Monday, January 31, 2011

First Trip to London!

This past weekend I decided to take a short break from France to head to the UK for a few very key reasons:

1. I had family friends in the UK whom I had not seen for over 10 years
2. My soon-to-be extended family has an (important) arm in the UK.
3. And of course - my better half was visiting her family in the UK and flying back to Paris with me.

SO! Lots of good reasons. Oh yeah also needed to get my tourist visa stamped before the "entry time" expired for first entry. weird concepts, but it is what it is.

I left on a day of "Discover yourself" at INSEAD - in terms of career. Do you want to go into banking, consulting, industry, or become an entrepreneur? Inspirational talks by folks in the professions left me wondering - what do I want. And so I thought - I can ruminate on my flight to London.

Little did I know that the flight from Paris to London is shorter than the 3 trains from Fonty to Paris. By distance it is obviously much further but the obvious moves from train to train to train eats up a lotta time.

ANYhow. My trip to the UK was quite amazing! I got to see family friends after so many years. Some things have changed so much and some things haven't changed at all! There's this feeling of comfort... something that's almost impossible to replicate. Something that just rises from within whenever you're around certain people who have seen you at certain points in your life (in my case during my pre-teen & teen years - not to mention that I babysat the children who are now 13 & 18!)

After the short stop at their place I took the tube into London to meet my better half AND Uncle, and two very lovable cousins - 8 & 12 respectively. We spent the day touring London. Saw it all - and I mean that. Started by waiting for them INSIDE the Ritz, which was pretty hilarious seeing as you are normally not let in with jeans. I walked in quite confidently, letting the concierge know that I was there to meet someone. No questions asked. I guess that's what happens when you look like you know what you're doing. An important lesson I have learned and applied many times in Business - at times taking risks but reassuring my clients/coworkers/etc... that everything is OK. That air of confidence, albeit hard to maintain for prolonged periods - really instills confidence and/or trust in others.

Or I'm just reading into it.

What else - ah yes, Buckingham Palace, London Eye, a Protest (against the tuition hikes, I think), National Gallery, Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, London Bridge, KFC... so many things. And it was about -2 degrees CELCIUS. Why I am blessed with such temperatures on such tours I do not know (refer to my trip to Paris the weekend before).

So apparently the Queen is in when that flag is up... but she was right next to me ;)
But everyone else was such a good sport! Seriously, we were really all over town for several hours.
Not sure what is being protested...

At one point, during the protest, we ducked into a Cafe Nero to get some hot chocolate. The only hot-drink break the whole day!

Upon returning home, I was welcomed like a King! It was really quite sweet. And a night of celebrations continued with some of their family friends being invited and playing charades with the kids! Team Awesome vs. Team Fabulous. Some of the most interesting moments in terms of acting, but also in terms of seeing how words, thoughts, and phrases are perceived by others. Some clues, like barber, are easily explained. But there are others that have such a deep context in experience that you have to, at times, really bow down to the folks that thought up charades.

Anyhow, the rest of the trip continued in a similar fashion. Spending time with my (soon to be) newly acquired family. It was great to see family after the first month at INSEAD. I have become used to seeing my own family only once a year, so I don't really yearn in the unable-to-function sense, but I do yearn in the when-I-have-some-family-time-it-is-fully-capitalized and at times stored in my heart to be rationed over several weeks/months ;) I basically hold on to memories and, as the times get difficult, reflect on a late night run to a grocery store to pick up mama noodles or barbecuing in -2 degrees temperature!

All in all, twas really worth it, init.

It's that London Bridge that was always falling down... at least s'how I remembered it.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Matrices... an intro

Have a look!

This was seriously something I was thinking about earlier today while trying to make it through my 8hrs of class today, before rushing home to start working on my CV & Cover Letter... and then packing to head to London to see lots of family for a very quick 48hrs - AND meeting my better half there :)

Not entirely sure how we're going to really "spend" time the following week, but I'm hoping she is as excited about learning Uncertainty, Data, and Judgment or Prices & Markets as I was about Con Law and Ks ;)

Sunday, January 23, 2011


After traveling quite a bit from India to Thailand to USA to France, I have realized how deeply each experience has not only shaped who I am today, but also what I expect from the world around me.

Cities, like Paris for instance, are beautiful in their own right, but I find myself trying to fit each "big city" or "small town" or "quaint tourist location" into specific paradigms that I've already developed during my travels. It is almost as though I stop myself from being WOW-ed.

That said, many things have moved me. Visiting Napa Valley, for instance. Devil's Lake. The Jim Thompson House in Bangkok. Koh Tao. More recently - Cha'am was really quite amazing. It was outside what I expected, and in that, was really worth every penny.

And of course, how can I forget La Tour D'Eiffel.

A quick/short story on today's escapades and then back to this philosophical moment I'm having:
1. Went to bed around 3AM after having an absolutely amazing house dinner filled with laughter, wine, and cheese as well as some amazingly cooked Salmon & Chicken Curry!
2. Got up around 8AM to get to class from 9AM - 11AM and then 1130AM - 130PM. As soon as that was over, decided on plans for Paris and then went to the train station.
3. Got the 3PM train to Paris. Split up into two groups - sightseers and shoppers - around 4PM and then hit the road...
4. Walked and walked (probably should've bused a bit of it) and ran into our French housemate in front of his family owned business - you might recognize this:

La Tour D'Argent (yes - Ratatouille was loosely based on this restaurant)
5. No coincidences in life - I mean honestly, we had left INSEAD 3hrs ago, gotten lost, walked down streets, stopped for pictures and baguettes with jambon and then suddenly AS we're walking down the WRONG street we hear a car honking and it is our housemate driving past his own restaurant in Paris... what are the odds? That was real pleasant surprise.
6. Headed towards Champs Elysees - pitstop around Notre Dame.
7. Finally got to Champs Elysees and went shopping - for very simple items. LOTS of sales, but could not find the simplest things (plain solid colored shirts).
8. At this point we were also hungry so lo and behold the first meal in Paris:
*If you know me well enough you know I'll be trying McD or the equivalent to judge the quality of life in any city I visit. I think you can tell a lot from fast food served. Another blog post on that!
9. At this point we'd almost lost one of our friends, realized that it was 9pm and our other friends were already planning to head home and we had yet to see Arc De Triomphe and La Tour D'Eiffel! Considering my first trip to Paris was directly to the airport, I was determined (and thankfully supported) to see these two places!
10. We trekked on:
- And then Metro-ed it to the next stop (not before almost losing a friend along the way which would happen yet again on our journey home.
11. Pictures can speak for themselves:
Nutella Crepes (made by a Sri Lankan Chef)
One of the Seven Wonders...

A garden with Images of Tourists in their tell-tale picture-taking poses

At some point the Eiffel Tower starts to flicker with these lights all over!

We were quite speechless - was a first for me (2nd or 3rd time for a few others). Missed most of our trains home but finally made it back on the 12:35AM train and walked home with another 5-6 INSEAD students who were also trekking home from Paris. Good times...

As an "aside" - One thing I've noted is that this is probably why there are some very "strict" unsaid rules about setting up a very successful (tourist) destination. It does not necessarily have to be a tourist location - you could be a city that's growing and looking for outside investment for example. There needs to be some major differentiators for those of us who travel quite frequently (also the favorite pool of candidates) to want to move to - yet another city. And in that way, I wonder if I'm flawed in my thinking and/or the way I process information or not. Because at the end of the day, there are some beautiful segments of Paris that I did love very much... for most of the time, however, I felt like I was back in NYC or Chicago. Even Bangkok a few times (although the choice for streetside food in this chilly weather kept me focused more towards North America).

Anyhow, as per the story earlier, I'm quite tired. Time to sign off!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

An interesting read...

I have a Lebanese in my group and he sent this article. Please have a read:

Coming to INSEAD has opened my eyes up to many things - and part of diversity is also realizing that the mixed experiences in some people's lives are not the ones filled with SCUBA diving in Belize and backpacking through the Amazons... There are stories like this one - all over the world - and they are true and they bring such a different perspective that the only thing I can say is that it humbles me.

Monday, January 17, 2011


By now I'm sure you're tired of hearing about how amazing this place is. I'm sorry. I have to say it once more - and to b honest there will be another very similar post like this. I have to just give a shout out to a few people at this point in time (it is 12:28AM and I need to get to bed because I have a ton of reading to do) but my housemates and my groupmates are just an amazing bunch of people... my eyes have been opened to so many different things/issues/ideas about life and circumstances and situations and job functions and experiences and... well the list goes on (and I will post more specifically on those two sets of folks soon!)

But the point remains very simply this - diversity in the way that it is applied at INSEAD is really only paralleled at places like the United Nations - and I mean that because it is apparently statistically valid. Moreso, however, is the fact that because grades don't matter here and so much of what we do is in the Group learning format, there is a sense of collaboration that is fostered from the minute you step on campus. You want to succeed but you also want your peers to succeed.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday January 14: Outward Bound!

From the Outward Bound website: "Outward Bound is the premier provider of experience-based outdoor leadership programs for teens, adults and professionals. Outward Bound courses change lives and give you the tools to see farther, climb higher and know your way. Seek challenge and embark on a backpacking trip, mountaineering class, kayaking adventure, sailing trip or an urban expedition in your community and take home real leadership skills and the courage to follow your own path."

And INSEAD basically has this trek designed for us to work with our assigned groups as the first big assignment together.

There were two other assignments prior to this one - don't drink & drive campaign, and a classroom exercise on general management.

It is about 7:17AM in Fontainebleau. I'm about to get some breakfast and then... well I'm not really sure what to expect. Rock climbing? Tightropes? Random treks into the Fonty forest!?

Team Awesome is about to find out...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Where are you from..?

For those of you who know me well, you are very aware of the following conversation thread:

Hi My name is ABC
Hi My name is Vivek
No Viv-ache - V as in <peace sign>
OH Vi-vek
Sure, Vi-vek works
How do you say it?
Awesome. Hey Viv-ek!
<le sigh>

So where are you from?
I was born in India, but I grew up in Thailand. Been in the States for the past several years
Wow, you have no accent whatsoever
<smile, not knowing how to reply>
You have absolutely no accent
Um... well I went to an International School so I actually have a weird mix of accents depending on where I am
Yeah, but you have no accent at all!
Actually, you should hear me talk to my parents or my family in India - then you'll hear the accent
Really? Wow - you should call them right now!

... Anyways, the conversation continues along the same vein. And while some might get annoyed, I've always worked on auto-pilot. It has not bothered me :)

However, here at INSEAD, there is absolutely no way for me to hit <auto-pilot> because, first off, often times I'm asking "Where are you from?" and the follow-up questions and secondly - my experience, while unique, is just one of 400+ unique experiences of each of my classmates. From birthplace to parents or family history

What a fresh perspective to the question, "Where are you from?"

It is day 3 now, and I feel like I know, maybe, 10% of my class population - maybe...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Playing catch up!

Here are some things I need to get done asap, or I'm definitely going to regret it soon!
- Career related surveys
- INSEAD updates from the Dean (helps give perspective on the school and what's going on outside)
- Read up on more career related things - the upcoming ones
- Look over the prereading & business foundations to unconfuse myself
- Last minute house-related purchases, mainly say snacks for when I'm in class
- Health Insurance (just finished)
- Home/Property Insurance

Oh and emails. My apologies to anyone I have not replied to yet!

Orientation was great - very self explanatory and after having been here for a week I already feel quite comfortable getting around campus. Not too worried. Just had to turn in some forms. Even had time to run to the gym! Once again, the food at the cafeteria is quite good. I KEEP forgetting about the grille section and halfway through my walk out, I realize, "oh shucks i could've/should've..."

Time to go play some catch up!

Saturday, January 8, 2011


It was bound to happen.

And it did.

Now my confidence is shattered.

And what can I do? The year has not even STARTED!

I slept in. Past my "alarm" and therefore am missing a class as we speak. It is a wrap up class which means I'm not missing much but this is sort've the worst and best thing that could've happened.

You see, I set my alarm to "Weekdays" - a cool feature you can set on your blackberry and today - the last day of business foundations - happens to be on a Saturday.

Whenever this has happened in the past - say with getting to work late, or missing a class in college, I've resorted to purchasing and setting several alarm clocks. This may become the case once more.

The other, impractical in this situation, solution has been to ask my Mom to call me (from Bangkok) at X AM my time on certain very important days... My only reasoning for this is that whenever it is early in the morning in USA it is early in the evening in Thailand, so it is not like I'm asking anyone to get up early on their own (although I have been known to ask one or two others to do that as well). Yes it is quite ridiculous, I do agree, but the stress of missing an alarm has kept me tossing and turning all night, which in turn is counterproductive to being productive the following morning when you're trying to get up early in the first place!

Needless to say, however, with the time difference between France and Thailand (or USA) plus the added cost of trying to reach me on a French cellphone - I shall not ask any such thing of anyone.

OH - that said, someone did call me around 6am my time this AM, which is what/why/how I blame for the over sleeping, because I think, it is possible, that I thought - OK I'll get up in twenty minutes, and then turned off my alarm? Or was it on the weekday setting. I'm not sure what all shenanigans I did with my phone alarm this AM.

Regardless, now I'm on my toes with regards to this waking up business and the alarm purchasing and setting. Wish me luck! OR... just call me at 8AM ;)

Friday, January 7, 2011


I kid you not - whenever I now think about writing the word INSANE I automatically write INSEAD. And yes, part of that is because there's some muscle memory associated with INS - BUT moreso because when I think INSEA... INSEANE... GAH. when i think "it" I automatically think INSEAD.

And this week has been just that. Granted a few of the things were my own doing, but in general INSEAD is what you make of it. And taking the Business Foundations course was a GREAT idea for me - I feel like this "Boot Camp" of classes in Accounting, Finance, and Quantitative Methods was a perfect way for me to stretch the muscles in my brain in prep for the ten month workout.

Yes, I know I'm all about the analogies, but seriously think about it - WHENEVER you start something new, especially over an extended period - say running for 45 minutes. If you don't stretch for at least 10-12 minutes before you start then halfway through the run you're going to start feeling sore - you might even pull a muscle. OR worse yet, once you get off the treadmill the pain in your muscles catches up and you spend the next 2-3 days limping around town!

So part of the reason I feel so strongly about that analogy is because I just went to the gym for the first time in a few weeks, stretched (not enough), and ran for about 30 minutes. Yes, I'm sore.

If I did that, however, with INSEAD, I think I might've pulled something - in my brain. Luckily I am here, barely making it through Business Foundations, and loving it. That is what I wanted from this week. To feel overwhelmed, but also to get back into the groove of school - concentrating in class, doing homework, socializing, cooking my own food, working out... all the parts of the whole that make this experience INSEAD... and INSENE at that. Dammit!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My first trip to Paris...

Nope, not glamorous at all. First off, it is winter in Europe, which basically means that - most of the time - there is hardly any sun. i.e. it is Grey.

Now, I think I had updated most of you on the baggage fiasco - if not, here's the short version:
1. I did not check baggage allowance prior to the flight properly (honestly I was quite busy)
2. At the airport I got the least cooperative lady, who was also a supervisor, to un-help me.
3. I repacked my bags. Oh - in the middle of all this one of my bags broke :)
4. After significant repacking I still had an entirely full bag of stuff - 20kgs. SO we decided to ship that to me in Paris and the earliest it could make it out was on the 5th/6th. So I thought - easy peasy I'll just take a trip to the city!


Because this story is so fresh and still makes me cringe with annoyance and borderline anger (at the comedy of errors), I'm going to keep it rather short. Highlight the major "points" if you will.

- Was notified on Tuesday that my bag had arrived. I was going to wait until the weekend but luckily I called and was informed that everyday the bag sat in the airport was an additional 50 Euros :)
- So the next morning, I got up at 5AM to catch a bus to the train station. I wanted to get to the airport by 8AM when the office opened.
- A really nice lady at the train station in Fontainebleau suggested I buy the one-day fare so I can use any mode of transport all day for just 20 Euros (one way was already 15 or so Euros so it was quite a steal)
- Train from Fonty to Paris was about 45 minutes. Very little issue.
- From Paris I had to take a train to Chatelette (sp?) and then change one more time to get to the airport. This was slightly confusing since many different lines come on the same track and depending on what's on the screen and the direction of travel, you do or don't get on. I got on, correctly, thankfully - mainly coz I speak French, overheard someone talking about CDG (Charles De Gaulle Airport) and also because I just followed anyone with bags looking like they were ready to travel - which is VERY different from passengers who have just arrived.

There's a gleam in your eyes when you have arrived - this urge to just get home and rest and kick up your legs and so on. With travelers there's more of an alertness - a presence even - readiness to continue the journey. ANYHOW:

- Finally got to CDG and then tried to find the building that the cargo was in.
- Boarded a bus to the cargo holds (mind you, it had started raining quite a bit)
- After a lot of conversation I finally got off at  one of the stops and then in the pouring rain started to walk around looking for B4 - remember, each of these cargo buildings is the size of a shopping mall and I had been let off near B1... so about 15 minutes later I make it into the building and am directed to SEVERAL counters. First to look at a paper to confirm it is the right paper. Then to get it signed. Then to take it back to make sure it was signed. Then to pay. Then to confirm payment with a 3rd party. And finally to go wait for my bag, which the first person who confirmed my bag was there, couldn't actually already get started. I had to wait each step of the way.

- The thing really helping me through was conversations with my better half who was being quite encouraging, although I know deep down she wanted to ask, "did you really need to ship this bag? does it really have anything worth all this hassle?" - but she didn't! She was sweet about it and is still. And if you're reading this, jaanu, you KNOW you were biting your tongue and I really appreciate it. I was already asking myself the same questions - not to worry!

- That and a phone call from Mom at one opportune moment (when I was just about to go livid on the authorities for making me run around in circles) - and I'm really patient. I may seem restless and active, but I am patient. Thanks MOM - she made some pretty funny jokes about Europe and France and whatnot. Good times.

SO that was that. And then I made my way home, dragging my bag along the road to the bus stop.

- Then my Paris one-day card stopped working, probably because it was drenched in my jeans.The bus operators were quite nice about it - and one really nice kind old man helped me find my final train back to Fontainebleau.

I ended up missing 2 classes and getting to campus just 3 minutes before my 3rd class started around 13:27pm.

Funny thing is that my professors were both AMAZED that I actually got my bags and got back to Fonty in one piece in one day. I am GLAD I did not mention it to them face-to-face when I was leaving (I sent emails) because that would have severely discouraged me. I did not want to inconvenience any of the very helpful INSEAD friends I'd already met.

And that, my friends, was my first trip to Paris. I did have time for an eclair, hot chocolate, and a sandwich du jambon, but all that was purchased at CDG so nothing new, eh?

Next time maybe I'll check out one of those big tall buildings or places where they apparently store nice drawings and paintings... :)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

First Day of "Classes"

I signed up for what some call "Boot Camp" or "Business Foundations" because I have not opened a textbook in over 5 years.

And today was our first day of classes - Finance, Accounting, and Quantitative Methods.

Homework took over 2hrs - we were only finished at around 8pm, but that is because (like fools?) we took a short break during the day to get cellphones figured out. I believe that was a mistake seeing as I was unable to purchase the cellphone AND ending up staying late to finish the problem set.

Tomorrow might be more productive - but there's Tandoori Lamb AND one of my friends/co-teammates wants to go get the cellphone sorted out then... we shall see.

I did purchase a 29 Euro alarm clock which is kinda stupid considering I am about to get myself a phone in which I will set alarms... le friggin sigh.

Best purchase, however, was my INSEAD Backpack!

I should be reading, but I'm blogging, and now I'm le tired.


Monday morning in Fontainebleau... should've really been Monday afternoon - will explain why.

Anyhow, I got up around 8AM and it felt like 4AM outdoors. Granted, my room has slanted ceilings so maybe the light wasn't really making it through - but I've also heard that this is what they call the "European Winters" - dark & gloomy days...

At around 9am, after trying to find the appropriate health & housing insurance, I got in touch with my airport buddies from the previous day to see if we should meet up to get cell phones figured out and contact our banks for credit cards and cheque books, etc...

We also decided to get something to eat. At around 10AM we met up and walked towards the town center. During this walk I started to notice Chinese restaurants, so with nothing better to do at the moment, I started a tally...

During the day, we really racked up some mileage. First we learned that one of the banks was closed. We continued wandering around, asking for directions to places we didn't want to go - probably just to practice our French, and continued aimlessly through the town.

Finally, we decided to be productive and so walked into a Phone store to look for good prices and deals on phones - this was a bad idea without prior research into the French system for cell phone plans since we had offers for things like 1 hour of talk time a month + unlimited sms & internet. To give you a sense of how different this is, in USA I had 1350 minutes of talk time along with unlimited data & 200 SMS/month. To bring this down to 60 or 120 mins of talk time and unlimited SMS & emailed seemed slightly disproportionate.

BUT I guess we were going for the more cost effective plans (i.e. my plan in Chicago was $150/month so approximately 100 Euros). So, note to all reading this - incoming calls are free and I have unlimited SMS & Email so I will be great about text-based communication and leaving missed calls :)

After a few discussions around cellphones we decided that all the French we were hearing was exercising our brains more than expected so croissants were in order - found ourselves a nice patisserie and indulged in French treats! Ok - I indulged but moreso because I was instructed to do so by my brother to taunt my sister-in-law with pictures of all the treats I was eating in France.

Second note but moreso to self - find gym, sign up for gym, and start a regular workout routine asap...

With a little bit of food in our tummies we ventured towards the bank, again, realizing it was closed. Then walked towards grocery stores (remembered they are called epiceries) and did a lot of random scouring of the town.

Around noon one of our friends decided that he was going to head back before the random discussions regarding HSBC drove him to insanity and it was once again my British Canadian swimmer buddy and I ready to brave Melun.

And brave we did! We figured out that Ligne 34 goes to Melun directly from Fontainebleau. But we did not know how much it would cost, so we emptied our pockets with all the change we had (yes - I'm trying to portray poverty when in fact we basically had too many big notes).

One amazing thing about the bus was that it was a proper bus - not like a public transit bus one might expect - more like a bus you'd take for overnight trips to different cities - make sense? A Greyhoundesque bus - quite the experience. And en route, I spotted at least 4 more Chinese Restaurants!

Tally = 9.

Upon arriving at Melun, we tried to find HSBC which for some reason was a complete mystery to all the locals. They kept sending us to different banks - now I know my French might not be the best, but there were two of us and we were giving every permutation of H (ahj), S (ess), B (bay), C (say) to folks ranging from Domino's Cashiers to Etudiants wandering about town...

Finalement we found a map and with the help of the address I always had in my backpack we located the town square/circle around which HSBC was located.

Once again, after all that French-speaking, we needed some treats - du chocolate, du the, et deux tartaletttes (quiches)... hmmm...

AND we were up to 12 Chinese restaurants. Mind you, we were speed walking our way around Melun and in the midst of that brisk pace and yelling "Ou est La BANQUE!" I'm sure I missed a few restaurants... 

Needless to say we finally made our way to HSBC, which has amazing security - only one person allowed in or out at a time, buzzed through two separate doors - I think I may apply for a job at this branch :)

... this post is getting really long - and I'm not even done talking about the rest of the escapades of the day, but let me list it:
- back to Fontainebleau by bus
- back home to change
- quick stop grocery shopping w/ housemate (milk, cereal, and 2 cases of beer as a welcome present for our other housemates)
- Welcome Dinner for INSEAD Business Foundations attendants
- Post-welcome Dinner conversations with new students
- Debrief on the walk home...

Oh, Tally end-of-day = 13

Monday, January 3, 2011

Krestel - my first night in France!

Je suis arrive!

I met one of my first friends at INSEAD at the Terminal. Her luggage had been misplaced so she'd spent several hours at the airport already and you could see that she was quite tired. Add to that the aforementioned grimy feel of that specific terminal at CDG and you've got yourself an antsy friend - but she was still pretty chill and fun to hang out with. We chatted about travel through India, our respective trips to INSEAD, Canada, stereotypes and what we're waiting to see at INSEAD to reinforce or negate certain "myths" - also realized we have a bit in common - i.e. mainly out love for swimming :)

So we hung out waiting for another INSEAD friend - he was coming in from Islamabad - except that she and I kept looking at Istanbul when we were checking arrival time. Initially he was to arrive at 2pm, which got delayed to 3:50pm and then pulled back to 3:15pm.

At some point around 4pm, she asks me to watch the exit area while she grabs a bit of water. In the few minutes she steps away and I'm asked to hold down the fort, there's an ad for a TV show featuring this really talented juggler - mind you this is being played on a TV right above the exit door (from the baggage claim) which, in my defense, is a horrible place to put a TV.

ANYhow, the juggler was dribbling four basketballs while standing on a wheel-less skateboard on top of a cylinder. Yeah, that's right - it was pretty damn cool.

And yes, that is precisely when our mutual friend exited, did not see anyone remotely interested in his exit from the terminal - he was also looking for a girl (since she'd done the email coordination) - and had walked on out to the taxi area to try to find out shuttle driver. LUCKILY for us the shuttle driver walked into the terminal at precisely the same time - in fact they walked past each other.

After waiting for another 30 minutes, we started to look around for other signs of interested parties and eventually our friend from Islamabad made his way back to the terminal where we were all reunited!

The drive from CDG to Fontainebleau felt like any other long drive in any other city in the world! I kid you not. Sometimes I felt like I was driving through the midwest in USA, while at others I felt like it was New England area. Eventually, after missing several signs pointed directly for Fontainebleau we arrived at our respective homes.

I was lucky enough to meet one of my housemates, who, after leaving me alone in my room to unpack for a little while, suggested that we exit to get a few beers & crepes.

This was my first night in France and I sure as heck was going to spend it drinking a couple of beers and eating Crepes!!!

Krestel being the first beer we tasted - I recommend all of you reading this to give it a taste - don't chug it or go get a 12 pk to get drunk off it or any such thing. Just taste it - amazingly fresh and refreshing. What a first sip that was...

The Galettes, Salades, and Crepes were equally delicious... and our entire experience was really something to remember - even a slightly humorous episode that consisted of someone at the restaurant breaking a chair while sitting on it (wasn't me) - we watched him descend slowly from seat height to the floor and it was quite the odd but really hilarious moment. Everyone at Les Caves De Martins enjoyed that... And that was my first night in France!

Bkk - Doha - Paris

Getting out of Bangkok was quite the hassle, I must say. First off (the omen I should've listened to) my backpack strap snapped off just as we were getting into the car on the way to the airport.

THEN because I had not checked the baggage allowance properly - I realized on the day of (and at the airport in fact) that I was only allowed 23kgs TOTAL. Furthermore, the supervisor at the counter was not willing to budge much. I had packed two bags totally approximately 46kgs.

SO at the airport, I repacked my bags. I pulled em both open and moved things around from the essentials to the BARE essentials and so on. After that, I redistributed the weight between the bags, got 1 bag to 25kgs (after basically going from 29 - 22 - 28 - 27 - 25), checked that in, and got started on figuring out how to ship the 2nd bag over. (I also consolidated carry-on by stuffing my guitar case with a lot of paperwork!!!)

Luckily we got to the airport very early - 10:30PM for a 2:35AM flight.

Anyhow, after a couple of hours worth of repacking bags, negotiating (to no success), and $300, we got MOST of my stuff on the way to France. I did forget my flip flops which is really quite upsetting since I do need a pair and I really loved that specific set. I might even ask Mom & Dad to mail them to me. Let's see how desperate I get.

I was one of the last few to make it to the boarding counter and as soon as I hit the seat in-flight I passssssssed out. I was awoken a few times by the stewardesses because I had somehow been put down for a Hindu meal - which automatically means, for some reason, not-too-great-veggie options. That is quite frustrating since "Hindu" can mean so much but I guess if you are an airline, you want to err on the side of the most religious possible Hindu you might come across. Needless to say, I did bow my head towards the big G man up in the sky as we took off :)

My layover in Doha lasted a very short amount of time. Most of the time was spent on a shuttle from the flight to the terminal and then another shuttle right back out of the terminal to an aircraft parked next to the one I had disembarked from... something about the efficiency there seems lacking - might be a great business idea to exploit. Speaking of business ideas - I watched a bit of Badmash Company, all of Megamind (highly recommended), The Town, and Dabangg.

Doha - Paris was also without much activity. However, once I arrived in Paris it was another story. CDG is a bit old & grimy. At least it feels that way. From the terminal I walked to Customs and this is the first time that I was in the shorter line - Foreign Passports. The other line being EU :) Felt pretty good to be getting the VIP treatment!

The wait for my bags was approximately 1 hour. I guess since I checked in so early for the flight in Bangkok, my bag was in the very back of the plane!

And then I walked out of the terminal to meet a couple of INSEAD students I'd coordinated with to shuttle over to CDG...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

I apologize for disappearing. It has been a really eventful past few weeks. Let me give you a quick rundown...

Lots of dinners & travel around Bangkok with my girlfriend & her family - her brother arrived on the 25th as well. We wanted to shop and eat and massage our way through the city in the few days we had together... some of it was quite stressful and I would say that starting around Dec 23rd I have been getting approximately 4hrs sleep/night - which I hear is what I should be shooting for during my year at INSEAD!

Dec 26th was the Roka Ceremony which can be considered an Engagement Ceremony (some say its the informal engagement) whereby my parents and my girlfriend's parents agree to stop (rokh) looking for or entertaining any prospective suitors ;) What a day/night/evening/event/ceremony. I'm still reeling from the day's activities...

Dec 27th my girlfriend & her family left for Iowa. It made sense not to extend her trip (and once you read the next few days notes you'll see why).

Dec 28th was the Mehndi Ceremony for a very close friend's bride-to-be. My brother also arrived at around midnight...

Dec 29th = The wedding for aforementioned friend, so I was running around Bangkok trying to figure out random details for the wedding. It was a blast and I remember dancing for about 2hrs and needing to dry clean my suit the following morning!

Dec 30th - 31st I went to a beach resort with my brother and sister-in-law... halfway through our lunch we realized how much we were missing Mom & Dad so we convinced them both to join us for the night! It worked out really well and we were able to relive the good ol days of family vacations to the beach! Really missed my newly Roka-ed family as well ;)

Dec 31st - Jan 1st, first off we spent the night on a cruise with family and friends from India. My maternal grandmother was also there - rang in the new year on the boat watching fireworks all around the Chao Praya River.

Jan 1st I've spent packing and repacking ever since I learned that my airlines MIGHT not allow more than one bag! w00t w00t! what a great realization to come to now!

Pics to be posted. I thank you all for reading and hope to see you soon and/or hear from you as well! Email/Comment/Post/Facebook or just think about me and our fates will align :)

OH - I also have a lot of INSEAD related things to update so I will be posting separately on those topics, including Housing & Medical Insurance!