It’s official, I am a shmuck. I’m a unilingual moron.
But more on that later...
I’ve been getting up at 7:30 to account for the lateness we’ve been having, but also to ensure I’ve got enough rest to not tire during the day. Almost immediately, I flipped on BBC World News (one of only two English channels on the TV, in addition to CNN International). I honestly forget how much I love the BBC until I don’t watch it for a while, then see it again. I fell in love with it last year when I did that little sojourn ’round the planet, and watch it whenever I can. Despite being British, the BBC covers world news, touching only periodically on events "back home".
Lately, the big news has been Israel’s attack-cum-invasion of Lebanon. In typical BBC form, they cover the situation without fanfare and without a great deal of bias. Whereas CNN seems to place Israel as more of the hero, the BBC largely vilifies the asault as unwarranted in terms of the civilian casualties. They place Israel as the aggressor, and the US is supporting Israel to the detriment of others. This is most notable in the US’ blocking of UN Security Council actions against Israel.
The BBC also shed some light on something I’ve never truly understood — why the US is always the first country to stand up for Israel. According to the news report (so take that for what it’s worth), it’s a religious reason. People are interpreting parts of the Bible (which parts of which version, I’m not entirely sure — I forgot the quoted scripture chapters) that say a good Christian should be giving their worldly wealth to Zion to prepare for the second coming of Christ. And everyone wonders why there is so much strife in the world...
The client team flew in from Geneva, so we didn’t start training until 10:30. Overall today went quite well, covering the major introductory topics before Jaime, Didier, and the client lead went off for a meeting in the afternoon. I hope that by the end of tomorrow, we can all walk away with a solid understanding of how this will all work. (Well, I have a solid idea, but I’ve already been through a week and a half of training.)
Lunch was off-site, at a restaurant called "Au Chien qui Fumer" — the Smoking Dog. I don’t know what it is, but Paris seems to have a mild obsession with smoking. In fact, beyond Jaime, Adam, Loic, and myself, I think everyone smokes. It’s more than just a little uncomfortable at times. But these are the sacrifices that I have to make, I guess. Lunch was quite long, featuring a wonderful chicken fricassee and a tasty, albeit odd creme brulee (unlike the ones I’m familiar with, a small dish, this was wide but shallow).
I was dying in the heat, my undershirt soaking up the litres of sweat I seemed to be pouring out. I’m Canadian, and built for winters. I never liked summers. They were always too hot when I was growing up. Paris is warmer (right now, anyway) than it had been back in Oakville all those years. And I can’t wear shorts — I need to be adequately dressed, and even though I left my jacket back at Eurosites I was still boiling in my own clothes. The goal was to try not complain about it (which I know I’m prone to) and put on the best face I could. I hope it came across that way.
But I think the heat got to me anyway — I nearly passed out in the afternoon session. At first I thought it was just lunch’s carbohydrates taking their toll on me, but when a wave of near-nausea wafted through my head, I knew there was something else up. I had to excuse myself twice — the second time for a while to sit in the lounge, drinking a Coke to try and stimulate whatever it was to get out of my noggin. It seemed to help, anyway.
With the Calgary day starting by 16:00 Paris time, the Critical Mass folks had to get down to the business of ... business. No rest for the wicked, as it were. Jaime called up to my room around 19:15 so we could have a discussion over the meeting she’d had with the client for most of the afternoon. We went over the fundamentals of schedule, technical implementation, and adaptions on delivery. Every day I amaze myself more and more that I can actually speak to these sorts of things, and apparently speak to them well. A part of me always wonders if I really have the slightest idea what I’m actually doing. I’m sure I do, but self-doubt always keeps me guessing. I consider that a good thing, though — I’d rather always second guess than blindly go forward without a clue.
The other major point was that dinner plans had changed. Originally, we were to go to Georges, a restaurant on the top of the Centre Pompiadieu not far from the hotel. Weather being what it is, Didier opted a move to one of his favourite restaurants, 6 New York, one of the more chic Parisian restaurants.
Adam, Joanne, and I crammed into a cab and flew across the north side of the Seine in mere minutes. A subway ride could have taken four times as long, and we didn’t have long until we were to meet. There were 14 of us crammed around the table, most of us attempted to space around so it was a mix of Critical Mass, Datasia, and client. Clumping, however, was inevitable.
Now we get back to me being a shmuck. Except for Adam (and possibly Joanne, but admittedly I don’t know for sure), everyone else at the table could speak French, even if serviceably. I can understand a lot of French (and certain so far this week, I’ve had my high school French class memories flooding back relentlessly) and I can read French. But I cannot speak it. I can’t think fast enough on conjugations, correct nouns and verbs, and I never really did get the whole past/future tense thing figured out. Never mind the colloquialisms or slang. I had to continually revert to English, joking only that my favourite French words were "appellation contrôlée".
Didier knows the chef. It’s within clear view of the Eiffel Tower. It has French-Asian fusion cuisine. It’s ... unlike anything I’d ever had before. The opener was something I can’t even describe, other than exceptionally tasty. The appetizer of spring rolls were totally new to me. The main course was a selection of beef unequalled by any steak house in Calgary. And the dessert ... it’s risqué, but I’ll just say that the chef somehow figured out how to distill sex. As I exclaimed in my horror, realizing that the dinner was almost over, food is going to taste like sawdust in comparison when I get home!
Following our near-religious experience at dinner, Elena, Loic, and Stan headed home. Adam went back to the hotel to get some work done. The rest of us piled into cabs (Mark and I in Didier’s car) and headed to a club a block away from Avenue du Champs Elysee. It was the quietest club I’d ever been in — I could actually hear myself think! I didn’t stay long though, as I also had some work to do. Unable to catch a cab, I walked the 45 minutes back to the hotel.
Tomorrow is the last day of training. It’s almost 3:30 in the morning. I hope I get enough sleep so I don’t fall asleep tomorrow...