Monday, May 24, 2004

Sweet smell of formals

Am supposed to be writing one of the two reports I have due tomorrow, but am in no mood to do work. For one thing, my toes are cold—the sun’s still out, but the temperature has dipped mysteriously, starting yesterday.

Last Friday was Cabaret, our little INSEAD song and dance and skit extravaganza—shockingly enough, it went off beautifully, in spite of most acts not having ever had a complete run through until right before the show (in the case of our act, not until we were actually on stage). Nonetheless, a terrific time was had by all, and many acts were brilliant. The ones that weren’t so brilliant . . . well, we easily condone bad acting when it’s all in the family. I was in charge of intermission and distributing pizzas to 400 hungry MBAs in 15 minutes. Used the concepts I learned in POM (Process and Operations Management) to increase throughput, combined with plenty of old fashioned yelling and scolding. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I’ve gotten here, it is that MBAs are a deeply selfish bunch. These are confident individuals who are well-convinced of their own value, who do not appreciate being reminded that there are hungry people behind them and could they please take just one piece and make their friends get in line themselves? MBA nature used to distress me, but I’ve realized that it’s not so bad once you’ve incorporated this assumption into your operating plan.

After Cabaret we all headed off to Chateau Bellefontaine for the Latin American week party—so much fun! After my mishap of last week, it was a welcome relief to finally step into the fog-hazy crowd and order my vodka tonic, feeling the bass beat thrum through my fingertips. Oh, did we dance! Until about 5:40am, when they turned on the lights and kicked us out. Heard there was an afterparty at someone’s house, but call me a party pooper, I thought it was high time for bed.

Next afternoon, woke up at a friend’s house, and we three girls all spontaneously developed an intense craving for (what else?) oysters! A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do—we booked it to Paris to Le Bar à Huitres, and shared a planche of 36 jewels of the sea . . . that first sweetly briny slurp? Pure pure heaven. Like I said, I could eat oysters for every meal for the rest of my life. What food what you choose?

Afterwards we watched Troy (or Troie, as they call it here)—not the best movie, but considering my longtime love affair with the Homeric stories, I was actually not offended by the liberties they took with the plot. I feel like the director did his best to maintain the heroic and deeply tragic themes. Too bad you can’t fit seventeen years of adventure into three hours without making the whole thing unbelievable and choppy.

Ech, but that brings me back to today. ‘Tis a party week, and the boyfriend arrives on Friday for the summer ball this weekend! You can see how this kills all motivation to do work. All I can do is obsess about my outfit (ah, in typical girly fashion). What does one wear to a playboy party besides the ears? And a temptation island party? And then most of all, to the summer ball? Sweet agony, the flutter of chiffon and the glitter of beading strewn all over my bed, hostages of my indecision!

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Bad Luck Biddies

Over drinks in town tonight I found out the definition of a dirty sanchez. Plus a bean flicker. Plus teabagging. Ah the lovely sharing of international knowledge that goes on in this institution of higher learning(although I admit, I already knew about teabagging was, I suppose my friends have always been dirty). A leaves tomorrow, hopefully on time for her flight (I admit, I do not have the best track record of getting friends to the airport on time. I’m 2 for 2 in terms of making my guests miss their flights).

However, perhaps it is high time that she left, because since she's arrived we've had misfortune after misfortune. We started off with that silly car accident on Thursday. Then, on Saturday (incidentally, my twenty-fifth birthday), we walked around Paris looking for something to wear to the big Montmelian Las Vegas-themed party that night. Our feet hurt from our heels (which we’d worn out the previous evening), and it got so bad that eventually, we were forced to buy replacements. I bought a pair of clear plastic sandals with pink sequins on the thong part, and A bought a pair of lavender and purple puma flipflops with soft fabric straps. Our footaches thus assuaged, we continued our trek around Paris to the Pompidou, where we checked out the Joan Miró exhibit. I’m probably just not cultured enough to appreciate modern art, but it started to bore me stiff half way through, and I thought that most of his scribblings were silly. A, being the liberal artsy graphic design student that she is, pointed out that his backgrounds were shaded beautifully, all hazy and soft—I agree, but that’s still not a reason to put stick figures on display. We entertained ourselves by having 1-minute races around the rooms to compare favorites. After this, footsore and tired and sticky, we rushed to Gare de Lyon, only to miss the train home by one minute. We then could not figure out the ticket machines (we were at the wrong billeteries- remember that the local ones are blue, the others are yellow), and so missed the train again fifteen minutes later. Then, finally, half an hour after that, we gratefully rushed onto the 18:56 train. Hm, I thought, this train is so much nicer than the usual local rail! We settled in, and happily called my friends to let them know I’d be back in town in time for my birthday dinner, could they please pick me up. The train edged gently out of the the station, and we had just started to make ourselves comfortable when I caught something funny over the intercom, something about “Lyon . . .”

Yes, yes, you are not hearing it wrong, and neither was I. I was on the TGV (Train de Grande Vitesse) for Lyon, about 600 kilometers south of my intended destination. Imagine the dismay of all involved (me, A., my friends who were coming to dinner for my birthday, the conductor who had to deal with these two distraught, incomprehensible babbling girls) when we learned that yes, I was headed on the high speed train to Lyon; no, there were no more trains back that night; no, there was no feasible train to get me back in the vicinity before the next morning. We rapidly cycled through the various stages of grief—denial, dismay, bargaining, anger, and finally acceptance. None of this was easy as we found ourselves trudging from the gare at Lyon-Perrache to the Grand Victoria Hotel—I’ll attach a photo when I figure out how. It was priceless—the seediest thing you can imagine, but it was right by the train station, and by God we weren’t going to miss another train the next morning! With the European version of American Idol coming from the little TV in the corner, and A and me lounging about on the somewhat suspicious sheets— cracking pistachio nuts and chewing through dried dates from the convenience store—I bemoaned my fate on the precious bit of phone battery we had left, and declared this the WORST BIRTHDAY EVER.

I'm still getting over it, although everyone I tell thinks that this was hilarious.

Oh right. There was the tres successful Monday night dinner which took A and me the entire day to prepare—accomplished only by forgoing two classes (moi) and seeing the Louvre (elle). The menu: asparagus, roasted red pepper, and goat cheese salad; grilled duck brochettes in orange glaze; and rum-soaked prune flan. The flavors were all agreed together fantastically, and the portions, French. A miscalculation of the belly capacity of strapping young men-- one of the first times there really was an undersupply of food. Ehhhh, when in France…

And there’s so much left to do! A Barbeque tomorrow, Salsa-Merengue contest this Thursday, Cabaret and the Latin-American party this Friday . . . and three or four assignments, too! Oy vey oy vey oy vey. Time to go to sleep so I can start my denial phase of this week’s work. Buona notte!

Friday, May 14, 2004


P3 is madness. I’ve been taken from my one group of 6 for five classes to juggling four groups of 6 to 8 for six classes. There is no time to do anything except meet, plan to meet, and plan to plan to meet, since there are multiple projects, all group based, for each class rushing at us at 100mph. On top of this, place the parties, dinners, and general “we deserve to chill out” mood of beginning of term, and you have me disastrously behind, worried about I don’t know what, because I know I’m missing something, but I can’t be bothered to decipher my mess of a schedule.

Next week is Cabaret, a big student-run variety show, which I’m helping to organize. Rehearsals have got me going nuts, plus one of my best friends is in town from NY, plus there are huge parties this Friday and Saturday . . . plus the sun has finally peeked out today after a week of depressing rain—how’s a girl supposed to get anything done around here?

Proof of the fact that I’m distracted? Witness my poor little Peugeot 206, which has a brand new dent in its (now not so) shiny hood. It was my fault, really, I admit it. I was tailgating a station wagon along a windy road by the Seine, rushing to my Negotiation class (taught by this amazing guy who won’t let you in if you’re two minutes late). There are these areas where the road narrows to one lane, even though there is two-way traffic (I think it’s the French way of saying, “drive slower,” but this, like all other French road laws, makes no rational sense to anyone who is not French). On one of these areas where we had right of way, I didn’t expect the station wagon to come to a screeching halt all of a sudden (didn’t see the car that was illegally zooming toward it, since the station wagon was so large). What happens? These two cars stop, narrowly avoiding a head-on collision, but I crash ignominiously into the back of said station wagon. EURGH. Fortunately for all involved, nothing was even scratched except my poor little car hood (properly crunched). As I have complete, no-questions-asked coverage, I tried to explain in very poor French to Peneloppe, the lady who caused the accident, that it was okay, I didn’t want to report, could I please just go because I was very late to class?

And the kicker—I was 15 minutes late, burst into the classroom, to his disapproving glower I spurted, “I’m sorry, but I had a car accident!” The response? “That is neither a birth certificate, death certificate, or marriage certificate.” Ah, cantankerous professors, you’ve gotta love them. So I left with my face burning. Fortunately, I was able to make it to the next class by skipping another elective.

And that’s the report from Fontainebleau, folks. Will I ever achieve responsible maturity? Don’t think I can muster it by tomorrow, which is my 25th birthday. Imagine that! A quarter century!

Thursday, May 13, 2004

ugh, just lost extremely long rant due to some mysterious computer error. Now you'll never know. Am going home

Monday, May 03, 2004


Guess who’s sitting nekked at her kitchen table with the sun dappling in across the yellow tablecloth? I’m happy as a clam, surrounded by the gurgling washing machine and the rumbling dryer on one side while the hot water heater chortles and a pot of rice porridge bubbles on the other. Today is an unexpected holiday (serves me right for not checking before I planned my vacation—no school today, apparently!) I suppose I ought to be kicking myself, because I could have spent a whole extra day in London, but seeing as how the boyfriend probably couldn’t have gotten an extra day off of his silly Wall Street job anyway, combined with the fact that I’m stocked up on a few good books, plus the unspeakably gorgeous weather here . . . I can’t complain ;). London was as everyone told me it would be—quirky, expensive, rainy and cold. I liked walking around Notting Hill—reminded me a bit of San Francisco. The number of cool shoe shops was unbelievable, and even riding the bus was a nifty touristy experience. We were both thrown off by napping the first day, though (him because of the time difference, me because of not having gotten any sleep), and never could adjust our internal clocks properly. We slept clear though dinner on Saturday and didn’t wake up until 2:00am! Thank goodness for mini-bars and room service.

And tomorrow, the start of a new period, with new elective classes, with scattered sections, without about 30 classmates who will be in Singapore. Coming back on the Eurostar I felt nothing so much as a petulant nostalgia. INSEAD is going by so quickly, with each two-month period just long enough to get a couple mouthfuls of partying and playing and possibilities before we suddenly realize that it’s time to cram for finals again. As much fun as I know I will have, it makes me tired to think of the rinse repeat for the third time. Thank goodness for this day of rest, huh? Mmm . . . am done with my 2:00pm breakfast now, and have in my mouth a “honey flavour pine ‘Berlingots’”candy drop from Fauchon. It goes well with Tetley’s Earl Grey Tea. Today is just clear too beautiful to be true. All the trees in the yard are a riot of pink apple blossoms, and the ducks and geese and chickens are cackling quacking cockadoodling away like there’s no tomorrow. Little cream colored butterflies flit across the fields outside my window, and my hammock calls . . . Who knows if I’ll make to the river today? Perhaps I’ll just sit here and sketch the chickens. The books I have to choose from: Life of Pi, Sophie’s World, Foucault’s Pendulum. Plus have to do about three more loads of laundry (have already done two). If I were really gung-ho, I’d go to school and pick up my P3 coursepack and do the readings, but that would require me to remember that I’m doing an MBA. Maybe tomorrow, today’s for living like I own a beautiful house in the French countryside. Goodbye, and I wish you weather as nice as mine!

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Out of sight, out of . . .

No more papers, no more books . . . am in London! Forgot to pack socks, smushing around in my sneakers right now. Will maybe run to Gap and pick up a pair. Ah, but it feels good to be on vacation, no matter how short. Last weekend was absolutely gorgeous, but it seems like ages ago now. The sun over the French countryside just sang down from perfect blue skies, and even if six final exams were hanging over my head, I couldn't help but run out for picnic lunches :). Since all my housemates are Septembers, my house was completely empty the whole week (their break starts earlier than ours), so I packed my bags and slept over at one of the Chateaux where a bunch of friends live. Not bad, having Versailles-like grounds at your door.

Finals were all right. Once again, I'm pretty sure accounting will be my worst grade, and it was a fairly awful way to enter exams. The strategy final was about some ice cream manufacturer in Moscow, and my suggestions of making the manufacturing plant into a tourist attraction and sponsoring winter ice-cream eating contests were, to say the least, not echoed by my classmates when we compared notes after the exam. Ah, well, I'm cursed with the inability to think inside the box (trust me, this is not the boon it immediately sounds). POM exam was straightforward, if long, and I'm afraid the curve will be fairly rough on all of us. Finance was rather rough- there were a few moments when I had no idea how to even start, but then I hunkered down, and at least wrote something for each problem. The marketing exam was relaxed for everyone, since it was on the last day and the worst of the quantitative tests were over. The OB exam went much better than expected, considering the volatile dynamics of my group, and our strategy of having just two writers with two diagram helpers each made for a much more coherent paper than last term's melange of a disaster.

Ah, but now it's hard to even remember what finals were like . . . London is true to form, with dreary drippy weather, cheerful cozy service at our boutique hotel in Little Venice, and funny accents galore. Watching people in the tube, I think the English make for much better people-watching than do New Yorkers. In New York, everyone, believing he/she is constantly observed, is busy pretending that nobody else exists. Here, most people seem to have no awareness that they might be watched. The number of funny grimaces, ticks, and odd gaping looks is amazing. Everyone is a Mr.Bean.

I have to tell you all about staying up all night on Thursday after the last final, and getting soaked in Paris and dirty dancing at Doobie's and having my top fall apart and saying a very, very sad farewell to those going to Singapore for P3, and taking the Eurostar and the lovely heated towel rack at my hotel . . . but who knows when credit on this machine runs out, so for now, I'm off . . . cheerio!