Monday, June 30, 2008

Moving makes me mental

600 km south for a mini-graduation trip to the Ardeche (worth it, by the way)
2 days later, 600 km back to Fonty
A few hours of sleep later, 400 km north back to Brussels
One day from now, again 400 km south to Fonty
In the mean time : boxes filled with books and clothes in Fonty, boxes in my car, boxes at my parents, boxes in Brussels, boxes from P at his mom's and in storage. (no real need to unpack, as we still have to find an apartment, i.e. move again)
In short : our belongings, and we ourselves, are a bit all over the place!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Bubble bursts

The last classes are over, a few unlucky fellows still have one exam today, and boxes are starting to get filled with clothes, books, etc. Part of the class goes on the grad trip, another part stays in Fonty, some people already went home, and still others have other vacation plans. (While writing this, I still don’t know in what category I’ll end up).
The feelings that come with this, are as diverse as the stuff that was on the BBQ last night, ranging from spicy sausages, ordinary burgers and veggie ones, to pork chops, chicken wings and steaks.
For me, these last days are tough. There’s no happy new life waiting on the other side. And while everybody was having their final « insead-weekend », I was also having what might be the final holiday weekend with both my parents (I can only hope that it wasn’t the last).
All the above makes me feel exactly like the Bubble itself : bursting, or as the dictionary explains : break suddenly or violently apart or into pieces.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Cabaret and goodbyes

Cabaret was great. Over a span of 4,50 hours ( !!) we saw though guys darting around in ballet tutus, the rugby team doing an (almost) full Monty, and our very own version of Ali G. We also saw the underwear of the rugby girls while doing a French cancan, a scary « Bain Witch Project » and a gripping « Gone with the Ding ». The two old geezers from the Muppet Show were also present in their own private upper balcony, as were no less than 4 hosts to talk us through the show. There were so many acts, that if I had to mention them all, this would become a very long post. 120 people were giving the very best of themselves while singing, acting and dancing – and some true hidden talents became very clear in the spotlights ( I honestly thought a few times : *WHY* are they doing an MBA ?? They should always be out there, on stage !). Spirits (and temperatures !) were very high in the beautiful Fontainebleau theater, and it was really one more night to remember.

Now that Cabaret is over, and people are no longer practicing their lines and moves every single evening, the goodbye-marathon has kicked off. With more BBQ’s, dinners and drinks than one can possibly attend. The realization that it’s really almost over is hitting me hard from time to time, especially when I walk through our Barbizon main street, and everyone is greeting me like I have lived here for far longer than a few months.
Part of me wants to enjoy this final overload of partying, another part of me just wants to crawl under the bed until it’s all over. ‘Cause I simply hate goodbyes. So I’ll just stick to « see yah » for now (or I quietly sneak out).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Puzzles and patterns

My life feels a bit fragmented lately, and I fail to see the bigger picture. Maybe that comes with taking it day by day (or even moment by moment) or with living in two countries at the same time. There’s the puzzle-piece “job”, right now only a financial security-piece, I don’t care anymore about content, level, company culture, whatever. All that can wait. There’s the puzzle piece “children”, where I feel more and more I can’t wait anymore. There’s the piece “relationship”, that should get more attention, but is somehow still waiting to find its destined place in the puzzle. Come the pieces : home, parents, hospital, doctors, mom, disease, future ??? – all clustered in the middle. Of course there are the pieces INSEAD, MBA, parties, France, friends. And also somewhere in the puzzle are new apartment and moving.
I could go on and on about each of these pieces, but
1) I feel that would become a boring read in the end
2) it wouldn’t get me any further

Maybe I just feel a bit lost. Which is not unusual, ‘cause it’s once again a “last evening in Brussels ». With all the commuting between Fonty and home, I’ve discovered there’s an emotional pattern developing, making the “lows” kind of predictable.
Leaving Fonty to go home : sad for leaving P
Coming home : guilty for not having been here, anxiety about being alone again
Being home : feeling ok, as long as there is no additional stress such as contacts with the company or hunting for apartments. Just ordinary good and bad days.
Leaving home for Fonty : sad for leaving mom, feeling lost
Coming to Fonty : often very tired, and in need of emotional rest, love and attention
Being in Fonty : feeling ok, seeing the bright side of life thanks to friends.

Which brings me to the following point (and rises my spirits!). On the menu for this week so far : a last party at chateau Fleury and The “Bubble” Cabaret. And “home” coming to Fonty, as my parents will spend a long weekend in Barbizon. All those I love in one place : now there's a completed puzzle!

Friday, June 13, 2008

After the Italian Party

I have to do it once, don't I? Write a blog post right after an INSEAD party? So here we go (but I'll keep it short) : it's 3.40 AM, just came home, brushed my teeth, and went to bed. All I can say is : the Russian guys can be glad I handed out my awards earlier this week, 'cause the Italians would certainly have been one of the nominees. Some serious dance beats, Italian bubbles, and people from all over the world united on one dance floor: it helped, a lot. I had a great night. Mille grazie a tuti!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

One bald & brave, one angry at the world

Today has been a big C-day so far. I saw my mom on the webcam, with almost no hair left (she decided to raise it off after it kept falling out). She looks very vulnerable, and at the same time, ready for battle (the only thing missing are two black stripes on her cheeks). She is being « brave », I could see that. I also saw the Kleenex she was still holding in her hands, betraying the earlier tears. And now, I just want to go home. Get in the car, drive 400 km and hug her. One day left, almost there.

We knew the hair-falling-out episode was coming, and we were prepared (from a practical point of view). In the last couple of weeks, we bought hair bands, scarves, hats,… We’ve experimented with them, and today, I went looking online for special scarves or knotting-techniques. It seems « cancer-scarves » are big business in the US and in the UK, but apparently in Belgium no one has realized that there are a lot of women out there looking for this. Which, stupidly, I admit, is causing me again to get quite angry.

Emotionally, there was no preparing for this. I was the first one to claim that this would be just an unimportant side-effect. Wrong. It’s making the disease very visible, you can’t get around it any longer. You look at my mom, and your mind goes « cancer ».
In my search for scarves, I came across several blogs and sites. Almost all about breast cancer. Again, irrationally, I got angry. F***, this is not the only cancer in the world. Then I ended up on a blog of another cancer patient, with pictures of her grandchildren. Again : anger – a source of happiness my mom hasn’t got.
I could go on.
In all, it has been a bad day. The fact that I almost didn’t get any sleep the past three nights is not helping. Cleaning the house didn’t help either. The box of cookies : also didn’t help. The prospect of yet another INSEAD-party tonight : I don’t know…We’ll see. Might be better to dance it off than start throwing plates and cups around. Writing it all down : seems to have done some good.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

And the award goes to....

At the end of the year, it’s time to hand out some awards.
The totally subjective jury being me, myself and I

Best Italian /cheap-eat in town : Pizza Pazza
Best French food in town : Bistro 9
Best Mediterranean food : Côté Sud
Best Indian food : D’s, when his mom is in town ;-)
Best cocktail bar : Shaker’s
Best supermarket if you want to spend the day grocery shopping : Carrefour (the biggest one in Europe)
Best if you have less time : Champion
Best gym : the INSEAD one of course ;-)
Best INSEAD party of the year : up until now, I’d have to say it was the infamous Russian Party.
Best posh event of the year : the Summer Ball
Best walk in the forest : Gorge du Franchard is one of the most beautiful spots I’ve seen
Best national week : not wanting to cause any conflicts, I remain neutral
Best partners’ activity organized by INSEAD : the MBTI-session
Best English student : my dear Italian M
Best cheap-eat of Barbizon : La Tortue ! (if open…, and if they know you…)
Best of INSEAD staff : the anonymous bartender X, giving the occasional free croissant :-)
Best laughs we had : I’m sure the award will go to Cabaret on the 19th of June
Best trip we made : the snowy Vosges
Best lunch : at the end of P4, along the banks of the Seine, in the first warm sunshine of the year
Best dinner : hmm, too many to choose from. But I keep very warm memories of a tiny cozy restaurant in Le Marais in Paris, in the company of P and D
Best dish in the INSEAD restaurant : sigh…too difficult, on to the next one
Best stuff at the INSEAD bar : the warm pastries in the morning. Mmmmm…
Best INSEAD seminar : a draw ! The seminar on High Mobility living, and the one about Work-Life relationship
Best cubicles : my choice goes to South Wing
Best INSEAD slang-word : ding
Best toilet-read : the INSEAD graduates July 2008 CV book
Best (and only) getting-drunk party : the memorable Villecerf movie character-party
Best INSEAD blog : no, I can’t make any choices here. Those guys kept me going all the months I wasn’t in Fonty but in Brussels (and after that !), giving me information, emotion, atmosphere, etc. from campus and life around it. I can only thank all of them (although they should have written more frequently ;-) . And special thanks to CC, for making me no longer the only partner with a blog !
Best parking spots on campus : size-wise : the ones under Plecy-Mornay, location-wise : the ones behind/under the bar
Best photocopy machine on campus : the one in the library – never out of order (don’t spread the word) !
Best (and most awkward) blog moment : realizing my blog was being read by INSEAD-staff (Oops !!). Second price goes to reading my blog content in an email sent (by someone I don’t know) to the entire INSEAD-community.
Best highway-stop between Brussels and Fonty : Assevillers
Best professor / class/ etc : I kindly leave the choice to the students themselves
Best part of this whole experience : all the great people I’ve met, and the unforgettable friends I’ve made

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


As the INSEAD year is taking a fast leap towards graduation, choices can no longer be postponed and have to be made. I have my own little list of decisions to make, some more important than other.
1) To work or not to work. Normally, I’d be taking up my old job again as from August. However, my mom’s planned medical treatment (some serious surgery in August) is forcing me to rethink the whole planning. Do I start working again ? Full time, part time, or simply not until October ? If I start working, I’ll feel guilty. If I don’t start working, I’ll also feel guilty. If I start working part time, I feel I’ll do a 50% job on both sides, tearing myself in two. It’s been on my mind the past three weeks, and I haven’t made an inch of progress.
2) To blog or not to blog. What will happen with all the INSEAD blogs after graduation ? I can only beg all the other bloggers : « Pleeeaaase, keep on writing ! » But will I ? Do I keep this blog ? Do I start another one ? I haven’t got a clue…

More questions pop up in my mind, requiring answers, although from a less practical, but more philosophical order.
1) Good year or bad year ? I seriously don’t know. One to remember, that’s for sure. Am I glad I came to France ? Yes, without a doubt. Would I do it again, knowing what I know now ? Hmm, doubtful.
2) Can I be the typical « expat-wife », following my husband wherever his career takes us ? No, that’s something that has become very very clear. So what do I do, next time P decides to leave Belgium ? Once again, I haven’t got a clue.

Some things I do know.
1) Barbizon has become my « escape-route », my sanatorium, my holiday resort when I need a break from everything at home. It brings peace, quiet, happiness, friends, love, positivism. I feel at home. Leaving it will break my heart a little
2) The French are not all rude. I’ve met some very nice ones :-)
3) Cheese IS fattening. So are baguettes
4) I’ll miss dressing up for parties
This being said, one more practical question : what the hell are we going to do after this year with let’s say : 2 Russian fur hats, a Merlin’s hat, fairy wings, a wand, a doctor’s outfit, etc . ?

Thursday, June 5, 2008


This week, I've visited four apartments. 3 out of 4 times, I knew it was a "no" even before I entered the building. Railroad to closeby. Street too noisy. Frontside of house too dirty. It takes quite some acting skills to still apear even slightly interested when the sleeky salesperson of the agency is pointing out all the great qualities of the apartment, when in my mind there's already a big red cross over it.

Yesterday, finally, no sleeky salesperson. But an elderly couple that could easily pass for my grandparents. No prepared sales speech, but "prenez votre temps mademoiselle". Maybe that's part of why I liked the place. I felt at ease, I felt at home. Even if it wasn't the kitchen of my dreams. Even if the terrace was smaller than I had hoped for. It's in one of the most beautiful streets of my favourite neighbourhood, where every house has a small frontgarden. No railroad in sight...

Tomorrow, P is coming to Brussels to have a look at it as well. I'm in no state to take decisions at the moment, and I have to admit that this "searching for a new home" is stressing me out:
a) I love my apartment where I've lived for the past 5 years, and having to leave it is breaking my heart - it's "Home", and if I've ever needed one, it's now.
b) The stress-rooms and emotion-rooms in my brain are already fully booked. There's more than enough on my plate. "Let's throw in another move"...not such a good idea.
c) if you are a regular visitor of this blog, you already know that I simply hate change.
On the bright side:
a) P and I will now oficially live together in one apartment (not bad after 7 years) !
b) 2 people = more money = more square meters!
c) I still have to come up with a third positive point to balance out the three negative points, but hey...I'm working on it! it! At least, I know in what city I'm going to live next year. I'm basically going back where I came from before INSEAD. I think a lot of other partners envy me just for that...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Alone in BXL

A fellow blogger advised me to keep on writing, even at those times when it’s most painful. So here I go – advice accepted.
When I was in Brussels almost the entire month of May, I really needed the peace and quiet of my own apartment to go home to in the evenings, after long days in hospitals and at my parents. Mostly however, those evenings and nights were not so quiet and peaceful. Nope, they were rather filled with anxiety attacks, hyper ventilation, and crying out loud with my face buried in a pillow. Then, after a few weeks, and mostly in Barbizon, I found my sleep back, and some peace of mind. And, I was never alone.

Back in Brussels since Saturday evening, I find myself fighting against the fear of being alone again. The fear of crashing again. The fear of sitting here at 4.00 AM in the morning, feeling myself tear apart with grief. I’ve tried the only life line I can think of : calling P. 2 out of 3 evenings…no luck. So now it’s back to writing – hopefully that will do more good than just lying in bed, being worn out by a) anger b) sadness.

Almost 7 hours of waiting in a hospital room (for blood results, for the doctor, for the chemo, for whatever). Getting the reality smacked in my face again. Seeing my mom and how brave she is. And ironically, by listening to her determination to heal, being very very afraid myself of the possibility that she won’t. I love her so much. I just can’t imagine losing her. Can’t. Not possible.
That was my day. I had to tell it to someone. Thanks for listening/reading.

The final countdown

Exactly one month from now, our precious INSEAD students will graduate.
I can go all sentimental now, but there's already too much emotion going on in my life. So instead, it's back to the INSEAD blog tactic of "post a song"!
Back to the Eighties, back to "Europe" singing :

We're leaving together
But still it's farewell
And maybe we'll come back,
To earth, who can tell?
I guess there is no one to blame
We're leaving ground (leaving ground)
Will things ever be the same again?
It's the final countdown!!