Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Rules For Survival

Courtesy of my Canadian friend Lisa, here are some rules to survive as a
French student:

1. Ensure you are not late for class, as this is an invitation for
beration from the professor in front of the entire classes
2. Assignments which are said to be mandatory are really flexible.
3. All deadlines are flexible.
4. Ensure you sit next to a friend so you can conduct full volume
conversations throughout class
5. Turn up the volume on your cell phone so it disrupts the entire
6. Ignore the sign on the wall that says "defense de fumer"
7. Be prepared to go to 2-3 classes before knowing the full grading
8. In order to signal the professor that it is time for a break, simply
increase the volume of conversations.
9. Be able to completely ignore the frequent shushing of the professor
with a clear conscience.
10. While fellow students are presenting to the class, continue all
private conversations.
11. Do not ask questions of fellow students following presentations, to
ensure that they are not embarassed when they don't know the answer -
as that is more important than actually learning.
12. Keep many photos on your computer, so that you can have a large
group of students gather around you to chat during a presentation
13. Even if the professor is sitting beside you or behind you - keep
your MSN conversations active (you wouldn't want to be rude)
14. When you actually stop talking, begin chewing gum loudly with your
mouth open so your neighbors can hear you clearly.
15. When your cell phone rings (it will), look around, smile and pretend
it isn't your phone. Turn the ringer off. When the person calls again
(they will), answer and hold a full conversation, without leaving
16. If you are too lazy to do the readings for class, it is acceptable
to blame your lack of of preparation on technical problems.
17. Ensure your cell phone rings loudly at least once per class, or
people may begin to think you're not popular.
18. If you are too far from a smoking area, simply open a window and
smoke at will.
19. Cough loudly and sneeze often without regard to those around you
(the double-kisses must be causing continual colds)

Crazy French

Here's a funny story i read in a local paper. I'll paraphrase and
Apparently, after nearly eradicating the wolf population in the 1960's
in the southern Alps, the wolves have made a comeback. There were over
500 reports of wolves attacking sheep on the pastoral farms of south
eastern france. After the ranchers union lobbied hard for some
government resolution, the interior minister responded. He has
authorized the reduction of the known wolf population by 10%. The
number of wolves? Four. Four wolves. (sanjiv's note: Only the french
would debate for over a year over the killing of four wolves). And, of
the four they're supposed to kill, how many have they caught in the two
months? None. (sn: only the french would be unable to catch a wolf).
This is the type of ridiculous stuff i've come to expect.

Also in the same paper - A former french president, commenting on the
possible inclusion of Turkey in the EU: "It would be the end of
Europe." ridiculous.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Left or Right Hand?

So we've been having a conversation in our apartment over the last
couple of weeks over the use of hands in going number 2. A lot of this
stems from our WC being down the hall from our bathroom, so we often
are walking down the hall to use the sink (as a side note, the bidet is
also across the hall - any thoughts on how this is feasible would be
appreciated). Anyway, kristine was revolted when Nick began brushing
his teeth before compeltely washing his hands. Nick's response was "the
right had does the work, the left hand holds the shirt" - which was an
acceptable answer for me. Is this common? Do most people favor the
right hand? And if you don't use your left hand is it still "dirty?"
Kristine thinks that there's fecal matter floating around the toilet,
so it automatically becomes dirty. But i'm not so sure.

le Foyer

So last night we went to the bar on campus at Euromed, Le Foyer. it was
a weird scene. Mostly because it's a bunch of studnets drinking beer
and then to go to the bathroom, you walk by a couple classroooms - so
it's a strange shift in reality. But, on the plus side, the beer is
cheap (1 euro) and they have pretty decent pizza (5 euro). The student
organization that runsevents on campus is pretty much only concerned
with boozing. Apparently they ahve a 40000 euro budget just for
alcohol. Sounds disastrous to me. Who knows.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

The Calanques

Sunday, 12:15 AM
Today, I visited one of the most beautiful places i have ever been. The
Calanques, or the fjords of southern France, are amazing. As you'll see
in the new photo album - the place is breathtaking. it's so isolated, so
untouched by nature, and the water is so pure. I'm almost positive that
there's nothing like it in America. It was about an hour hike to get
there, through some rocky terrain, but the end was amazing. About the
only downer was that the water was SO COLD, that even though i
desperately wanted to jump in and swim, the fear of instant cardiac
arrest was too great. But the weather itself was beautiful, unlike
yesterday, when the Mistral was blowing so hard, that there were times
i felt as if i was in danger of being knocked over, or knocked out by
some airborne projectile.
Later in the evening, Eric and Chaps joined Nick, Danielle, and I for
dinner. We made a multi-ethnic feast featuring Chinese Shrimp, Thai
Noodles, a Indian curry, and french bread, wine and pastry. It was
quite delightful. Chaps read my palm, and noted that I will have a
simple life full of pleasure. If that doesn't define me now, nothing
does. Nick is going to get married twice, and his first wife will take
all of his money.

Last Night, and Other Random Musings

Friday, 12:30pm
Last night, INTERACT, the student association for International Students
at Euromed, organized a party at a bar in the Vieux Port. It was quite a
strange scene. We were at Shamrock's, one of the many irish pubs in
Marseille (Why is it that every city in the world has tons of Irish
pubs. As far as i can tell, Irish people don't care where they get
drunk, and to be honest, what is so freaking special about signs
indicating distance to dublin, and wood benches?). There were all of
these students from all of these different cultures, and somewhat to my
relief, i found that so many of them are having the same frustrating
experiences with French bureaucracy. I think that Chirac and his
cronies would be well advised to listen to some of the complaints.
Anyway, all of a sudden, this french cover band comes on, and they start
playing the weirdest set. Beach Boys, Richie Valens, Rolling Stones, U2,
some random french band, etc. And all of the people in the bar - french,
american, swedish, indian, mexican, italian - start singing along. And i
wondered, how many people actually understood teh words they were
singing?I would wager less than 10%. Especially after Jean-Marc, one of
the French students i've befriended, told me i was the first person to
explain the lyrics to La Bamba to him. I then commented that a song
tangentially about a sailor was perfect for a port town like Marseille.
It then occurred to me later that night, as we all congregated at our
apartment to drink wine and engage in other activity that is not
appropriate for some of the readers of this journal, that all of Europe
must be terrified that they will have no impact on the next century.
Everywhere i look around me, i see new culture and new innovation
coming from places outside Europe. Their contributions, while mighty,
have all been in the past. When i look at the three or four centuries,
western Europe's influence is clear. But as I look ahead, i see Asia,
Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa all directing the terms of the
future. Where is the cultural significance for France, England, Italy,
etc? Will they respond? Based on the comments of my professors thus
far, i tend to think not. But I hope so.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

First Week of Classes are Over!

Yesterday ended my first week of class. While some of the classes were
itneresting and have potential to be informative and interesting, some
are quite strange - specifically my Human Resources class, where the
professor compared the organization to the mind body and soul, and
asked that we listen to music to see how it made us feel. This would
have been strange enough, but then she lit candles and incense, and
danced around the room. I was confused. Apparently, she's the Program
Director's wife, so apparently nepotism is quite strong in france. So
i'm going to look for another class - even though this one is high on
the Unintentional Comedy Index.
This mornign, i got to sleep in - but i was rudely awakened by a man
blaring on his horn. Apparently, a tow truck was trying to two a car,
and this guy was stuck in our street. But, he could ahve turned around
in the roundabout - which he refused to do. I should have taken a
picture. Bizarro Frenchies.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Random Musings

So i've been here for two weeks - and while i'm certain i haven't seen
al that france has to offer, i'm getting a better sense of it, every
day. The key for the french - is being loved by others. As i read
articles and other news sources, i'm struck by how the French media
seems to exclusively cover people and topics that have expressed a love
for "La France." Every article about a non french personality or topic
speaks of its love for the french and their reverence for france. I may
be biased, but i'm fairly certain the us press at the very least reports
on, and covers people that have negative views of the US. The narcissism
here is quite strong.

From a business perspective, i find that there is very little consumer
choice - there are only one or two companies that provide every service
- and there is little or no differentiation between the product
offerings. A perfect example is in cell plans. There are 3 companies -
SFR, Orange, and Bouygues Telecom. All of them have four plans -
prepaid, capped accounts, individual subscriptions, and business plans
- but there is no difference in cost, features, or there
is no initiative to pick one or the other. I find most people choose
SFR - simply because it's run by France Telecom - and people have no
incentive to change. Part of what that entails is if people don't have
a true choice, there's no incentive for companies to offer true
customer service.

And as a result, the marketing concept is diminished - because there's
no need to tailor your business or service to what makes the customer
satisfied - since they're screwed anyway. For example, all banks close
at 12:15, and reopen at 1 pm - for lunch. So during lunch, you have no
choice but to have lunch - as everything is closed and nobody works.
People here seem so endeared to the "laissez faire" attitude, that it
inhibits and prevents the ability of things to get done - instead of
finishing work and then enjoying free time - the business sense seems
to be more "we'll get to it when we get to it - why don't you drink
coffee or wine until it's ready." Which from an American point of view,
seems silly, especially when the delay in receiving a service can
prevent that enjoyment from happening.

For the three of us, this change in orientation has lead to some
frustrating times, as things haven't worked effectively or efficiently,
and nobody seems interested in helping us resolve our situations. So
each day begins with hope for change, and ends with the frustration of
stasis. the belief for me is that once these little things are
completed (hopefully in the next week or two), we can begin to truly
enjoy our time here.

While things for me are new and exciting, i am sure getting tired of
trying to create a new life here again. I guess when people say they
want to settle down - it means more about not having to start from
scratch every time - which after this experience, will sound pretty
good to me. Or maybe it's that the language and teh cultural barriers
are so great, even in the western world, that as creatures of habit,
we're only able to evolve within what seem wide, but in reality are
pretty narrow constraints. I dunno.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Return from nice

As i'm on the train leaving nice - i have mixed feelings. Because it is
early in my time abroad, i feel as though i'm still on vacation. So
nice was a vacation, from my vacation. But it was great to see the
city. It's quite beautiful, but certainly more touristy than Marseille.
Restaurants had english-speaking staff, menus were "anglicized," and the
whole city lacked a real feel that i crave. It felt like the caribbean,
not a place to live. I think we met more tourists than French. Not like
marseille - where people are proud to be "les Marseillais"!
Tangentially, we learned that during the reign of Louis XIV, the king
had to build forts and turn cannons onto the city of Marseille - they
have historically been violently opposed to any form of rule from an
outside power. It's gone on for thousands of years!
The train ride "home" ( i use quotes because it's not quite home yet) is
tiring, but exciting - since classes start tomorrow - at 8:15 am - which
is going to be tough. But, it will be an opportunity to get into real
life again...

First Day of Class

So we've had two classes thus far - Branding, and Multicultural
Marketing. If there's one thing i've noticed, is the tendency of french
students to carry on conversations - loudly - while the professor is
speaking. Very strange. And, everyone shows up 10-15 minutes late for
class, and nobody drinks water or eats anything in class. I guess
that's why they're late.
I'm pretty tired though, so i'm looking forward to taking a nap - since
i haven't woken up before 7 am since last year.

La Neeza

After a three hour train ride on saturday morning, (which only cost 10
euros, round trip), I found myself in Nice. Which was great. The Cote
d'Azur, as they call it, is wonderful. While the beaches are not sandy,
but rather, rocky - it's still wonderful to get into the ocean, float in
the salty mediterranean, and mess around, without the worry of
administration that is france. It's okay though - As Nick and I were
talking about last night, the key is remembering that the feeling of
being "beaten down" is only because we are starting from scratch - and
that in a few days, everything will be much simpler

France as a crapshoot

So i finally got a cell phone on thursday - but of course, like
everything in france - there was some administrative bs to overcome
before it could happen. This time, my phone was blocked, so i had to go
to another place to have the phone unblocked. We tried to get internet,
but instead of taking a credit card, France Telecom demanded access to
our bank accounts - french ones, no less. It seems you can't do
anything in France without a bank account - and, usually, you can't do
it anyway. The weekend trip to Nice will be essential - a real
vacation, as opposed to getting beat up by the "La bureaucratie" that
the french are famous for.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

so today was the first day of orientation - pretty boring stuff - it has
rained all day - the first time in 6 months, they say. We've met some
cool americans and other students. Many of us are planning to travel
together. hopefully this weekend we can go to nice or elsewhere in the
south. The weekend was fun - we went to the beach, and wandered around
the city. I'm excited to see more of it. There are many amazing gardens
and other places to spend the sunday afternoons - which is all you can
do since all of the stores are closed, as well as many restaurants.
Off to another meeting.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

I have a Home!

so this morning i woke up in my very own apartment! it was really
exciting. It's in a cool neighborhood, and the building is super-old,
so it feels very european. It's three flights up to our flat - which
should make me really god about climbing staris, and very dizzy - as
it's a big spiral staircase.
i've got a bed, a desk, and a bookcase - and we get a refrigerator and a
stove tomorrow. Then i can buy fish from the stands by the Vieux Port,
and make my own moules frites.
Nick, the third pepperdine chap i'm rooming with, arrived today. It's
weird to think that i arrived only five days ago - but even in such a
short time, i feel comfortable around the city and am able to get
around without too much difficulty. I'm able to pick up more french in
conversation also - the only challenge is i sometimes stumble on a
word, and spend so much time figuring out what it means, that i miss
the second half of the sentence. I need to get better at that. I'm also
hoping that my confidence while speaking will grow, which i think it
Anyway, today, i'm off to buy a mop and broom - and some other
bric-a-brac for the new place. The address, by the way is:

Sanjiv Gajiwala
87-89 Rue Consolat
13003 Marseille France

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Another day, another dollar. Sent out my deposit for the apartment, so now i have someplace to live. That was pretty much my entire day. I'm still trying to figure out what to do for a cell phone, i'm pretty confused, but hopefully i'll get it together. Tomorrow, i'm also hoping to open a bank account so i can withdraw money without ridiculous fees from Wells Fargo. Bastards.
We had armenian food for dinner. It was good - the kibbeh was like i've had in chicago - but they didn't have pita! I asked, and he had no idea what i meant. I even described in my broken french - but to no avail. Oh well. French bread is also good.
that's all.

Hello Again

So we settled on an apartment, but we can't move in until friday, so
we're living in this guesthouse in the mazargues section of marseille.
It's quite charming - there are about twenty odd people here, including
some dutch, irish, spanish, canadians, and americans. I also met a
another guy from chicago - Jonah. he used to play basketball for
northwestern, but apparently kevin o'neill burned him out or somethign
like that. He'll also be going to school with me at Euromed. I haven't
had a chance to post pictures yet, but i will soon - just need to find
time to hook up with my computer. Hopefully that will happen this
weekend or early next week.
Also had chinese food for dinner yesterday - pretty good stuff.
Ah! While i was sipping pastis (an anise-based liquor popular in
Provence), i came up with a good analogy for Marseille. If paris is a
painting, then marseille is a photograph. Think about it.
Until next time, sanjiv

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

well i'm in marseille. it's an interesting, and exciting city. the vieux port is beautiful, with many boats. right now there are yachts from the america's cup race docked, they are huge. at night, the various landmarks are lit up, and they stand out beautifully against the night sky. \i've been riding the metro and the buses, and while i'm getting a little lost, i'll figure it all out eventually. still looking for an apartment- i think i've found one that i like. it's near downtown, and by some gardens. the price is a little steep, but since i don't like living out of a suitcase, unless i find something else today, i'll probably be moving there today.
anyhoo. enjoying myself and still alive. both good things.
hello all
i'm in marseille now, just spending some time at the school computer lab. \i arrived yesterday, and have spent time exploring the city. it is quite unique. it is like paris, only more compact - and it feels like every neighborhood has people living there, unlike some parts of paris where it feels like museums and nothing else. i'm still looking for an apartment, although we have meet another student Vincent (a canadian) who may live with us in a four bedroom flat near the vieux port (old port), which is the downtown area. Hopefully, it all works out. then i just need to open a bank account, and find a cell phone, and i should be set. i think.
anyway, still alive, and enjoying myself.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

I leave for france tomorrow. It's going to be a pretty exciting time, although i have no idea what to expect and what i am going to do. But i've packed my bags, and I'll get on a United Airlines flight tomorrow. Assuming they'll be in business four months from now, I'll get back on that same plane and fly back - hopefully a little wiser, probably with a different perspective, and definitely a little poorer. But it should be fun nonetheless. Next post, will probably be from France, with some pictures to boot.