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….