Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June 30: Hmmmmm.....

Who do you think this most resembles?
Mommy or daddy?

Here are some more pics if you are interested:

Monday, June 29, 2009

June 29: Inspired Running

Today I finished up my last big meeting here in the Paris office (Woohoo!) and I just have report writing left to work on for the final 2 weeks that I am in this office (bummer). Feeling a lot lighter on the shoulders after getting the presentation out of the way I went for an invigorating 6-7 mile run in the stagnant heat of Paris.

Granted, running out in the best heat that Paris has to offer still falls about 20 degrees shy of the average temperature that Houston boasts during this time of year. But the real killer is when I get home where the average temperature in my apartment is about 20 degrees hotter than the average temperature of my sweet, sweet air conditioned place back in Houston.

After my run I just cannot cool down. I have even tried to adopt "domestic animal rules" of finding cool cement or tiles to lie on to cool myself. Unfortunately there are only two tiled areas in our apartment - the bathroom and the kitchen. The bathroom is out (because to be honest I am not sure I had sniper aim last Friday night after a few beers) and Jennie seems to object to seeing my bare ass lying so close to dinner. So, here I find myself spending another night in swassy-land dreaming of a nice, refreshing Canadian winter...ahhhhh...


Sunday, June 28, 2009

June 28: Flying a Chopper..

As it turns out, whenever the boys and I get together for a boyz night it seems that lately it always ends with beers and flying model helicopters. It seems that now the cost of admission to hang out is to have your own flying machine (I know, we are geeks...but only those of you who have not yet tried flying a 'chopper are saying that...the rest of you know exactly what I am talking about)!

So on Friday at lunch I went with some of the guys to Toys R Us and I bought a 'chopper. I have spent this weekend getting some flying time under my belt. At first it seemed like I had to beg Jennie to fly it, but once she realized that she is a really good pilot she is having some fun with this thing. Here she is taking it under the coffee table...I am so jealous. (It does not sound like it was a completely clean passage...perhaps the passengers spilled a little coffee on their shirts, but they made it through none-the-lesss).

No more blogging for me...I got some training to do. Jennie says that she might let me be her co-pilot some day...ouch.


June 27: (North) American Breakfast

This might not look impressive to the average North American, but having bacon 'n eggs with a side of big fluffy pancakes breakfast is unheard of on this side of the Atlantic. Myself along with many of my friends who have spend time in America all agree that nobody does breakfast better. However, the staff at Breakfast In America certainly did a darn fine job of making me feel at home on Saturday morning!

To top it all off they serve proper "bottomless" coffee, which certainly beats the 3 euros it normally costs for a thimble of overly-bitter sludge I have come to expect. When Jennie was searching for a good ol' american breakfast in Paris place online it was interesting to see some of the websites/blogs that she found. It seems that searching for such a thing is highly frowned upon out there in web space. So many hits were of people chastizing anybody for going all the way over to Paris just so that eat what they have at home.

I think this is the difference between the tourist and the ex-pat. I agree that the tourist should make sure that they squeeze as much value and culture out of their trip as they can, which of course includes indulging in the local cuisine. But the ex-pat realizes that although it is important to assimilate into a culture, it is also important that you still hold on to the things that make you unique and to not let your own culture completely disappear. A sore belly full of eggs, sausage and silver-dollar pancakes is, indeed, one such 'pleasure' for me!

Afterwards we walked all around Paris just enjoying the nice day. We got our bronze on in the Jardin de Touleries (Jennie below with the Louvre in the background).

Afterwards I ran 7 miles in the Bois de Flesh (i.e. Boulogne). Nice days like this bring out all the speedo clad men and the bikini'ed women (for better or for worse) who just lounge on the grass all day. And if you forget your lycra, no problem, your underwear will do! You gotta love the French!

Monday, June 22, 2009

June 22: Oh yeah, I have a blog...

...and apparently it is a running blog too! Lately I could call this blog 'run in deserted town' or 'too busy at work taking it from the man to blog...city' or something like that.

But for those who care, I actually managed to put together 29 scrappy miles last week. These are my first real runs since the Paris marathon. To be honest, I would have preferred to be on my bike but I just do not have the time to make a ride worthwhile. I am not sure what the point of riding is if you cannot get out for at least over an hour. Similarily for running, I have a hard time justifying a second shower for the day unless I go for at least 45 minutes. But seeing that I have been really pressed for time lately, running wins as it requires the least time commitment. (I admit that the problem with my logic above is that sometimes all you can do is squeeze in 20 minutes here or 20 minutes there and if you ignore these opportunities because they are "too short" then you find 2 weeks has gone by and you have nothing!)

Anyhow, I am definitely starting from scratch again with running. It was a humbling week as I found that I had to build up to my 8 mile run at the end of the week. My lungs were on fire for the runs at the beginning of the week whereas my legs picked up where my lungs left off by the end of the week.

Today I ran another 8 miles and am starting to find some semblance of a fit (?) runner again. Around mile 4 I thought of my sister who ran her first 10km a few weeks ago and I got shivers. Then I thought of my brother who has signed up for the Perth half marathon and I got more shivers. Then I thought of the runner I once was, and the runner I would like to be again, and I got even more shivers. Then I thought of the treadmill I just bought because that is all I will get to run on in Lagos and I was instantely hot and sweaty again.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

June 13: Mixed Bag O' Nuts

Well, to start I am back in Paris and I must say that I have a new appreciation for every tree that I walk by, every patch of grass I can lay out on, every footstep I take outside without fear of being run over...ok, I take back that last comment - we are in Paris afterall and the Parisian drivers are notorius for their "pedestrian friendly" driving style.

For those of you who are interested, we did get apartment #1! This is awesome as I totally disliked my other two choices. When the HR lady asked me to rank the 3 apartments I told her, "Apartment #1 is my top choice, so I give it a 1. The other 2 are 4's". She replied, "But I need you to rank them in order 1, 2, and 3 so I can compare your choices to other people's choices and then I can try to make everybody happy." So I replied, "I know. My ranking stands". Jennie calls moments like these my "little Dougie moments" but sometimes you have to be firm and assertive.

In other news I can finally check off "Take a picture of a UFO" from my 100 things to do before I die list. The other day I was taking pictures outside of our window (as usual) and I noticed something floating in the bottom right hand corner of the picture. Excited I yelled, "Jennie, Jennie - I have photographed a UFO! Call Roswell! Call the Enquirer! Come Quick!"

I took another photo immediately after for comparison.
Although Jennie thinks it is a helicopter, I stand by my initial assessment. Further corroborating evidence was provided the next morning when I woke up sore. I won't say where I was sore, but all indications suggest that I was probed....
Today I had my first real run in over 9 weeks. I ran 7 miles and concluded that I am out of shape.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

June 9: The First Day of a New Adventure - Lagos, Nigeria

Today was my first full day in Lagos, Nigeria. After only 1 day it is clear to me that a place like this simply cannot be described or explained to anyone who has not been here. I am definitely opening the book to a new and, what I am sure will be, a very interesting chapter.

Today I checked out my company's health clinic where I was happy to learn that they have a special bullet wound kit. From there I went car shopping where I learned that the Nigerian version of Pimp my Ride is that instead of choosing 22's and spinners I get to choose from a variety of bullet proof glass. From there we went looking for our future home. I was taken to only 3 places and had to prioritize them in order of what I wanted. As far as I am concerned there was really only one choice - I really hope it is the one that we get...I should find out by the end of this week.

Despite the safety concerns I have mentioned, you can actually walk around and do many "normal" things on your own. Today I walked to a Supermarket all on my own and bought some bottled water. I needed this so I could brush my teeth (which I have not done yet since I have arrived....gross!). You will see in the pictures that my hotel water is quite dirty - without bottled water to brush my teeth with I found myself in quite a predicament both last night and this morning. I opted to avoid the water and tried to cover my funky breath with terrible coffee breath instead today. Luckily tomorrow I will be minty fresh again!

At my work there are security gaurds at the end of each corridor. To go from the front gate to an office on the second floor I passed 6 security stations, each one verifying my ID badge.

I was also given a special walkie-talkie today with a speed dial to the government's special police. Should I ever get stopped by the regular police I hit the speed dial on this walkie-talkie, which will send the armored police. Upon their arrival I am instructed to leave immediately and let the 2 of them "negotiate".

Here is a link to the photos taken today. Most of them were taken from the car while driving. Although not of great quality, they are meant to paint a little picture of Lagos.

Lagos - Pre Affectation Trip


Monday, June 8, 2009

June 8: Welcome to Africa

I started this morning in (1st world) Paris and tonight I find myself getting ready to tuck myself into bed under the watchful gaurd of semi-automatic rifles and surrounded by walls with coiled razor wire on top in (a totally different world) Lagos, Nigeria.

Actually, the best part of the journey was once I arrived in Lagos. Everything that could go wrong in Paris, did go wrong. There was some issue with the metro, which led to no cabs being available, which led to Parisians trying to jump the taxi cue "because they had something/somewhere important to do/go" (but when you try to tell them that we all have places to go, they just do not seem to understand!), which led to David being slightly stressed to make it to the airport in time.

I finally got on the plane and was (not so) pleasantly reminded that I was travelling to a country where cleanliness is a very low priority. The plane smelled like a high school locker room after two-a-days in August. I managed to get a seat next to a guy with a "I (heart) Jesus" hat, when I only wished that he had a different hat saying "I (heart) soap". While I was watching my movie (with my Bose noise-cancelling headphones) he put the hat infront of my screen and asked me if I knew Him. I had to politely respond that "what I do know, is that I am watching a movie". (For the first time I actually thought that one of my sister's invention ideas would actually be useful...)

Upon arriving in Lagos I was put into a van with some other guys from my company. In the front seat was a local wearing a flack jacket, a helmet, and was armed with a machine gun. Behind us we had another truck with 4 other individuals dressed the same way. When surrounded with people like this I never know if I should feel safe or in danger? One one hand you feel safe because you have some serious fire-power surrounding you, but on the other hand you feel in danger knowing that this protection is required.

I did not have a chance to take any photos today. I am actually here to find a place to live for Jennie and I for the next 3 years. So there will be plenty of time for photos later and, besides, I do not want to scare Jennie just yet!!

What struck me though was all the people. All along the freeway people are just standing, or walking in amongst the cars, or walking. There is just no end of people. I started to get the impression that they were all standing there waiting for a car or bus to pick them up. But every vehicle on the road was filled to at least double or triple occupancy, so I cannot really imagine how they will eventually get home.

The roads are terrible. It feels like driving on an old country road (even though they are paved). So, it looks like we will be in the market for a big ol' Texas 4x4 Truck or Texas Soccer Mom vehicle again.

Tomorrow I will be looking for our prison, I mean house, and I promise pictures. I cannot wait to see more of Lagos!


Monday, June 1, 2009

June 1: Chantilly

A day off work means another day trip somewhere around Paris - today was Chantilly.

More to follow later...I am tired.

May 31: I'm an addict

Saturday morning I woke up, looked outside, saw that it would be a beautiful day and was excited about the beginning of my weekend. I was also a little extra pumped because yesterday Jennie asked if we could play Dominion together. We have played Dominion before and I was only luke-warm about the game after my initial experiences with it. But on Friday night I really started to feel the excitement with it (even though I lost, and by a HUGE margin, each time). On Saturday I still had boardgames on my mind and decided to look for a boardgame store in Paris. As it turns out, "the biggest boardgame store in Paris" is less than a 5 minute walk from me...score!

I was unsure if they would have French or English (or both) boardgames but I thought that I would go check it out. We got there right when the store opened and for the next 45 minutes I was like a kid in candystore. Most of the games were French, but I managed to find a few that have been on my radar - Rail Road Tycoon (the boardgame), Mamma Mia, and Le Havre. Somewhere along the way Jennie decided to go home without me - I am sure she told me while I was reading the back of a box sometime...

Le Havre was the whole reason I wanted to go in the firstplace (the other 2 were well-priced bonus items!). At first I could not find their Le Havre games, but I finally found a stack of about 8 Le Havre games up by the counter. I held my breath in anticipation as I turned the box around, hoping to see english, but was extremely disappointed to see French. "Bummer," I thought, at least these other 2 games will be sweet.

So, I walked up to the counter, ready to officially introduce these two new games into my game collection when out of the corner of my eye I see the bottom corner of a box half sticking out of a pile of Fantasy magazines (remember this is a boardgame store - not that other type of store that may sell these types of magazines) that resembelled Le Havre. I walked over, moved aside the magazines and like Hannah from the Heavens, there sat the 1 copy of the Australian version (i.e. english) of Le Havre. I am quite sure that I may have let out a school girl's giggle at that time, but I cannot really remember - it was all just happening so fast!

10 minutes later I was leaving the store with 2 big bags full of my games in my hands, whisteling a tune, and skipping down the street. When I approached the traffic light I noticed there was a little old lady who seemed to be having some problems, so went up to her, offered my hand and helped her cross the street. Today was a great day!

After coming home and letting Jennie see my euphoria first hand I realized that this type of reaction may mean that I could be an addict. Consider this post as step 1 - I admit that I am an addict. As an ammendment to step 1, I would also like to add (since I am already in the process of admitting things) that I am only here at this meeting because I am hoping to find more people just like me who want to go have a good time after the meeting!

We have played all 3 games now and I am even more giddy about them now!