Sunday, December 19, 2004
At the tail end of the graduation party at Les Caves in Paris, surrounded by sweaty bodies and crying eyes, I felt myself pulled by the arm toward the wall. The puller was a Spaniard with dark laughing eyes and beautiful dimples, a friend of friends whom I had always enjoyed talking to but hadn’t had a chance to know very well. So imagine my surprise when he said in his thickly accented rolling voice as I gave him a hug, “I have something important to tell you, listen carefully.”
“There is no doubt, my dear, that you are incredibly smart. There is no doubt, of course, that you are very very pretty. And there is no doubt that you are the best dancer I have ever seen. You are a blue princess, and someday very soon you will meet your blue prince. He will come and he will be good enough to deserve everything that you have to give him. Now, that person is not A [insert name of heartbreak]. That person is probably not B [insert another]. And upon deep consideration, I have to admit that the person is probably, probably not myself.”
Here I smiled through the tears running down my face.
“But that person is coming, so you should be ready, and not always looking back. You have so much in front of you, I am sure of it.”
And then we said goodbye amid a background of “le Marseillaise” roared out by a naked rugby team. I found out later that “blue prince” is the literal translation of “prince charming” in Spanish. You see why I cannot leave these people? Sure, it sounds glamorous to say that you’ve got amazing friends in London, Madrid, Moscow, Delhi, Dubai, Cairo, Sydney, Toronto and Paris, but when all you want is to drive your car fifteen minutes down the road to see their smiling faces and share a bottle of wine and then you suddenly realize that you will never ever live together in the same place again, the glamour tastes like ashes in your mouth.
One more queasy trans-oceanic flight, dark bumpy bus ride and yellow cab journey later, I have had a little more time to gather my wits. The reason this weblog was entitled willy-nilly was because I really wasn’t certain, coming into INSEAD, that it was the right choice for me. After awhile it was too late and troublesome to change the name, but the sentiment has done a full 180ْ since I started. The reasons are in every entry and every memory I’ve saved. There has been so much that I have not captured or which has had to rest between the lines. But you can tell, can't you, how momentous this experience has been? I am not the same girl as the one who crashed her passenger side mirror into the back of a truck and ran into the amphi late on the the first day of school.
Now, sitting here in a chill little apartment back in NYC, my tear-sore eye sockets hurting from staring too long at the glare of the computer screen trying to figure out how to write all these longings in my chest, INSEAD seems like a recent dream full of heat and colors and sounds, a Technicolor dance show from which I’ve been pushed into the grayscale real world. I’m sure I’ll get over it in a little while, but I’m just as sure that I will never get over it. Not really, not completely. For now though, I am going to take the Spaniard’s advice, and try to look forward, because I know the good stuff isn’t over yet.
So is this goodbye? No, more like au revoir, I think ;).
Thank you for reading, folks . . . INSEAD fantasticus est, no willy-nilly about it.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Just back from a four day trip to Cairo and Sharm al-Sheik . . . fourteen hours of travelling today, baby, on zero hours of sleep after a last night spent dancing to songs that will forever forever mean INSEAD to me.
But overall, this trip has been exhausting, through and through. When you take more than hundred people on such a large-scale trip, there’s bound to be friction and travel delay. Mix with Egypt, add water, and that spells a logical nightmare.
The trip started off rather miserably after an interesting evening (for some) at the Endgame party (an INSEAD tradition where the ladies each get to choose a boy by secret invitation . . . you use your imagination as to how the evening proceeds). I was tired, cranky, and didn’t want to write my business plan. Spent the flight and first night in Cairo tapping away trying to fit triangles in round holes and blow up weak assumptions into convincing (or at least coherent) arguments. In the end, my partner blew up at me and said, “It’s 8 in the morning, we’re leaving for the pyramids, I came on this trip to hang out with my friends in the last days of INSEAD, let’s not quibble about the quality of this thing—we will graduate even if we turn it in as is.” I went in the bathroom, looked myself in the eye, and pricked a shameful little hole in that balloon of arrogant integrity that I was clutching behind my back. He was right, I was wrong, but I’m still a bit sore about it—perhaps its no revelation that I am at heart a nerdy little thing, but it sure hurts to turn in shitty work.
At any rate, life went on. That morning improved as I ticked one item off my life-list. I’ve now seen the pyramids! Having those amazing aliens of stone suddenly appear out of the blue mist in the bus window literally brought tears to my eyes. How can and could people as soft and little as us make these things? Complete and unapologetic and solemn, they seemed to echo the sadness and pride of their history. I ran in my sandals and felt the wind in my hair, and I was a little girl reading about world wonders in a picture book, imagining myself five thousand years ago standing in the sun and looking up like I was that day, feeling like I could be anybody, anybody, and my time would always be too short for all the life was bursting out of my heart. I sat on a rock and sketched and sketched, but the pyramids were too big, my pencils too small. Groups of Egyptian schoolchildren kept touching me and asking with wide smiling faces, “Soura? Soura?” which means picture, picture. I guess Chinese girls are pretty exotic for that part of the world.
The sunlight in Sharm was lovely, as were the stars in the desert (a religious experience in themselves) during a break from Quad biking through the sand with Bedouin headscarves wrapped around our faces. But the wind was incessant, the jellyfish too friendly during snorkelling (my right arm and right arse cheek are spotted with angry red welts, ick), and the water salty enough to make you gag. I’d recommend going when it was just a bit warmer than December. Socially, it was odd because we were rather spread out over the resort, and people clumped in small groups with relatively little overlap—a result of bad communication and laziness, I suppose. There is a fatal sense of denouement in the air, a resignation that every appointment made is just another step toward the end.
Eh, but I’m getting ahead of myself. No time to be sad yet, why waste time on sadness when there are still memories to be made? Never say never, right? Graduations tomorrow, folks, and after that who knows. Today’s my last night at the Chateau. I think I’ll spend it watching cartoons and eating Chinese takeout.
Saturday, December 04, 2004
When I walked up to the check-out and volleyed my burgeoning shopping bag onto the counter, the guy smirked and asked, “shopping day, is it?”
Okay, so what if I occasionally use shopping as a substitute for self-actualization? Dude, buying stuff makes me feel good. Trying on the newest little sports shorts and side-tie tanks (which I know they had twenty years ago too) makes me feel good. Prancing around in hot pink vinyl heels with silver zippers makes me feel good. Buying ten more panties in impractical colors makes me feel good, goddamnit!
Shopping as therapy. It works, but only about as well as ECT. You suddenly feel miraculously better about your life, like you actually have purpose and talent and vision and worth . . . but the effects are rather ephemeral. Well, nothing’s perfect, I suppose. For me, there seems to be an inverse correlation between amount of money spent and amount of self-worth gained. Still, the benefits are immediate and noticeable, even if the shopping is limited to something as small as a thong. Like ECT, though, shopping has its long-lasting negative effects, only noticed later when the credit card bill comes in.
So the purchases for today: five pairs of shorts, four tank tops, two skirts, two bras, six panties, one pair of shoes (but those were a gift). But this is only the second time I’ve gone a little nuts at the mall since I’ve been in Singapore, so all in all, I’m rather proud of myself (although my shoe collection has grown by five pairs—I can’t help it, I can’t resist anything pink or white with a bow!).
Ugh. But seriously, it’s time to set my nose to the grindstone and finish off these last assignments before I blast back to France on Wednesday. I cannot wait to see everyone again! In terms of travel, Singapore has been absolutely amazing. But in terms of feeling at home . . . well, maybe you always count what you knew first as home. Our chilly chateau with the grand entrance, barren square patch of grass in the left courtyard and high-ceilinged cloistered rooms is the closest thing I have right now to a home base. I’ve discovered that I’m a provincial little girl at heart, and I get homesick easily.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
I remember a vivid picture from my childhood, sitting on the damp packed dirt of our courtyard in Shanghai, with my grandfather who was shooting the shit with his (even then) grizzled buddies, all of them trying to circulate the hot humid air using old straw fans as I picked at the brick-lined flowerbeds and listened to the crickets chirping, as close as your skin. And I remember looking up to see a velvet indigo sky blanketed by a cobweb of white stars, the kind of night sky that makes you believe all the crazy stories your grandpa will spin about how they got up there.
Who knows if the memory was real, or if it is a construction of my over-romanticized mind. At any rate, it is not real any more.
Shanghai these last six days has been a fun, exhilarating, frustrating, disappointing, sobering, and most of all confusing experience. There is no sky or stars to be found in Shanghai any longer. Modernization untempered by environmental regulation has created a thick cloud of gray that obscures the horizon and varnishes the glare of month-old skyscrapers. I was a bit sad to find all of the filth that I remembered, with none of the charm. Only borrowed architecture (albeit they are certainly tall, posh, and well copied) and an almost artificial frenzy of development development development.
I arrived and went to Grandma’s for lunch. My grandparents are much shorter and slower than the last time I saw them (a few years ago). Funny how they thought my Chinese had drastically improved (I don’t tend to use it when I’m in English-speaking countries). The first night was spent at an expat party (I got turkey and cranberry and yams on Thanksgiving!), making eyes at western boys and hearing ideas for the next themed costume party. Like INSEAD all over again.
On Friday the weather turned bitter cold and I (surprise!) missed my flight to Beijing on Friday night in the midst of a crazy interview/network/coffee meeting schedule (lesson: you cannot find a cab in Shanghai at rush hour. You just cannot). We sipped lovely homemade cosmos in our little island on Zhao Jia Bang Rd (D and I stayed with two nice boys- friends of a friend from INSEAD) and made ourselves so sloshed and warm that we culdn't make our lazy way out to the clubs until 2:30am . . . Whoever told me that Shanghai is like NYC is wrong. Perhaps this is my New York snobbery speaking, but nothing is like NYC. The club (Lot 16) was dead—just one little group dancing (although this girl was hot! Great dancer). D unexpectedly ran into a cousin of hers (didn’t even know that he was in Shanghai! Small circles, as we came t learn). We went to another club (Park 97), one full of expensive drinks, red décor, and nasty businessmen tickling artificially giggling Chinese women. The only gig in town, apparently. Stayed until 5, and then tottered home to sleep for an hour before my make-up flight.
Went to Beijing, hung out with mommy over the weekend. It’s always frightening and comforting to have a heart to heart with a person who knows me better than I know myself. She told me that I was too idealistic and rigid in my notions to adapt to China, and that I would one day regret my stubborn impulsiveness, my crazy life-changes born on a whim. Of course I am, and of course I will. But doesn’t mean I’ll listen.
Came back to Shanghai, had more lunches, interviews, Chinese food . . . ran around barely escaping death by insane cab and more insane bicycle. Left my French SIM card at one of the seedy local cellphone reseller stands (not discovered until I was back in Singapore, of course). Shopping, shopping. In Chinese "Tao jia huan jia" means to bargain. I got the feeling from the expats that life was a blast. I go the feeling from the local professionals that life for expats was a blast, but that they didn’t last long and the revolving door was slowly revolving them out of competitiveness. A bit of animosity, at the very least, to mitigate the rampant opportunity. If I went back, I’d be stuck smack in the middle of these two groups—I look like one but think and talk like the other. If it looks like duck . . . but what if it can’t quack? Ah, well. To say nothing of the low-ball scare tactics they use at interviews to start a salary discussion. (Coming from I-banking in NYC to marketing in China, of course I’m prepared to take a paycut. But a >90% paycut? That is . . . you fill in the expletive).
Ah, and so our trip came to an end. I left behind my SIM card and my toothbrush, and I think I left a bit of my childhood too. Dammit, I don’t have much of that left, you know. We said goodbye over a dinner of all-you-can-eat-and-drink sushi, hopped a cab that we’d bargained down to 100RMB, and started the long sleepy journey back to school. School-what a hollow sounding term, like the reverberation of a piggy bank with very few coins left. Only seven more days until I fly back to Fonty. Only seven more days to party hardy here in Sing (don’t think I can afford Bali this weekend, what with all the graduation trip costs, so will be a good girl and do my work). Oh, but look at the time! It’s time to go, drafts of Lethe and dancing floors await . . .
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Yikes! I feel like INSEAD is this huge funnel that I’ve been coasting down in lazy circles, but all of a sudden now I can see the hole at the bottom beneath my toes and am starting to corkscrew faster and faster toward the end.
Oy vey. Went and did some “field research” today for my Business Plan Workshop class—my business idea is to start something like Coco de Mer in Singapore, which like much of the world, truly has a dearth of proper, woman-friendly places to buy pleasure accoutrements. It was fun trying to track down all these places, but a little intimidating to look around and wonder if I could really do it myself.
Tried mangostines for the first time—sweet mushy white bunches of pulp (garlic-like shape) interred within a sinfully juicy purple skin.
Then went to a session with a career counselor to figure out why all these companies in Shanghai who seemed to love me before I knew anything about them suddenly turn a cold shoulder as soon as I actually get interested. She was the most useless thing I’ve ever encountered. Uh. Honestly, this woman was one of those who smile like a cartoon character and then expect you to come back with a chipper “yes! Of course!” about twice before she’ll stop staring at you with her goofy expectant eyes. Oh, I’m being most uncharitable. Probably I just don’t like her reminding me that I have some ways ahead of me before I land the perfect job, and that I’m disorganized as all hell, and that I don’t really know what I want (besides to be fabulous and sip lychee martinis by the beach and add to my shoe collection). But I do think a career counselor at a top tier business school whose specialization is industry jobs in Asia should be able to answer my question of whether my salary indications were in or out of range for a company that recruits many MBAs every year.
Then went to the Chinese embassy to pick up my passport and visa, and got soaked in the monsoon rains that swept over Singapore today. Trailed my sopping sorry arse home in a freezing cab to change into something decent.
Went to meet up with a headhunter for investment banks in Asia, and did what I hate almost most in the world—pretended to be what I wasn’t. You know that song with the lyrics, “How many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand?” Dude, how many lies do you have to tell to yourself before you get to the point where you can just act yourself, and still get where you want, and still feel that you are always, perfectly okay? In this world, it could take awhile. Maybe forever. That’s why Thoreau and Dickinson and Kant took off into the woods, I bet, so that they didn’t have that problem any more. We’ll see. The counselor says it’s good to have a backup industry (mine is derivatives sales and trading, but honestly I’d worry for my soul).
Rushed back to school to attend a focus group for a friend’s Market Research project, ate a cup-o-soup, then found partner for Business Plan Workshop to write up financial assumptions, due at midnight.
Sorted out insurance issues with Peugeot by long distance. Yep—my cute little Peugeot that’s been the site of so many little adventures? Totaled, wrecked, ruined, through a barrier and on its side and rolled over twice and banged up beyond recognition. Can’t be sad about that though because I’m just happy that my very good friend who had the keys was unhurt. The kind of unlikely miracle that seems to happen every day to these crazy INSEAD kids.
Nerd, nerd, nerded it out until I sent off the paper at 12:00, and am now here diddling away my time on yearbook instead of the million and one productive things I could be doing (or the one fun and unproductive one of going out drinking tonight).
I miss France, I think. I miss New York too. And I miss the prospect of a broad expanse of more INSEAD in front of me.
Monday, November 22, 2004
Doc, I’ve got the blues. It’s the end of term and papers papers papers are piling up on my to-do list. The Christmas tinsel and the snowy pictures in the malls, the end of November with no Thanksgiving celebration, the prospect of not needing to book any more flight returns to France for yet another period . . . soon it’ll be January, and it will have been one full year since I’ve started this whacky journey. I waste so much of my time wallowing inside my own head, lowing like a mournful cow, pining away for the life that’s passing me even before it passes. I suppose I should take my own advice and live life in the present, but it’s hard to when your future is such a haze, isn’t it? So much easier just to fall into the nostalgia trap.
Don’t know if it’s practical to arrange a Bali trip for the week after next, since I’m taking out an entire week of class in order to go to Shanghai for this job-hunting trip. Once back in France on the 8th, it’s time to attend a flurry of last parties, hop on a plane for Sharm, Egypt for our 5-day class graduation trip, then back to France for the grad ceremony in Versailles. It’s such a lavish, exotic life that I’m a bit ashamed, honestly—I’ve done nothing to deserve this kind of treatment, and I certainly have no right to be feeling as sad and dowdy as I do. But sad and dowdy I feel today, and even my white dress with the bright flowers and big poufy skirt is not helping.
It’s strange, isn’t it, how happiness can fall apart the moment you’re satisfied with how nice it is, and try to arrange it and store it on a shelf in a pretty little box? In entrepreneurship, they call this managing growth. In my life, I think I’ll call it managing the passage of time.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
But I guess I deserve little sympathy. I ought to go to sleep now, only I have no idea when I have class tomorrow. The reason is that I've lost my precious purple folder that's sustained me through all of INSEAD (the best little folder in the world, with six pockets and a bendy flap, given to me by NYU Stern). I've tried calling Attica (club where I left the thing behind a pillow), but their listing is their fax number, and I've been too lazy to actually visit. It's been a week, what are the chances?
Somebody asked me why I never wrote about schoolwork. Honestly, it's not because I want to hide it-- it's because I never do any. My weekdays, exclusive of those days I miss class in order to vacation, consist of a very similar pattern-- I go to school, check email, attend class and fall asleep briefly, check email for hours in order to while away some hours before it's time to dine and socialize. I really get very little done nowadays. There was an assignment due tonight for one of my classes by midnight. After checking email and getting nothing done until 6pm, I met up with a college friend who was in town for a quick layover, then went to meet a friend of a friend's for chili crab (so spicy and messy! But delicious.), then got home by 10:30 to read the assignment. Got a thank-you acknowledgement from the Prof at midnight exactly. Buyer beware when coming to the Singapore campus-- they don't call this the Club Med campus for nothing. It's impossible to motivate yourself to do anything but plan vacations!
This weekend was spent snorkeling in Phuket with the sparkling aquamarine water lapping at the beach just outside our villa's balcony. A goofy fish zoomed into my shoulder just as I was wondering how they could all move so quickly without ever colliding. I guess there's always a clumsy one. I saw more stars than I have ever seen in my life. Orion actually came to life! I could see every part of him! Did you know that Orion is anatomically correct? The boy is quite impressive, with three stars to his . . . uh, name! These things you learn in Southeast Asia.
Ate the most divine Thai food (best dish was Woon Sen Gu Teow, some clear glass noodle dish that's making my mouth water right now), and slurped a meltingly sweet mango after coming to a secluded beach on our little fishing boat. Little crabs scuttling out of their tiny holes, sun sucking at the moisture on my face, sand as fine as powder, and water as clear as truth. As close to paradise as I can remember, except that I had to pretend that I had a special someone walking the shore with me. Good thing my imagination's pretty strong-- I had a most romantic time with myself.
The nightlife in Phuket left a bit to be desired, though. Was the seediest thing I'd ever seen. The one nightclub, Banana, was blanketed entirely by prostitutes. There were more prostitutes crawing over that place than there are glass figurines on sale in Venice. At one point I felt tired, and sat down, studiously avoiding eye contact with anyone while stealthily trying to observe all the business deals taking place (so blatant!). Noticed a portly old man and his buddy who kept edging closer, checking me out, clearly unsure but eager. I ducked my head down. He coughed, then said, "Tired?" Dude, I've been sitting down with my eyes closed trying to wait out this bad techno for fifteen minutes, don't I look tired? "Yes." He coughs again, "Do you speak English?" I pause, wonder what about me could possibly be encouraging when I'm lying here like a limp potato and there are so many obviously willing gyrating working girls around. "I'm from the USA."
"OH!" He laughs nervously, "Well, I guess you do speak English then."
I just give him a withering look, but I guess that's not enough.
"So, do you live here?"
"I am on vacation."
Then, thankfully, one of my friends came upstairs and saved me from more ignominy. The next night we attended a Ping Pong show. Saw a girl smoke a cigarette with her nether regions, while another shot darts at moving balloons. I was impressed by their muscle control, absolutely depressed by the nastiness and run-down cynicism of everything about that establishment. Not at all titillating, just kind of gross, and very sad. I didn't finish my drink.
Okay folks, it's time for bed.
p.s. I haven't the energy to give a blow-by-blow of Cabaret, which was last week. But it was tremendous, and dealing with the ever-building technical problems as the stage manager behind the curtain was an adrenaline rush I hope not to experience again soon (I did, however, have the best seat in the house when it came to the Men's rugby Full Monty act-- perhaps the only seat with an unforeseen vantage point!).
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
This weekend's exotic location was Angkor Wat, Cambodia. The Siemp Reap airport wasn't discernably different from Langkawi, I must say. Lush tropical vegetation, air that formed a slick over my skin, the vague smell of wood and plastic in disrepair as I walked through the small sparse terminal. There was only one runway, I think, and we were on one of the two or three flights of the day. But you wouldn't have been able to tell that by the throngs out at 4:45am to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat temple. Obnoxious American accents melded in with the French and German and Japanese and Korean ones . . . warbling to to a meaningless murmur as we climbed up and up and up the stairs to heaven. Supposedly the story goes that heaven isn't an easy place to get to, which is why the stone steps on four sides leading up these temples were each about two feet tall and four inches deep. A bit frightening going up, spine-wateringly terrifying on the way down. All I have to say is they must have put lots of fat priests below the emperor as he ascended to heaven, because otherwise there would have been a serious state security threat on their hands.
Cambodian food is very similar to Thai food, and the best meal I had there was pre-cooked street food slapped onto rinsed plastic plates, recommended by the massage girls who'd just given us foot reflexology when we told them we'd like to try local food. A combination of little dishes- fried fish, soggy potatoes, vegetable stew, bamboo shoots cooked with pork, absolutely delicious, all of it. But nightmares of parasites and the rather unsanitary conditions made us fainthearted about stuffing ourselves on such fare, and most of the meals were spent in tourist traps paying double or triple the price ($4-5 US versus $1 per person per meal). But it was all yummy-- especially the two coconut shakes I had with every meal.
The highlight of the trip, though, was our visit to the floating village on Thom Sap Lake to view the sunset over the water. Imagine an entire little community in the middle of a freshwater lake, with houses built of wood and straw floating peacefully side by side, kids swimming and diving, wooden boats full of fish, floating pig pens, women crooning to babies while swaying side to side in their hammocks in their tiny rocking houseboats. Tiny babies (I swear, no older than 2 years) with wide open features, dark perfect skin and big eyes, big smiles, paddling themselves around in washbasins no more than a foot in diameter! Oh, it was too much. How does this world exist in conjunction with the one I know? After the sun dipped its purple and gold way down into the waters (which I absolutely failed to catch in my new sketchbook-- shameful, how weak my skills when compared to my wishes), our boat turned back and visited the floating village again in the gathering dusk.
I saw a middle aged blond lady laughing as she handed a piece of candy to the paddling babies, who swarmed to her quayside to beg. Reminded me of those annoying people who toss popcorn at the monkeys right under the "do not feed the animals" signs. The kid gleefully littered the wrapper into the water and stuffed the sweet into his mouth, and she exclaimed, "Oh, aren't you cute!." I wished I could be invisible so that I could minimize my intrusion. The village was just so perfect, out of a fairy tale, one that doesn't belong to me or the blond lady, but I suppose I shouldn't judge. Infusions of tourist money into an undeveloped economy are welcome, aren't they? But I can't help the shudder that comes to my skin and the images of a zoo for naked children when I see scenes like the candy feeding, the twenty little hands grabbing for handouts.
But no more took-took rides, no more banyan trees, no more sanstone ruins and buddha-head towers, now it's back to Singapore, to the lethargy of avoiding work and vague disturbing worries about not having a purpose in life (I generally squash those by reading books, but Kafka-esque philoso-fantasy isn't a good genre for this, for anyone considering Murakami as an escape). A friend and I were scheduled to go to Shanghai to job search this week, but neither of us having the resourcefulness or energy to set up meetings in time, we decided to push off the trip until next week. Now that it's set, I must fill it somehow with useful meetings, otherwise this will become yet another pleasure trip funded by money I do not own.
Ah, life, it's harder than it sounds. I know I shouldn't complain. If I'd told my seventeen-year-old big-eyed wisp of a self that I'd have experienced so many things and been so many places by now, I bet I'd have though I was pretty darn cool. But if I then were to turn to that inquisitive, righteous little self and tell her about all the world-doubt and loneliness and ambivalence that still haunts me at so many empty moments, I think I'd also have to slap my older self and shout that I must be stupid or extraordinarily lazy for not having figured it out by now. But this life is a big thing to figure out, as the lame old excuse goes. Maybe tomorrow, maybe later tonight. For now, I'm off to find the next best thing-- sushi for dinner and brownie sundae for dessert. Wish me luck!
Thursday, November 04, 2004
I must say I was on rather bad behavior last night. The American Week party was held at this packed, very frat-boy ex-pat bar called Carnegie's. The open bar covered only basic well liquors and beers, but boy did we get our money's worth. Too old to do shots of bad vodka? It was just like college again. Ah, the memories. I drowned my frustration with the stupidity of my country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of bogus morality, and downed shot after shot in penance to the rest of the world. That's another 4 years I won't be heading back to reside. As much as I love America, I am very aware that the America I love may not be the one that over 50% of Americans love.
Ah, but on with the show, eh? Up on the pool table, and then the bar top poles. There is this irrepressible exhibilitionist urge that always comes over me when I drink, which as I get older, I might have to seek help on. I was once told, when inquiring about the effects of Ecstasy (for intellectual curiousity only) that there was no need, all I needed was a drink. Unfortunately I think this time there's footage-- must get my hands on that tape. At some point someone next to me dropped his glass on the the already shard-littered floor, and I, the good samaritan, helpfully started to sweep all of it aside with my strappy sandal-clad feet. Yeh, drunk girl. A few minutes later, I felt something strange and worked hard to focus my eyes and look down. Hmm. . . I was bleeding rather profusely. A bit miffed, because my sandals were white and very cute, I pulled my toes out and flung my leg over the shoulder of the nearest bloke (bear in mind, I was wearing a man's wifebeater as a dress, in keeping with the American theme of the party). Somebody fetched napkins and I extracted (I hope) the three pieces of glass from my foot, then hobbled still bleeding to the bathroom. Eventually I was able to procure some bandaids from the management (who wanted to bandage the thing with ace bandages, but which I refused because then my sandals wouldn't have fit), and was finally able to get back to dancing. But no more glass sweeping for my feet, thanks.
I also heard some really bad pick-up lines. When one boy's "You look like an angel!" didn't work on me, he tried the opposite tack, "You know, you've got a great arse!" Now boys, how on earth do you ever expect a nice girl like me to like you on lines like that? Some intelligence and originality please! Or at least some tact. How about "You look like you don't believe in angels," or "You know, you've got a great way of carrying yourself- or is that just control top pantyhose?" (actually, better not use that one if you don't want to get slapped).
Tired tired. Time to go for barbeque and karaoke though. My kingdom for a good night's sleep with joy and meaning in the morning . . .
Sunday, October 31, 2004
I'm not sure any more that I will be able to live happily in China. I went to Hong Kong this weekend with four other chickees from INSEAD, joined later by some other friends also coming from Singapore. It was an amazing time, but I do think I've been spoiled by New York, which I miss terribly every time a tall building comes into view (this is every microsecond or so in HK). Anywho, starting on Friday I happily missed three classes in order to wander up and down hilly paths, zoom around beneath skyscraper shadows in crazy red cabs, and of course, to eat and drink and make merry.
The trip started off inauspiciously, with a hazy ride to the airport after only three hours of sleep. There was a huge Chinese tour group also on the same flight, and I quietly almost lost it after being unceremoniously cut in line for the twentieth time. I have a very strong sense of social politeness, and it drives me batty when people just do not queue. Hence the reservations about moving to Shanghai-- I think it's even worse than in HK. I' so damned passive, I always end up last.
A few hours later, however, coasting on the highway and gazing out over emerald hills and aquamarine water and gleaming buildings, I thought maybe not, this wasn't so bad. A good philosophy to keep in mind-- you don't need to be rich to be happy, but you should always have cab money. We stayed at a friend of a friend's of one of the girls. He had this gorgeous apartment in the Midlevels, in a place called Bamboo Grove, and we had it all to ourselves to toss around clothing and makeup and underwear and such, which was lovely.
The first day we walked through the zoological gardens (a real live jaguar! Maybe they swapped with some zoo in south america for a panda), ate Thai (the best dessert I can remember . . . Mango with toasted coconut curls on purple sticky rice in a bed of coconut milk . . . like someone making slow love to your tastebuds), rode the city escalator, got giddy and giggly on wine, and went out to Lan Kwai Fong for Mexican and margaritas, then a bar (Jewel), then a club (Backroom). I had a good time, what I can remember of it. As I recall the mushroom quesadillas were slightly crunchy on the outside, some random HK guy grabbed my wrist and wouldn't let go at Jewel, and there was a stripper pole (uh oh, not disclosing . . . ) at Backroom.
Next day woke up on the couch with the sun in my face, a mouthfull of cotton and a splitting headache. Took an hour long shower, then met up with the rest of the girls and my other friends at the Kowloon markets to search for a dim sum place. I briefly got to use my Chinese, but it's shocking how little Mandarin is used and understood there. As I have absolutely no Cantonese skills, I really wasn't any more useful this weekend than the Russian or Indian or Canadians. After stuffing ourselves, we went to see the sunset in the peak tram-- I swear we were at a 45 degree angle-- felt like a roller coaster ride! Bought postcards, got a bit wistful at the splendid sunset over the hills and the water, and then admired the sea of lights and buildings on our way down in the dark. Then it was more primping and prepping, sharing of outfits and hair dryers and such, and we were off to dinner. Some went to steak, while I went to meet my other friends for Korean (Kalbi, Japchae, Bibimbap, mmm. . . ) at Times Square. How quaint! Hong Kong at night is brighter than during the day, what with the blaze of lights from all the stores that stay open until 10pm. I think I like being able to buy a pair of shoes after dinner. Then it was off to Soho (South of Hollywood road), to an awesome little bar/club called Drop-- so high energy! Through the evening, we went to Alibi and Backroom again, but after some people pooped out two of us girls found ourselves back at Drop with my Singapore friends. We met an adorable boy from London who kindly bought us martinis (he missed the "lychee" in front, yick) and also let me have a bite of his hot dog (this will earn you everlasting affection, I love hot dogs, particularly late at night ;). When did it end? I have no idea. Sometime before the place closed down and after this German started to take liberties with the concept of "dancing" together.
So all in all, I'd say it was a capital trip, and I even have a few more girlfriends into the bargain. I slept the whole way on the ride back and am now trying to procrastinate the work I'll have to make up tomorrow. So far, though, P5 has been one party venue after another. I do worry abit that going out does not make you any smarter or more interesting. Honestly, if the point of going out is to meet interesting people, and in corollary, to have other people meet you and think that you are interesting, then how can you possibly go out 100% of the time? You'll have no time to develop your thoughts or your knowledge, and slowly you'll just become another bar whore-- empty and uninteresting, but unaware of it. Promise me you'll let me know if I turn into a bar whore.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
The older I get, the more often I meet interesting men who are taken and married. This might be the worst thing yet about aging. Went to Brix (Hyatt hotel) last night with my friend who works here and a bunch of his buddies. Turned out this guy that he knew from New York (whom I’d met once briefly) was in town for a conference, and it was his 32nd birthday, so I stayed all evening with these guys and didn’t meet up with INSEAD (I'm sad to announce that my going-out streak is over because I missed Monday night, but that's still 7 out of the last 8 nights). This birthday boy seemed depressed about turning older, something I'm not used to encountering in B-school, where birthdays are celebrated with good cheer. This guy had been a graphic designer before going to structuring bond deals. Super smart, pretty boy, well read, well spoken . . . you get the drift.
Oh, and did I mention he was married? Yeah, that was a surprise my friend dropped on me when I finally bothered to ask. For awhile I laid off, totally uninterested, but as the alcohol flowed, I was drawn like a moth, and soon we were yelling in each other’s ears, thoroughly engrossed. You know when you have a pretty good suspicion that somebody’s interested? I suspected. The naughtiness only heightened the flirting.
After lots and lots and lots of shots, we went to Orchard Tower when Brix closed down, just to get the full Singapore experience. For those who don't know, Orchard Tower is apparently nicknamed "Four Floors of Whores" around here. And Top Ten is, as per its name, on the top floor. My lord, what a place! So sleazy! I’m glad I’m not a prostitute-- it's tough competition out there. Lots of yucky, used looking women, but also plenty of gorgeous, young, really truly pretty girls too. All of them flocking to the awkward white guys flopping around on the dance floor. Sad, really. But hey, to each their own. We went, we watched, and then it was time to go home. A very pregnant cab ride, the kind you can only have when stone drunk and fitfully talking about absolutely nothing. As I exited my cab, I gave him a nice kiss on the cheek, wished him a happy birthday, and then traipsed off upstairs by myself—I was a good girl, on the surface.
But jeez, I could feel the trail of sinful thoughts behind me. Sometimes I can just feel the evil in me, clawing and slithering its way out my eyes! Why am I so unethical? I was thinking about, considering, secretly hoping to take home a guy I had just met once, who was MARRIED! All my categorical imperatives out the window. It’s evil to hurt people, even when you’re hurting people you don’t know, isn’t it? That is why you never, ever, ever mess around with somebody who is taken, because you know you are hurting the other people in their lives.
I need to examine my soul, I think. It needs some serious cleaning. If only I had more time in between scrambling for class, procrastinating my job search, sleeping off my hangovers, and going out until I’m stupid.
Monday, October 25, 2004
Here at INSEAD when you get rejected by a company, they call it a "ding." I think it might come from the sound that an elevator makes when the door closes and then you start to descend-- it leaves the same funny little feeling in my stomach, like it doesn't know exactly what to do. Eh, if only rejection weren't so damned personal. But by the time you get to final rounds, and have dragged yourself through the travel and the stress and the research and have come up with a halfway decent justification of why you and this company are like peas and carrots, made in heaven for one another and have repeated it twenty times, smiling until you look like an idiot, well, you've got yourself more than halfway convinced, and so it hurts all the more when they tell you that no, you're not good/smart/pretty/cool enough, so no soup for you. And then to make it worse, they hit you with feedback that you can't really deny, because it feels true. I was told that I scored well on all counts, except that for some reason, I didn't seem aggressive enough for a S&T environment. Can't say I disagree, so perhaps these people have done me a favor, huh?
I'm going to lick my wounds and take a nap, and try not to be a resentful baby.
Saturday, October 23, 2004
I'm embarrassed, but I can't tell you the names of all the places I've been over the past couple of days! There's something about the combination of Singaporean accents and the thudding of eardrum-blowing techno that makes things absolutely indecipherable. So I'm going to do my best, but disclaimer--don't be surprised if you get blank stares as you use my references when you try to go out on this island.
Indochine, Carnegie's, Attica on Wednesday
A very chill evening spent sitting down, talking and sharing at a mile a minute, and sipping constantly, which always makes for the drunkest rides home, head so sodden that even my blankets seemed to buzz back at me as I fell sideways across the bed at 4 or 5 or whenever it was that I stumbled my way back to into silently gleaming apartment.
House drinks then Velvet on Thursday
The evening started in an INSEAD-familiar fashion, with many Fonty faces congregating at a nearby apartment, lots of cigarettes, wine, beer, and vodka mixers. At about 1 or 2, we finally got our butts in gear and headed over to Velvet, one of four dance clubs that are all connected to each other. Apparently Velvet's the hoity-toity one that all the snooty kids frequent. Dunno, it was alright, a little bit small, but reminded me of your typical nightclub. Layout wasn't terribly creative, but easy enough to figure out. Had the unsettling but by now expected experience of being out with about eight or nine men. On one hand, I worry about cramping the game or inhibiting their ability to go out and meet women, but on the other hand, I feel like I'm obligated to spread myself as thin as possible. Anywho, eventually our group thinned, and it was just me and a friend dancing away, laughing and weaving, and we finished the evening off capitally as the lights turned on with six shots between us (who knew that when you ask for a shot at Velvet, they give you two?! Buyer beware).
Zouk, Attica, Wisspa on Friday
Attended some sort of promo party for a new radio station at Zouk, which is also in the same complex as Velvet. It apparently is supposed to be the youngest, most energetic place. Wasn't really feeling it through the first band, led by an angry lead singer with a strange, sexy, scary use-me-and-abuse-me appeal and bandaids on her nipples outside her shirt. My friend said that he could imagine bringing her home to find himself in the hospital the next day, with her stiletto stuck in his mouth and out the back of his head. Too punk for me. The next band was large, and gangsta. Their lead female singer was awesome, a ghetto girl in sunglasses and cropped pants who could belt it out like a diva, or rap with the rest. The eight-person ensemble put on this great song called "She's ready to blow." Have to figure out their name (again, comprehension issues)- they apparently opened for Black-Eyed Peas. But the person I was really entranced by was their smiling, oft-shy, oft-bored keyboardist, an Asian (Korean?) girl with wavy brown hair and a perfect face in the background. Do you ever feel that way? Absolutely captivated by the smile of a stranger, simply based off of the curve of their lips, the flicker of a lash? It's gender neutral. Somehow I wished I could get to know her, she seemed so cool.
We left for Attica to meet up with some INSEAD people, and ran through the tropical rain to enter the steam of an unbelievably overcrowded bar. I was furious because one of our party had been allowed to drive his car to meet us (with two girls in the back) after proving himself so drunk that he literally puked as soon as he walked out of Zouk. Apparently the social condemnation of drunk driving is not as developped here as it is in some places in the west. I literally shook with righteous indignation as his car door was jerked from my hands while I was in the midst of exhorting these stupid girls to at least have a care for their own lives. Ah, of course we all made it without incident, but these things make me so so mad! INSEAD has relaxed my stance a little, but nothing can ever convince me that being drunk or stupid means you're allowed to put others in danger.
Okay, enough of sermon. I drowned my hellfire in lychee martinis and dancing, dancing, dancing until I couldn't feel my feet anymore. Met so many people, everyone sticking and peeling off one another in the heat of the dance floor. My purse is the most disgusting thing ever now, because I left it for awhile on the floor, swimming in broken glass and drink remnants.
And then, as if that wasn't enough, we decided that it was time to afterparty, and at 4 we gamely cabbed it to Wisspa, the late-night place since Lola closed. I singlehandedly (singletonguedly?) tied two cherry stems from my Singapore sling, and ate most of a finger food plate for four. And then, and then, they started to play hip hop. There are many things about myself over which I have absolutely no control, and one of these things is my need to dance whenever that sexy, suggestive, insistent beat starts to vibrate in the pit of my stomach. So my sore, sandal-clad feet found themselves coaxed onto the mostly empty dance floor, and I started all over again until I literally could not stand up any more. I think I got home by 6, showered and cleaned and eyes closed soon after, but by then who's to tell, yes?
Three for three, my first three nights in this place, not too bad, eh? Only about forty more to go-- we'll see if we can establish a record.
Seriously, though, alcohol has a drastically depressing effect on my mood the day after, and I woke up this afternoon from a desperately vivid dream-induced nostalgia too unmotivated to even dress properly, much less to make my way across the street for something to eat. It's amost evening, and I'm still sitting here in my underwear. Maybe I'll write a letter, or go back to my novel. Who needs food, right? Mmm . . . although the memory of last night's sushi is starting to make me wake up a little.
The air feels sweaty, looks like it's going to rain. I wonder what's in store tonight.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
I realized only yesterday that since I've graduated college and started working, my somewhat hedonistic approach to life has been missing a basic component. For the longest time, if you'd asked me what the most important drivers of my behavior and happiness were, I'd have told you, without hesitation, "Food and Sex." And I really truly believe it. Food encompasses comfort, nourishment, safety, security, animal satiety. Sex encompasses relationships, physical pleasure, love, ambition, and excitement. But yesterday, as I finally learned how to adjust the snorkel correctly and heard the whoosh of my own breath whispering in and out of my breathing tube, as I stuck my head underwater and felt a shiver on my thigh as I kicked my flippers gently to avoid a mass of living breathing, waving coral just twelve inches below me, I realized that for almost three years I'd forgotten about Wonder. So many fish, so many fishes! Red ones, blue ones, zebra ones, rainbow ones. Ones that stayed still, ones that sparkled in schools, ones that zipped this way and that. Frightening sea slugs, enormous sea mushrooms, a mass of colors that only cartoons can properly render when above water. The way the suns created mysterious speckles in the water and on the sea floor. My timidity when it came to touching anything. My shy, secret little desire to go back again and again, for longer and longer each time, to see what I could see even if I was a scaredy cat.
Oh, but do you still remember your childhood, when no day was ever like another, when wonder didn't have to get up and hit you in the head for you to remember that it's a basic reason for being? I think I remember mine now. So, a new retort now when people ask me the meaning of life. "Food and Sex and Wonder."
But for now, I've left the perfect beach behind me, in a trail of white foam and a swell of open wind on water with tropical birds flapping in its wake. When I want to be reminded of the breezy nights when the clouds would light up with flashes of pink but no thunder could be heard to follow, or the fifteen thousand shades of light blue as the sand faded into the tide faded into the sea faded into the islands faded into the hills faded into the skies faded into the clouds, I just have to pull out my clumsy little sketches, and I can smell the salt.
Last night was my first proper night in Singapore, and I spent it with an old friend from New York who, by some stroke of fortune, happened to relocate on this little slice of earth. He seemed hellbent on introducing me to just about every NYC-esque bar on the island. Strange to be wandering around a city again. Kitchy sedans, pillowed settees, blaring R&B, fancy faucets, slinky skirts and heels galore, circling cabs, manicured lawns and well-lit bridges. Almost like home except that all the girls are Asian (strangely, the men are not). But I didn't care, because I have to admit, these Singaporean bartenders make a mean lychee martini (4 or 5) and a delicious cosmopolitan (2, I think). Toto, I don't think we're in Fonty any more. Oh, but I'm paying for them now. Woke up at 9:30 completely woozy, and fell back abed until 14:30, when the dizziness (but not the dullness between the earlobes) had passed.
Time to get showered, I think, and to unpack my bags before heading to campus for the first time. Welcome to south east Asia, la!
Friday, October 15, 2004
I'm obviously in a race against myself to see how many flights I can miss before I finish INSEAD. Yesterday I chalked up two for the team, which is why I am painfully typing away on a French keyboard in the Sofitel Charles de Gaulle right now, and not sitting in the sun in a little white bikini sipping cocktails on a boat. But let me start from the beginning of yesterday . . . .
4:35 finally finish packing, and go to sleep
5:20 rush off to Gare du Nord, driven by a friend
7:16 take off on the Eurostar for London with baggage and interview pre-reading in tow
8:56 arrive at London Waterloo station, inquire about early luggage check-in for British Airways Heathrow, am told to go to Paddington, which I haplessly do, only to find that BA no longer has in-town check-in at Paddington.
10:40 leave luggage at Paddington station, head off to Canary Wharf
11:30 interviews start
13:20 end interviews early, rush off to tube
13:58 arrive at Paddington to get luggage and miss Heathrow Express by just 3 minutes
14:10 take off on next Heathrow Express
14:37 Express experiences delays, finally get to Terminal 4, running like a tail-heavy chicken for the lines
14:40 Admit to self that I've missed my 14:50 flight, head crying over to the help desk
15:00 Am told miraculously by wonderful British man that I can get on the 16:14, and my luggage can be automatically transferred, and I just might make my 19:25 to Singapore
16:14 Get on plane, after finally eating something
18:40 we land late, I'm sweating as I rush out
18:46 Nice French man at the correspondences (transfer) desk says he'll do his best, but suddenly there's a problem with my ticket, it's been issued incorrectly
19:05 says there's nothing he can do, walks an almost weeping shell-shocked me to the exit
19:20 He chases me down at the baggage claim to say it's AirFrance's mistake, that my ticket was actually fine
19:21 But I've already missed my flight
19:50 I cry, but get over it, and wait for them to make arrangements for me to fly out the next day, making painful phone calls
21:00 After waiting in vain for my luggage, I give up and take the shuttle to the airport hotel they provided
22:00 Room service, more phone calls, lonely plane takeoffs and landings blinking outside my windows
23:00 sleep, finally
This morning was more of the same. It's so strange, but I can't remember the last time I spent such a long time by myself, completely unproductively. Feels eerily like Lost in Translation. I made condensation pictures with my breath against the window, and thought about how I used to leave messages in the steam against the bathroom mirror. There's really only so much one can do when by oneself. I don't think I'm my own favorite company at all. Probably not even 7th or 8th on my list. But now it's time to go and catch (??) another flight (they never found my luggage last night, and supposedly it'll be in Singapore when I get there, even though it's not going to be on my flight . . . hmm) , then to purchase another connection to Lankawi. Wish me luck, for I'm sure I'll need it!
Thursday, October 14, 2004
Oh what an odd end of the period day it has been. Somehow slept off the stress of "Am I socially inept?" panic that set in during my sleepless from Turkey state last night after I attended a mostly Januaries party where most of the people were friends I only knew of, but didn't know. Strange, you know, you think you're so comfortable and have such great friends, but then you realize that there's a veritable sea of unexplored friendships out there, and you're off to Singapore, not to be back for more than a week. What if? Who knows? This morning was significantly calmer as I set foot into school with only the three tasks of a) migrating my emails because INSEAD somehow won't allow you to keep the same address between campuses, b) reading over my little brother's early application essay for college, and c) doing a bit of research for the final round interviews with a bank in London tomorrow (S&T! I'm a traitor, but not completely, right?). Strange only got stranger, as I read through two emails from a company that I'd met with over a month ago, from whom I hadn't heard a peep and had assumed was a write-off since other friends have been back repeatedly to headquarters to find their fit. The first email was a typical-- we're impressed, we're happy, blah blah, but there isn't anything available for you and we're not pursuing your application further. The second one, just a few hours later, said, hey, something's come up, ignore our earlier email, "we are delighted to offer you a position in China." Could have knocked me over with a feather. Who knew you could get an offer from a global company after just half an hour of chatting on campus? We'll pursue this further when in Asia, but just goes to prove that life happens in mysterious ways. So, to a creative but poorly paid and potentially dead-end job in Shanghai, the wild wild East, or back to an investment banking house with an astromical salary in London, structuring derivatives and similar such ephemeral money generators until I waste away into a pale, lifeless blob?
Just came from my last dinner at le Boar au Broc in Bourron Marlotte, had pied de cochon for entree. Lovely. All my bestest bestest friends around me-- no problems with feeling socially inept tonight. It was nice enough to make me shed a tear that these wonderful folks wouldn't be with me for the next six weeks. But who am I to complain, right? I'm such a damn lucky girl. Singapore sunshine and Lankawi beaches, here I come . . . Paris, London, Singapore, Lankawi, what next?
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Crazily enough, I got everything on my list checked off. The dinners were eaten, the interviews muddled through, the parties attended, the projects churned out (quality not controlled, but I suppose that's my own fault-- am wincing at the idea of what my grades might look like), the problem sets pawned off, and even Istanbul visited! Whew, now onto the next crisis.
Last Friday I was not a happy camper. Had gotten nothing done the night before because the entire INSEAD computer system was down-- even excel could not be opened. Shameful, the state of our infrastructure at this place-- not what I'd expect from a top tier business school, but I suppose that's what happens when you locate it in the boonies of France. What's a girl to do? She rents a movie from the 24-hour kiosk in Fontainebleau and wastes the evening away, that's what. Early morning rise, driving in the dewy wet, slowly lifting darkness to my interviews-- hotel rooms, glass-paneled coffee tables, three great connections, one not-so-great goof (you have one call at strike 90 selling for 85, the spot is 80, the forward is 100, what's the intrinsic value of the call, and what's the volatility component that you need to reflect on your balance sheet? Durrrrr . . . . ), but what the heck. Que sera, sera.
Then, running running running around, no time to attend class, just desperately plugging away at this and that final project. By 22:00, my eyes bloodshot and my fingers shaky, I triumphantly deleted all of the extra French week ticket request bids from my email inbox and sent off my projects in care of my groupmates for the weekend, and stumbled blearily toward the car. Chug home, only to find that the electricity is (of course), out at the chateau. Use the light of my phone to pack the bare minimum in my lunch-box sized suitcase, slip on my best Moulin Rouge black transparent number and a slinky blazer, and off are me and my little blue Peugeot for gay Paris. Onto the peripherique, out over the Quai d'ivry, and into Paris centre, toward the lights of the Eiffel. Something so calming about driving along the Seine, seeing the water peek at you every now and then. I think that even if I had seen twenty times more of the City this year, I would still be missing it already. Parked, and waited shivering in the chilly night straight below the belly of the Eiffel. Did you know that every hour at night it starts to sparkle like a gigantic Christmas tree? Magic. Well, maybe it would have been slightly more magical without the creepy keychain hawkers trying to ask me what part of the world I'm from (Please! Some originality, gentlemen!), but my saviors apearred en masse and we were off to the boat party. A good time and nasty over-alcoholic drinks were had by all. Lots of steamy dancing and enthusiastic goodbyes, lots of "who am I going to dance with now!" and "but you can't leave!" Still, I think it has yet to hit me.
At some point, I found myself stumbling back to my car, feet complaining loudly. Munched on doritos as we drove to some hotel that a few friends had booked in the area. I took a shower and stepped gingerly over three soundly sleeping boys to sneak out in the wee hours and drive sleepily to CDG to catch my 7:30 flight. Anyone who has ever waited in line at a French airport on no sleep will understand the true misery of my predicament. But wait, it gets better! I must look like a helpful young thing, because I was singled out by an interesting lady from Cameroon to aid her in carrying an extremely heavy trash bag full of odds and ends wrapped in what looked like masking tape. Hm. But what could I do? She was so effusively grateful, and she was wearing strange bedroom slippers (the kind with feathers sticking out) in a bright shade of green. Would have been fine if the thing weren't so damned heavy (and she didn't help, either).
Anywho, I finally make it to Turkey by the afternoon, and from then on, it was smooth sailing. Nothing like putting together comfortable friends and a new environment to decompress all the stupid pretenses out of people and really open the way for conversations that actually discover something. I must say, I got my fill of hummus and baklava. I have some Turkish delight in my car, which I'm very tempted not to share :)
Ai, and of course there's more, there's always more. There's the completely bizarre entertainment night that we signed up for, the gorgeous belly dancing and the ridiculous lounge act. The Turkish baths where I was scrubbed (hard) from head to arse to foot by a fleshy naked Turkish woman. The grand bazaar where I bought a white leather skirt (don't ask) with silver grommets. The last dinner, where we talked creationism, catholicism, agnosticism, and faith. And the flight back, of course, again at 7:30 in the morning.
Ah yawn. Am so so tired. Dinner tonight? Must, can't waste what short time I have with all these wonderful people I won't be seeing after Wednesday! Party tonight? Oh, I might be amenable, if the right pressure were applied. But then again, when I finally get my eyes closed, who knows what can get me up?
Thursday, October 07, 2004
Last night was my last castle dinner. I forced everyone to come in black tie, and it was lovely to see silk and satin by candlelight. Still, it being the end of the term (again!), people left much earlier than last time. In the end it was a motley crew of six or so drinking ourselves sodden into the furniture until who knows when. Ugh, dragging myself out of bed this morning was a disorienting experience, as was getting to school and having to finish up a group presentation. So many last dinners and parties to attend, so little time! How is it possible to squeeze two final projects, two problem sets, four interviews and interview prep, one dinner party, one huge national week party and one weekend trip to Istanbul all into the next four days? I don't know, but I'm certainly going to try. Such is INSEAD, right?
Oh, one more piece of exciting news-- I received my absentee ballot today! Two months of waiting with bated breath. Just in the nick of time-- my vote will make a difference! Okay, now it's time to be good so that I can justify rewarding myself later. Am excited about the French week party-- they're going all out and hosting it on a riverboat on the Seine, starting at the Tour Eiffel. Demand was so good that they had to add a second boat at last minute. But catching that 7:30 flight to Istanbul the next day is not going to be pretty. Ah, well-- I'll let you know how it goes.
Saturday, October 02, 2004
Am toying with a new business idea . . . one that actually turns me on. But am I too much of a mouse to go it on my own? Oh decisions. Remember Dead Poet's Society, when the professor asks, "what will be your contribution? What line will you add to the grand poem?" Reminder to self-- do not settle, and do not forget, and do not give up. Ai, but school is such a bore, and my procrastinating tendencies have gotten even worse.
Plus, I've turned the heater on, finally. In the car, too. There's something so cathartic about driving. I feel like I'm floating in a warm bubble of air as I drive past the fields and woods on the road to school. Bubbles are such delicate things . . . so I keep my fingers inside and my neck straight and I sit for awhile even after I've stopped the car, finishing that last song on the radio before I have to pop open the door and step outside into the real world.
But I'm going to put that out of my head for now. No more sulking for at least the next 12 hours. Tonight is la nuit blanche in Paris, and all of the museums and cultural institutions are open all night. Must go home and agonize over what to wear. Ah, the joys of being girly.
Saturday, September 25, 2004
The chill in the air is wending its way into my finger bones. The email system is not working and my mouth feels dry and sticky. Even after a shower and a change and a drive through the sparkling bright wheat fields I can still feel last night clinging to my pores. I need tea and pancakes and maple syrup. And a movie in a fluffy bed with just one other person, I think.
I awoke this morning to a naked Frenchman standing above me, looking down inquisitively at the very small blanket I lay beneath. I yelped, and my friend who was sharing the couch with me woke up, blearily looked around, barked a reprimand at Mr. Naked in French, and went back to sleep as if nothing had happened. The naked French boy shuffled confusedly back to his bedroom.
This was obviously not a good way to start the morning. I decided that it was a bad omen and that I should get out of this friend-of-a-friend's apartment while the going was still possible. So I left the flat with its steamy sleepy air, and stepped out into the milky Paris morning with my hair and clothes smelling of cigarettes. I found my way to the Metro (look mom, all by myself), then the train back to Fontainebleau. The rusty landscape flashed white around the edges and hazy purple hangover clouds swirled around my brain as I rested my forehead against the window.
Missed the KamaSutra party because dinner ran late and I had no ride back from Paris. Still, the dinner was lovely, and even lovelier was the gorgeous NYC-style loft apartment in the Bastille where it was held. Nothing like open space, shiny appliances, tall ceilings and no doors. Dinner, Louis Armstrong singing Moon River, caipirinhas, wine, grappa, polish vodka shots, cigarettes glowing red in the candleflames and silhouettes against the window, and we were off to the clubs. I got my first motorcycle ride behind Etienne, streaking through the tiny spaces between the cars while clinging on to my purse and his middle as tightly as I could without making him think I was scared. Then Doobie's, dancing on the banquettes and spilling cranberry vodka down my shirt . . .
I am so tired. I've had it with this week. It's just been far too much. And I've had it with boys. Why is INSEAD so damn full of boys? Boys in suits and interviews, boys who smile with their eyes, boys who check you out and don't care if you notice, boys who won't take no for an answer, boys who love their girlfriends, boys who give you compliments, boys who are so much fun to hang around that you can't help yourself, boys who are selfish bastards, boys with cute accents, boys who smell nice, boys who press their advantage, boys who get the wrong impression, boys who are more fragile than you think, boys who are not and will never be the boy.
Friday, September 24, 2004
Tonight's the Kama Sutra party, but I don't know if I'll make it back from Paris in time (obligatory birthday dinner). Ugh. Am dead dead tired and so behind on everything. Bruises everywhere, eyelids dragging down . . . job stress, of course. And my apartment! Piles of laundry that I have every intention of getting to, right after I take that nap I've been promising myself . . .
Friday, September 10, 2004
- There is such a thing as too late. People die. Childhood has its expiration dates. Relationships end. Carpe diem—it’s proven that we can’t go back in time, so live your life in the present as richly and expressively as you can.
- Being selfish is one of the dumbest things you can do, because you’ll die unhappy and alone. Be loving, and go forth and have children. You’ll never regret the children you have, just the ones you never had.
- Taking care of babies makes you a better lover—you learn to pay attention to and read someone who does not talk.
Sad, sad to think of mistakes I've made, opportunities I've passed up. The parents get back tonight from Rome, and we’re scheduled to do more touristing--Versailles and Paris tomorrow, but my alternator seems to have died on me. The damned thing needs to be jumpstarted at every turn. Not having a car here is very very problematic. Tonight there are rumblings of dinner and Cabaret (a nightclub) in Paris. Will be eating with the parents at home, but methinks I will do some old fashioned slipping out after they go to bed, and see if I can't get some dancing in. This week certainly had its share of events, and I think I even got sloshed enough at one of them to produce some (more) incriminating photos. Will never learn-- can't seem to keep my hands and hips to myself once the alcohol level ticks above 0.05. Contrast that to last night-- at school until 2am to meet an application deadline for 6am this morning. Ugh.
Recruiting is really dragging everyone down. This afternoon I attended an informational session for Barclay's Capital, but was so offended by the pompous tone of the presenter ("Of course, we were very pleased with that deal. We just received another mandate this week") that I had to leave in the middle. No way am I going into another job run by asshole wankers who think they are God's gift to the world, no matter how much overpaying they are reputed to do.
Monday, September 06, 2004
My father has become one of those people who believes that if you repeat something in English more loudly, the French will start to understand. Please, someone hide me. The whole big Chinese family is in Fontainebleau-- father, mother, brother and all. For two of them, it's their first time in Europe, and for all of them, it's their first time in France. They arrived on Saturday, and after picking them up from de Gaulle, we spent much of our time navigating around Paris in order to buy the requisite Chinese groceries (the only form of sustenance that they can take, apparently), after which they came back to the castle and collapsed from jet lag. Of course the family only listened to the first part of my sentence when I told them, "It's been pretty chilly and rainy here, but it could get warmer, you should check online." They only brought pants and sweaters, so now with this wave of sunny weather we've resorted to having my mother wear my things (complaints about necklines, hemlines, etc.). Oh, the joy of family reunions.
Yesterday was an exhausting day (for everyone except dad, who has boundless energy when it comes to famous landmarks) jostling in line for the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel. Today after circling the right hours, times, locations on directories, maps, schedules, it was with many misgivings that I saw them off on the train to Paris again before driving back to school for a breath of normalcy. Tomorrow I get to send them off to Rome for the week before they descend on me again for the weekend-- I'm not a religious girl, but I'll be praying.
On other news, the job searching for P4s seems to have launched in full swing after the CMS kickoff meetings last Friday. It's all-out panic dressed down in black suits, walking around and nervously checking the bulletin board of company presentations, whispering about networks and contacts, surreptitiously flitting around the CMS website. It's damned depressing, actually, because there's little to do if you're avoiding all the consulting and banking presentations as a matter of principle, as I am. I keep telling people that I'm looking in Asia, but I get the feeling that this is just a sentence I've become attached to just so I have something to say when asked the 1-million times a day question. But meanwhile I'll keep filling my stomach, attending last-minute classes, and pretending that I'll never have to work again. Avoidance as a strategy works pretty well, up until the very end. The good news is that I can live in Beijing and waitress (or teach English, a comparable job) after graduation, so at least I won't starve.
Tonight is my second girl's rugby practice, which I've just joined in order to add to my avoid-a-job-search activities. It's also my would-be two-year anniversary with the (ex) boyfriend. You know, being a single girl at INSEAD isn't all that it's cracked up to be. You go to classes, lunch, parties, etc., and you act just as you did before, and the boys are just as flirtatious as they were before, but the difference is that now instead of coming home to a phone call, you just come home- more alone than before. Sigh. It's been a month since breaking up, perhaps it's time to break the ice-- famous last words . . .
Monday, August 30, 2004
But let me rewind. School has gotten off to a chugging start. Classes are in full gear (you're not allowed to drop a class after the first three sessions, and I think it's already too late for me to drop most of mine! Ugh) and my new nest is suitably IKEA-feathered and of course, the social engagement pipeline is streaming merrily with barbeques and brunches and dinners and random social visits. Of course, in between, there is the constant sleety Fontainebleau rain trying to give London a run for its money as worst weather locale in Europe.
There are also the transitions, always driving driving driving with music in these miniature cars, be it clanging techno while crammed with Frenchmen, heart-pounding dance music while joyriding after parties, or cheesy sappy heart-rending ballads that make me suddenly burst into tears on the N7 while racing into the gray on my own. Nothing like a little "I will always love you" to remind you of how to feel alone while swimming in a sea of people.
I digress. Back to being pulled over for mooning the police. By the way, the reason I had decided to pursue such actions was not simply maniacal self-destructiveness. Enrique Iglesias was being pumped at full blast, we were singing out loud, I was drunk as a wet bread crumb, and I thought we were being followed by a carload of friends who were following us home-- so you see it really was their fault for having let a police car come between us. We wobbled out of the car while muttering under our breaths--
"What, are you drunk?"
"Of course I'm drunk!"
"But I thought you were sober! That's why you're driving!"
"I am sober, but legally I'm not sober!"
"Oh dear. This is bad."
Clamber out, three very angry plainclothes policemen yelling in French.
me- "Messieurs, je suis desolée . . . je croyais que vous êtes mes amis . . . "
Eurgh. How do you apologize for something like this? In our stuttering (very stuttering) French, we affirmed that we were students, that we just came from the party at the Chateau, and that we were deeply, deeply sorry for flipping them off and giving them a view of my arse.
And then, just like that, after barking at us for the longest five minutes ever, they were gone. No breathalyzer, no ticket, just a warning. We thought an angel must be looking after us, but just so we didn't push our luck, we drove home the rest of the way at 50 kmh. Welcome back to INSEAD.
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
I still kept hearing jet noises flying around inside my ears, and my eyes, feeling red and wild, kept replaying that sad, tense walk down the security checkpoint aisle, looking back to say goodbye to my life in New York. After finally getting back to the Chateau and regaining possession of my dear, beat-up little Peugeot, I de-musted my rooms by throwing open the shutters and windows. The place looks like a bit of a disaster, it's true, with peeling paint and what-were-you-thinking puce(!) wallpaper and the most disgusting furniture, but it is more space than I have ever had to myself-- in fact, it is the first apartment I've ever had all to myself. Nothing a trip to IKEA can't fix. I spent all night in a storm of reorganization and cleanup, and am happy to report that while the place still looks like a disaster, the beginnings of an organizing principle for each room are visible to my eye. The worst of it, and what finally put me to a frustrated sleep in the end, was the futile search for my phone charger. It is nowhere to be found.
So what's a girl to do? She has to go into town, and purchase another. You'd think this was a easy task, taking no more than a few minutes to accomplish. Ah, but not so, because said charger is only available from the Orange Telecom office, whose line is a requisite 1-hour wait, for ANYTHING, even a pre-packaged charger. Yes folks, I got a traffic ticket while waiting for my turn at the cashier, as I discovered upon pulling out and turning on my windshield wipers (a light rain to greet me back in Fonty, how appropriate), when the ticket flew out to the wind and I had to stop the car to run out and retrieve it. Ugh. Even better? Now my phone's charged, but the service isn't working. Who knows, maybe France Telecom has some rule against having your phone turned off for two months.
So I am still a social pariah, with no way of making contact with my fellow INSEADers short of wandering around campus and peering hopefully into the cubicles. But I'm hopeful that things will look up soon. A dinner at my place tonight, though, to greet the new September inhabitants of the Chateau, followed by national dinners tomorrow. I think an Orangina will cheer me up-- who knows, maybe I'll run into someone at the bar?
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
She is not a very clever cat, but what she lacked in cunning she made up for with her glamorous good looks and an innocent if indiscriminately affectionate temperament. This morning I opened my eyes to a tangle of blue cotton sheets around my legs and an otherwise empty bed. Missing her familiar soft weight in the crook of my elbow, I called out "Lulu?" even as I remembered that she doesn't live here any more, and a wooly, sodden sadness settled on my chest.
Lulu came into my life like New York City-- all of a sudden, an unplanned but unexpectedly wonderful perk. She belonged to M., the lady who owned the little apartment in the Lower East Side where I subletted for my first two months before finding a place of my own. The lady was a little bit crazy, and my room was the size of a medium closet (I had to climb a ladder to get to the bed, which spanned the room, and underneath was a tiny desk), but as soon as I walked in, I met Lulu's lovely green eyes. She fell over on her side with an expectant look of "pet me, I'm beautiful," and even friendless as I was, I knew New York had been a good idea.
After moving into my new place, a fancy doorman highrise with shiny new appliances and sparkling city lights across my wall-to-wall windows, I filled my own space with a four poster bed, peach sheets and gauzy georgette bed curtains, but the warmest featherbeds won't purr or rub noses. Luckily M. had to go on a six-month vacation to Iran, and she let me take care of Lulu. So what if the boyfriend of the moment was allergic to cats? He was out the door, and Lulu was in. Six months turned into a year, into two, and no word from M. outside of a few fitful communications that seemed tentative and unwilling at both ends. She seemed unwilling because she was always traveling. I was unwilling because I couldn't bear to let Lulu go.
Coming home from work, feeling like a wrung out rag at 2, 3, or 4 am, all my friends would be asleep, but Lulu was always there at the door, ready with her little white paw and her little pink nose to hang out with me while I brushed my teeth and rambled about my day (to a cat, yes, I know, to a cat). Weekends were the best, because I could sleep all day, until the sun slanted in and made me fling off the sheets, and Lulu would open one sleepy eye as if to say, "stop flailing, girl, I'm still napping." She liked to burrow under my covers with her head. When I would finally get up (well past noon, sometimes as late as 4 or 5pm), we would both pad into the kitchen, looking for food, finding none, and eventually ordering sushi for two(Lulu was one spoiled cat).
She followed me from midtown highrise to Chelsea walk-up as I moved around NYC, but she couldn't follow me to France, because I was moving into a house with some allergic housemates. After some shuffling about, Lulu came to reside in Times Square with the Boyfriend, in his itty bitty apartment with its zebra-print carpet, guitars on the wall, and red couch. Is it in the nature of princesses to assume that their presence is always desired? Maybe somewhere deep down Lulu and I knew that he was doing us a favor by letting her stay, but the way she would loll on the couch and langorously knead her claws in his thighs, you'd have thought that he ought to be thanking her for the privilege of having her in his lap.
But that brings us to yesterday, and goodbye. After all, while you can wheedle a boyfriend into taking care of your cat while you are off doing your MBA in France, asking an ex-boyfriend to do so is stretching the limits, even for a princess like Lulu. The contingency plan until recently was to carry Lulu all the way to Fontainebleau, but to my dismay France changed its animal import laws just last month such that you have to wait at least three months between examination/vaccination and actual transport. Lulu deserves better than to be shunted off to friends who don't love her with all their heart, and I knew there weren't many alternatives. Breaking up is hard to do, as the song goes. Yesterday I looked up M. on Google, and found that she was back in New York. I called the number of the newsletter in Brooklyn that listed her as a part-time contributer, and lo and behold, there she was at my door an hour later, and Lulu was in her carrier, mewing her head off (she only mews when she's scared, which is usually when she has to travel). "Bye bye baby, don't be scared," I told her, "I'll come visit, I love you!" before the yellow cab roared off across town.
So that's it then, every last loose end has been tied up into my patchwork net, ready lift up, up and away from New York City, back to France and into the rest of my life. Lulu, you will always be the best cat in the world, and I will visit when I'm back in NYC. Is it sick to name your firstborn after a pet? Because if I ever have a girl, I might just name her Lulu. I'll never forget you. We've come full circle, baby-- you've gone to your new home, and I'm leaving to find mine. Bon voyage darling, je t'aime!
Sunday, August 08, 2004
My two best friends came to visit me in California, and after a few days of stuffing ourselves with my mother's food, we roadtripped up the Northwestern seaboard to visit a college friend in Seattle. Along the way, we stopped by for Henry VI at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and stocked up on supplies of CDs and reading material at Walmart. I bought Beatles, Beach Boys, and BonJovi. We also bought an *ahem* harlequin paperback entitled "Hot and Bothered" and took turns reading it out loud as we cruised the mountains of Oregon and Washington. While it was no Shakespeare, we didn't mind because we'd gotten all the culture-mongering out of our system back in Ashland. Amazing how a ridiculously cheesy sex scene can melt the miles away. I provided sound effects whenever the words "muttered, murmurred, sighed, moaned, or gasped" were mentioned (about twice a page, average).
Why can't life be one long road trip where you get to trap all the people you love in the car with you, and nobody's allowed to go home or back to work? But I suppose if we all traveled the same road, nobody would get to discover all those little side paths that you have to find alone. I seem always to be stuck missing the last thing I knew for sure.
Monday, August 02, 2004
Every time I come home I wonder why I ever left. In my own little twin bed I sink myself down beneath the layers of sheet, comforter and duvet until only my nose is sticking out, quivering with the cool fresh dewy smell of Palo Alto-- homegrown tomato vines outside my open windows, fragrant flowering trees in the neighbor's yard, light dust on the windowsill and the imprint of recent sunshine. I know my overstimulated, overtraveled and overworldly brain will rapidly feel smothered by the ease and simplicity of daily routine here, a pattern so enforced by habit that I can't see the road for the grooves any more. Every road-bend and stopsign, every gray squirrel clambering on our garden fence and every aisle at the public library where I spent my nerdy childhood is as strangely familiar as grade-school and grocery-shopping. There is never any humidity here, and the constant airy sunshine sparkles with pink and yellow hexagons, forcing my mental fingers to rub, startled, at the unearthed remains of my innocence and childish imagination. Remember, I ask myself, when your whole life was just a dream built of images from musty books, cheesy sitcoms and glossy brochures? There is something very peaceful and safe about lying here with my feet hanging off the edges if I do not pull myslf up against the headboard, exactly two minutes before I am lulled asleep to a hint of crickets behind the noiseless hum of sleeping suburbia.
Friday, July 30, 2004
There's nothing quite like a good old country song to wreak havoc on your heartstrings. And while it may seem slightly ridiculous to imagine a city girl shedding sentimental tears over lyrics about cornfields and open country when her only experience with cornfields has been watching them pass outside her window on roadtrips, I can't help it. I'm a sucker through and through. The dusty image of salvation as a shotgun wedding in a pickup truck sung with a nasal twang and a fatalistic devil-may-care grin makes my heart beat faster and my eyes close, prickling with the plaintive crying of the guitar and some ancient undeniable Jungian Sehnen . . . perhaps I'm cheesy and outdated and pretty uncool, yes, but at least I take comfort in being passionately so. My current semi-country mix, which is so saccharine it stands in as a punishment, but I don't apologize:
It matters to me -Faith Hill
This is the night -Clay Aiken
Let's go to Vegas -Faith Hill
Carrying your love with me -George Strait
You had me from hello -Kenny Chesney
Everywhere -Tim McGraw
Come crying to me -Lonestar
Forever and ever, Amen -Randy Travis
She don't know she's beautiful -Sammy Kershaw
Where the green grass grows -Tim McGraw
And now you know more about me than you'd think.
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
I still wonder at my own capacity to settle down into the comfort of a schedule. Ah, what a seductive mistress is Habit, eh? Not the most beautiful companion, she nonetheless has small white hands and an easy way of putting food in front of your face that makes her indispensable to the lazy, such that you don't even realize until it's too late that Passion and Inspiration have rolled their eyes and left your side, tired of your capricious wants and indecisive ways.
I am back in NYC, and loving the whole English-speaking country deal. Ah, the obnoxious accents that only here do not seem out of place! Not being gainfully employed for the summer, I am whiling away my hours by laying on my back on the zebra-print carpet with warm cat on my stomach, talking to Lulu (the cat) about existentialism, my future, and what to eat for dinner (which if you think about it, are different versions of the same thing). My exotic travels to Barcelona, Cote d'Azur, Florence, Rome, Bombay and Delhi seem like some crazy technicolor slideshow that I sat through in a dark theater while drunk on absinthe as I lie here in this tiny living room flipping through bad daytime TV stations (oh, whether 'tis better to watch E! True Hollywood entertainment stories of Arnold Schwartzenegger and Maria Shriver or yet another episode of Law&Order? The indecision! The agony!), and searching the internet for signs and symptoms of Malaria to feed my hypochondria (I took tablets, but like a bad girl I stopped as soon as I got back).
Have been lunching with friends (this is what they'd call "networking" in b-school except that I have the unfortunate habit of only liking non-schmoozy types) and lazily picking up a few books, but my resolution to study some French has long gone out la fenêtre. Recently hopped up to Boston for a quick weekend reunion with college roomies, which has reinforced my impression that all memories and activities seem to revolve around food. We ate at our favorite haunts . . . and that was about it. This weekend I go home to California, and am looking forward to food, once again.
Okay, all this food is making me hungry, and I think the sweet potatoes in the oven are ready now.
Friday, July 23, 2004
Monday, July 12, 2004
The last few weeks since school ended have been . . . well, there's no one word that I know which will capture it. There has been too much since then to write, and neither you nor I have the patience to read, so I'll keep it at snippets, in haphazardly chronological order.
. . . lying on my back and staring at the stars before the sun comes up as I realize that P3 is over, that the next day we are all leaving on our summer break, that INSEAD is more than half done, and that I am exhausted in every, every, every sense of the word . . .
. . . munching on a picnic of bread and cheese from the supermarket at a rest stop bench on the way between Fontainebleau and Barcelona with two buddies, smelling the summer heat and remembering car trips when I was a kid . . .
. . . screaming at the top of my lungs as a HUGE cockroach scrambled up the bathroom wall an inch from my face in our youth hostel in Barcelona . . .
. . . the sangria and tapas, fried cheese and bacon-wrapped dates at Ciudad Condal on Ramblas . . .
. . . sleeping, sticky from the car ride, with my feet sticking out of the car and watching the leaves and sunlight flash by my toes . . .
. . . staring out over the Cote d'Azur and feeling as if there ought to be a soundtrack for the view, with its red rooftops and white walls, its perfect Mediterranean and its heartbreaking hills . . .
. . . sipping Malibu and watching the slick dark waves in Juan les Pins and talking about God and growing up . . .
. . . sunbathing in Monaco on a rock, pretending that I don't care about the intense class distinctions I feel in this place. As I stare at the contrast between sandal and shorts-clad tourists and the designer-clad slickers coming out of the unspeakably expensive cars in front of the Monaco Casino, I feel that my world is very, very far away. . .
. . . A house painted all burgundy red with bright yellow trim in the setting sun on the road by the beach from Florence to Rome . . .
. . . the most beautiful coat in one of the Italian storefronts, a camel-colored thing with mandarin collars and multicolored buttons and sequins dancing across its hem . . .
. . . the houses on the bridge in Florence. What a lovely idea, to live suspended above flowing water, as if you are constantly on a journey . . .
. . . the obscene devotion and wealth and care and detail that is the Vatican, the lives that have grown, flamed, and faded with the centuries, now only grand empty ruins baking under the sun . . .
. . . taking shot after shot after shot (after awhile, we could only identify the color, not the liquor) and dancing deliriously, crazy on the tonic of seeing people I realized I truly counted as my friends . . .
. . . the dogs on the streets in Mumbai, sleeping or lounging or walking about, the beggars and the trash and the wear of the buildings, the cars and trains passing with listless but hungry eyes staring out . . .
. . . the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life, in the most beautiful dresses I have ever seen in my life, at the poshest wedding I have ever been to in my life . . .
. . . dancing like a rock star in the VIP section of a club and being told I was lucky I had fallen sick the first day in India and could not smell anything anymore, because the place was rank the the odor of crowd and humidity . . .
. . . realizing that Bollywood is a a reflection of life here, and not the other way around . . .
. . . staring at my toes in the swimming pool at our hotel as the monsoon rains come sweeping down, crashing toward me in endless, inevitable waves, closing my eyes and still seeing the steamy morning light . . .
. . . feeling an intense hole in the pit of my stomach, because I don't think my life is the same anymore . . .
. . . swishing about in my gold bangles, with mendhi snaking over my palms and fingers and a rich red sari licking its way across my body, I don't think a dress has ever made me feel so lovely . . .
. . . missing the good old US of A, and not being able to wait to get home. The problem is just that after having been to so many places and lived for so long away, I don't know what home is anymore. Is it New York? California? Insead? My heart is in all three, and we'll see how it all shakes out.