Monday, January 23, 2006

Am I Corrupted? (1/21/2006)

I did a little shopping at the duty free stores before departing. At the end, I became penniless in terms of Euros. This was a good indication that it was time to go.

The flight back was uneventful and smooth. I managed to sleep for five hours. For the last two weeks, we were always on the go. This was the first time when we had a chance sitting and doing nothing. Other than sleeping, I read, watched "Cinderella Man." playing blackjack, eating and drinking. We arrived in Dulles on time but our luggage got delayed for more than an hour. Our bus rolled in Salisbury around 6:00pm.

Prior to the trip one of the objectives of Memo and Bob's was to "corrupt" me in France since I was developmental faculty. I don't know if they achieved their goals, but one aspect of corruption was for sure. I went to a local diner to eat the night when we were back because there was nothing in the refrigerator. To my dismay, the food was tasteless. So it is safe to say that I have been corrupted by French food!

I was saddened that the whale in the Thames River died. My hope for a Hollywood ending like Free Willy was dashed. It was too bad that we couldn't save it.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Our Days in Paris

The TGV fast train took us back to Paris in the Wednesday afternoon. Both Chris and Julian came to the Grenoble train stop to bid our farewell. When we got to the Paris train station, our tour guide was already there waiting for us. She, a petite energetic French woman, led us to a bus that was waiting for us outside the station. From there we started our three hour bus tour of one to the greatest cities in the world. It took us to various important landmarks and some of them reminded me of my visit in 2000. I enjoyed the tour very much. It gave us a good overview of the city.

On Thursday while having breakfast Bob and I decided to go to the Musee d’Orsay, which had impressionist art works. It was a good complement to The Louvre which had classical arts prior to the impressionist era. In the elevator coming down, I bumped into Julian, a British student of French and Philosophy in a Scotland university who came to Paris for five days during his winter break. We met briefly during the breakfast. When he found out where we were going, he said he was going there, too. So I invited him to come along with us. He happily accepted.

The museum was really impressive. It was in an old train station, which was built for the 1924 Olympics. It was supposed to tear down after the games, but the French felt into with it. They filled a petition to keep it. Now it has been turned into the Musee d’Orsay. When compared to the Louvre, it was small. There were three levels of displays. It was possible to go through it in a day. It chroniclized the development of impression style arts from pre- to neo-impressionists. I like the post impressionists very much, in which more bold color and shape schemes were attempted.

In the afternoon, we decided to pay our respects to one of the greatest Frenchman. We went to Napoleon’s tomb and the Army Museum. The contributions of this great man, not only military but civic conducts, to France and the world were well documented. I’d like to read more about him and this part of history in the future.

In the evening, Bob and I went to a fancy French restaurant Lasserre along Champs-Elyses. Memo couldn’t join us due to a family obligation. Bob had been there before and had many interesting stories to tell. We ordered the testing menu which consisted of 7 courses while Bob offered to pay for a bottle of wine. The food was excellent, but this kind of restaurants was billed for their service. The waiters wore different uniforms to signify their duties. There was even an elevator operator. We sitting there didn’t have to do anything except for sending food to our mouths. The water and wine glasses were (almost) always full. It did take once 10 minutes to get Bob’s wine glass filled. So when the waiter came I said subtly “just about 10 minutes.” After that, I think he got the message. When the bill came, we just wanted to know how you were going to pay for yours, Dick?

On Friday, we went to see the Church of sacred hearts in the morning before did some shopping. Bob had a mission from his wife to buy a loaf of bread from this particular bakery shop. It did not take us long to find it. Bob bought a loaf of 2kg round bread to bring home. Then we were on mission to find a chocolate shop recommended by his wife. But the address did not make any sense so we decided to give up on that. We had a dinner cruise to go to at 6pm.

The dinner cruise was great. We saw the Eiffel Tower lit up brightly and the Status of Liberty. We also saw Notre Dome, the Louvre and different buildings along the Sein River. For dinner, all but two had lobster. The wine bottles came and went. There seemed to have unlimited supply of wine. For this reason, a couple of students went a little over the board. At one point an on board violinist played tango song. Under Bob’s urge, I went to ask Nicole to dance. I was amazed by her ability to fellow for she had never learnt how to tango. While we were dancing, an old couple also joined us and started to dance. Near end of the cruise, Memo requested the violinist to play La Compasita. Here Nicole and I went to the dance floor again. She was doing even better than the last. After playing the song, the violin player told me that he was to play waltz and asked us to continue. With the music, Nicole and I swirled around the floor. I did not know how she did it. For sure she had never danced Viennese waltz before. But she was able to follow me most of the time. After dancing, she was really excited and wanted to do something when back to Salisbury. Since she already did some recruiting, there seemed to be enough of interests to set up a club at SU. I was very happy for the possibility as well.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Last Tango in Grenoble

After the farewell dinner, a group of students (Bobby, Brooke, Justin, Megan, Michelle, Min and Nicole) and I went tango dancing. They just wanted to see what tango was. I was happy that they were interested. It was raining and the girls wore high heels, so we decided to take the tram for just one station ahead. Julian looked puzzled. He might be wondering why we did not just walk since the distance was so short.

When we entered the room, the people were kind of stunned by such a big crowd of strangers. One of the ladies signaled us to find seats and sit down. The girls seemed excited when they saw people dance on the floor. They wanted to learn how to do it and asked me to teach them. I declined because I didn’t want to interrupt the flow of the floor. I told then I would start to teach tango in Salisbury soon and they said enthusiastically that they would sign up. In addition to tango, they also wanted to do salsa. So tango and salsa would be a dynamic duo.

The students wanted to see me in action. They asked me to find a partner and dance. I saw a lady nearby who I danced with a week ago and thought was a good dancer. I went up to her and asked her to dance. While we were dancing, the students took some pictures of me. In the middle of the second song, I saw a French guy walked up to the girls asking for a dance. From distance I could see the girls horrified. They gestured in frenzy to tell him they did not dance at all. This lasted for a while. At the end, I guessed the guy was rather persuasive that Nicole stood up and started to dance with him.

When I finished dancing with the lady, I walked up to the group and wanted to know how they felt. Nicole proudly told me that she danced her first tango. The rest also seemed really interested in the dancing. We were discussing setting up a tango club at the school when we return. While we were chatting, a lady walked up to me and said something in French. I didn’t know exactly what she said but kind of knew what she meant. I said “oui” and we were on the dancing floor. During the third song with her, I saw our group stood up and were ready to leave. I stopped the dancing while trying to tell my partner that I wanted to say goodbye to my friends. She must have misunderstood me. She kissed Michelle and said something in French to her. It was obvious that she thought Michelle and I were partners and I wanted to dance with her. A good example of language barriers.

While we were saying goodbyes, a guy approached me and asked me if I was Jim. Then he said he was Miguel, the person who sent me the email a week ago informing me of the tango in Grenoble. While we chatted the gang walked out the room. All the sudden I remembered that Jacqueline was supposed to be here. I asked Miguel if she was here and he pointed her out from the crowd. Jacqueline was my initial contact for tango before I left for France. She was a friend of friend of Deirdre a.k.a. Justine. So there was a 4 degree separation between us. She was very helpful in providing information and making sure that Miguel contacted me. She lived in Valence (100km from Grenoble) but drove up here tonight just to meet me.

The rest of night belonged to us. We danced really well together. It was kind of strange that we had never met before but could instantly click. Tango did its magic again. We just danced and chatted. Her English was better than my French. She told me that her son lived in New Zealand and married to a Chinese woman who did not speak French. So she had to learn English to be able to communicate with her daughter-in-law. At one point when we stopped for a rest, an older couple I met a week ago greeted me. The gentleman complimented me by saying that I was a good dancer and he enjoyed watching me dance. A compliment from a stranger really meant something to me. This encouraged me to keep on dancing.

Jacqueline and I continued our dancing. We never parted from each other for the rest of the evening. At one point when I asked her if she would like to dance with someone else she responded that she preferred to dance with me. I had no objections to that. We continued. Before long it was past the midnight. I tried to tell her that the last tram would come soon but she did not understand. I thought it was 12:34 for the last tram and I said to myself I could dance till 12:30 and still was able to catch it. It was hard to stop but fortunately the music was stopped. I rushed out of the room after saying goodbye to Jacqueline. It was still raining outside. Only when I got to the station did I find out that the last tram left at 12:18. So I was singing in the rain while walking back to the hotel.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Last Day in Grenoble

In these few days' newspapers there had been a lot of coverage on this Japanese guy who signed with one of the local soccer teams. It seemed like quite a big deal.

We had an invited speaker who gave a talk on the single currency Euro and its impact on France. Professor Phil Eyre was British and his demeanor showed that. His gentle and statesman style contrasted Oliver's warm and open French style. There was a definitely difference between English and French. From his talk I could discern his leftist position regarding EU and English’s resistance to convert its currency to Euro.

Julian arranged me to meet with professor Chapelet, the Director of Center for Applied Research. I was impressed by his efficiency. I mentioned to him yesterday on the bus to our field visit that I still wished to meet some professors here to explore collaborative research opportunities. Voila, a meeting was arranged for today.

We showed up at 4:30pm as scheduled. A job candidate happened to be there as well. I did not feel wanting to interrupt his schedule. So I told him that I would wait outside his office while he conducted the interview.

About 5:15pm, we stared our meeting. He was very nice and helpful. He briefly told me what the center was about. It was operated as an outreach of the school to the business community similar to our BEACON at SU. After learning what I was interested to do, he recommended a few professors I could get in touch with. I'll definitely do that when I return.

Tomorrow we are going to leave our beloved city Grenoble for Paris. I don't think we will get internet access as conveniently as here. There will be internet cafes but will my USB drive work? So you might not hear from me for a few days. But rest assured that I’ll keep blogging and post them as soon as possible.

Last Day in Grenoble

In these few days' newspapers there had been a lot of coverage on this Japanese guy who signed with one of the local soccer teams. It seemed like quite a big deal.

We had an invited speaker who gave a talk on the single currency Euro and its impact on France. Professor Phil Eyre was British and his demeanor showed that. His gentle and statesman style contrasted Oliver's warm and open French style. There was a definitely difference between English and French. From his talk I could discern his leftist position regarding EU and English’s resistance to convert its currency to Euro.

Julian arranged me to meet with professor Chapelet, the Director of Center for Applied Research. I was impressed by his efficiency. I mentioned to him yesterday on the bus to our field visit that I still wished to meet some professors here to explore collaborative research opportunities. Voila, a meeting was arranged for today.

We showed up at 4:30pm as scheduled. A job candidate happened to be there as well. I did not feel wanting to interrupt his schedule. So I told him that I would wait outside his office while he conducted the interview.

About 5:15pm, we stared our meeting. He was very nice and helpful. He briefly told me what the center was about. It was operated as an outreach of the school to the business community similar to our BEACON at SU. After learning what I was interested to do, he recommended a few professors I could get in touch with. I'll definitely do that when I return.

Tomorrow we are going to leave our beloved city Grenoble for Paris. I don't think we will get internet access as conveniently as here. There will be internet cafes but will my USB drive work? So you might not hear from me for a few days. But rest assured that I’ll keep blogging and post them as soon as possible.

Things Do Change

Not until this morning did I find out that my late arrival last evening from the ski trip caused a small scare. My returning bus was delayed due to the heavy traffic coming down from the mountain. It was almost 8pm did we arrive the bus station. I decided to grab something to eat on the way to the hotel so I could go to bed early. On the other hand, Bob and Memo expected me to join them for dinner. Because of my no show, they started to speculate various outcomes. They thought to call the local hospitals or the ski resort. At one point they were convinced that one of the flying-by helicopters was carrying me to an ER.

I was surprised that I only felt some stiffness in my legs this morning.

In the afternoon, we paid a visit to syrup factory which made French famous brand Teissire. They did not expect a large group like ours and we had to be divided into two to three small groups at times. The presentation was good and production was modern. One of their new hires, Christian, was there to learn the operation as well. We had long talks along the way. He spent many years in Asia promoting French wine. He spoke some Cantonese. Now he was charged to promoting the syrup in the Asia market. He said he would visit china next month. I gave him my business card so that he could get in touch with me if he needed some helps and pointers.

Over the weekend, I was wondering about the NFL payoff game results. Not until this morning did I get a chance to get online. To my surprise the Colts lost again. It looks like now Seattle is the team to beat.

We went to a family owned restaurant highly recommended by Bob and Memo based on their personal experiences. But the food turned out to be disappointing when compared to our prior high expectations. Late we found out that the ownership was changed. So, things do change.

I think I discovered one of the answers to Bob's accounting question. French women rarely used elevators at the school. They preferred to walk upstairs.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Skiing on the Alps

I missed the bus to the ski resort (l'Eclose) recommended by Julian. While talking to the ticket agent trying to figure when the next bus was, I felt someone pulled my jacket from behind. It was a French lady who stood behind me in the line. She told me that I could catch a 10:30 bus to Chamrouse (where the 1968 Olympic winter games were held). Given that I did not have much time, I decided to go there instead.

The bus ride was about 1 hour. Once there, I wanted to make sure of the time of the last returning was. I asked a passenger and was told me it was at 17:25. I was glad that I asked because I was under an impressive that it was at 18:45, which was actually only for Saturday.

It took a while to get oriented figuring out where to buy the lift tickets and rent skis and shoes, etc. It was about noon when I got on the lift. The surroundings were beautiful. Various sharp mountaintops were covered by snow. It was just too bad that my camera ran off power. Although I brought backup batteries, I left them in the bag I stored in the ski rental office.

The degree of difficulty was classified in to green, blue, red and black. Red here was roughly a black equivalent in the US and black was similar to a double black diamond. But they were relatively easier here. Since I did not know the trails well, I ended up on all different kinds of slopes (blue, red and black). Once to my dismay and horror I found myself on a mogul field. I somehow managed to plow myself out of it. Near the end I decided to try a green slope just to warm down. At this point, I was congratulating myself for a perfect skiing day without a serious fall. Bang, I felt one of my skis hit a hard object and I felt to the ground and made a 360 tumble. When I managed to pull myself up, I noticed that I had just hit a rock. Well, this was definitely a good indication for calling it a day.

A Day in Lyon

Memo went out his way to find us the train info going to Lyon. When I went downstairs for breakfast, he walked in from outside looking freezing. He went to the train station and got us the schedule, although he decided not to go. A little while later, Bob came to the dinner room. After looking at the schedule, he suggested that four of us (Min Lee and Michelle) rent a car for more freedom and site seeing. We all agreed it was an excellent idea.

After breakfast, we went to the train station. There were six car rental places but only one of them had a car available. It was an ugly looking Citron C2 but we did not care about its appearance. The experience finding the car was rather different from the US. We had to walk to a three story garage and tried to locate the car on our own. We knew the space # which was written on the contract but did not know which floor the space # was one. But with three accounting and one IT brains we managed to locate it at the end.

Bob was our designated driver. It took us about an hour to get there. The first thing everyone wanted to do was to find toilets. We decided to find a hotel to ask for a local map and use their toilets. It was strange that hotels were hard to come back but banks were everywhere. We finally had to buy a map and located the office of tourist. We walked there and asked for something information regarding the city. Of course, we also relieved ourselves urgently.

It was time for lunch. Min Lee and Michelle were hungry as soon as we parked our car an hour ago. We walked to the old town and found a Lyonanis style restaurant. The menu looked good. I ordered Trapes (beef stomach). It was good. In terms of using all parts of an animal for food, French and Chinese were very similar.

After lunch, we took the cable car to Bastilique. From the peak we could see the entire city. The church itself was also impressive. I saw so many churches while in Italy. This one was not that different.

We came back around 6pm. We tried to figure out how many kms we drove. On the contract the out was 26,000km. When we checked after parking the car, it was 25,300km. Did this mean that we should be compensated by 'reducing' the mileage?

Six of us went to a traditional French restaurant. It showed all the goodness of a French restaurant one could expect. We had good service and good food. The servers seemed to always know the best time to come to us and ask if we needed something. Memo decided to buy us beverages for us. That was nice of him.

We did not finished the dinner until midnight. Tomorrow morning, off to skiing.

Friday the 13th

Today's horoscope for Taurus: Ce n'est pas le jour a demander un supplément de tendresse. Alors contentez-vous de ce que vous avez.

Today is freed day for us. Students were broken into groups. Some went to London, some to Rome, some skiing, and some left behind to explore local attractions. I decided to hike La Bastille, a 500 meter summit. It was listed as one of the three things one must do while in Grenoble. I was glad that I did it. It was just magnificent to survey a city from top down. I could see clearly that the city was surrounded by mountains with snow caps. Frog was rising from the bottom and makes the city foggy and mystique. Well, words can't do the justice for its beauty. You just have to wait to see the pictures I took.

Julian was very helpful when I asked him to provide me with some skiing information. He found the transportation schedule online and made a phone call to find out the price. He also showed me where the bus station was.

Bob, Memo and I went out for dinner. This was the first time all three of us had a chance to be together. When deciding where to go, we all said it didn't matter. When everyone was so easy going, things actually turned difficult. Finally, they decided that I was the one to make the call. So, with the newly found power, I decided to go to a Chinese/Thai restaurant. We were disappointed when we walked out. The service was bad and the food wad mediocre. We concluded that the Chinese working there had too much French influence.

After dinner, it was almost 11pm. I wanted to check out the milonga that was supposedly to be good. Unfortunately due to an inaqequt address, I failed to find the place. The neighborhood did not seem safe and it was cold so I decided to abandon the search and took the tram back to the hotel.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Spanish for French?

A piece of news in today's newspaper caught my eyes. The title was Energie: l’irruption de la Chine. It was saying that the energy consumption in China was 2% of that of the world in 1950, 9% in 2000, and likely 20% in 2050. The conference was about how the energy industry in France and Grenbole can be involved in the transformation. The Chinese general consulate would be present. It was held at l'Institute National polytechnique de Grenoble, which we walked by everyday from the hotel to the school of management.

Over the last a few days I have often seen dog shits lying in the street. I don't what culture theory would explain this phenomenon.

Since I had a late breakfast, I ordered just Salad Grenobloesis for lunch. It was the best salad I ever had. It had a lot walnut in it, too. I don't know what type of dressing they used. It was simply fabulous.

One thing I have noticed is that French don't put huile d'olive (olive oil) on the table. Their breads are good but I still like to dip them in olive oil. So each time I need to ask the waiter to bring me some of that. They all happily obligate.

I don't know why I often mix Spanish with French, such as "si" for "oui," "aqua" for "l'eau" or "grazias" for "merci."

Deirdre commented on my yesterday's entry saying that a similar situation with asking for directions and ending up where one started in the first place happened to her and her friends. It is good to know that we are not unique in that department.

Twelve of us went to a steak house for dinner. I ordered mine well done but when it was brought to me it was still reddish inside. I was told that it was the French version of well done. I enjoyed my fries better than the meat. I don't think I am a steak kind of guy.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Smoking, Wine Tasting, and Lamb Brain

Smoking is a big problem. People smoke in bars and restaurants. We were quite surprised when Oliver told us there was a law prohibiting smoking in any public building. Why did people still smoke? The answer to this question reveals how the French observe rules and laws. This is not easily observed by visitors who often see the tip of the cultural iceberg such as foods, languages, heroes, and landmarks.

Some recap on the wine tasting class given by Chris we had the evening before. Generally there are two types of wine: single vine and mixed. In term of color, there are red (rouge) and white (blanc). The difference is that the red is soaked in skins and seeds for 2 weeks at the later brewing stage. The process is called masteration. Normally white wine's barrel time (BT) is about a few months while red's BT could be as long as years. Wine tasting involves three steps. First, you hold the stem of the glass and swirl it. Then you tell what colors the wine has. For white, it could be yellow green or yellow gold. For red, it could be red blue or red brown. Second, you smell the wine twice with first one being deep and the second one being shallow. You discern whether it is floral or fruity. Finally, you drink a mouthful and swirl in your month for a second before swallow or spit it. The objective here is to tell whether the wine is dry or sweet. This is just a skeleton of it. There are many more details in the process, which take a life time to learn. Wine tasting is, in a way, a test for memory for you have to remember what characteristics of the wine you had last time and distinction between wines can be very small.

I had lamb brain for dinner. The taste was really awful. I had a couple of bites before giving up. But I do not regret it at all because now I know. I don’t mind trying different things.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Tango in Grenoble

I attended Memo's class in the morning. In the beginning there was a problem with the wireless connection. Some of the laptops was showed to connect to the network but could browser the web. The network was overloaded with too many users. Memo started the class from the hard drive of his laptop. Later on Julian walked in and brought an Ethernet cable with him. Voila, an IT problem was solved.

I benefited from sitting in his class. He had the different teams debrief what they had done and what problems/questions they had so far. From the students’ presentations he could figure out where they stand and gave them relevant guidance, I may want to adopt his method for my network project.

In the afternoon we had an invited speaker from Grenoble Ecole de Management. His name was Olivier Aba. His topic was Managing Cultural Differences. Where he first walked in I thought he was a rather serious person from the expression worn on his face. Later I realized how wrong I was. He was funny and smart. He introduced various theories on culture such as Hall’s and Hofstede’s. I could tell the students liked his class tremendously. They were engaged and actively participate. I wonder if Perdue has such course. If not, we may want to seriously consider offering it.

When Julian introduced the SU professors to Olivier when he walked in, he greeted me with Ni Hao and told me he was fluent. I was truly surprised that three out of the four professors I knew here so far spoke Chinese.

Bob decided to go to the milonga with me to check out what tango was all about. We took the tram to the Notre Dome station and marched forward thinking the street we were looking for was just ahead of us. Only when we got to the next tram station did we realize that we were so lost. We went into a nearby bar and ordered a pizza and beers. Since the waiter did not speak any English, it was really hard to ask for directions. Finally with hands, shouting, pen and paper we figured out that we walked too far. We walked back all the way to the original tram station where we got off. We still could not find the street. Finally we stopped a walking by old gentleman and our first question was “Parlez-vous anglais?” To our great relief he said “oui.” When we told him the street name, he pointed straight ahead across the street saying "that is it!" So the joke was on us. :)

We walked upstairs and located the room. The receptionist was apologetical saying that tonight was unusual because there were more men than women. When he heard that Bob was going to be just an observer he joked "What a pity! He didn't know what he was missing." I was also told that there would be another milonga this Friday.

We settled down and I asked a couple women to dance. The general level was average. There were a few good dancers. People were friendly and open. The nuveo (new) tango was popular here. There happened to have a male Argentine instructor in town to teach it for this week, who Bob thought looked so much like Woody Allen. He wore these guffy pants and a red t-shirt with long hair. Bob was picturing him dance with Diane Keaton.

Bob decided to leave at around 11. On his way out he said he enjoyed the music. That was a good start. I left around midnight. I caught the next to the last tram and went back to the hotel.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

$1 = Euro$1?

Since I went to bed early, I got up around 6:30am. During the sleep I woke almost every hour or so due to the jet lag, but it was easy to go back to sleep. It was much harder when I go to China. After all, the jet lag was an entire day (12 hours) for that one.

I went downstairs for breakfast. Two of the students were there already. They told me they went to bed around 8ish last night. While waiting for the breakfast to be served, I picked up a copy of the local paper and tried to read. I could guess up to 10% of the content. One article that got my attention was that there was a tango concert paying homage to Astor Piazzolla, one of the greatest Argentine tango composers.

At 8;45, we started our walk to school. It took us about 10 minutes. The classrooms were nice and equipped with Wi-Fi access. This was the beginning of a new semester here, so we saw local students everywhere. They looked energetic, fresh, and cheerful. I sat in Bob’s class. He talked about international standardization of accounting standards. It was rather interesting because I could relate to many things he talked about such as WTO, GATT, ASEAN and their impact. Just right before the break for lunch, he asked a true accounting question: why did the French women manage to stay so thin?

In the afternoon, we did a walk tour of the city. The tour guide was really good and knowledgeable. He took us to the City Garden, the old part of city and Notre Dome (no, we did not walk that far if you thought of the other one).

It was really cold with a wind chill. Memo told students that they earned themselves a cup of hot chocolate for finishing the tour. Bob and I just went back to the hotel. After resting for a while, I went back to the school to get online. I didn’t get chance to use my computer in the morning because Bob used it for his class. To my surprise, I got an email from Miguel a local tango dancer informing me of a milonga (a place to dance tango) in Grenoble tomorrow night. It was cool that I could get to dance some tango while here.

I had an interesting dinner. I was supposed to meet Bob, Memo and students in the lobby at 7:45 but I couldn’t get up from an unplanned nap. When I woke up at 8:30, they were all gone. I decided to a Chinese restaurant near the school recommended by the handbook given to us by Julian. The food was not too much different from the one in the US. What happened next made the experience interesting. I went up to the counter to pay with my credit card, but was told that it would go through because it was a foreign card. I had no cash with me because my several attempts to change money had failed. The cashier told me that there was an ATM across the street. They were so trusting that they allowed me to walk out without leaving anything behind. When I got to the ATM, the Murphy’s Law was verified. The machine did not take my credit union ATM card. I walked back to the restaurant empty handed. They were very accommodating and asked me to come back tomorrow to pay. I was a little stunned. So I asked if I should leave something, like my driver’s license, with them. Only when the manager saw my DL did he realize I was from America. He said I could pay with $ with face value. I happened to have some bills with me. So I walked out a happy customer.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Long Way to Get Here

When I got to the meeting place, pretty much everyone was already there and boarded the bus. A few of the students were taking pictures for this "historical" journey. Some were saying goodbyes to their family members. Dick showed up unexpectedly to make sure everything was OK. One thing for sure, it was not as dramatic as the one we took six months ago to China when the bus got there so late that we thought we were to miss our flight.

After Dick wished everyone Bon Voyage, the bus got on the way. To be honest, I did not really know what to expect. The good thing was that both Memo and Bob were the "old hands" and had done this before. They knew what we were getting into.

Traveling with 28 students was definitely not an easy task. But we had two advantages. First, our students were very good and well behaved. Second, Memo managed them well. He appointed two of the students working in BEACON as general mangers who each in turn managed two MBA student managers. The managers then manage four groups of the undergraduate students. A classical management science example of hierarchical structure was on display.

While waiting for boarding, Bob shared with me some of his experience with the US Air Force. It was just fascinating.

The plane ride was largely uneventful except for some turbulence. One time it was so strong that I though it would have had torn the plane apart. The good thing was that the pilot knew it was coming and warned us ahead of time. This created an impression that the situation was under control.

We arrived in Paris ahead of the schedule so there was no one to greet us at the exit. Memo managed to find the bus driver's cell phone number. After a while on the phone, he directed us to the "Promised Land" where the bus was waiting. For trips like this one, we do need someone who can converse in the language. This also underlined the importance of languages in the business world.

The bus took us to one of the train stations in Paris where we would take the high speed train TGV (260 kmh) to Grenoble. Again we had to suffer from being early. Our train would not depart for about two hours. So we had to stand in the cold waiting since the train station was not heated. We took a big chunk of space because of our group size and luggage. Some passengers had to pass by us to get on their trains. They seemed cold and unapologetical when they stepped on us or knocked down our bags. Some of the students wonder why they did not say "excuse moi?" I did not know whether we were partially at fault by blocking their way.

Finally after 16 hours on the road, we got to our final destination. Julian met us at the train and took us to our hotel. Chris, the Associate Dean of the Business School, hosted a reception for us in the hotel. He was warm and funny guy. He said that both Memo and Bob came back because they failed his wine tasting class last year. Everyone was surprised to find out that he was an American. He had been here for 17 years. It was amazing that the school maintained more than 120 schools worldwide. How could he do it? He told me that he went to China almost every two months. We joked that he went there more often I did. He briefly mentioned different programs (student exchanges, faculty exchanges, executive programs, etc) he had with some famous Chinese universities in Beijing and Shanghai like Beijing University and Fudan University. Could this be a model for Perdue? Forms of cooperation can be multifaceted, could be as simple as sending one student over to study business, for example.

He also said he would arrange me to meet some of professors here for some collaboration research. I was really excited by this because this was one of the missions I had for this trip.

Julian gave us a short orientation after Chris' welcome remarks. Afterward he told us that he was to come to the hotel tomorrow morning at 8:45 and walk us to the school.

A bunch of us walked to the downtown to have dinner. Since I was too tired that I decided to walk back from the restaurant where they were to eat and go to bed early. After all, we traveled a long way. I got lost on the way. So I went in a hotel to ask for direction. To my surprise, the receptionist understood my broken French and pointed me to the right direction. It was just a block away. I took a shower and went to bed around 9.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Questions, questions...

I was invited to a colleague's home for dinner before my France trip. One of the guests was going to Shanghai to learn Chinese for a semester. Lately I've seen more and more people are going to China. For last two days, David (just graduated from SU) and Matt (just came back from Thailand for his Chinese study) came to my office and talked to me about their trips to China next month.

They all seemed to have many questions and people seemed to tell them different things like exotic foods, crowded public transportation, pollutions, public restrooms, etc. Granted that they are all legitimate issues facing westerners going to China, I keep telling them that they have to go there, experience themselves and come to their own conclusions.

In an hour or so, we are going to board the bus and head to the airport. France, here we come!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Don't Worry, Be Happy!

I read the entries from the students who are going to Grenoble for their study abroad program ( It is understandable that some of them are experiencing some anxiety attacks. For some of them, this is their first trip out of the country. There are so many things to do at the last minute, and yet, we don't have all the answers to many unknowns.: what to pack, what not to pack, language/cultural barriers, long flight, jet lags, etc. It is human's nature to anticipate, but judging from my past experience, I believe all will turn out to be great. So, don't worry about a thing.

Bon Voyage!