Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ready Steady Stop

There it is : January is almost over – I have (more or less) survived my first month in France. Time to put some things into perspective.

- 3 out of those 4 weeks I had to stay in bed, with Harry Potter as my only faithful companion.
- At INSEAD, P3 is proving to be much heavier than expected…Let’s just say it’s a good thing they’ve decided to keep the library open 24/7 nowadays. Quality time for P and me is rare to non-existing.
- La Sorbonne : I’m having serious doubts there. I finally went on Monday to check out the writing course, and I have a very strong feeling that I wouldn’t be learning anything. The level is certainly not what I expected….And I don’t feel like over-spending just for the sake of it
So how has life been in France so far? Very difficult to say…I’ve got the feeling France and I haven’t given each other a fair chance yet. Inviting all the viruses over for a visit was definitely not the ideal way to integrate into society. ..

Anyway, I’ve decided that I need « a bit of Belgium » again. To reload the batteries, to gain some strength, to touch some steady ground.
The first bit already came over this weekend : my parents visited us, and made sure I was properly (over-) fed and taken care of :-)
The second bit is arriving next weekend : my very good friend K is coming over for a visit.
And the final and third bit is me, going back home for a few days next week !

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I should have been...

At La Sorbonne today. Doing my level tests of French, and registering for the French writing course I want to follow over the next four months. And for which only 15 students per group are allowed.

So this morning I had two options :
- be stubborn and stupid, and go to Paris after all (my mind was 99,9 % on this option)
- do the sensible thing, and stay home. As the doctor quite sternly advised me against leaving the house the first week, against taking any public transport or going into crowded area’s (my immunity system seems to be non-existing at the moment)

It took me a while (and some tears) to get over option number 1. I have this date circled in red in my dairy since months. This was MY Paris-project. I’ve been studying for it every free hour the last four weeks, even when I had a fever. But then, standing in the bathroom this morning, and honestly still feeling quite ill, I just had to face it. I barely have the strength to take a shower these days, my blood pressure keeps on dropping…What was I going to do, on my own in Paris ? So up the stairs I went again, back to bed.

All is not lost (I keep telling myself). Registrations take place until the first of February – I just hope there will be a spot left for me…

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Still ill !!!!

P : Why haven't you written anything on your blog lately?
Me : What do I have to write about?! I'm still ill*!
P : Well, just write "still ill exclamation point exclamation point"!

So there, mission accomplished :-)

* I finally went to see a doctor today, after getting worse and worse over the past five days, and after depriving P (and myself) of several sleeping hours. The doctor diagnosed me with every possible infection of every possible part of my head (ears - very very painful - , throat, sinuses, bronchitis). I fainted in the doctor's office, and I fainted in the middle of a crowded pharmacy. And after today, I will never say again "the French are rude". Everybody was so nice to me and so extremely helpful - and when you're in a foreign country, on your own, that's just what makes all the difference between being ill and feeling ill - or being ill, but feeling ok.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Getting busy & getting sick

Things were nicely getting into full swing here in Fonty. There were English lessons to prepare and to give to some of the partners ; there was some translation work to do, there were massage classes to attend, there were dinner parties to organize ; and there was of course, last but no least, my French to study. So I was very happy to see that my dairy was filling up, and I was already wondering if I wasn’t getting too busy. I entered the INSEAD time-dimension, in which time flies by at the speed of light, and in which there is always too much to do in just too little time.

But then on Wednesday, as I was once again on a quest for food through the gigantic Carrefour supermarket, I started feeling a bit sweaty, weird and dizzy. Yes, that’s right : another French virus decided it liked me very much. And brought me down with a fever, a splitting headache, swollen glands, a very sore throat and a voice that now seems to be gone. Apparently I don’t do well in the country side, inhaling « healthy » forest air all the time. Can somebody please bring on some good polluted exhaust-filled city air ?
OK, I admit : I’ve walked in the ice cold rain several times without wearing my coat, I limited my sleeping hours (standard operating procedure at INSEAD), and I actually haven’t eaten quite as much healthy stuff as I should. But also, and more importantly, I’ve been spending much time on campus, where the handkerchief is like a fixed attribute of more than 50% of the students. It’s like high school or university all over again : one person sneezes in the amphi or cafeteria, and boom : the whole class gets it (partners included).

So for now it’s bed – couch – hot drinks – painkillers again. Luckily the fever’s gone, and somehow it feels good to take the time to be sick (instead of feeling guilty for not going to work, and then ending up going and feeling even worse). How ever : two times in three weeks has been more than enough. So all French viruses are warned : I’m not open for business any longer. Even if I don’t have to go to work, and even if I have the time to be sick.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Parisean pleasures

Today I went to Paris. The goal was finding out where the registration office of La Sorbonne is – where I have to be at the 24 th of January, and hopefully will succeed at getting a spot in their very limited groups for « Advanced French Writing ».
I found the registration office, and also found that I was very happy to be in a real city for a change ! I had cappuccino & croissant near La Sorbonne, I burried myself into the bookshops of the Quartier Latin, I had lunch at Mc Do :-) , went shopping at the Galeries Lafayette, and ended the afternoon with a Starbucks-latte ( a pleasure we are cruelly denied of back home in Brussels).
In short : I truly enjoyed myself, and completely plundered my bank account !

Saturday, January 12, 2008

On a brighter note

After several days of rain, today the sun finally came out. And I guess you could say the same thing about my mood !
I have overcome my initial shyness (and my longing to crawl underneeth the bed, and hide until the six coming months are over), and I’m starting to feel a bit more like myself again. I’ve talked to several other partners, some of them really nice people, who are struggling with the same questions and doubts. « Will we be sitting idly in the bar area more than we want ? » being one of our major concerns :-) .
In the past 24 hours I’ve been told that : I speak perfect English, I have a truly warm smile (the kind you could really use more often in situations like starting an MBA in a foreign country), and that I have a perfect pronunciation of Chinese. What more do you want to feel good :-) ?
Also in the past 24 hours, there has been : a cheese and wine tasting with the new intake, a nice drink in the bar, a walk in the forest and lunch with the partners, wintersales-shopping, and coffee and cake with our artistic landlady. Still to come : the big Welcome party for the new P1’s tonight, in one of the « chateaux ».
After a tough first week : I’m not yet running, but at least I’m able to walk . (and to dance the night away later on :-)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Lost in Translation

I first saw this movie about a year or two ago. And did not like it one bit. Nothing was happening, it was going oh so slow, the plotline (and everything else) was reduced to pure minimalism.
But now, unfortunately, I seem to have stepped right into it. If the movie is indeed, and I quote fromWiki, "a metaphor for more existential themes of alienation, loneliness, and the desire for companionship", then count me in and give me one of the leading parts.

This small introduction just to let you know that, no , I’m not exactly walking on roses at the moment. I’ve thought quite some time if I would write about it, but keeping up appearances can be tiring. And just one tiny part of me hopes that maybe, by writing about it, I’ll already feel a bit better.
First of all : I don’t “do” change very well. And guess what. Literally *everything* has changed. From working to not working. From living alone to living together. From Belgium to France. From Big City to small village. From having no time at all to having all the time in the world. From being surrounded by family and friends to being very far away from them. Do I have to go on?
Second : I’m not really the socially outgoing, extraverted type. In large groups of new people my voice refuses any cooperation, my muscles go into post mortem rigidity, my heart decides to explore its limits, and well..I just end up talking to no one, and wanting to be alone again (and of course all this is multiplied by ten when I’m in an unfamiliar environment – see point 1). And again : guess what. I’m surrounded by over 200 people I don’t know, I’m supposed to socialize with the other partners and get to know them, but I just find myself quite unable to do so.

I truly don’t know how all of this is going to evolve. I hope it’s just some kind of adjustment-period I’m going through, and things will start to look a bit brighter in a few weeks. In the mean time, I stick to books, chocolate and my Sex and the City-DVD’s!

Monday, January 7, 2008

My first boars!

Tonight, while driving from the INSEAD campus to Barbizon, I spotted my first wild boars ! Four in one go ! There was one big boar, and three smaller ones. They just stood idly on the side of the road, looking actually kind of cute. And not one bit afraid of our approaching car.

The Fontainebleau Forest-wildlife is actually quite an item on INSEAD’s safe-driving campaign. Many car accidents have happened in the past, involving either deer or boar !!...At least, that’s what everybody entering INSEAD is being told. And so the Fonty-boar almost gets legendary proportions. It enters good-bye lines at parties (« Watch out for the boars ! »), and during your first weeks here you almost expect to see them every time you’re nearing the forest. But it doesn’t happen. And then you forget all about them. You think that, indeed, the « Fonty-boar » standing in the middle of the road is just a wild story. You happily speed along the pitch dark forest roads.

Well, not after what happened tonight, we don’t !
They’re true, they’re alive, and they’re here !!

The new widget

As of today, on the left side of this blog, there’s a new widget. A so called « Clustr map », which tells you (and the writer herself) who has visited this blog (from where on the globe, how many people, when,..)
Why have I waited more than 4 months to install this ? Well, let’s admit it : because I haven’t got the faintest idea if this blog is being read by more than a soul or two. And it would just be down right embarrassing to see my suspicions confirmed (because we all want to be popular, right ?).
So after a lot of convincing from P’s side yesterday, I just took the plunge and installed it. I’ve been watching it like every hour since. And finally, this morning…tadaaaa : 4 people have visited my blog in the past 12 hours ! In Belgium, France (I confess: that must be me), and in Singapore.
Now just hope that the red dots will grow in both size and number !

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Our romantic first night in France

First of all : happy New Year to everybody ! Ours had a splendid start!
Right after the loads of food I had carefully prepared, P got sick. Really sick. He spent the next 24 hours between the couch and the bathroom. Meanwhile, I tried to get ready for my big move, finally packing the clothes ( !), and most of all, trying to cope emotionally with saying goodbye to everything and everybody while P lay knock-out with a 39°C fever.

On to the third of January, the day on which we were finally leaving for France. P was still feeling a bit weak, so we decided I would drive. We packed the car while a small hail storm was raging over Brussels, had our last lunch in the Irish pub, and off we went !
(stopping at like half of the motels between the French border and Paris, but I wont go into details, as this embarrasses P)
Standing in a huge traffic jam on the ring way around Paris, I knew the virus had caught me too. P had to take over the wheel, while I tried to survive the remaining kilometers on mints, coke, and an open window (while it was freezing outside).

After this horrible ride of more than five hours, the only one who had survived this ordeal was Phoebe the hamster. We unpacked the car (looking back on it, I truly don’t know how we managed), and what followed is a night to remember (or to forget as quickly as possible). Here we were, on our first night in France, the first night of our lives as a « living-together-couple », and basically all P did was drag me to the couch each time I fainted, hold buckets in front of me, clean up the floor, and retreat to the bathroom himself from time to time.

I spent my entire first day in France in bed, while all the suitcases remained unpacked.
Today, I finally managed to drink a cup of tea and eat two toasts with honey. There’s still « inside » while writing this – what a victory !
The apartment looks like a war zone, with bags and boxes all over the place, the couch transformed into my bed, etc. – but when I try to start unpacking, I feel like I’ve ran a marathon after only five minutes on my feet.
On the positive side : I already lost all of my « Holiday-pounds » (and more), and things can only get better after this, right ?