Saturday, December 29, 2007

Small but significant

Ok, so I already have a box filled with medicine, a box filled with books and DVD’s, and a box filled with kitchen stuff. Yep, that’s right : I've finally started packing (or I’m at least trying to !). My legs feel shaky while doing so, and I try to ignore the emotional turmoil going one somewhere in the hidden depths of my brain – but …I’m proud of the three boxes that are ready to go !
I’m still postponing the most hellish part of the entire move : clothes and shoes. And I know, thank you P, that that sounds « blond » - but girls will be girls. Especially when going to Paris, where everybody looks as if they just had an entire fashion-make over ! Come on, I can’t go to La Sorbonne twice a week wearing the same clothes !
But I’ll stop on the subject now, before P asks me to get a new, darker, haircolour.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Jingle all the way!

Here we are again, it’s that time of the year in which
- It’s my birthday
- The entire family goes to the Ardennes to meet, greet and eat wild boars
- P is off to Mexico to celebrate with his family
- My stomach goes on strike because of all the mistreatments
- My hands are covered with red spots due to pine-needle allergy
- Each morning I open the curtains to see it has still not snowed
- I try to think of something special to do for New Year’s Eve, but we’ll once again end up watching the traditional fireworks in Brussels (which I very much enjoy, by the way!)

Melancholy is looming around the corner, and the fact that I’m moving in exactly one week, is not making things easier (mental note : never move again during the Christmas’ Season !). So the habitual reflex comes up : shop ! Alas…there are the 7 months without an income to think of…depriving me of my escape route into consumerism. I have enough to keep me busy though…
I should start packing all my stuff for France….but I just keep on postponing it (hell, I still have to unpack from the Ardennes). Nightmares about being shipped to France in a container (on a stormy sea) are not exactly improving my motivation (nor is the one about flying to France in an Airbus that keeps on crashing).
So « bar » shopping, « bar » packing,….. Nothing left to do but get into a cleaning frenzy ! I’ve thrown out 2 garbage bags full of stuff, and this finally gave me the closet space I desperately needed for the contents of my « office-box ».
Next to the cleaning frenzy, there’s the cooking frenzy ! I’ve made a small mountain of muffins for my birthday ; next came several oven dishes, experiments with soups, soufflés, etc. Cakes and pies are still on the to-do list.
So for now, in the middle of these « changing times », these are my few certainties
1) my apartment will be clean when I move out
2) I’ll need to lose some pounds :-) !

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How a bad day finally came to an end

It’s almost an hour past midnight – and I’m just very glad this day is over and done with. Like I already said in the previous posting : it was my last day at work before my 7-month leave of absence – in itself weird enough.
And let me tell you this : it doesn’t get any better when
1) your boss forgets it’s your last day
2) everybody is too busy working to have a glass of the expensive champagne you bought especially for the occasion
3) one of the two friends who was supposed to take you out for dinner after work gets carjacked on her way to the restaurant, and you have to wait for the police to arrive in one of Brussels’ « neighbourhoods to avoid when possible, especially after dark »
Me and the remaining friend tried to make the best out of what was left of the evening (after our toes and fingers were frozen of, because we had to wait, walking around in sub-zero degrees, until there was a table free for us).
After all, I was very happy to have a nice dinner with K – I’m relieved E made it safely back home – and I’m just going to bed now. End of the day. Finally.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Last day at work

Here it is, it has finally arrived : my last day at work!
This morning I felt strangely like on a first schoolday : nervous, not knowing what to expect. And I still feel that way. Strangely stressed out. Lunch was limited to one forced slice of bread, and my last cookie out of the candy machine just didn’t taste as good as it should. On top of this, people are still not officially informed about my leave of absence – and I don’t think this will happen anytime today.

Meanwhile, P is celebrating the end of P2 in Fonty. And I feel lonely as hell (even more so since it seems almost nobody can attend my birthday party on Thursday). I would do anything to be there with him right now.

One little light on the horizon : two friends who have shared work, pleasure and sorrow with me, both inside and outside the company, have planned to take me out to dinner right after work. Thank God for them. And bring on the champagne!!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Mom going wireless

If there’s anyone preparing for my six-month stay in France, it’s my mom.

1)« I want a webcam ! »
This came about a few months ago – I didn’t even realize my mom (turning 60 in a few months) knew what a webcam was ! So I got her a webcam. But that was just the beginning of it….
2) « I want a laptop »
Ohhh-kaaayy. So suddenly my old desktop wasn’t good enough anymore. Nope, she wanted to walk around the house with here computer. Install herself to chat with me in the garden, in the kitchen, where ever….
Of course, this led to
3) « I want wireless internet ! »
She assumed she could just log on to some wireless network (like I do in Brussels) – only forgetting that she lives in the countryside, not surrounded by invisible networks, but by cows and trees.

So as of tomorrow, with the help of some IT-minded friends, my mom will be completely wireless, walking around with her laptop, connecting to France from everywhere in the house + garden, being able to see me, sitting in front of my own laptop.
On top of this, she just proudly announced that she got a special deal with the telephone company : she can call to France for free from now on, each day, after 17.00PM.

Hmmm..... moving to France was supposed to *increase* my independence...
But ...I'm happy as hell I'll be able to talk with her for free, chat while seeing her and my parental house (and the cats!) in the background :-)!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Old friends and new friends

One very good friend sat until closing time at the Pizza Hut with me, several months ago.
Thanks to her, I was able to make the decision to go to France with P.
Another friend made a comment on how wives are always “following” their husbands. Thanks to her, I realized I was doing no such thing – but that I had made this decision in all freedom and as a conscious choice for what I want in my own life.
An old friend told me yesterday how he was proud of me, for taking such a decision. And I finally felt relieved, realizing now that people understood this has not been easy.
Alumni friends expressed their jealousy last week, envying the break I’m taking, the world of opportunities and new experiences I’m about to step into. Thanks to them, I can only smile and be even more determined to indeed enjoy every single minute of it!
Friends at work are always asking me how my weekend in France has been. By letting me talk about it, France has already become a little part of me.
Some new, possible friends, are asking me when I’ll finally be in Fontainebleau, wanting to get to know me better. Without realizing it, they make me feel very welcome.
My friend since birth, my mom, is doing her very best to be happy for me, joining me in my enthusiasm. While I know this is very difficult for her. She is trying to make this as easy as possible for me – and I thank her for her unconditional support, in whatever I do in life.
My friend-in-law, P’s mom, is thanking me for the good care and love I give to her son. Thanks to her, the past months were less lonely and P felt closer, even when he was 400 km away.

OK, sorry for getting swept away by the Christmas’ spirit and for getting more emotional than necessary. What I just wanted to say : thanks all you guys, for denying me a single evening to myself these days, for encouraging my caffeine-addiction to stay awake, for causing a small financial crisis due to all the restaurant visits, and for making sure I’m not in bed before 2.00 AM on week nights :-) !

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Winter Ball

Picture a castle in the French countryside, surrounded by a golf court. From outside, you see the orange glow of the candle light. You step inside, and are surrounded by a few hundred people in their finest tuxedo/ball gown. Welcome at the INSEAD Winter Ball !
It was like a fairy tale…and I was very glad to be there.

But like in every fairy tale, there were a few « cruelties »
-The tickets cost a small fortune. Luckily, we got sponsored, but I heard so many people who were not going just because of the price. And this just feels wrong. Everybody should be able to go to the Ball…I hope the organization of the Summer Ball will keep this in mind.
- It was the weekend before the start of the P2 exams ! As a result, glances at the clock were frequent, and a lot of people (including ourselves), went home just a little after the horses turned into pumpkins again.
- It was the last party for the Dec’07 class, and most of them somehow don’t feel ready to face the real world again, outside the INSEAD bubble. For them it’s almost « Once upon a time, I did an MBA… ».

While writing this, I’m already back in Brussels, and my gown is packed up for dry cleaning. This means my last weekend trip to Fonty is officially over ! And my own stay within The Bubble is about to begin…

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A daily dose of denial

Sooner or later it had to happen. I had to write the phrase that appears in almost every blog. So here it goes : “Sorry I haven’t written anything in a while”.
Maybe I wanted to forget the whole MBA thing for a few days. Or maybe I’m just in old, plain denial. Me, moving in a few weeks? Naaah…..Just going to France for a little longer than usual. Me, quitting my job for 7 months? Naah, …Just taking a Christmas Holiday (that will go on way beyond Easter).

I amaze myself by the utter calmness I *seem* to be in. Shouldn’t I suffer from sleepless nights and crying fits by now? I’m waiting for them to happen, but instead I remain cooooool.
Ok ,so I go running my head of for hours in the gym, I’m drinking a gallon of tranquilizing herbal tea every evening, I’m definitally overusing my credit card, and I’m filling my social agenda to the brim. Whatever it takes, right?

Anyway, if the postings on this blog remain slow for the days to come, please excuse me, and know it can mean three things :
a) I’m still in denial
b) I’m spending my evenings in some bar/restaurant for the umpteenth goodbye drink/dinner with friends or colleagues
c) I’ve totally crashed, and am in bed with an emotional breakdown.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Going Russian

I just made a quick run, during my lunch break, to the local H&M store. My mission : buy two russian-style fur hats for the INSEAD theme-party this Friday, i.e. “Russian Nights”. I found what I was looking for : two huge fury things, earflaps and all, ugly as hell.
On I went to the cashdesk. Where the sales assistant looked a bit strange at me. Because, let’s face it, nobody wears those things in real life – at least not in Belgium.
And apparently, he could not resist the urge to make some “funny” remarks.

He: “ ooh, preparing for winter, right? (smirk-smirk)”
Me: -smile- “Hmmhmm”
He: “Well, those will certainly keep you warm!”
(looks over my shoulder from the waiting people behind me)
Me : (at this point doubting if I should tell about the theme party, but that would only sound as a stupid excuse for buying silly hats, and he wouldn’t believe me anyway). So instead “ Yes, they certainly will”
He : “you know they also have them for kids?”
Me: (OK, what? So now I look like the mom-type??). “Oh, really?”

At that point, he finally had my change, and the hats were put in a bag. Pffew!
So now I know why they insist on dressing up for parties at INSEAD. Getting the right outfit (which can go from a “doubtful” nurse-outfit, to an African rasta-wig) is just a preparatory programme for one of the communication/behavioural/organisational psychology-electives in P3/P4/P5!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A public secret

I’m the subject of a public secret, how exciting is that?!
Here’s the story in a nutshell : my manager still hasn’t communicated that I’ll be leaving (in like..3 weeks), and doesn’t want people to know. So I don’t tell. But actually, (almost) everybody knows.
a) Our company is not a planet in another galaxy. It’s on Earth, it’s in Belgium, and Belgium is a very small country. For instance : a guy from marketing plays soccer in the same team as my brother-in-law. Our business analyst is the wife of one of P’s colleagues, etc…
b) My manager himself told it “confidentially” (ahum) to some people.
c) Our employers our 90 % women. Do I need to explain this any further? No, don’t think so.

So on an almost daily basis, people pop into my office saying “Hey, what have I heard??”
And I’m going “I don’t know…What *have* you heard?” Just to find out that one more heard it through a very active grapevine.
All this leads to very uncomfortable situations.
They know, I know, all the others know, but they don’t know all the others know. And sooner or later they will think I told all the others, which isn’t true. Get it?
However: until my boss decides to send the official announcement, there really isn’t any other option for me but to sit and watch the news go round. And to write about it on my blog :-) !

Monday, November 19, 2007

What is an MBA? What is INSEAD? Where is Fontainebleau?

Yess!!! As from January, I’ll be surrounded by people who know the answer to all these questions! And what a relief this will be!
I’m getting so tired of explaining all this over and over and over again.
Also because there’s no “right way” to explain it.
You can go for the “modest version”, and say that INSEAD is a business school in France, near Paris, and that’s it. But then the questions/remarks already start:

“What’s a business school / MBA?” (
“INSEAD? What’s that?” ( or )
“Why do it France? You have MBA’s in Belgium!”
“Why stop working for one year?! There are MBA’s you can do in evening school!”
“What does P’s employer say about this?” (euhm, well, they totally support him)
“But if you stop working as well, you don’t have an income?!” (yes, correct. We’ll live on bread and water for 6 months. Sponsoring is welcome :-)

All the above leaves you no other option but to switch to the “very hard to get in, one of the leading b-schools in the world – version”. And than you sound like you’re bragging and showing off! Which was really not your intention – you just wanted people to understand!

It keeps amazing me how little is known about MBA’s in general. People stare at you, completely baffled, when you say your partner stops working for one year “as an investment in the future” …And by this I’m really not looking down on all the people who have asked me one of the above questions or made similar remarks! I had to do some research myself when P announced for the first time he wanted to do an MBA….
This posting is simply a cry for help to all the PR/Communication people working for business schools. (Because I’m through with fulfilling this role for INSEAD, unless they start paying me)
- get the title “protected” in some way (because now you can almost get an MBA on every street corner)
- explain to the world outside “high-potential-land” what an MBA is, and why people do it in general. (I mean nobody still wonders what a university is, right? Why can’t the same be true for MBA’s?)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

It's the final countdown !

Tomorrow my last month at work starts. 4 weeks to go…and then I’m off to France for 6 months!!
This is making me feel, in no particular order : exhilarated, relieved, enthusiastic, stressed out, anxious, panicky, over the moon, doubtful, convinced, scared, proud, excited. That’s about it, I guess.

Most of the time, I actually don’t think about it. I continue working and leading my every day life. And then out of the blue, something happens, some thought pops up in my mind, making me feel one of the above mentioned moods. Like driving home at night, and all of a sudden realizing that within a few weeks this car will be G-O-N-E. Or like reading a mail about a jobfair in March, and starting to plan it, only to come to a full stop because I won’t even be here. Or like feeling so frustrated again over the organization of our department, but then starting to smile and be able to think “f*** it” :-)

All in all, I’m happy that the waiting is (almost) over. I’m convinced I made the right choice, and I look forward to being with P in France. I’m determined to fully enjoy this “breathing period” I’ve allowed myself, for the first time since graduating. It’s time to find out what I want to do with my life ( or at least have a clue), to think things through, and to finally take the art-courses I’ve been planning since forever :-) . (This reminds me: I have to get my registration at La Sorbonne sorted out – urgently!).

So I guess the occasional panic/doubt-attacks are just part of the deal.And as long as P can find the patience to deal with them, all is ok!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I miss the Thalys

No, not as in “I’ve missed my train to France.”
But as in “I miss the 1.20 hour that I can totally relax, read and look forward to a long weekend!”
It’s Wednesday evening, and every two weeks, this means packing my bags to go to Fonty the next day, right after work. Sadly not this week. There’s the huge yearly company party on Friday evening to compensate things a bit (and this luckily does NOT include looking for an African/Russian/hospital/Tarantino/….outfit :-), but still….

Since I've made the “environmental” decision to take the train instead of my car to travel to France, I took quite a likening for public transport. (ok, I admit : it was an emotional, purely self-indulging decision to spend loads of money on the Thalys, instead of driving for 0 Eur with my company car, nothing to do with any “green” motives – see posting “The horrible ride home”). But public transport made me a happier person.
Here’s how it goes.
A taxi picks me up at work around 5.00 PM. And wow….this already makes me feel like I’ve stepped right into a scene of Sex and the City! Carrie taking a cab to see her lover in Paris…We ignore red lights twice, and I consider this as self-sacrifying acts of my driver, who will do anything to get me on time in the station. The scene reaches perfection when Sinatra sings “We’ll be together again” on the car radio.
I only have to wait a few minutes for the Thalys to come rolling into the station around 17.25 PM, and there I go, at 17.40, all set for a bit of me-time. My bag hides a candy bar, a Coke, a book, and a few magazines. All I need.
The relaxing stops cruelly around 19.00 PM, because then the train almost reaches Paris. And this means : already get to the train doors, ready to jump out. Because I have exactly 10 minutes to 1)stand in line to buy a ticket, 2)race to the other end of a very big train station, 3) knock over a few stubborn Frenchmen who are still not aware of the fact that the left side of an escalator is made for people who are in a hurry, 4) reach the right platform just in time to see the RER to Melun arriving, 5) jump on it, without verifying if it’s the right one, 6) doubt if I jumped on the right one until I see the first stop, which convinces me I’m traveling in the right direction.
After this horrible race against the clock, I can happily relax again for 45 minutes. I spend this time reading (again), and feeling proud of myself for traveling independently through Paris and its’ “banlieux”. Big City Girl on the move!
Around 20.10 PM the train rolls into Melun station, where P stands waiting for me. And in a second I go from “independent big city girl” to “please take me into your arms, onto your horse, and drive me to your castle” :-)

So public transport has won me over.
Good thing.
Because as from January, I won’t even have a car anymore, ha!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Coming & going

It’s another homecoming on a Sunday evening after a long weekend with P in France. And I don’t even know why I bother to open my blog, because quite frankly: I think I’m too tired to write anything sensible right now. Anyway, I feel a slight obligation to at least give it a try :-) . So here’s a quick overview of the past three days!

After arriving on Thursday evening, we discovered one of the “INSEAD” restaurants in Fontainebleau “Pizza Pazza”(INSEAD restaurant meaning : cheap but OK food, and discount for students + partners). Actually, now that I’ve mentioned them on my blog, I feel I’ve deserved another 10% discount.
Friday I started the day quite ‘academically”, going to the library with P (see former posting) – only to become a true housewife in the afternoon (shopping, cleaning, ironing and actually even enjoying it. Please forget those last words right after reading them).
P had classes until 19.00PM, and after that I was very pleased to be part of “champagne-Friday” for once: a little tradition P and his work group developed during P1, sharing a bottle of bubbles after each week they survive. That night, the champagne served more than one purpose : it was Diwali, or the Indian New Year, and they all got their P1 exam-grades! (I will not begin to write about how immensely proud I am of P – remember my intention : give a quick overview)
We had actually planned to go to the African Party, but we ended up cocooning in our Barbizon place. Feeling tired, and afraid that we caught some kind of French flu.
The virus continued to bug us on Saturday, so we ended up staying home and just relaxing. In the evening, fellow INSEAD-Belgians came along to have dinner with us (thank god for the great “traiteur” in Barbizon) – we had a really nice time, just talking, getting to know each other better, and I felt very much “at home”.
Sunday was the birthday of RL, P’s mom, and she was actually on a city trip in Paris. We arranged to meet each other at the Musée du Luxembourg, to go to the Arcimboldo-exhibit. The exhibit itself was great, if not overcrowded…After that we had a superb lunch in the Café Marly at the Louvre, a place that was on my wish list for quite some time! Their moelleux (kind of a half melting, warm chocolate cake) was the ultimate comfort food I needed, because right after that P jumped on the metro, on his way to Fonty again, and we made our way to the Gare du Nord to catch the Thalys to Brussels.

Now I’m back home, and so far Phoebe, our hamster, is the only one who is very pleased with that! I am feeling geographically disoriented, emotionally mixed up, very tired and afraid this headache won’t pass with just one painkiller.
One thing left to do : call P, feel a bit better consequently, and then of to bed!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Doriot Library

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat in a university-type library. When I was doing my masters in Modern History, the library (and the “archives”) became my second habitat. No group work for History students. No, it was all about spending solitary hours buried into old-smelling books (that no living soul had opened after World War II), and into boxes filled with, in my case, letters written by 18th century Frenchmen.
Being in the library meant concentrating 100%. Not difficult, since there was nothing else to do, and one word to some fellow student already provoked angry looks from the librarian. It was as if everyday life seized to exist. Only the yearly Christmas market, held right in front of the library, managed to penetrate its walls. So while you were trying to make your way through the umpteenth bibliography, Rudolf the rednosed reindeer would be happily trudging beside you.

Anyway, here I am, after all those years, sitting in an academic library again. The Insead library, that is, or “Doriot Library”, where P and his fellow students camped out during the P1 exams. Somehow this library is very different from my old university library, which was anything but modern, and where tyrannical librarians kept peace and order.
But the atmosphere is the same. All that matters is the book in front of you. I totally forgot how relaxing this can be, to be cut off from any sound or other activity. To just sit, concentrate and read.

So now I know why they all like the library so much, and why they spent hours and hours in it. It’s the “INSEAD-bubble” in it’s most concentrated form :-)

Friday, November 2, 2007

P in B !

This coming weekend has a few “first times” in for me:
- P is coming back to Brussels for the weekend, the first time “back home”, after leaving more than 2 months ago
- It’s the first time since the ending of my 3week-holiday in Barbizon, that we’ll be seeing that much of eachother. I mean : I only saw P last weekend (not complaining!) The last few months, I always had to wait three weeks in between visits; so I just can’t believe he’ll be standing on my doorstep just a few hours from now!
I’ll try to keep my cool, I’ll try not to schedule and plan every single hour of the coming days, and I promise I’ll try not to overreact if everything doesn’t go picture-perfect. And I’ll try not to think non-stop of the “moment of departure” on Sunday.
As they say at INSEAD about P2, I say the same thing about this “weekend like old times with P in Brussels” : “Bring it on!!!!”.

The MBA : ritual or running-away?

Last week, P gave me this essay to read “Behind the mask : the MBA”, by Gianpiero Petriglieri and Jack Denkfeld Wood. The essay is basically about the psychology of high potentials attending an MBA, and about the “personal development elective” students can follow at IMD ( a business school in Switzerland).

Some unsettling insights reveiled themselves to me while reading the 24 pages.
Of course we all know the reasons why someone chooses to do an MBA (or so we think) : to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to climb even faster to a certain career goal. Next to this, however, there appear to be a whole set of so called “unconsciousness purposes” for applying, and according to the essay ,these purposes are actually the determining ones! I could summarize these purposes as “escapes”, whether it be from an unsatisfying or too demanding job, from parents’ expectations, from routine of every day life, or from a stagnant relationship (yes, that one also appears to be a motive), etc.
So I definitely need to discuss this one with P : what is his “hidden agenda” for the MBA??

The second insight I acquired, is that of the high potential themselves. The essay states that a lot of them appear (from the outside) to “have it all together”. And I must confirm this : to me, most of them indeed appear to be the brightest, happiest, smartest, most self confident, most stress resistant etc people I’ve met. I see them at INSEAD, but I also see them here, at work. They are always full of energy, driven, never tired, never appear to have a bad day, they work 60 hours a week, and besides that manage a family with 2 kids. I can only stare in wonder….(as I see myself as someone who most of the time doesn’t have it all together!).
According to the authors however, this image is a flawed one, hiding deeper insecurities that come with “living up to expectations”. I understand that high potentials are confronted with the same questions as every single one of us (basically “why am I here, on planet earth?”); but they still haven’t convinced me that the image of the so called “ golden boys” (and girls) is just a superficial one… I’ve seen too convincing examples of the opposite, and although I have to admit (already at the “Open Day” before the start of the academic year), that the other MBA-participants were “normal people” like me, I still, somehow, manage to feel inferior to them. (especially when they start talking about their finance or accounting or stats classes, and I even don’t know if they’re still talking English or some other exotic language).

The third and last idea I retain from this essay, is “the MBA as a ritual”. INSEAD’s slogan already states that it’s a year that will change you and your life forever . And the essay elaborates on this, seeing the MBA student as a “modern hero”, who goes on a difficult journey, to come back, fulfilled, transformed and (hopefully) matured.
I’m still struggling with that one as well, more from a personal point of view. When I first read everything there was to be found on the INSEAD website, the part about how “this will change your life forever” made me swallow a few times. I was (and still am) a bit afraid what the effects of INSEAD will be on P, and consequently on our live together. “Change” is not my favourite word in the dictionary, but it is becoming the keyword of this year…and the ones to come!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The INSEAD theme song

When you scroll down a bit, you'll find a new widget I've inserted. It's *the* most played song on INSEAD parties. And I think there's more than one reason for this.

Took a ride to the end of the lane, Where no one ever goes.
'cause forest roads in Fonty simply make you feel that way

Relax, take it easy, For there is nothing that we can('t) do.
Of course, because "we" got in at a top rated business school, and we're ready to conquer the world after this (and they have to let us graduate, considering the amount we paid, right ? ;-)

It’s as if I’m scared. It’s as if I’m terrified. It’s as if I'm scared. It’s as if I’m playing with fire.
Euh, yes, that as well. Because left the job, left the house, left the family and loved ones, left the monthly income and gave all the saving money to INSEAD.

But the last thing on my mind is to leave you. I believe that we’re in this together.
This is a personal one for me :-)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Stuck in different dimensions

Yesterday evening, I sat on the Thalys train from Paris to Brussels, reading « A thousand splendid suns » by Khaled Hosseini. And I came across a wonderful fragment that really explains my side of the INSEAD experience so far :
“…Laila had learned a fundamental truth about time : like the accordion on which Tariq’s father sometimes played old Pashto songs, time stretched and contracted depending on Tariq’s absence or presence.”
Or simply said: weekends in Barbizon fly by at the speed of light, while Brussels seems to be stuck in another time dimension…A dimension where one day feels like one week.

P feels as if P1 was over before he even realized he got admitted at INSEAD :-). For me, P1 just went on, and on, and on, and on…..It’s an easy one to understand : P wants this year to go on forever – so it flies by. I want P1 and P2 to be over as quickly as possible, so they are lasting an eternity! Moreover, I’m still stuck in the same daily routine, while in P’s life literally everything changed (except the girlfriend, ha!).
Also, we all know that time simply flies by when you’re having "fun" (the most recent INSEAD-definition of fun: all living together in the campus library, just going home to shower and get a few hours of sleep ;-).

Apart from the “time warp”, other strange things are happening. I feel far more at home in Barbizon than in Brussels. Barbizon, where I spent three weeks + 2 weekends, opposed to Brussels, where I’ve been living in the same apartment for more than four years. And I know it sounds ooooh soooo corny, but the only explanation I can find is that “Home is where the heart is” (permission to go "Aaaahhh" granted). Every time I come home after spending some time in France, I feel like an unwelcome visitor in my own apartment, totally out of place. And only one question pops into my mind “What the hell am I doing here?”.

Anyway, I’m trying to make the best out of it. I’ve made some fresh veggie-soup (which I know would taste ten times better if P would give me compliments on it), I try to watch some tv (but there’s nothing on; if P would be here, there would be this great reality show, and we would be arguing about watching it or not), and I’ll go to bed early (although I’m not tired; if P would be here, I would start yawning at 22.00pm, and our different bio-rhythms would prove an issue again).
God, now I already start to miss our arguments and issues…How bad can it get?

The end of P1

P survived his P1-exams, I survived Brussels without P, and together we celebrated this (and our 6-year anniversary!) with a great long weekend!
Thursday and Friday we spent 2 days in Disneyland Paris...which was absolutely great. We were able to relax and forget the real world for a while. (up until the point that “the real world’s electricity” failed for 15 minutes, and the smiling, dancing little people of “It’s a small world after all” just became plain plastic dolls…). And up until the moment P got a very upsetting mail on his blackberry (see 2nd part of this posting)
Saturday we enjoyed Paris together with some friends. We discovered that Hausmann was very serious when he designed his “Grands Boulevards” (walking from L’opera to l’Etoile, the boulevard Hausmann just went on, and on , and on, and on….). So after finally arriving on the Champs Elysées, we all deserved our 6 Eur- hot chocolate :-)
Sunday we had brunch with P’s collegue and wife, who will be starting their INSEAD-experience in January, on the Signapore campus. And the wonderful weekend ended with a great walk through the Fôret de Fontainebleau, which looks awesome in autumn colors.

With some great sadness, I also have to mention that some did not survive P1. Two students of the July 2008 class in Singapore drowned Friday morning at a beach in Bali due to unusually strong currents. They were there together with some of their classmates as part of their P1/P2 break.
I did not know them personally, but my thoughts go out to their family and friends.
Coping with this tragic news proves difficult for everyone, and people are looking for ways to express their grief. On Facebook, all the other Belgian students put their status “in mourning”. P spent hours looking on the net for more information on the accident, trying to understand how this could’ve happened. Today a moment of silence will be held on both campuses. But even for the brightest people in this world, “Why” is sometimes a question that just cannot be answered….

Monday, October 22, 2007

The gym

Once or twice a week I go to the gym. And I discovered that there are some very defined categories of other “gym-visitors”.

- the “look at me, I do sports-type” (usually female): has a brand new outfit of some sports brand. Is totally equiped with drinking bottle, towel, hart rate meter, etc. Walks around in the gym, meets her/his friends at the gym, chats up with them about the great party last night, or about her/his terrible job…Does a lot of talking, a lot of checking herself/himself in the mirror. But limits the actual sports time to like 5 min/hour….During those 5 min. she/he looks around the gym, seeking confirmation, wanting to be noticed.
- the “I can lift any weight-type” (usually male): ignores all the cardio-equipment, but limits her/his activities to the weight lifting gear. Does one or two weightlifts every ten minutes, checks muscles in the mirror every 2 minutes.
- the “I do sports and I’m bored-type” : uses all the equipment, but does not want to get tired. Stands/sits on the machine for like more than 30 min., but does everything as slowly and easy as possible. No sweating, no getting out of breath. Only watching tv, looking around, listening to music and watching the minutes go by.
- the “I still can get thinner than this-type” (usually female): frightens me out. Looks so thin, that I’m afraid they will faint any minute.
- the “I am out of breath and everybody has to know it-type” : breaths so loudly, I just have to change places when I’m running/cycling next to one. Especially when he/she has eaten garlic the night before.
- the “sweating-type” : is sweating so heavily, I can get a shower just by standing next to him/her. Juck!!
- the “I can run faster than you-type” (usually male) : is running besides you, glances over to see at what speed you’re running. And then has to run faster than you (to give up, totally out of breath, after a few minutes. Ha!)
- the “the locker is my bathroom-type” : takes up all the space in the (crowded) locker room, spreads out all her stuff (clothes, towels, soap, shampoo, conditioner, bag etc), and basically makes it impossible for you to even reach your locker.
- the “I only do the cardio stuff, and ignore all the rest-type” : euhm….Me!

Friday, October 19, 2007

To write or not to write

That's the question.
'Cause you don't know who'll be reading this.
And you know even less about how some people might react.
So when I got some negative feedback on this blog this evening, I was (and still am) quite unsettled.
I try not to mention names, I don't go into too much detail, and it's not as if my daily life is on display here. I just wanted to write some stuff about my life, about having to miss P, about longing for each trip I'm making to France; and finally, in January about living in France. That's all. Sorry to those I might have offended in any way.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Lowering stress levels

Thank God it’s Friday !
And I definitely have some unwinding to do this weekend. So I cancelled all the “obligations”, and it will all be about Me.
I started the weekend with a new pet – introducing Phoebe, our new dwarf hamster. Tomorrow is “grace matinée” as the French call it (basically just sleep as long as you want), and afterwards window-shopping and lunch in the city with P’s Mum. Sunday sports and enjoying the countryside at my parents’. And that’s it.
- no grocery shopping (did that on my lunch break today)
- no school reunion I’ve been dreading for weeks (see earlier posting)
- no cleaning (ha, my cleaning guy is coming on Tuesday :-)
- no errands for P at the post office
- no banking stuff to take care of (yesterday, I finally took the plunge into the 21st century, and got PC banking)
And, unfortunately, no P this weekend.
Miss him, a lot. ‘Cause *the* ultimate remedy against stress is a really good hug from him!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A dozen doctors a week

Or that’s what it’s starting to feel like!
Monday : dentist.
Tuesday : fysiotherapist
Wednesday : again dentist
Thursday : I’ll need a therapist if my body goes on like this!

And everywhere I’m getting the same “cause”. All of a sudden sensitive teeth? Well, that must be stress. Back and neck problems? Due to stress. Well, maybe part of the stress I’m having is caused *by* my doctors’ appointments, oh irony!
Every evening I rush to my car, I’m hopelesly stuck in traffic, looking at the ticking clock, fearing to be late, parking the car, literally running to the waiting room, where I drop into a chair half-dead, just in time for my appointment. And then the analyse is, surprise-surprise : stress!

The time spent with the doctor is not doing any good either. Ok, so this is not true for my fysio. This lady is doing a great job, and when I go out of her office, I feel like I had a three hour yoga session. Not so for the dentist. All the good work the fysio did, is lost in one dentist appointment. Lying with my mouth wide open, I go completely rigid. Every tiny muscle in my body goes in overdrive, refusing to relax. Not to mention the nightmares I’m having after each visit (teeth falling out, teeth breaking off, etc).

I’ll be very glad once this “doctor-week” is over.
For now : closing the laptop, running to my car, and hurry-hurry to the dentist!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The horrible ride home

Sunday was my last day in France, and the day I had to drive back the 400km to Belgium.
1) Due to the party on Saturday night, I slept for only 4-5 hours
2) I was an emotional wreck
3) All the Parisians were heading back to Paris, after their weekend in “la campagne”, causing traffic jams that started already 10 minutes after I left Barbizon.

Taking all the above into account, driving back home became a ride to remember. Or to forget as quickly as possible. Fighting against fatigue, against crazy French drivers, and against the fact that I actually didn’t *want* to drive back home, the road ahead seemed to continue endlessly.
When I finally reached my standard pitstop in Assevillers, which is kind of mid-way, I seriously concidered staying in one of the Formule 1-hotels. Instead, I went for Coke and crisps, hoping they would provide me with enough energy for the remaining 200 km.
Only, by the time I left Assevillers, one more element made matters even worse : It got dark.
And I hate driving in the dark.

I started to think that I would never make it home : I was driving for four hours, the Belgian border seemed to have vanished, and I started to have the sensation that I was sleeping with my eyes wide open. A strange feeling. I was awake, I saw the road, but somehow the connection with my brains was lost. While I was desperately trying to stay concentrated, I finally saw an orange glow on the horizon: Belgium, with its brightly lit highways!

I kept on repeating the mantra “home, hot shower, bed”, and after a total of five hours I reached my Nirvana. Where I had to look for a parking spot for 20 minutes.
Next time I’m so taking the train. And that’s final.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Finally back in Barbizon

Hello everybody, this is N, writing directly to you from the Barbizon-studios !
After a hectic day at work, and a tedious drive of four hours last night, I finally made it back to P. And I’m sorry to admit that some of the worst case scenarios I prepared (see earlier posting) already came true.

For three hours, I totally ignored any speed limits, just to find myself completely stuck on the Peripherique around Paris, losing the so preciously gained time. Anyway, I still made it earlier to Barbizon than P planned, so while I was thrilled to finally see the “Barbizon 6km”-sign, P was standing in line at the cash desk in Carrefour, doing some last minute grocery shopping, trying to hide the fact that for three weeks the only thing edible in the house had been cornflakes and cookies.
I refused to arrive in Barbizon without P being there, so I drove around the pitch-dark forest roads for about 15 minutes, than returned to Barbizon. (Nuts? Probably…)

Anyway, seeing P back after three weeks was kind of overwhelming, feeling overcome with joy and sad at the same time. So glad to be back, and at the same time mad at myself for not being here the past three weeks. In the mean time, those highs and lows have leveled out a bit, and now I’m simply the happiest girl in the world.

To plunge me right back into Fonty-live, P took me to a party last night. (yes, correctly : after a working day, and a 4 hour drive, I still managed to live up to any social expectations). I admit I was kind of nervous : maybe everybody would already know everybody (unlike three weeks ago), and I would just be the “unknown partner”.
So I was very relieved to find out that the most used phrases still are : “Hi, I’m x.” “Where are you from?”, “What did you do before the MBA?”, “What are your plans afterwards?” etc. I’ve taken the liberty to extend this standard questionnaire with one more question: “What are you thinking of the program so far?”.

I was less relieved to find out that the Barbizon killer mosquitoes are still in town. During my summer holiday, I tried to convince them to leave the premises in a rather non-violent and polite way. I bought this bio-lamp, which is making a high-frequency noise (imitating a male mosquito), and this should keep the female mosquitoes at a distance. Yeah, right…
After their brutal attack last night, I will show no more mercy. Full chemical warfare is starting as of today!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The INSEAD blog tour

About three times a week (or more), I take a tour along the INSEAD-blogs. There are quite a few of them. There’s Res Ipsa, Million Dollar Spatula, Necromonger, Future Fusion, Le blog de hog etc. They help me keep in touch with live in Fonty, see it from different angles. And make me miss it even more, of course! Through their words, I get to know them little by little, and it makes me kind of happy to see that some of them already met and talked in real live.

They also tell me what's going on in P’s live (who thinks that either I’ve hired a private eye in Fonty, or I’m psychic). Out of the blue, I go “So P, how’s your essay for Leading people and Groups coming along?” (you better start working at it, because it counts for 50% of the final score!!) or “Who’s winning in the Prices&Markets games?”.
Through a picture on Res Ipsa’s blog of the E4-section in class, I even (kind of) know where P is sitting in that aula, but I’m keeping that info classified for further unknown purposes.

The numerous blogs without (or with very few) postings after, let’s say mid-September, are also giving me the idea that it’s really tough in the time-management department (I always assumed that this was one of P’s flaws, but I’ll now give him some credit on that one).

To summarize it : I do every bit possible to live the Insead-experience, 400 km away from Insead. So when I finally get there in January, it will already be “been there, done that, bought the T shirt” for me ;-) .

Well, yeah…Ok, maybe only the T-shirt-part will be really true!

Mean Mc Do

Once every while, I try to go with A (my godchild) and his parents to Mc Do.
A. likes it, enjoys his Happy Meal and the balloon tree (which he likes to destroy), and gives us adults an excuse to eat fast food.

So yesterday evening was again Mc Do-time. We planned it more than a week beforehand, and everybody was really looking forward to it. After work, I suffered traffic jams for about an hour to get to the other side of Brussels. I arrived just in time at the Mc Do… find out that it was closed!!! Just that one day, for renovation works!! OK, so I cannot handle a sudden change of plans, but try to explain to a three year old that Ronald Mc Donald has closed the doors and gone home…We had to find another option, and quick! So we went to “Quick” (a Belgian version of Mc Do). Where we all agreed that the hamburgers were less tasty, the salads smaller, the restaurant less cozy, the service less friendly,etc than at our “regular” Mc Do.

The only one who was actually handling the change quite well, was A! Happily eating his chicken nuggets, making no issue of the fact that he got a boring notebook instead of a toy car with his meal box. And listening to us all complaining and sulking about the Mc Do being closed….
Respect to A :-) !

Monday, October 1, 2007

Four days to go...

It’s almost Thursday, the day I can jump into my car straight after work, and hit the road to France! I’m looking so much forward to this, that it’s scary.
Scary as in : before I know it, the weekend will be over again, and than I have to miss P again for three weeks (I don’t know how I’ll survive..)
Also scary as in : the slightest thing that will go wrong during this so longed-for-weekend, will make me go crazy. I have three days in a total of six weeks. And these three days with P just have to be perfect quality-time together!! So imagine P telling me “Sorry, this evening I have a group assignment to finish. Or “Sorry, but I really have to study now”…..Aaargh, I know myself : I’ll feel turned down, I’ll feel as if I’d better stayed in Brussels, and I will get mad as hell.

So I’m trying to prepare myself. Things will go wrong, P won’t have all the time in the world for me, and no doubt in these three days something will come up that’ll cause some discussion.

I have all the worst-case-scenarios ready!
On the road to France, I’ll have a flat tyre. After that I’ll be stuck for hours on the Peripherique around Paris. When I finally get to Barbizon, P is not home, but is still studying in the INSEAD-library, and will leave me waiting for hours. When he comes home, we’ll have our first fight of the weekend. On Friday, I’ll be alone all day long in our apartment, and it will be raining cats & dogs. P will again come home very late. I have prepared dinner, but off course he has already eaten with his workgroup. Saturday : I badly want to go to Paris, but P has to study. On Sunday, I’ll be too depressed to do anything because I have to go home again.

This long-distance thing is really not easy….

Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Perfect Autumnal Sunday

When I got up this morning, the sun was already shining bright ! I went to the gym, ran ‘till I dropped dead, and than (back alive) went to my parents’.
We went for a long walk through the woods – where fall was really beginning to show. When we got back home, we made pancakes, roasted the chestnuts we'd collected, and ate outside in the autumn-sun. After that, it was just laziness…Reading and drifting off to sleep in the garden.
What more can I write? It was a picture-perfect Sunday!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Disneyland !!!

I’m thrilled, exhilarated, over the moon, very very happy !
After the INSEAD-exams, end of October, P and I are going to Disneyland, Paris. (now that P is officially a student again, we can do this without being ashamed of ourselves :-) .
We’ll be staying at the Hotel Cheyenne, which is actually an old Western town, where you can ride to your room on a pony (not kiddin’).

I’ve been to Disneyland before, like 12 or 13 years ago – so I know what will happen. As you enter “the land” through the gates of this princess’ castle (I forgot which princess), you are thrown back into childhood. Before your know it, you’re walking around with Mickey Mouse ears on your head, and you’re chasing Donald Duck for an autograph and a picture. Trust me, this happens to everyone.

So what is more fun than being 10 years old again for a day or 2?
I can’t wait to see the Halloween Parade, to take a ride on the brand new “Crush’s Coaster” (a “Finding Nemo-theme roller coaster), and to dive into the numerous souvenir shops to buy Disney stuff (this last thing will happen anyway, so I might as well look forward to it!). I also remember that they have this Disney-Cartoon channel, so when you get back to your room in the evening, you can watch cartoons all night long! (P will go “Oh boy….” when he reads this, but I don’t mind, I’m way toooooo happy!) I’ve been humming Disney-tunes for two days now (“Under the sea, tralalalaaa, under the sea, and so on), and this weekend I’ll watch my Finding Nemo DVD once again, well, just to look even more forward to this trip!

Those who will be joining us are warned : I’m an over-enthusiastic Disney lover, who will be as excited as a 10 year old with a sugar-overload!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Loosing the badge

I’ve lost my INSEAD-badge.

There, I’ve written down the words, and earlier I spoke them out to P, so now it’s really true, no denying it, no more hoping I will find it back. For three days now, it’s been missing. I’ve looked everywhere : in my car, in my office, in my apartment…But it has simply vanished.
P’s reaction : “It’s only a badge!”
Nope. It’s not.

I was really proud of this little peace of plastic. Proud of the “July ’08 partner” (not so much of the picture). Being back in Brussels, it was the only “visible” thing linking me to Fontainebleau. So that’s why I carried it around with me, in my bag, everywhere I went. The emotional attachment was there from the first day, and growing.

So to stop myself from feeling absolutely horrible about this, I repeat P’s words over and over again (although they’re not true)
“It’s only a badge”
“It’s just a piece of plastic”
“I can get another one” (I hope…)
Still, good old Murphy really shouldn’t have done this to me.
And I will only feel better again once I can walk around again with a blue string around my neck, with a little white piece of plastic dangling on it, saying “July ’08 partner”.

(Please tell me, my reaction to this is understandable, right? Or am I really going insane here?)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Handling HR & going ga-ga

Here I am, 20.00 pm, still at work.
I did four role-play assessments, and interviewed 5 candidates in one day. (Besides that, 3 employees called me to announce that they will be leaving the company, and I tried to find some holes in our CCO’s agenda to plan his interviews) People who know anything about HR, will now think I'm superwoman:-). No shiny red catsuit, unfortunately.
Yesterday was about the same, and I ended up on my couch, calling my fysio for an emergency-appointment because of complete back+neck lock-down. No..more...movement. Just pain. And a headache. At that moment P called me to tell me I had to go out more often, meet up with friends and not just stay in my apartment. BAD timing!!!!

Wait, it's not that I do anything physical with all my candidates that causes this pain - although I must admit it feels as if I lifted every one of them several times. But as the umptied unsatisfying answer comes along, I just feel all those muscles going "AARRRRGGHHH"!
You can't imagine what an HR consultant has to suffer.
An example.
ME (at the end of the interview) : "Do you have any more questions?"
SHE : "Uuhmm, yes,….so for what function was this interview...?"
We completely ignore here that we had been talking about *this function* for almost an hour, asking her how she sees the jobcontent, what would be the challenge for her, what key-competences you would need, etc.

And as if I hadn’t suffered enough “Human resources – agony”, P called me in between two assessments to announce he just met his career counselor, who gave him the advice “to explore all options, and to ask himself if he really wants to stay in consulting and why”. Just…what…I…needed. Here I was up until now, desperately holding on to this one security in our overturned lives : P is going back to CCC (as in Cool Consulting Company :-).
And in comes the guy with the HR bla-bla!
Well, I guess it takes one to know one….

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Means of transportation

A lot of bikes, skateboards, inline skates, roller skates, steps, horse carts, trams, busses, and your own two feet : those were the means of transportation in Brussels today. That’s right : no cars!
As I woke up this morning, there it was, as every last Sunday of September since I’ve been living in Brussels : the silence. No noise. Not that I notice the noise when it’s there - this humming sound of hundreds of car engines somewhere in the background. But when it’s not there, I immediately “hear” it :-)
Unfortunately, not only the noise was missing…..Usually, P and I keep this day to ourselves : spending quality time together, walking through the city that has become our home, taking live at a slow pace (let’s say about 5-6 km/hour). So this morning I felt a bit like the numerous bikes in my street – going down hill…But the sun kept stubbornly shining, so even I had to lighten up a bit!
At noon, I met with P’s mom, and we tried to have a peaceful walk. Only, traffic was more dangerous today than on rush hour Monday morning! No one was obeying any traffic rules, and when hundreds of bikes come speeding towards you when you’re trying to cross one of the big avenues of Brussels (‘cause the little man is GREEN), well than that’s just scary!
Anyhow, we managed to enjoy an overcrowded Brussels, eating tapas in the sun, drinking coffee in the park, and walking ‘till our feet felt numb.
In one hour the humming background noise will be back, and my neighbour is already preparing its' return by doing some drilling works in his apartment at this very moment!

Before I end this posting, one more thing I promised to write : P called me numerous times this weekend, he’s the most wonderful boyfriend in the world, and I love him very very much. There :-) !

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Soothing Saturday

A cappucino (double with extra cream and caramel syrup) and a tripple choc muffin to start with. Than on to the new fall collection, and immediately finding the right size of everything. And some new books to end with…Shopping was great today :-)!
P called, even twice, and we talked for longer than my phone bill wants to know.
My fridge is filled again with veggies, fruit, etc, and I no longer have to survive on breakfast cereals and cookies.
I cleaned up my apartment, and a very relaxed and satisfied N is sitting on her couch, watching Spiderman on tv (writing this during the commercial break).
For the first time this week, I’m happy to be home!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Earth calling planet Insead

Hello? Anybody out there?
Off course international calls are expensive (especially when you no longer have any income), and no doubt that between partying, socialising, studying, attending classes, and managing your own laundry and other household chores etc,..not much free time really remains free.
Nevertheless, I would really appreciate it if P would be using some communication lines between France and Belgium more intensively.
- Emails consist of 10 words max. (are they having some course about efficient communication style at the moment?), and are only sent "in reply of".
-The only text message I received on my mobile this week was "you have a blog!" (ok, thanks for informing me)
- No phone calls from Barbizon, although I called numerous times. But each time "inconveniently" : P was in library, P was driving through the dark woods at night, P was just going for a swim, P was in class and could not answer, P had to study before class started, P was still sleeping after the party last night, etc.

So here I am, stuck with my romantic vision of a long distance relationship : frequent phonecalls to keep eachother updated, filled with very sweet things you say to eachother, love letters in your (e)mailbox, textmessages saying how much you miss eachother, etc. Just...not...happening.

And I'm not the only one complaining! Oh no! I'm getting full support on this one from my mother-in-law, who's also desperate for some more news from the Fonty-Front. So P, since you've discovered my blog, and since you'll be reading this (hey, where did you find the time?!), could you please remember that I love you very much, and consequently want to know what's happening in your life :-)

Plenty of planning

This week did not exactly go as planned.
- I was going to : meet up with friends, do some sports, enjoy having the bed all to myself, start a new book and read a lot, stay calm at work, do grocery shopping, do my own cooking & eat healthy stuff.
- Instead : I stayed alone in my apartment almost every night, I only called the gym to ask about my membership, I suffered sleepless nights, I watched tv, zapping between things I didn't even want to see, I only read a Calvin and Hobbes comic, I did not really cook once, but ate loads' of cookies, and work has stressed me out already.
So here are my plans for the weekend (only 8 hours away now!!): it will all be about pampering myself, and trying to feel good again!
This includes : shopping (and not only for groceries :-), running, bookhunting & reading, seeing other people than my colleagues at work, going to bed before midnight and trying to get some sound sleep.
And well, just try to enjoy being home again....
And try not to miss P too much.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Au Jardin des Arts

Go on, have a quick look! Because that's where we live in Barbizon : a 200 year old art sudio, still being actively used by our landlady. On Barbizon's Grande Rue, there's a big green wooden gate. Once you open it, you enter this fairy-tale garden, filled with flowers - and you probably will be greeted by Mirabel the Cat. On your left is Erika's art galery. In front of you is her "atelier" where you can see her painting from time to time, and on your left side, once you have climbed the stone stairs, is our apartment.

We ended up here after deciding that we would definitely take an apartment in the center of Fonty :-) . But than we saw this little heaven on earth, and it was love at first sight! Suddenly all arguments were twisted and turned :
- we would "always" need a car, even if we would be living in Fonty
- a Fonty-style apartment was the same as a Brussels-style apartment, so why not try something else for a change
- when would we ever again have the opportunity to live in an apartment overlooking a french art studio, in a little village, in the middle of the forest?

That same Saturday, after having visited the apartment for the first time, we did a quick tour of all the other villages surrounding Fonty. P and I came to the same conclusion : compared to Barbizon, they all seemed a bit ...lifeless. Barbizon was tiny, but very much alive! It was like the Disney version of a little french town : more flowers, more colours, more smiling people, more shops, more art galeries, more restaurants, more hotels, more everything !
Before making any final decisions, P's analytical mind kicked in : there we went for a 2-hour search on the net, comparing all possible information about living in and around Fonty, about rental prices per m² , about trafic to and from Fonty, etc etc.....Luckily he found this very positive feed back about the Barbizon-apartment from another Mexican, and that was enough evidence for P! The "GO" mail was sent to CityJunction, and I was a very very happy person :-)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Today, a letter arrived for me at my parents'.
Dear N,
It has been 10 years since you graduated bla bla bla....
Hellooooow? What the f***? 10 years? Wow, I was not ready for this one. Ok, High School is 10 years or so ago, but my so called "higher education" as well?? Apparently...(I admit I'm not good with numbers)

So I can picture this reunion very well:
- everybody is still enjoying his/her teaching job ('cause we all graduated as high school teachers)
- they're all married
- they all got kids
- they all got their nice little suburbian house somewhere in the belgian countryside (probably built it themselves, as belgian tradition requires).

No offense.
Only I'm * a little* behind on the schedule...
- Instead of teaching, I continued studying for 4 more years
- I also continued my quest for the perfect boyfriend (quest succesfully completed 6 years ago!). But instead of marriage, there have been separate apartments, and now even separate countries :-)
- no kid in sight, although we enjoyed the company of two great hamsters in the past (Thanks Fritz and Clio, still missing you!)
- no suburbian house, but a rented 50m² apartment in the city (hey, and one in Barbizon off course!)

- not teaching, but HR consulting.

So....should I stay or should I this reunion?
I really don't know. Last year I had a reunion of my primary school (!), and that was great fun. People were single, divorced, unemployed, etc, and I just felt absolutely wonderfull for weeks after :-).
Maybe I'll go to see my old professors. At least they will have gotten all old and wrinkly :-)

Blogging bad for bed

So here it is : blogging deprives me from my sleep. For a few nights now, I come home from work, open my laptop, go to my blog, and start to find my way through this brave new world. Only thing : I keep on writing when I go to my head, that is, not on my pc. It's like there's a library inside my head, just waiting to get out there on the net!
And lack of sleep is really something I can do without! (it's hard enough as it is, going back to work, missing P, getting up instead of sleeping through the morning). So here's the solution : I type this text during the day (let's asume I'm doing it on my lunch break :-), mail it to my home address, just put it on my blog in the evening, and then I CLOSE the laptop, and try to relax by reading, watching tv, etc. NOT by blogging.
I'll let you know tomorrow if this new operating procedure has worked.

In the meantime, I'm missing P more than I would ever thought I would!
Here I was, thinking I can do perfectly with him out of the country (hey, been there, done that!). However, now there's no "home coming" during the weekends. Now, there's "our place", only it's in Barbizon...our little forest town that has completely stolen my heart.
I'm going back there for three days on 5, 6 & 7 october... Or how three weeks can feel like an eternity!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Between Brussels and Barbizon

Here we go! This is my very first posting on my very first blog. I must admit I'm still wondering if I want to share my thoughts, doings, etc with "who knows" on the web....But there's a "trigger" for all of this! In January 2008 I'm moving to France for 6 or 7 months, and I feel that my friends and family should be able to keep up with this exciting event!

The situation-summary :
- P has just started an MBA at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France.
- We found a gorgeous apartment in Barbizon.
- In January, I'm leaving my job for 6 months, and will be joining P to enjoy life in France.

There, that's all in a (tiny) nutshell! (I promise I won't bother you with all the emotional roller coasters I've been on between P deciding to do an MBA and me deciding to join him for 6 months - all of them together would make the greatest amusement parc in the history of mankind).

I've just been in Barbizon for three weeks, and here's an overview of my first experiences of living in a little french town....
Sunday, 26 Aug. : arriving in Barbizon with an overloaded car, one hour later we're at our first chateau-party in Montmelian.
1. Welcome week : P finds his way through campus, and I'm doing some discoveries of my own. I drive around the Fontainebleau Forest for 2 hours, in search of the Carrefour supermarket. I'm not giving up, finally returning to the Tourist Information Center of Fonty to ask the directions :-)
(more on this supermarket later, I promise)
First weekend : P has classes all Saturday. Ok, am I allowed to sulk, rage, feel lonely,etc..? On Sunday, a gorgeous walk through the forest....
2. Week 2 : ok, I need a break from unpacking, from the Carrefour, from cleaning, etc. My parents are in the Ardeche, and I'm joining them for 4 days.. Aahhhhh. Pure bliss!
On Friday, I'm back, and I decide to go shopping in Paris (this is my summer holiday after all!!)
Weekend : being pampered by BCG and enjoying a full weekend in a chateau.
3. Week 3 : the weather is really spoiling us, and our little terrace becomes "Plage Barbizon".
I read, I sleep, I'm soaking up the sun, and I'm taking my bike to drive through the forest a few times, joining P for lunch at the campus.
Last weekend: packing and feeling sad...But P finds the ultimate way to sheer me up, taking me to "Caré Senart", one of the biggest shopping malls in the area :-)

And now it's back to Brussels, back to work, back to reality.....!