Wednesday, November 18, 2009

But first...

Over the three months that Frenchy has now lived in the US, I've tried to be a good guide to Americana. Which is why, many mornings, I turn on the Today show while we are getting ready for work. (Also because it's the best way to do your ab workout - you can do LOTS of crunches before you even realize it because you're so engrossed in a story about a woman was attacked by a chimp or the fact that Sammy Sosa is turning white.)

But I generally leave the house by 8am, so I don't get to watch most of the Today show. So I didn't actually see this particular clip live. And that's why I say THANK GOODNESS FOR THE INTERNET.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

And now, time for a poll!

It has been over three months since I have updated the blog. That is not good blogging practice. I've received emails, facebook messages, and blog comments asking when I'll get rolling again. And as each day passes, I only feel worse about it and there is just more to write about... more I haven't written about.

It's a horrible feeling. And knowing how much there is to write, it has become a daunting task. So I decided to help myself out a little. This is an interactive environment, after all. So why should I have all the say in what goes on here? I mean just because this blog is about my (weird) life doesn't mean I should be queen of the world.

So I'm opening this up to a poll. I will, hopefully, eventually get around to writing about everything below, along with everything that comes up on a daily (and sometimes minutely) basis. But I need help deciding where to start. Won't you help a girl out? Vote on which of the following you're most BURNING to read about, and I'll get started on that first. Okay? Here we go! Can't wait to see your responses!

A. Ryan and Cristina's fabulous wedding in Alicante, Spain.
B. Our fabulous wedding in San Diego.
C. Confusion over international variations of "Rock, Paper, Scissors"
D. The wedding dress I bought on Craigslist and (and the tux Frenchy got for 50 bucks) and the crazy day we spent taking photos.
E. A Hawaiian Honeymoon
F. Bedbugs
G. Ian & Ceylan's fabulous wedding in Istanbul
H. Our pre-Istanbul adventure in Cappadocia
I. "This Is It"
J. My colleague's dog Waffle, with whom I've fallen hopelessly in love.
K. The fact that I have (again) signed up for the Paris marathon in April... and the fact that having just written that makes it much more official
L. Why you shouldn't dry your socks in the microwave
M. Anything I might have forgotten that you think is more interesting than the above. (Suggestions welcome!)


Monday, August 03, 2009

I am a horrible person

And I am, really. Because the last post on this blog is over a month ago, and I have so many things to share. I'm mostly horrible because I know that in a year's time or more I'll look back on this and be annoyed with myself that I didn't write it all down. I mean, hopefully you only plan a wedding once in your life!

But not only have I been planning a wedding, I've been doing far too many other things, like helping launch a company, living far away from Frenchy, dealing with green cards and shoulder surgery (for him) and wedding dresses and apartment setup (for me). It hasn't been easy, but I still find myself frustrated that I couldn't set aside just a few minutes each day to write down what has happened.

Maybe that's because each day is too full of stuff to write. Well I do plan to go back and jot it all down. It would be a disservice to myself not to, since most of it is so ridiculous and hilarious, I know I'll laugh about it later. For now, anyway, a few of the things that have happened in the past 3 months since I relocated to New York, in no particular order:

  • 21 flights, 1 cancelled, 1 missed connection, 1 near missed connection, 5 more to go
  • 34 trips to the airport
  • 3 dress fittings
  • 4 flights carrying a wedding dress and suit (best way to travel)
  • 1 cake tasting
  • 1 wedding (not ours)
  • 4 countries
  • 4 US states
  • 1 bed delivered
  • 0 sofas delivered
  • 1 sofa needed
  • 3+ months away from Frenchy
  • 4 trips to Paris
  • 1 mom's birthday
  • 2 lobster burritos
  • 2 trips to florist
  • 1 bionic shoulder (for Frenchy)
  • 2 haircuts
  • 400 invitations sent
  • 1 castle visited
  • 1 refrigerator not stocked
  • 1 cavity filled (boo)
  • 36 rice cakes eaten
  • 23 boxes opened
  • 14 boxes still to open
  • 1 move from Paris to New York
  • 1 flight delayed due to vomit (not mine)
  • 1 airport commotion due to large woman fainting
  • 1 elevator out of service from 10pm to 7am (not good when you get home at 10:05 and live on the 8th floor)
  • 746 flights climbed
  • 1 wedding planned... almost

Saturday, June 27, 2009

How NOT to spend a Friday evening

I haven't been home in nearly two years (since Frenchy made his first visit there, in August 2007) and I haven't been there at the same time as my parents AND my sister in over three years. Shocking but true.

So I've been pretty psyched about the prospect of a weekend at home in the sunshine with my parents and Nicole, and also to get some much-needed wedding planning in. So tonight I went to the airport in order to take a 7:30 flight to San Diego. I left at 5pm, sat in traffic for an hour and a half, and barely made it to JFK by 6:30, in time for check in.

But I shouldn't have worried. By the time I got there, the flight had already been delayed to 8:30. And then, within a few minutes, to 9pm. So I settled in for a long wait - a supposed severe thunderstorm hadn't even shown up yet - and decided to treat myself to a beer. A big beer.
And the next time I checked the departures screen, my flight was leaving at 10pm. So I signed up for an hour's worth of wifi, and did my best to entertain myself. The next announcement I heard told us that our plane had landed finally and was just waiting for the gate to open up and the passengers to unload.

The minutes ticked by. People got more and more annoyed. And another announcement told us our gate had changed. So we all packed up and rushed across the airport terminal. Only to learn that the plane hadn't landed at all, and was still circling over JFK. I felt sorry for the people on the plane... they'd been on a 7-hour trip from Chicago, complete with an unplanned stop in Virginia. At least I was in airport with beer and wifi.

Except that the restaurants and newsstands had all closed. And my wifi connection was no good at the other end of the terminal.

When our flight was delayed until 11:15pm I started to think the worst. You see, San Diego airport has a noise curfew, and thus planes can't land after 2am. Planes that are already en route can, but not planes that haven't even taken off in time to arrive. The thunderstorm had long come and gone and, admittedly, it was impressive. Dozens of flights had been cancelled. And yet we were delayed again, until 12:15am, with a scheduled touchdown in San Diego at 3am.

And around that time, the pilot announced that the flight would be cancelled because the crew would have been on the clock for over 24 hours by the time we'd land. Whoops, time to run again. This time to the Delta ticketing counter, where we were unfortunately the last mob of people to have had a flight cancelled. Meaning nothing was left.

I have an 8am appointment at our wedding location and a 10am dentist appointment. Not to mention a cake appointment, plans to see two bands, and of course the whole hanging out with the family thing. And MEXICAN FOOD! I want Mexican food!

Ugh. So I waited in line, sat on hold on the phone, no luck. Nothing that would've gotten me to San Diego for longer than 24 hours. And as crazy as I might be, I'm not THAT crazy. Fortunately, that's when my dad stepped in. My dad of a gazillion frequent flier miles. Next thing you know, I have a flight at 6am out of Laguardia, stopping in Chicago, getting me to San Diego by 11:30 in the morning. And with upgrades to first class, no less!

And nearly nine hours after leaving my apartment, here I am again. And I'll sleep 2 hours and then try again. Fingers crossed this time...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Say say say it ain't so, Michael

I honestly don't even know what to write. I'm so sad.

Michael Jackson was not only one of my all-time favorite performers, musicians, singers, dancers, all-around badasses, but also one of the favorite things that Quentin and I shared. The number of hours we spent watching MJ videos on youtube is shocking. And the number of times we've listened to Michael's songs borders on obsessive.

I've moonwalked in every country I've ever been to. And Quentin can even do the sideways moonwalk. One afternoon I mentioned to him how I wished I could do that move, and he looked it up on youtube and mastered it in moments. He showed off his new moves nonchalantly in the Calatrava lobby as we waited for the elevators that evening. To say my jaw dropped would be a ridiculous understatement.

And of course, just last December, I celebrated my birthday in Paris with a Madonna-Michael Jackson party. Their 50th, my 30th. Thank goodness I did it then, because this year it would be in rather poor taste...

This very afternoon, I was on a quick video skype chat with Quentin, who had finally managed to purchase THE white suit for our wedding, and he was so enthused over it he couldn't help but do a few tried and true favorite MJ moves to the delight of my work colleagues.

And as Quentin and I have tried to decide on our wedding song, we've been debating between Michael and Stevie. Because, while we love them both, our whole incredible relationship started because one night back in February 2007, he dragged me from one room of Otto Zutz to another because Billy Jean was playing. And we had dancing to do. And kissing.

So... thanks Michael. Your music always lifts me up and makes me dance. And I credit you alone with the fact that Frenchy and I couldn't help but must a move together that night in Barcelona. I've been walking on the moon ever since. Rest in Peace, Michael!

Sideways moonwalk at 0:23, 1:23, 2:15, 2;29 3:52, and 5:17.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How NOT to start your day

My doctor ordered some routine bloodwork on Monday afternoon and said I could stop by the lab anytime from 8-5, Monday through Friday. Considering I have to be at work by 8:30 and that I couldn't eat before having the blood drawn, I thought it would be a good idea to go there at 8am to get it over and done with and be able to get on with my day.

So I left my apartment extra early, jumped on the train, and headed for West 14th Street. I arrived at 8:05 and of course the waiting room was already full. Wouldn't you know. So I put my name on the list and took a seat. I think I was 7th or 8th on the list, but people with appointments take precedence, so getting there early wasn't really THAT much help. Particularly since I happened to go there the morning that only one person was working.

I've been to this place before. It's usually pretty quick - two little stations and two nurses - but just my luck, this morning with only one nurse there, it was S-L-O-W. Not anyone's fault, just unlucky that nurse number two happened to be trapped on a subway somewhere. Fortunately I had already alerted all my colleagues to the fact that I might be a few minutes late, but as the clock ticked toward 9am, I really started to worry about the time.

And that's also when I realized that, in my rush to get to the clinic this morning, I'd left the iron on in my apartment. In Brooklyn.

Now each minute that passed felt like three as I imagined burning the whole building down. I sent an email to one of my colleagues explaining the situation because not only would I certainly be late, I also would have to go back home to unplug the alarm before coming back to the office, but on top of that we had a presentation for a pitch to prepare. My timing is awesome.

Meanwhile, there was a Puerto Rican woman with two kids, a boy and a girl, in the waiting room as well. And it was clear that these kids hadn't ever had blood drawn before and were very nervous about it. But instead of telling them things like "It'll be ok" or "don't worry," she was saying things like, "Don't be a baby" and "You better not start crying," in a mix of Spanish and English. The poor kids were getting more nervous by the minute, saying they wished it was already tomorrow so the whole needle thing would be over. I understand. I wanted it to be tomorrow too, so that the whole DAY would already be over.

Finally it was their turn, and they had a drawn-out spat over who would go first. Somehow it ended up being the boy, who we could hear whimpering from the cubicle as the nurse tied the rubber band around his arm. The wimpering turned into full-fledged moaning and sobbing, and then once the pin prick had happened, we could hear the nurse say, "See? That wasn't so bad, was it?" To which he responded, "YES IT'S BAD IT'S HORRIBLE I'M GOING TO DIE I'M GOING TO DIE I'M GOING TO DIEEEEEEE!!!!"

Which is about when the girl reappeared in the waiting area, crying and hoping no one would notice she was hiding in the corner so she could escape the whole ordeal. Instead, her mom and the nurse came for her next and she started crying and screaming and saying she didn't want to do it. We were all waiting, everyone late for work, and so finally the nurse gave up and said she'd take the next patient. Thank goodness. And amazingly, nurse #2 finally appeared at exactly the same time.

The next patient was, mercifully, yours truly. And as I waited at the counter for my paperwork to be processed, I asked the little girl if she wanted to come with me while I had my blood drawn to see how easy it would be. She tearfully declined, saying "You're older than me, so of course it hurts you less!"

So of course I was in and out in about 90 seconds (why do you always have to wait SO LONG for things that are SO QUICK when it's finally your turn???) and nurse number one was trying to convince the little girl to get it over with. Finally she said, "Okay well I've tried to do this the nice way but we're going to have to do it the not-so-nice way, since your doctor said you have to have this done!" Since I was passing by on my way out, I somehow got wrangled into a child wrestling session. She was so adamantly opposed to the whole needle thing that it took four of us two hold her down. She sat on her mom's lap, the first nurse getting the needle ready, the second nurse doing I'm not sure what now that I think about it, and me holding her non-needle arm and trying to convince her to talk to me rather than looking at what the nurse was about to do.

But she insisted, and screamed and writhed right up until the second the needle went in, at which point she calmly said, "Wow." AND THEN STARTED LAUGHING.

I mean really. I waited an additional 30 minutes for that?!

Anyway everyone was really grateful for "that nice lady's assistance," and then I was off on my merry way. To race back to the subway, back to Brooklyn, back up to my apartment, unplug the iron (which hadn't set anything on fire and actually had an auto-off feature, but I wasn't sure), and then BACK into the subway to get back to the office.

If you don't want to suffer from high blood pressure, I recommend you start your morning in an alternative fashion. Frenchy just read this post and asked via skype, "How to finish your day?" To which I replied, not purposely, just magically at the right moment:

Long Distance Wedding Planning

You know what's totally awesome? Finding the love of your life, your perfect companion. You know what else is awesome? Planning your rad beach wedding with said perfect companion.

Not so awesome? When you're in New York, Perfect Companion is in Paris, and the wedding is in San Diego. Talk about complicated! Thank goodness for parents! Mine have been so helpful in organizing our wedding while we're spread all around the globe.

It's been particularly tough since I've moved back to New York, because Frenchy and I are doing our planning via phone and skype, which is something most couples get to enjoy doing together. Like, in the same physical location. But we are making the most of it, doing the best we can, enjoying the time we do get to spend together (two weekends so far since I left Paris, every three weeks), and also utilizing the latest in mobile and computing technology.

For instance, this morning, I received the following poem via email:
I love you
C'est tout
Juste un petit poème
Pour te dire que je t aime

And why, on Saturday morning, I woke up to a couple of incredible emailed images on my iPhone, like this
And this

He's pretty foxy, huh?

Well, unfortunately, his white wedding suit dreams were dashed yesterday evening, when he received a call from the shop salesman informing him that no, he could not buy pants that are a different suit size from the jacket. You see, Frenchy is rather well-endowed, according to Calvin Klein standards. In the rear.

Which is why, later this afternoon I received the following beautiful poem via email, entitled "Wedding Suit Research Conclusion":

My big butt
Screwed me up
What the f*ck
That sucks

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Little Things

Of course there are big things that make me happy, just like anyone, but sometimes it's those little things that make all the difference.

I've been back to New York for nearly two months, living and working, and while all of that has been great, it's also been a little ... complicated. I'm not talking about the fact that Frenchy and I area separated by an ocean, though that can be complicated too. I'm talking about the fact that I leave my apartment by 7:45 every morning and rarely return before 9pm. And, in my particular building, while there is a doorman and a super, if you want something delivered you actually have to be there to receive it. And if it's a piece of furniture, that requires the freight elevator, which can't be used for big stuff on the weekend.

I think you can guess where this is going. As I write this right now, in fact, I'm sitting on my "couch," which is actually a folded up moving blanket left behind by the guys who brought the stuff from my storage space, a pillow against the wall, and arm rests made up of boxes of CDs. The most comfortable couch, it is not. But it works. And until my better half arrives from France and can wait for a delivery while I'm at work, it'll have to do.

What HASN'T worked so well is the lack of coffee in the apartment. And so on Sunday afternoon, when I was at Target and saw a little Bialetti Moka coffeemaker like we have in Paris, I knew I had to have it. Because, you see, there also isn't really any counter space for a proper coffee machine in our "kitchen." Which, in typical New York City style is actually just a wall on the other side of the living room.

Sunday night as I was talking to Frenchy via skype, I showed off my new purchase. I was beyond excited about the prospect of having a cup of coffee before leaving the apartment on this Monday morning, and Frenchy said, "Oh, so I don't have to pack our coffemaker in Paris! Great!" Then he paused, and said, "Maybe you should go back and buy a second one."

Anyway, I would be lying if I said that the coffee I had this morning before work wasn't one of the best I've ever had.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Best Barcelona Haircut - L'Adresse

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may know that I had a rather disastrous hair experience in Barcelona during the first year of my MBA.

Interestingly enough, I wasn't the only one. In fact I had several conversations with other expats in BCN who'd run into hair catastrophes. Finally one of them told me about a French guy she'd found at a salon aptly named Le Salon, who had given her not just a normal haircut, but a GREAT haircut. And as such my love for Damien was born. Unfortunately, he vanished from my radar during my summer in Bucharest and during my second year I was again adrift in the cruel waters that are the Barcelona haircutting culture. (Anyone who has been to Barcelona knows that the favorite hairstyle is the mullet.)

But, magically, I found him again! He fortunately had my mobile number on file and so when he opened his very own salon and sent out a text message announcement, I realized who it was and called him immediately. His space, L'Adresse, has been open for about two and a half years now, and it's gorgeous. Fabulous decor, great music, a tea selection he brings back from his monthly trips to New York, and awesome cookies. Oh yeah, and did I mention he gives fantastic haircuts and does amazing color? Men, women, kids, he does a great job with everyone. So much so that people (including me) actually fly to Barcelona specifically to see him!

So, whether you're someone who reads this blog regularly, or a random who has happened upon it because you googled "haircut Barcelona," I recommend you give him a call. Oh, and he speaks Spanish, English, French, and some Catalan. So never fear, your hair is safe with Damien!

C/ Córsega, 204 principal 3ª
Barcelona 08036
+34 934 100 329

Friday, June 05, 2009

Vote for my Blog!

Hi everyone!

The kind folks at Lexiophiles and have nominated my blog as one of "the hottest blogs about International Exchange and Experience from all around the world, submitted by Lexiophiles readers and users." Which is really nice of them.

And you know what would be really nice of YOU? If you'd click on the little thingy below to vote for me! My blog shows up toward the bottom of the list, Stranger in a Strange Land of course! Thanks for your love and support!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Overheard on the Subway

The New York City subway has it's pluses and minuses. Pluses: it has heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. Usually. And most lines run all night. Normally. But it can also be cramped and crowded just like subways anywhere.

But one of the best things about the subway is the random conversations you overhear.

For example, last night on my way home on the Q train from Chinatown, I happened to sit next to an Asian-American couple. Well, they weren't a couple, they were just a guy and a girl. And they started talking about a friend of theirs, who is apparently very wealthy but never wants to spend any money. And from there, it went like this:

Girl: Maybe it's a religious thing.
Guy: Well that doesn't even make sense. I mean, that RELIGION doesn't make sense. All religions make sense except for that one. Even Greek mythology makes sense! Like, it all comes from nature! Zeus created all the other gods out of the different elements
Girl: But where did Zeus come from?
Guy: He came from the elements too! And then he made the others.
(A pause.)
Girl: What about Ethan?
Guy: Huh?
Girl: You know, the name Ethan. What do you think of it? I was just thinking about baby names...
Guy: Why are you thinking about THAT???
Girl: I don't know. I guess... you're a guy, you wouldn't understand.
Guy: Well anyway Ethan is a guy with skinny pencil jeans and unwashed hair. Really scummy. Like Ethan Hawke! Have you ever seen him in person?
Girl: No....
Guy: Well he looks like a bum.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Parisian Spring Weekend

I love Paris in the springtime. Hey, that's catchy. Someone should write a song about it!

So I'm back in Paris for four days with my Frenchy, who had shoulder surgery nearly two weeks ago. Being away from him during this time has been difficult for both of us, but it makes this long weekend together even better. And the amazing weather doesn't hurt either. We've strolled through the Marais, had dinners and brunches with friends and family, eaten ice cream, taken pictures, and eaten plenty of baguettes and croissants. (And wine and cheese.)

I woke up this morning with very mixed feelings about going back to New York tonight. One very obvious reason - Frenchy won't be coming with me (but hopefully soon!) But this is also the first summer I won't spend in Europe in nearly four years. Actually, it's my first summer away from Barcelona in years, and with this gorgeous weather, I feel like I should be packing up my beach towels and jumping on the scooter and heading to Barceloneta....

Add to that the fact that next weekend is our IESE class reunion (for both my class and Frenchy's) in Barcelona AND Frenchy's birthday, and being too far away to jump on a weekend flight leaves me feeling strangely claustrophobic. Claustrophobic in New York. I never thought the day would come...

However, one of the great things about New York is that friends pass through town all the time. So even though I'm now quite a bit farther away from most of my IESE friends, I'm much closer to all my old New York friends, and hey... IESE can come to me. And New York will seem a whole lot better again once Frenchy gets to town!

Friday, May 15, 2009

10 Years Ago Today

Yesterday I was having a quick bite to eat at the Grey Dog with an old friend when a guy walked in wearing a purple cap and gown. A brand new NYU graduate with his parents at lunch. And it was at that moment that I realized I graduated from NYU Film myself ten years ago this week. Is that really possible? I tried to convince myself it's not, but... well it is. I finished college ten years ago.

In fairness to me, I graduated a year early, but still... geez. Time flies. It doesn't seem that long ago that we were all sitting in Washington Square Park for the massive graduation ceremony (the more intimate Tisch School of the Arts graduation was held the following day) shrouded in those purple outfits ourselves. Quincy Jones was one of the speakers. And I remember another woman accidentally said "NY Jew" instead of NYU during her speech... no idea who that was, but her slip up certainly stuck with me.

As did the couple of fim students who yelled "MILLENNIUM!!!" every time a speaker mentioned that we were the last graduating class of the millennium. Much to the chagrin of the prissy law students who, unluckily for them, were seated next to us. And what sticks with me most from that day? The obnoxious business school students who had written their graduating banker salaries on their caps in white tape. I despised them and swore I'd never be one of them.

And here I am, ten years later, a filmmaker with an MBA. MILLENNIUM!!!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Truly a Stranger in a Strange Land

I had to change the title of this blog when I moved to France last year because, well, while I'd gone to Barcelona, I clearly wasn't there anymore. So "Noelle Goes To Barcelona" wasn't gonna cut it anymore. And neither was "Noelle Goes To Paris." What if I moved again? And move I did, back to New York City, where I have definitely felt ... weird, at times.

On the second day back, I informed a woman in French that she'd left her headlights on as she was getting out of her car. She gave me a blank stare, which I returned, until I realized what had happened and repeated myself. This time in English.

It's so great to be back, and so easy and normal in so many ways, and yet also so bizarre. So much is the same as it was four years ago, and so much has changed - a lot of it as a result of the recession, frankly. Favorite shops and restaurants are closed, and nothing has sprung up in their place. And of course I'm living in a new neighborhood - Park Slope - in a new borough - Brooklyn - and so there's lots to learn and figure out. I certainly won't be bored while I wait for Frenchy to arrive.

But it has only been a week... and I'm sure the strangeness will eventually wear off. And it will be at or around that time that I'll probably be ready to seek out a new and strange destination!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Good Morning New York!

Well it's 5:30am here in Brooklyn and I'm wide awake, and have been for an hour now. I love jetlag going west... going back east, not so much.

Last night I arrived just after 7pm at JFK, but I think we might have accidentally landed at Newark because after landing we drove for about an hour to our gate. Ahhh, New York.

Then we finally got off the plane and into immigration, where hundreds of mask-wearing Chinese travelers reminded me - yet again, in case I forgot! - that swine flu (or Mexican flu if you're French) is seriously freaking everybody out. After waiting a good 40 minutes for my suitcases (ufff, I haven't packed this heavily since I moved to Spain!) and then another 20 to get through customs, I was finally in a taxi headed for my friend's house in Brooklyn. Within 3 minutes I'd already been nearly thrown through the windshield, and for the rest of the ride the driver intermittently pressed and released the accelerator every 5 seconds. I almost hurled. Ahhh, New York.

And now the sun is starting to come up - well not really, because it's cloudy, but at least it's getting light out - and I guess I might as well get this party started. At 8:30 I meet my boss for breakfast and then the rest of the day will be a whirlwind of paperwork, new blackberries, new offices, new colleagues. But hey, at least it'll all be in English this time around!

At some point today or tomorrow hopefully I'll get keys to the apartment I'm renting which, incidentally, is unfurnished. And then I'll be camping because I won't have any furniture yet. But it's cool - always an adventure. At least I won't be bored this week. Okay, up and at 'em. Here we gooooo!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Farewell Paris (For Now)

Tonight is my last night in Paris. Frenchy and I spent the morning working on our wedding invites (and when I say working, I mean working - this marriage stuff is a lot of work!) and then decided to go into St Germain and enjoy a day which wasn't nearly as nice as the day before, but still not bad. As far as Paris is concerned, if it's not raining, it's fantastic. And if the sun comes out, WOW.

Anyway we wandered around rue Moffetard and finally settled at a cafe. His friend arrived whom he hadn't seen in a while, and my colleague Manuel came by as well. Manuel and I have worked together since November 2007, when he was transferred from Lisbon to Barcelona. We went through the long-awaited move to Paris together as wel, and tomorrow we're both off to the US. Me to NYC, and Manuel to Miami to launch an office there. It'll be so weird not to see him next week...

Anyway one beer led to several and finally we decided it was time to head off to the 16th to watch the end of the Barcelona-Madrid match with some of the girls from my soccer team. We drove my scooter right through the heart of Paris, along the Seine, and up Avenue Kleiber, and I'm not exaggerating when I say I don't think Paris has ever looked more beautiful. The sky was clear and just starting to go dark at 9pm, the buildings were lit, the river was sparkling. Paris is certainly the most beautiful city in the world, and I will miss it.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Last weekend in Paris

It's Friday night and I find myself packing again. It was a year ago this week that Frenchy was finishing his MBA at IESE and I was asked to move to Paris to join the global team of our fledgling sports and entertainment network. Of course, it took until October 1 to be fully set up here, after several months of back-and-forth between Barcelona and Paris, and plenty of anxiety over "when, how, where", etc etc etc.

And before even arriving in Paris I had already set up our next adventure - a move back to NYC to help launch another office there. And again, the waiting and wondering as our start date was pushed from December to January and then to March and to April, and finally to May.

In other words, Frenchy and I have been in a sort of transfer state for a year now, all along telling ourselves, "If we just make it through these next couple of months, we'll be fine." And again, we're telling ourselves exactly the same thing. Between now and September, I will move to New York while Frenchy will stay in Paris to work, Frenchy will have shoulder surgery, we will plan our wedding and get married in San Diego, we'll try to get a green card for Frenchy... All while living on different continents. If we can just make it through the next few months, everything will be fine...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Third Time's A Charm? Not in Paris!

So yesterday was my last day at work in the Paris office because Friday is a holiday here in France (like basically every Friday during the month of May... why am I leaving again?) and today I'm taking my last ever RTT - you know, those extra free days off French people get in order to make the 35 hour work week a reality.

And as such, it was of course fitting that we have a few drinks after work. Some work people came by, some soccer girls came by, and some random friends came by. A nice little evening, all in all. And despite eating more than my fair share of croque monsieur, I think I also drank more than my fair share of red wine, so this morning when we decided to make one last attempt at getting me a carte de sejour (French working and residency permit) I can't say that I was incredibly excited about it.

But we went for it anyway. By 7:30 we were up and showering and by 8 we were making sure all the papers were in order and I realized that somehow one of my photos was missing. First stop, rush to Porte Maillot metro station to take more pictures. At or around this time, any slight impression of what could have been considered a hangover disappeared. The sun was out, the air was cool, and I had pictures to take! Raced back to the house, picked up a couple of chocolate croissants, and we were off to the metro.

The metro? Yep. Last night I left my scooter at work because it was raining cats and dogs and I had two laptops and three bottles of wine to bring home. Precious cargo to say the least and, while it made sense last night, this morning I was annoyed to have added an extra level of complication to the morning's activities.

Never mind, off we went to Line 2. I say "we" because this time Frenchy was kind enough to come with me. Partly out of solidarity perhaps, but mostly because this was to be my third attempt and he really wanted to see in person why I'd screwed up the last two times. We arrived by 8:45 and the line was long, but at least today it was sunny and pretty warm. The first time I attempted this, it was February and I had a plane to catch in the afternoon. It was just above freezing and I waited over an hour outside before giving up.

The second time was in late March. I waited outside for about an hour or so (I arrived earlier that time) and was impressed when my number was called within 30 minutes of getting inside. I had all the papers in order. Or so I thought.... turns out that what they told Frenchy wasn't the complete list. Along with all sorts of other documents, I also needed proof we'd been living together for at least six months. I asked if I could bring my rental contract, and the angry administration lady said yes, and I walked out of there, frustrated to the point of tears, to find my scooter covered in white plaster dust which had been blown from a building under construction.

So today we had EVERYTHING in order. And I had Frenchy. What could possibly go wrong? We waited outside for about an hour and a half, and he disappeared for a while to find a wifi connection in order to do some work. The we finally got inside the police station, where once again the numbers moved quickly. Finally it was our turn, so we went up to the desk and I told the woman I was there for the carte de sejour. She started asking for papers and I gleefully handed over each on in succession, feeling confident.

Then she asked for the proof we've lived together for six months, and I gave her the rental contract for the apartment. Which, she said, wasn't sufficient. She asked for our EDF Energy bill, and Frenchy gave it to her. It was from March. Also not sufficient. Because WE NEEDED EVERY SINGLE ENERGY BILL SINCE SIX MONTHS AGO!

I mean, really?

That's around when I almost burst into tears but instead started smiling strangely at her. She didn't smile back. In fact, quite the opposite. When Frenchy asked her very politely for more info so we wouldn't screw up next time, she snapped at him and then even called the next person before we were finished. My strange smile grew and I started to understand those postal workers who went on rampages ... A very good thing I didn't have any sort of weapon handy. Now I see why they make you go through the metal detector on the way in!

So once again, I walked out of the freaking Prefecture de Police in the 17th Arrondissement empty handed and dejected. It was only an hour later that I realized I should have puked on the woman. I mean it worked in Barcelona...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Abraham LinkedIn

Tonight I was helping Frenchy order a computer (a Mac, of course) to be delivered to my apartment in the US. He asked for the address to which to send it and when I said "Lincoln" he typed into the form: l-i-n-k-e-n.

I looked over at what he was writing and said, "Ok sweetie. Seriously. If you want to get a greencard, you're going to need to know how to spell the name of one of the most important presidents of the United States." (I mean geez, we even get a holiday for the guy, or half of one anyway, which is basically unheard of.)

This was not the first time this has happened. So I explained again, gently of course, that it's not Abraham LinkedIn.

To which Frenchy immediately replied - "Yeah, he'd have like 20000 connections!"

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ça m´énerve!

This morning at 7am as I was doing my situps with Frenchy in the living room (this is a new thing - doing them with Frenchy) this video came on NRJ. We never watch TV in the morning, but he had put it on, I guess to give him sit-up inspiration, and I must say that it started my day in just the right way.

For those of you who don´t speak French, "Ça m´énerve" means "It´s annoying" or "That annoys me" and the whole song is about annoying things that French people do. I love it. There really couldn´t have been a better way to start Monday... except to roll over and go back to sleep.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Fish France Funky

This morning I rolled into the office in London and was sitting at my desk, working on something terribly important (God knows what) when Will nodded toward the TV, which was showing a news wrap-up, and said, “Good luck getting home tonight, eh? French fishermen are on strike. They’re blocking the channel.” Then he laughed cruelly. This is, among other terribly British reasons, why Will doesn't leave the country.

Of course, my first thought was, ‘Oh geez. Here we go.’ Followed immediately by, ‘hmm maybe I shouldn’t have left my Calatrava Norte key INSIDE Calatrava Norte, as I might be stuck in London tonight.’ And later, after some rationalization, ‘Um, if it’s fishermen blocking the channel, HOW ARE THEY BLOCKING THE EUROSTAR WHICH GOES UNDERNEATH THE WATER??!’

But there wasn’t time to think about that. I had meetings to attend. And anyway, before I had to strain my brain too much, the whole thing was called off and the fishermen agreed to pack it in and go home They warned they might strike again though. Fortunately I’ll be across a much bigger pond by then…

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Deep Thoughts in Late-Nite London

It's Tuesday night in London, and I'm at Calatrava Norte, the flat I've been occasionally sharing with Marco since January. I'm here all week, working on what is to be my next project and my next move. We watched Chelsea v. Liverpool tonight and ate Thai takeout. We talked about my trip to Dubai and I asked Marco to be in my wedding. We laughed a lot.

I'm going to miss this.

In less than three weeks I'm due in New York. I haven't written about it until now because it wasn't official until a few days ago, when I finally received my new contract. Same company, new adventure. The company that hired me in Barcelona, had me start in Boston for two months, and then sent me to Paris in September to help start a new sports and entertainment team there, is now sending me to New York - at my request back in September - to help launch one of our UK agencies.

I have a thing for timing, huh? Moving to another city. AGAIN. At least this time it's one I know well. Too well, maybe, which is why I'll have to live in Brooklyn to stir things up a bit. Trying to simultaneously plan a wedding, manage two careers, organize immigration paperwork for Frenchy, and help launch a new company in the midst of a global economic crisis. Ain't no mountain high enough!

The worst part of all of this is that I will be leaving Europe behind. And Frenchy too, temporarily, while he waits for his visa. But at least I know he'll eventually be joining me there. Europe, however, is staying right where it is. Gone will be the weekend jaunts to foreign countries. (Then again, knowing me, maybe not.) And the random IESE reunions. There aren't many of us in the Big Apple... those who are in the US have tended toward San Francisco. It's going to be strange to be back. And wonderful. I can go back to my old soccer team, my old martial arts school, my old cafes, and my old friends. But what about all the new stuff?

I love New York and I'm excited about this new career move and new adventure. But it's certainly a bittersweet time. Just over two more weeks left in Paris, and just as the weather is starting to turn to spring. Well, at least I know it's not going anywhere....

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Overridden with blogging guilt

The other day I updated my Facebook status, which is about the only non-work, non-traveling, non-wedding thing I seem to have time to do these days. I wrote, "Noelle hasn't updated the blog in a really long time, and feels really badly about it." Nicole commented, not long afterward, "Just write 'A lot has happened.'"

Which is true! A lot HAS happened. Even since the other day, when I updated my Facebook status! Geez, there are at least three blog posts worth of material in the past week.

So I was tempted to just write that and be done with it. But then you'd miss out on (and I might forget someday about) some of the marvelous, ridiculous, hilarious, and horrible things that have happened to me or around me in the past 6 weeks since I really had time to write.

Like my trip to the Emirates and Oman with Frenchy. And my trip to the Bahamas afterward with Nicole. And how I sprained my ankle playing soccer, and all the weird, awful, and wonderful things that happened as a result (French hospitals = good, getting around on crutches = baaaaad, wearing a thong as usual the day you get your ankle checked, never expecting to have to fully take off your pants = weeeeeeird), trying on wedding dresses (WEDDING DRESSES!?!?!? I mean, REALLY??), and even choosing one, my first attempt at leading a pitch (hmmm, we'll leave that one at that), Frenchy learning he might need shoulder surgery, and finally getting my contract for a new gig in NYC.... starting in 2 weeks.

So as you can see, life has been so busy, I haven't even had time to catch my breath, let alone write about it. But I know I'll regret it all later if I let all this craziness whiz by without having the time to contemplate it, write about it, and most importantly, laugh about it. Because as hectic, painful, and stressful life has been of late, it has also been pretty incredible, englightening, and hilarious.

Two weeks ago I was in London for work. I was there for work every week over three weeks, and I was exhausted (crutches didn't help!), discouraged, and stressed. One morning I decided to give myself a break and took a taxi to work rather than the tube. It was a beautiful sunny morning and the cab went right past Big Ben and the house of Parliament, and for a few minutes all my worries slipped away. I mean, how lucky am I, to have a job that enables me to drive by Big Ben? Some people go their whole lives without doing that.

So I promised myself that I'd sit down and write over this long holiday weekend. Starting now, with this... and more to come tomorrow and Monday. And hopefully the wait will have been worth it!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Slowdown... It's vacation time!

Just looked back at my blog and realized that it has been a while since I posted! For all you know, George Michael might still be following me. And if he were, that'd be impressive, considering that in the week after I wrote that post, I was in five countries: Monday in Spain, Tuesday and Wednesday in the UK, Thursday and Friday in Paris, Saturday in the Emirates, and Sunday in Oman. Fortunately the last two were for vacation, or I'd be dead by now.

And considering I'm STILL on vacation (week two with Nicole in the Bahamas, after week one with Frenchy in the Middle East) I probably shouldn't even be blogging. But I will anyway, because I have photos and stories to share as usual!

More to come, but for now... back to the beach!

Friday, February 20, 2009

George Michael is following me

So I'm in London working for a few days, staying at the new "Calatrava Norte" that I'm sharing with Marco at Baron's Court in the few nighttime hours that I'm not at work.

Yesterday evening I planned to meet my old pal David (from my Rockstar days) for an entirely-deserved and much-needed Scotch (plus, he's Scottish) before meeting another old friend Lisa for dinner.

As I descended into the tube at Tottenham Court Road, I heard a familiar saxophone refrain. Yep, as I got closer to the source, I found it was exactly as I'd expected - George Michael's "Careless Whisper" - played by a busker at the cross between the Central and Northern lines. When I got off the train about twenty minutes later at South Kensington station, I was shocked to find that yet another saxophone busker was also playing Careless Whisper.

Indeed I was so astounded that when David arrived a moment later, I barely managed to say hello before I demanded, "What are the odds that you go into the metro at Tottenham Court Road to the sounds of Careless Whisper and come out twenty minutes later at South Ken... TO CARELESS WHISPER???" If David was mildly amused, he didn't really show it, and instead answered in absolute seriousness, "I really couldn't tell you."

And then we were in the pub and that was that.

But now it's nearing midnight a day later and I'm packing my back for my return to Paris tomorrow, and my blackberry buzzes. An SMS from David: "F*cking OMG!! Careless whisper outside the tube!!!"

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Best Two Years Of My Life

Today marks two years that I've been with Frenchy. The best two years I've ever had, and this is just the beginning! Today we started really officially starting to plan our wedding. The date is set, and so is the location. August 15 in San Diego... 6 months from now.

And since I don't feel like doing any ACTUAL wedding planning work right now, I'll just write about why Frenchy is most awesome guy of all time instead:

1. He gives me massages. All the time. Right now, for example, I just stuck my foot in his face and said, "massssssage!" And he's totally doing it!

2. He looks so hot when he plays the drums.

3. He has a French accent.

4. He makes me crepes.

5. He looks so hot when he's brushing his teeth.

6. He doesn't mind when I say, "Zat iz not my duhg." In fact, I think he's starting to like it.

7. He gives the best hugs ever.

8. He smells good. (Despite aforementioned scoring high on the Frenchness scale.)

9. He is the awesomest dancer. Especially when Michael Jackson comes on.

10. He makes me laugh. Sometimes even on purpose.

11. He doesn't mind when I burp or fart.

12. He looks so hot when he's making coffee.

13. He buys bread at the bakery when I don't feel like it.

14. He drives a motorcycle.

15. He never makes fun of my French. Ever.

16. He looks so cute when he's sleeping.

17. He goes running with me.

18. He comes to watch my soccer games, and I always score a goal when he's there.

19. He is nice to everyone. I don't think he could be mean if he tried.

20. He makes me feel like a supermodel.

21. He drinks with his pinky out.

22. He rolls his r's a little extra when speaking Spanish. Like, Barrrrrrrcelona.

23. He's unbearably good looking in a suit.

24. He's unbearably good looking in jeans.

25. He's unbearably good looking in a swimsuit.

Ok I'd better stop before this gets unbearable for me or anyone else reading this. Love you, Frenchy. Happy anniversaire!!!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

"I'm A Magician!" "I'm a Rabbit!"

I was planning to tell you all about my whirlwind week, wherein I spent 36 hours in New York, another 28 in LA, and then a total of about 60 on airplanes and in airports, but it seems like an awful lot of work.

And this video I just came across thanks to The Bloggess is oh so much funnier. If I have a kid like this, I will know I did SOMETHING right.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Yogurt Galere... er, Galore!

My friend Natalie is visiting us this week from LA, which is great for Frenchy because while Natalie is indeed my friend she was also once, long ago in a galaxy far far away, my au pair. That's the fancy Frenchified version of nanny. (Nevermind that she's not French but from Michigan.) And that means she has a lot of stories about little lovely Noelliebellie as a child. Because of course I was an angel!

Anyway this evening after a long day of work I thought it might be nice to bake these little mini muffins I've been swearing I know how to make for the whole two years Frenchy and I have been together. We even bought the mini muffin pans in Philadelphia last April. And still, no mini muffins. Poor Frenchy. I'm such a cruel, heartless person.

Until today. So we hit the first roadblock when I looked at the recipe and saw "sour cream." Hmm. I've already skipped the baking soda in three batches of chocolate chip cookies because French people have never heard of such a thing, but I didn't think 3/4 of a cup of sour cream could just be ignored. A google search for "sour cream french" led me to find the plaintive plea for help of another lost American trying to cook something using sour cream in France. Bingo. "Crème fraîche épaisse." Not to be confused with crème fraîche liquide, which would cause all sorts of problems....

Then I thought aloud, where would one FIND crème fraîche épaisse in the grocery store? And Natalie, despite being a teacher of small children, responded almost as if I were retarded, "In the dairy section. DUH!"

DUH is right. Hmph! What Natalie didn't know is that dairy sections in France are typically spread throughout the store. This is clearly for two main reasons. 1) To confuse Americans looking for crème fraîche épaisse. (And who can pronounce that, anyway? Geez.) And 2) Because every French grocery store stocks a minimum of 1,264 different types of yogurt. And I'm sorry, but that just ain't gonna fit in a "dairy section."

As Natalie looked rather incredulous, I dragged her along on this crème fraîche épaisse shopping expedition. Quite incredibly, it was the first thing we found. Actually, SHE found it, when it practically jumped off the shelf at us. By the way, it was next to the pasta. And nowhere near the yogurt, as one might think.

Which, incidentally, takes up three separate DIVIDED AREAS of this particular grocery store. Three walls full of just yogurt. Every flavor imaginable, every brand on earth, with and without added benefits and nutrients, with suger and sugar-free, every possible size and color combination.... After the third yogurt area, Nat looked at me and said, very seriously, "Guess we should get some yogurt."

Oh, and the muffins were AWESOME.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Country that Cried Wolf

As you may or may not have guessed from my last post, I was pretty excited about yesterday's strike. I'm intrigued by occasional pandemonium (as long as it doesn't affect me personally, let's be clear) and the office tardiness alone caused by pre-strike festivities on Tuesday and Wednesday had me really looking forward to the full on strike yesterday.

Well. I'm very disappointed in France.

When I woke up yesterday and turned on the news radio, I was delighted to find that even they were on strike, playing French oldies instead of news. Cool! But then when I got to work, all the interns were already there. And Melina too, who had been stuck for 2 1/2 hours trying to get to the office the day before. In fact, EVERYONE was there by 10am, and not a single person had any difficulty getting to work. Later Frenchy sent me a link to Le Monde. 75% - 95% normal service on all trains, aside from RER A and B.


The Spanish truck driver strike this summer was way more impressive, and way more disruptive. (No mail, no Fedex, no food deliveries to grocery stores... etc, for two weeks!) So was the Spanish baggage handler strike that caused 24 hours of airline pandemonium back in 2006. I was so prepared to be impressed by French striking capabilities, but I'm really disappointed. Reminds me why I normally don't get excited for things in general - I hate disappointment!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Over the lifespan of this blog, I've lived through and written about my experiences with strikes on more than one occasion. Munich was one particularly disastrous day that comes to mind. A train strike in Peru is another. In fact, if I look back I'm sure that after IESE, Frenchy, and food poisoning, strikes are probably one of the topic I've written about most.

But tomorrow I will experience my first REAL strike. As in, the whole country of France (home of la greve) will be striking. What was announced on Monday as a public transportation strike (bus, metro, tramway) now seems to encompass everything from teachers to the post office to airline pilots. And you know why they're striking?

They are striking against the financial crisis.

Which makes a lot of sense. "I know! The economy is in the crapper and everyone around us is losing jobs, so LET'S TAKE A DAY OFF WORK TO BITCH ABOUT IT." And stop all the other working people from doing their jobs too. Huh.

The other funny thing about these pre-announced strikes is that they are supposed to happen on a given day, but actually things start to go haywire in advance. Which is why yesterday the tramway wasn't running properly and today the metro was all screwed up. It took some of my colleagues two to three hours to get to work.

Fortunately for me (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), I drive a scooter. So I can still make it to work and be productive, assuming the roads don't go on strike. But I won't have many people to be productive with. And hey, if there's no one there, no biggie. Because I heard that the museum staff will also be on strike, so the museums may be free to enter just to get back at the government. So I'll just spend a delightful afternoon at the Orsay perhaps. Ahhh la France!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Because of Glasses

My pal (director, writer, DJ, and all around awesome chic) Jauretsi posted a link to a clip from They Live on Facebook this afternoon. And of course I had to watch it... It's been ages since I've seen that movie.

About two minutes in, Frenchy, who was sitting next to me, said "They fight because of glasses? Because one wants to give glasses and the other one doesn't want to receive glasses?"

Yes. They fight because of glasses. Don't we all?

Monday, January 26, 2009

New Years Resolutions or, How to Let Go

So among my new years resolutions this year was to do yoga. I mean really do yoga, like regularly. I've done yoga in the past, and tried a few different types, but this year I was like, YEAH. I'm gonna DO YOGA.

Fortunately Frenchy's cousin gave me a voucher for some free classes for my birthday. Because, you see, I'd already been all, YEAH I'm gonna DO YOGA a month before new years even rolled around. And after three weeks of absolute nonstop travel craziness, and one weekend of absolute rest, I decided that this would be the week to just do it.

So we agreed that tonight was the night, since I play soccer on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the yoga schedule is apparently funky on Wednesdays, and while Caroline could do Friday, Frenchy had already planned a Guitar Hero raclette dinner for Friday night. How's that for an awesome combination?

Tonight I raced out of work by 6:30 in order to be home and changed and back out the door by 7:30 so we could be there and signed in and whatnot in time for our 8pm class. Which is also when I made a VERY BIG MISTAKE. I changed my Facebook status and announced my yoga-with-Frenchy intentions. Well off we went, on what was supposed to be a 10 minute motorbike ride to rue St. Jacques. Except that somehow what Frenchy thought was rue St Jacques was really Avenue Rapp, and nowhere near St Jacques.

So we drove some more and finally arrived at the right street. And Frenchy goes, "Ok! Run! Warmup!" And I'm pretty sure I heard him say something about number 21. Which was funny because when we were running I happened to look up at the numbers and we passed 392.... 388... For a moment I thought maybe I didn't hear the "3" in "321." But no. He really said "21." At or around this time we turned around and started running back to the bike. By then it was 7:58 and I could only imagine the condescending and irritated look on the face of not only the yoga instructor, but on every single student in the class when we arrived, out of breath, 20 minutes late.

So we went home. The long way. Because, you see, not only did we get lost on the way TO yoga, WE GOT LOST ON THE WAY BACK!

And so I ask you. What is the point of having a Parisian fiance who doesn't know his way around Paris???

Hmmmm. I guess because he cooks you nice food when you get home from your non-yoga class...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Trying to do absolutely nothing

It's not easy! After the crazy month of December, where we had a constant flow of houseguests and visitors, plus a party and of course the holidays, I hoped that January would be calm and quiet. I was wrong.

The first week was still full of family (not that this is a bad thing!) and then a sick Frenchy to take care of. Week two was comprised of the first days back to work, and then my fabulous Barcelona Barforama escapade, from which I apparently still haven't fully recovered - a work colleague informed me Friday that I really should eat more because I've lost weight. Nice! Good thing I like chocolate!

The second week included a sudden business trip to London that was sprung on me just 24 hours prior, and last week, the third week, was the busiest yet. A full week of 12-14 hour days and another trip to London to boot. On Tuesday night I was so tired that I accidentally set my alarm for 6am rather than 5am the next morning. Whoops. My TAXI arrived at 6am to take me to the airport. Needless to say, I broke my own personal record for amount of time required to go from entirely horizontal and completely asleep to showered, dressed, packed, and off to the train station. 12 minutes! I don't recommend this, however, as an ideal way to start a nonstop two-day business trip with all your bosses. I do, on the other hand, recommend managing to be in a different train car from all of them!

So after these three weeks of craziness, I'm now practically under house arrest, goverened over by Frenchy. Friday night we watched a movie and went to bed early. Saturday we made it outside just long enough to buy a new scarf (left mine in the office in London) and some violin strings and to stop off at a friends daughters' birthday party. (Which, incidentally, exhausted me, in those 60 minutes, just as much as the two day trip to London.) Last night we were really busy: we baked cookies. Whew, exhausting.

And today I even managed to take a nap less an hour after waking up! And now it's 4:30 and not only have I not set foot outside yet, I am still in my jammies. If you've read this blog for any length of time, or if you know me personally, you realize that this is actually harder for me than jumping on a plane to some random destination and walking nonstop for two days, only to get back home practically in time to go to the office on a Monday morning. It's a challenge, but I kind of like it. Maybe I'll try it again sometime!

Monday, January 19, 2009


Today at lunch with Frenchy I tried to put into words how thrilling this historic moment is. A president we can be proud of. Finally. I don't have to shy away from admitting my nationality anymore. Our credibility has returned... things like this really can happen in America. It's not such a bad place, after all. Three and a half years away from home, with everyone who isn't American pointing fingers at everyone who is, well... what a relief. I'M AMERICAN!

Thank you, President Obama. And thank you, Democrats Abroad France, for helping me get my vote in! And thank you all my fellow Americans who voted for change. We did it!

Monday Morning Horoscope

I´m not usually much of a horoscope person (unless I come across one I really like) but this was delivered to my Google page this morning and seemed particularly fitting for a Monday morning that´s already full-blast by 9am.

Your key planet Jupiter meets up with trickster Mercury today, challenging you to stay focused on the demanding day-to-day affairs of your life. You have to handle what's happening in your immediate environment, even if it's less fun than dreaming about the future. Nevertheless, no one can see your thoughts, so you can continue exploring your hidden fantasies as long as you also cover your bases in the here and now. By Rick Levine Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Week from Hell or, How NOT to Start the New Year

After two solid weeks of nonstop family time, wherein Frenchy and I acted as hosts, tour guides, and translators, it was a shock when Monday morning rolled around and it was actually time to go to work again. Work?! We needed a holiday from our holiday, not a Monday morning.

We were even more shocked when we looked out the window and saw Paris blanketed in snow. Frenchy had left his big motorbike at his parents' house a week earlier, so we hopped on my little scooter and headed for work. This scooter has never seen snow, and knowing how badly it handles in the rain, I can't say I was particularly excited to test out its snowcat abilities, but nevertheless off we went. We were halfway across the Bois du Boulogne when Frenchy decided to give me a snow driving lesson, informing me that while it's best to follow directly behind the cars (which we did slowly part of the way), you can totally drive between them in the snowy area as long as you dont 1) wobble the handlebars, 2) accelerate suddenly, or 3) brake suddenly.

Fine. And he was right, for a few minutes. I'm not sure which of the three he did, but I do know that suddenly we had wiped out, with my left knee taking the brunt of the fall. Luckily we, and everyone else, was going about 2km per hour max, so we basically just slipped and tipped over, and weren't gored by any oncoming cars. And in fact, it was the first time I've ever seen Parisian being helpful or caring or kind at all, as many of them stopped once we were on the side of the road to ask if we needed a lift to the hospital or anywhere else. We got back on the bike and slowly, very slowly, headed back to work.

Which is where I found out that I had become "invalid" as an employee. My card to enter and leave the building didn't work. Which is fine, but it's the same card that allows me to eat lunch. And if you pay in cash, they charge you double. Nice, huh? By Tuesday afternoon when I left for Barcelona, it was finally solved, after several emails and phone calls and even an in-person visit to the official building card manager. I met some interesting people over 36 hours... and also wasted a lot of time.

So onto late Tuesday afternoon, when I headed to the airport for Barcelona, and the next step in my work permit renewal. This is my fourth time, so you'd think I'd be used to it by now and it'd be a total snap, but life seems to like to deal me things to write about in my blog...

Tuesday was a holiday in Spain (La Epifania) so I had planned to arrive at night, pick up the government papers from my colleague who had picked them up from my old flat, stay with some IESE friends, and then get up early in the morning to take care of the last steps and wait in the fingerprinting line. The last step before actually picking up my new card, four full months after after starting the process.

I stayed with a friend in L'Hospitalet and her two boys and two cats and for some reason couldn't sleep the whole night, which is very rare for me. Particularly when I'm as tired as I was feeling that night. But the much-needed sleep simply refused to come, try as I might to relax and not think about how soon I'd have to get up. Suddenly it was 7am and I think I'd finally been asleep for about an hour, but I had to get moving. Before waiting in the line, I still have to take new passport photos and pay another set of taxes at a bank.

I started with the bank, and went to three different ones in L'Hospitalet before I finally gave up and flagged down a taxi and headed into Barcelona proper. I figured I'd just get it all done in one spot, since I was wasting time going to various banks which all had excuses for why they couldn't help me. (One only did those kinds of taxes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and this was Wednesday, the next had a new guy working there who didn't know what to do with my papers, and the third told me I had to make more photocopies first... but all the photocopy places were still closed.)

I was thrilled to arrive at the police station and find that, unlike previous years when I'd been through this, the line didn't wind around the entire block. I ducked into the shop across the street where the woman takes every immigrant's passport photos and makes copies and did exactly that. It was only later that I noticed how pale I looked in my pictures...

Then I ran across the street to the bank and paid nearly 100 euros in further taxes, and then it was finally time to get into the line. By this point, it was 9am, and I was slightly dismayed to find the reason there was no line outside. No, it wasn't because it was only 2 degrees celsius outside and there was snow on Tibidabo and they'd all decided to stay home. It was because the line was in the parking lot inside the police station's gates. I took a number and waited outside in the freezing cold for two hours... to receive another number. In the middle of it all, the guy handing out the numbers, a big burly Catalan policeman, announced that it was 10am and he'd be taking 30 minutes for breakfast so if we wanted to go out to do the same, we should just be sure to be back by 10:30 so as not to lose our places in line.

He finally turned up again at 11am. And I had my new number (188) and was in the next waiting area, inside at least, by 11:30. They were only up to number 99 when I walked in and took a seat. And as I watched the numbers s-l-o-wl-y move on the counter, I started to realize that I wasn't feeling too hot. Within minutes I was feeling downright miserable and realized I needed some fresh air (well, preferably a bed) ASAP.

I went outside to ask the guard if there was a toilet I might use in the police station, as I was feeling rather barfy. He kindly told me no, and suggested taht I go out and try one of the bars down the street and use their restroom. Awesome. I wasn't even halfway down the block when I barfed on a tree. In the middle of Via Augusta. I couldn't really come up with a more appropriate place in the moment... I looked at the ground, at a scooter, tried to find a garbage can, and then just ended up with a tree. Poor tree.

I felt momentarily better and ducked into the nearest bar I could find. There was an old couple at the bar, and their son who must've been my age. I must have looked awful because I barely got the question "may I use your bathroom" out when the old guy pointed up a narrow spiral staircase and off I went. Moments later I was downstairs again, gingerly sipping a manzanilla tea and wishing I could be anywhere but there, alone in Barcelona with no apartment, no hotel, no choice but to go back and sit in that godforsaken waiting room and pray with all my might that I wouldn't barf on everyone.

And back I went. The guard asked if I was ok and I told him I was worried I might've missed my number being called. He told me not to worry, that if it were the case, he'd personally see to it that someone helped me. Unfortunately, that wasn't my problem at all. Rather, they were only on number 126 when I arrived. And so I waited there for another thirty minutes, trying to keep the room from spinning and my head from exploding. The counter was only up to 140 when I realized I wouldn't survive there much longer, and I took a drastic step.

I poked my head into the room of the guy at the nearest desk, who was helping two other people, and apologized profusely and explained my situation: I'm incredibly sick, my papers are all in order, can you pleasepleasepleasePLEASE just help me quickly after these guys even though it's not my turn so I can get out of here without spewing all over your desk? He told me to ask his boss, desk 7. Which I did. She was helping someone on her staff when I arrived, and I spent those three or four minutes (which felt more like three or four hours) trying not to toss my cookies again and focusing on anything that might help. Like, oh, that little trashcan there.

Finally she called me in and I explained myself again. She didn't seem to really want to help until I insisted that my papers were all in order, I've been through this three times already, and it should only take a couple of minutes. She took pity on me, particularly when she saw I was telling the truth. Not only were my papers in order, but my hands were also shaking and I could barely keep my head off her desk. (Note to people who want to skip the queue in this manner, but without actually vomiting: LOOK THE PART!)

Another girl fingerprinted me and moaned that she was sick too, and then that was that. I was outside again on Via Augusta, with a receipt for my new residents card that could be picked up in a month. I got in a taxi and headed to a friend's house. Miguel was in Frenchy's class and his wife Cris had their first daughter in May, and was, thankfully for me, home with her that day. I made it to their place on Muntaner without incident, but proceeded to barf allllllll over the place after getting out of the taxi. Even in front of a group of people waiting for the bus. I guess they felt sorry for me, but that didn't really make anyone want to help.

But fortunately I was soon in the peace and quiet of Miguel and Cristina's guest room, where I must admit I wasn't able to sleep for several hours thanks to my very angry stomach, but where I was very well taken care of and finally managed to sleep a full 10 hours straight through the night. I missed my flight of course, and had to come back to Paris the following night, but there's no way I could've gotten on a plane in that state anyway.

So I finally got back to the office in Paris Friday morning, 10 pounds lighter, several shades whiter, and still feeling nowhere near 100%. I was still sick enough that I had to go home by 4pm, and I still don't know what was wrong with me. Stomach virus or food poisoning, I'll never know. And I will never forget what will thankfully be the LAST time I will ever have to wait in that stupid line!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

2008... What a strange ride it has been!

At the end of every year, I usually like to carve out a little time for myself where I just sit down quietly and think about the 365 days I've just been through. The high points, the low points, the achievements and accomplishments, the things I could've done better, the new things I've done and the new places I've been... And frankly I usually feel pretty good at the end of it. Rarely have I ever kicked myself for not getting something done, or sticking to some resolution. In fact, I'm usually surprised by how much I've done in just one measly little year.

And this year, the only difference is that I haven't had a bit of quiet time to myself until AFTER the new year. It has been a very busy holiday season, and a wonderful one, with my family and Frenchy's together again, this time right here in Paris and with no broken bones or dislocations. So I finally have some time now, on a flight to Barcelona, to go through what 2008 has been, and if there is any single theme, it has been... uncertainty.

Which is funny, really, because all year I've been in a wonderful, stable relationship, and I've held a relatively normal, stable job. That right there is more than most people can say for the year that was, and so I consider myself lucky. But being in a relationship or a job situation where a visa is required presents its own set of difficulties. Will we make it? Can we end up working in the same city? In the same country? Will you find a job? Will I keep my job?

Throw in a move to another country (for me, a new one, for him, back home) and you throw another spanner in the works. I was ready to leave Barcelona, for many reasons, and Frenchy didn't want to return to France, for just as many reasons. Would our compromise work out?

I guess, looking back, the answer to everything has been yes. It has worked out, though it hasn't been easy. The uncertainty with work started back in May, the day before Frenchy's graduation, and finally now seems to be improving, and Frenchy has found himself a good job in Paris. And growing day by day, the uncertainty of this stupid economy, the most boring story of all, and the one that affects us all the most.

But uncertainty is so 2008. I'm bored with uncertainty. (Is it even possible to say such a thing?!) I'm excited it's 2009. I want to put that stupid uncertain year behind me and move on to something fresh and new and oh-so-certain. I mean, I CAN be certain about one thing - 2009 is here!

So one quick look back on the year that was, and it's on to the year that now is.

January: Fun trips to Milan and Mallorca; recovery from dislocated shoulders and cracked ribs

February: Business trips to Havana, San Francisco, and London, and the annual IESE Multiculti party

March: Derry for Joanne's birthday, Paris for work, and I gave my first business presentation in Spanish

April: Business trip to NYC with a side visit to Philly to see Nicole and Evan, plus our first skydiving adventure

May: Work trip to Paris, first wedding of the season, Rome for Frenchy's birthday, plus my IESE class reunion, Frenchy's graduation, a surprise birthday dinner for the Frenchy, and an offer to move to Paris

June: Business trips to Madrid, Helsinki, and Paris, and a side trip to Tallinn and a Finnish adventure with Juha for the Midsummer party

July: Belgium for Juanra's wedding, Paris for work and a wedding, Strasbourgfor a wedding, plus a trip to SF to give my first talk on a panel about video games and advertising for OMMA, and a trip to NYC

August: Toronto for... another wedding, Paris for work, then Toulouse for another wedding and on to Biarritz, San Sebastian, Bilbao, and Zaragoza

September: Paris & NYC for work (including a pitch for my old company), and Oregon for the last wedding of the season

October: Paris, Cannes, London x3, Barcelona... plus the overnight move from Barcelona to Paris

November: Stockholm, London, Prague... where we got engaged; played my first match with my new women's football team here, and saw my first live rugby match: France v. Australia

December: weekend in Aix-en-Provence... oh, and I turned 30. And it was dirty.

Well. Seven new countries, three times as many new cities. Eight weddings. A move to a new country. A new decade and an engagement. Looking back at all that, I feel it's time for a recovery nap. And then on to the next adventure. 2009, I'm ready!