Thursday, September 3, 2009

The other one-fifth of the story

Recently I’ve just sat back as Rebecca tells our story, because normally her version is much more entertaining.  Actually, for the scenic trips, neither of us knows how to make it very funny—but we really want to tell those stories since this is our extended memory, backed up weekly to my mirrored network-storage-device, backed up again to another big drive.  Someday just a quick copy/paste will give our kids a copy of all these memories—so much easier than the way I did scrapbooking as a kid (my mom got double prints of all her photos and shared them amongst her album and the siblings’ albums).  All we had to do was plop the photos onto the magic self-adhesive pages but I hated it!  Oh, but I diverge.

This time, Rebecca can’t tell the story, because she up and left me to enjoy an extra 3 weeks of vacation while I stayed back here to conserve vacation days.  I was looking forward to this time with no kids, the house all to myself and a stack of technical books and journals that I hadn’t gotten through in the last 9 months.  I was also looking forward to guiltless long runs, naps whenever I wanted, and a house that simply stays clean.

Well, Steinbeck says that the best-laid plans of mice and men go oft astray.  I left, teary-eyed, from the airport at Lyon, hopped in the car, turned up the music, and took a look at the maps.  As usual, I had eyeballed a return mini_P280609_12.28route that was different than my approach… but I hadn’t finalized all the details.  I would need lunch soon, and since I no longer needed to multiply eating out costs by five, I figured I’d find something interesting if I stopped at a city halfway home.  That city (or should I call it a town?) was Bourg-en-Bresse.  It’s apparently famous for its breed of chicken, and downtown there were statues of chickens every few blocks, dressed up as all kinds of things—from realistic chickens to astronauts.  I found my way downtown, and everything seemed to be closed.  Restaurants, shops, even the beautiful eglise.  I thought this wooden building, right, was pretty interesting, but I mini_P280609_13.31was hungry so I hopped back in the car to return to a boulangerie I had passed on the way in.  This is when I realized it was after noon, and a Sunday, so of course in Europe everything is shut down.  Luckily I was able to get une baguette, a pastry, and I had a leftover apple to go along with it all.  I hit the road again for about an hour, then pulled over at a rest stop.  It was, as usual in France, worth the stop.  mini_P280609_13.36I got this mini_selfportraitself-portrait below next to this amazing art gallery that was unfortunately under renovation, so I couldn’t enter.

I headed out for a long run when I got home, though it was such a hot day I bailed when I got down to the Doubs, so maybe only a 45-minute run.  Then I spent some time doing an inventory of what I wanted to accomplish over the next three weeks, and sized up how long my books were… unfortunately, too much to finish in this little amount of time—especially if I really wanted to retain anything I read.  One of the things I pride myself in doing well is applying what I read to my daily life—and, well, that means I have to read slow enough to have lots of opportunities to practice. 

The rest of the first week I had simplicity: running, work, then alternating reading and researching music.  I’ve recently been into techno/house/don’t know what to call it, but as long as it is a house beat with words I want to hear it.  I found out a while back that youtube is a superior way to research music than the online resellers or pandora because everything’s on-demand and I can hear the whole song.  I ended up spending way more time researching music than I planned to—and probably for every hour of research I only got 1 or 2 keepers for my collection.  Oh well, after 3 weeks I added around 50 songs… which is enough that now I can play my electronic/dance collection for days without hearing a repeat (well, technically it’s only 16 hours of songs, but I can’t listen to music all day, plus Rebecca hates it so I can’t actually listen to it at all).  I’ve also always wanted to hear real DJs do house live, and I found out there’s a club around here that caters to a crowd of 30-somethings… I wasn’t sure if I wanted to disrupt my sleep to go check it out, but I did and really liked it.  Got several new song leads…  The club doesn’t open ‘til 11pm and I never went earlier than midnight, but that’s after I had gone to bed at my normal time—9:30, slept 4 hours or so, and was ready to paaarty!

When I hit the weekend, I really wanted to avoid the computer, and I also wanted to have some time to socialize.  I went to the farewell party for Regis, Marie, Anne and Marc, and had a surprisingly easy time chatting with people—it was really fun.  I found a lot of common ground with Marie’s sister, who works in a plant that manufactures parts for Toyota and Peugeot (and follows different standards of quality for the different customers).  I also mini_summerFlowers had a great conversation with one of the uncles (André), a man who now has a son working overseas in Japan.  He’s spent a lot of time in recent years learning English, so we spoke a tiny bit in my native tongue, but he was a bit shy about it so we switched back to francais.  On the way home from the party I went through this 1/2 mile stretch of road.  I forgot to mention earlier that there had been a powerful thunderstorm with hail and everything.  I crept forward despite the low visibility, and this particular stretch of the road felt like I was driving on rumble strips.  It turned out that even after 5 hours there were still piles of hail on the side of the road in July—it was absolutely incredible!

My second workweek started with our quarterly corporate meetings—and every summer this means having some outdoor activity.  mini_P060709_13.02This year it was a geo-caching adventure—based out of a castle in Arbois andmini_P060709_17.08 mini_P060709_10.41surrounded by amazing vineyards.  The company was split up in teams and my team tried to win by collecting items for other teams through collaboration, but the facilitators said it wasn’t allowed.  Oh well!  Pictured below is a shot I took from within the castle, looking past a church and into the vineyards. mini_tower

Having no family around was starting to get to me.  Every time I saw or heard kids outside, mini_P100709_18.11[01]I’d feel a little pull at my heartstrings, and talking to Rebecca for 15 minutes a day around my lunch time was just not enough.  I also was just getting apathetic about my schedule… who cares when I go to sleep, wake up, eat, any of it…  Well, in the summer the bus doesn’t come very often, and I ended up walking in to work more than I might have wanted to.  I enjoyed the view on cooler days, though, like this butterfly bush that’s 1/2km from my house.  It’s a strange time of mini_P240609_10.18year to be working in France; the parking lot out back of the office has only 1/3 the normal number of cars, and our team is smaller than normal.  It actually makes it easier to communicate and keep everyone in the loop.  Here’s a shot I took of the team when the room had a particular good feel to it—you can see that everyone is pairing, as they should, and quite focused.  We’ve been experimenting with the Pomodoro technique, which means that everyone here was “on the clock” for a 25-minute hustle, at which point a buzzer rings and we all pause, take a break, then meet for a quick huddle before the next hustle.  It’s pretty intense, but also has seemed to keep people on target better than without the frenzy of the timers.

My last weekend was le 14 juillet, or equivalent of our 4th of July, so I just had to go see the fireworks.  I was shocked at how many Bisontins were on the streets, and it was nice that the fireworks were to be launched mini_fireworksfrom my neighborhood—but I didn’t care.  I wanted to see them from above—from one of the forts.  I decided, last-minute based on traffic, to head up to Fort Bregille, and as you can see below, it was way to far away.  The fireworks looked like sparklers, so it was a bit of a letdown.  I’m also used to big-city shows, and expected a 45-minute extravaganza like they have in Philly, but the show started promptly at 10pm and was done at 10:15.

My last week of work, I squeezed in the last few chores I needed to do before coming to America.  I took mini_P110709_12.33the time one day to climb up top of a hill (fort de rosemont) with a book and a picnic, so I could read and relax simultaneously, and another day I headed out for a long run with food—but had to bail 45 minutes in because I think I was bonking.  All in all, it was fun to have a chance to be ‘single’ for a bit but I sure don’t wanna do this again!  I want my family back!

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