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,