Archive for May, 2010

Day 1

31 May 2010 2 comments

AmadeusAlready I had my first day at the new job.  Of course I got minimal sleep the night before anxious for the day to start.  When I arrived first thing, the front desk didn’t have me listed in their book as a newcomer.  So there was a bit anxiety with the front desk reception in trying to locate my file and who I should be seeing.  Then came along a Texan woman by the name of Dinah also requesting to report as a new hire.  She was running into the same experience.  Finally the two of us  sat down in the lobby patiently waiting for a HR representative to come out.  When the representative did arrive Dinah and I soon realized we were going to work in the same department and become colleagues.  The fact that I was not going to be the only new kid on the block was definitely comforting.  She had managed the training department at a law firm in Austin and moved to France with her husband and daughter.   Her husband is half French and she was also attracted to the flexibility and number of days off within the French system.

First the HR staff briefed us on all the routine stuff of benefits, pay and vacation time.  Of course we signed our life away to several documents in either English or French.  Afterwards we were then greeted by the Educational Systems & Services team who provided coffee and pastries.  Dinah and I were introduced to the whole team which I believe adds up to 36 team members.  Then Deon, a South African and also my manager, debriefed both of us on the re-structure of the department.  There was clear excitement of having two new Americans join the team at this crucial moment as we will help with this change management.

Then we had some time with the Executive Director, Cecile also an American.  Again the excitement was clairvoyant.  Tomorrow is going to be a huge all day retreat off-site announcing the re-structuring and our new name, Global Learning Services.  We will have an actual case study of a client and role play exactly what are everyone’s roles and responsibilities.  Plus this activity will give me a chance to really get to know all my teammates with our team building activities.  I also learned I missed my opportunity to go on strike.  Amadeus recently went public and some employees are not happy with the results of the transition and did two walk-outs already.

After a group lunch at the cafeteria (and honestly the meat was tough and I gave up trying to eat it), the afternoon was a little more low-key as Dinah and I read up on all the paperwork that was given us.  One beautiful thing is that this company completely understands the fact that I am going through a transition.  We are already entitled to two days off for the exclusive reason of finding an apartment and dealing with moving related issues.  Everyone is very helpful and level-headed about the on-boarding process.  Already I am taking Thursday off to begin to explore possibilities for a living space.  Sadly I was told time is against me because a lot of apartments are getting snatched up quickly due to the impending tourist season.

As far where I want to live, I would like to try for the greater Nice area.  (Remember, my job is actually in another town, Sophia-Antipolis, just down the highway.)  Yet I am realizing that I won’t probably get my money’s worth and I will have to deal with major traffic getting to and from work.  This whole habit of commuting in a car with traffic will probably be one of the biggest adjustments for me.  So I may have to be more open-minded to smaller towns like Antibes or Grasse.

Being surrounded by other expats at work totally helps in navigating the system of southern France.  I wanted to get a few essential appliances like an electric toothbrush and iron.  There is the huge Carrefour (something like a Target in the States) down the road but was warned that it is the most expensive Carrefour in France.   Clearly there is an assumption that by living here, you have money.   In spite of the price tags, the quality of the items isn’t the best.  So I got word to go further down the street to a Darty (something like a Best Buy).  There I was able to find my items and practice my French in retrieving them.  Wasn’t crazy about the pricing but hopefully I bought items that will last me.

Today, I was happy.

Categories: Everyday Life

I Made It!

30 May 2010 5 comments

View outside my temporary residence in Sophia-AntipolisOui, je suis arrivé!  Yes, my dream has become a reality.

Today I arrived in the Côte d’Azur of France.  My flight was uneventful which is a good thing as anyone who knows me, I have plenty of travel horror stories.  I upgraded myself on the USAirways flight only to hear this European snob whine about the service.  Right off the bat he was in an argument with the flight attendant about the difference between sparkling wine and champagne (and we had not left the gate yet).  Later during breakfast he actually declared the food as inedible.  Oh well, I held no complaints and knocked myself out with a little Ambien.   I slept for most of the flight which is key to easing anyone’s jet lag.  I had no problem with customs but that might be because I have a brand new passport and not filled with stamps with a few problematic countries (i.e. Zimbabwe, Syria, Lebanon, etc.).

Probably my biggest challenge was navigating around with all my luggage.  With two large ones checked in and two carry-ons, this is the most luggage I ever traveled with.  I try my best to pack light during my past travels.  Yet I managed to get myself to the rent-a-car place with nothing more than minor bruise on my wrist.

After waiting in line for a bit, I finally got my cute little Clio Renault.  Of course everything here is a stick and no automatics.  Out of pure necessity I also rented a Tom Tom.  Since I didn’t have a car back in Philadelphia, it was the first time that I ever used such technology.  Now I fully understand why everyone loves these devices.  Of course it is no surprise the address of my temporary residence could not be found on the Tom Tom.  I probably sat in the parking lot of the rent-a-car place for 30 minutes trying to figure out the Tom Tom and how to navigate to where I needed to be.  Since it could not find the street that was given as the address, I backed up a bit on my Google instructions.  The Tom Tom was able to locate the crossroads right before the last turn to the temporary residence.  Excellent, so I raced down the streets of Southern France.  The machine delightfully in its English accent directed me to my destination not allowing me to get lost.  Being a casual Saturday afternoon, the traffic was minimal.  So I saw the signs for the village of Biot which comforted me in that I was at the right place – or so I thought.  I was at the expected crossroads but I still didn’t see any tiny roads reading Rue Henri Poincaré.  Luckily there was an Internet cafe there so I went inside to ask for further directions.  In franglais, the owner and I worked together with Google maps to located the right address as this place was not it.  I was in the right direction, just not quite the right neighborhood.  So I wrote down some key roads and off I went with my Tom Tom in a new direction.  With the semi-mountainous terrain here in Nice, none of the roads are direct straight connections.  Everything is a messy and windy passage of a snake.   Within 10 minutes I finally found my street but still took me a while to figure out which residence was mine.  There was several extended stay hotels on this road and the name I was given didn’t quite match to what I saw in front of me.  After a little exploration and asking a nearby real estate office, I finally figured it out.  Of course what was complicating the situation is that this is southern Europe, so the registration desk is only open in the morning and the evening.  By now it is mid-afternoon and no one would be at the front desk.  I entered the entry code and voila – the main door opened for me.  Then I opened the safe on the front desk per the instructions given and again, success!  The safe opened.   Yet to my disappointment, the safe was empty as my room key was supposed to be waiting there for me.

No worries, I was too hungry at this point to care.  I simply parked my rental car and found a restaurant across the street next to the grocery store.  I don’t believe the restaurant was technically open (see previous comment) but the server obliged to offer a typical Croque Monsieur and a salad.  With the gorgeous weather, I sat outside looking over the valley.  I took advantage of the free wi-fi and caught on my Facebook and e-mail.

Finally around 5:00, I made my way back to the residence and formally checked in.  I have a simple, clean one bedroom space with a kitchenette.  I managed to keep myself awake resisting the dire need for a nap by going to the pool, supermarket and finally a bit to eat at the pizzeria down the street (the only thing open at 9:00 at night surprisingly).

Today, I smiled.

Categories: Everyday Life