Aaron and Sophie had emailed. Since they hadn't, I shot them a quick letter to tell them that my crapberry doesn't work, and to just email me an itinerary or something and I'd try to meet up. My only plans were to walk around like a tourist anyway. Hopes high, I got up and started walking up my street, bd saint-michel, towards the river (seine) where I told them I'd be. To avoid being repetitive, however, I cut through the Jardin de Luxembourg (you can see these pics - the 1st 20 or so - in the newer slideshow). Absolutely beautiful.

Dans le jardin (in the garden), I found a bachelorette party of pharmacists. The bride-to-be lives in japan, and they were all back in paris where they went to school. I danced with the bride (as I guess is a custom of theirs?), accepted their prize of some candies, and went on my way.

Some blocks and about 25 pics later - the good ones included below - I finally found a decent looking place to have a cup of coffee and my first croissant, so I did just that (I was trying to save my appetite in case I met up with the Frungers, as they said we should do lunch in an email the day before. I was also searching for wifi to see if they had written back). I don't really drink coffee, so I was relieved that un cafe here is smaller than a shot.

After my decidedly French breakfast (or what Americans perceive to be a French breakfast...which it may be), I continued my search for WiFi. If there are two things the French don't hate America for, it's Starbucks and McDonalds. Both offer free WiFi at every location in France. Thanks!

Lucky for me, a few blocks further along my walk, I saw the holy grail of wifi - a starbucks! I was super excited that I'd finally get to check my mail, and hopefully meet up with Aaron and Sophie (it can get pretty lonely when you don't speak the language and don't know a soul for about...emm 5,000 miles). As I approached the hotspot, I heard the first word spoken in American English since I'd arrived in France. Clear as day, in a music-to-my-ears new york accent, I heard


On the most random small block of Paris, I literally ran into the Frungers! It was great :)

Had a blast with them. First we ran around Paris a bit more with Margaux (their daughter, friend and cousin of Jane and Georgia, the UngerTwins). Turns out, that croissanterie was right next to DPAM, a children's clothing store loved by some American parents. Then we sat down at a sidewalk bistro (?) and had another cafe (the waitor was a real meanine, slamming our drinks on the table).

Next, we met up with Aaron's friend Anu (?) and his British girlfriend Hannah, and the 6 of us (me, Margaux, Aaron, Sophie, Anu, Hannah) headed over to the park outside the Louvre. We were incredibly lucky with the weather.

In the park, Margaux made friends with a 6 year old homeschooled girl from New York, a soccer playing dog (you can see him below), and a couple of statues with their feet showing. Margaux also taught me a lot of French (she's bilingual at 21 months. At 21 years, I struggle - greatly) with her anatomically correct French baby books, and wasn't too judgmental of my horrible accent.

After the park, the grownups went on the giant swings at this festival while I played Manny some more.

That night we had dinner at a delicious Brasserie. After the meal, Aaron recounted how great the restaurant was (we were all incredibly stuffed), and said that the meal was certainly complemented by that magical thing that keeps Margaux well-behaved. In this restaurant, Aaron admitted, "it was named Jordan." (Margaux fell asleep in my arms).

Lucky for me, Aaron and Sophie ::invited me:: out. In French, that not only means "asked for plans," but also implies covering the bill. Sophie told me that when she first went to America, that slight difference led to a couple awkward situations. I was fortunate to have the misunderstanding go the other way! Thanks so much guys :)

When I finally got back to my apt I realized a few things. 1) I was not falling asleep, despite having run around for about 10 hours that day. 2) Those little coffee shots are damn deceiving, and pack a serious punch. 3) They really suppress your appetite - I only had one meal all day. 4) I didn't feel so hot as a result of #1-3, so I'm gonna curb the coffee consumption back down to around zero.

Ok, well it seems the battery on my superlaptop is running low, and I'm getting sick of this McDonalds (although the high ratio of English speakers here is quite interesting to note). So without further ado, I present my pics from yesterday!

(vid to come tomorrow)

premieres photos

Friday, August 22, 2008

fou france

Naturally, I expected some things to be different here in France than what I am accustomed to in America. An obvious example, French, not English. Or metric, not English (notice the trend?). However, there are some things that I did not anticipate.

The first isn't such a big deal, and actually turned out to be quite tasty. At restaurants, the common condiments are brought to the table in a nice little carousel, and include salt, pepper, and spicy mustard (like the kind at yim's wok). No ketchup. Last night though, I ordered the steak-frites, which upon delivery, I realized what was meant by a 'faux fillet,' and also why 'hamburger' was not on le menu. Rather than a fillet or steak of any kind, I got (partially) grilled chopmeat - quite undercooked. Anyway, le garcon was kind enough to bring me ketchup there, so I mixed it up with the Chinese mustard sauce and dipped away... delish!

Another weird thing is that in my apartment, I sleep not under a comforter, but what seems like window drapes. Bizarre.

Another one, and I'm not sure if this is all of Europe, France, Paris, my apt, or what, but my shower is not mounted on the wall. Rather, it is a hose with a nozzle for spraying (this part is not weird), but NO wall mount! This means that between rinsings, I must hang the sprayer over the drain - basically put it on the floor. The hose is quite short too, so to get my hair wet, I must bend down and extend the hose to maximum capacity. Weird.

Anyway, let me tell you about my lunch today. Everyone in the office has been really kind to me (no, this isn't one of the weird differences about France!!). On the first day, two of the girls here invited me to lunch with them. Yesterday, three of the guys did. Today, the director of my department and my boss, Jose, asked! What an honor. Jose is a REALLY nice guy. Very soft spoken, intelligent, all the good qualities of a boss - must have taken a page out of the Big Blue book :) Anyway, yesterday some of the guys told me that Jose was originally an MD, then obtained an MBA, an MPH, and a PhD - this is the stuff legends are made of. I had already read about his honorary degree from Pace (you can google this), which he received for his work with The Union (I guess I'm in the right place).

Through all of our email correspondence though, neither Jose nor his secretary ever mentioned to me that 'Mr. Castro,' as I addressed him, was incorrect. Accordingly, I decided to ask about his degrees at lunch, since we were already talking about higher education. As I recall, he has an MBA, a Master or PhD, and maybe one other degree - no MD though. In any case, we had a great lunch and conversation.

Getting back to fou France, however, Jose and I did speak about some of the differences between France and America, and he also asked about how the apartment was! I told him about the lack of wifi (pronounced "weefee" en francais), and then about the shower. The weirdest thing of all though, is the toilet. It is kept in a completely separate compartment from the bath/shower hose and sink, and this compartment (I guess this is were "WC" comes from) shares a wall with the kitchen. yuck. To wash hands, one must leave the toilet closet and walk across the apt to the shower hose room.

So on my lunch with a man literally respected throughout the **entire world**, holding somewhere between 2-4 professional degrees including an honorary one for saving (literally.) **millions** of lives, I spoke about the oddity of toilet locale in Parisian apartments.

A bientot

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

je suis enchanter

Well, I made it. Luckily there were no holdups at the airline - we divided up the weight in my bags perfectly. British Airways was even kind enough to put my baby guitar in a standup closet for the flight! What a delight :) The food on the airline was FANTASTIC. I had the steak, which came with mashed potatoes and asparagus, a salad with fresh mozz balls, a small slice of brie with grapes, a big slice of cheesecake, and deux tasses du vin rouge (2 glasses of red wine).

I sat next to two young parisians, one a student at la sorbonne (the university situated next to my office), and the other a basketball coach of young people (from what I understood). They were very kind, although their frequent bathroom trips were a bit of a hassle. I managed to watch Iron Man on the screens the airlines gives out (some sort of Archos PMP) and matt was right, it was quite enjoyable (although the ending kinda sucked). Since it was on my own personal device, I was able to rewind every time I fell asleep!

Once landed, I took a quick taxi to the office here where I waited for about a half hour before the first employee, Jay (an American), arrived. While waiting, I spoke with a Derek Jeter looking Frenchman who cleaned the bus stop. What care he took with his job! There's nothing like it in New York (outside of the bullpen). When I told him this, he quipped, "VIVE LA PARIS!" Once things settled down in the office and after meeting with Jose (my boss) for about an hour, Isabelle gave me a tour of the four offices The Union runs on Bd. Saint-Michel. There is a VERY WIDE range of people working (young, old, american, french, indian, mid eastern, african, and everything in between) and I think I'm really going to enjoy it.

Malheureusement (unfortunately), my temporary apartment does not have internet! A total let down. Also, I need a French credit card and bank acct to get a phone (read: iPhone), but I think I'm going to buy it once I get those things set up. It's very comparably priced to blackberrys here, and would obviously fill the gaping void left by my internet-less flat. In any case, my connection will be intermittent, so don't be offended if I don't reply to emails or post too often for now :) I am receiving a standard issue HP teeny tiny very portable laptop tomorrow (booo no macbook air :( ) hopefully with an American keyboard, so maybe I'll be able to get connected demain (tomorrow).

C'est tout pour maintenant, a bientot,

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bonjour tout le monde!

Hello world, hello Paris!

Welcome to jdenparis.com, the home of my travel / life / work updates for the next year, while I am based "en Paris" (in Paris). You probably navigated here via my mass(ish) email, or from facebook, or by chance, but anyway, I'm glad to have you :) . To clarify, jdenparis is pronounced "jay dee on par-ee," so it sort of rhymes. In French, it means, "jd (that's me) in Paris."

As my last day in North America for quite some time, today is an exciting one for me. I get to pack, run a few last minute errands, maybe play some last minute volleyball, and keep my mom from crying every 5 seconds... Most exciting, however, is the news that I'll now be flying DIRECT from JFK to Paris on British Airways, rather than connecting through Montreal on Air Canada!

Obviously I'm a little sad to leave home, but I've gotten some really nice going away gifts from the Ungertwins (my cousins - scroll down for video) and from my friends. Check those out if you have some free time :)

I'll write again when I arrive safely in Paris on Wednesday (8/20) morning. I'll share some pics, tell you all about my job, my crazy travel schedule, France and whatever else seems relevant!

A bientot,