September 2013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Lesson in Customer Service at the Sorbonne

Back to school time!
Classes start for me at the Sorbonne this week, but not as a student. No, this year I begin teaching in the framework of my PhD. They are entrusting me to teach French students. In French. This should be good.

I went to school a few days before classes to check in on the AV equipment. University facilities are notorious for making PowerPoint presenting feel like passing kidney stones, so I wanted to get the skinny before I showed up in front of a group of students who would judge me on my ability to project a slide.

I entered the new building at Paris 3 (spiffy, to say the least) and found the main desk, guarded by a woman eating a half-empty container of lentils. It was around 1PM. Sacred time for the French for any customer service representative. Even though she was helping a girl already, she looked at me with raised eyebrows.

“Hi, I have a class to teach this week and I wanted to know if I could use the projector,” I asked cheerfully, assuming she was angry to have been doubly interrupted during her lentil feast. “Do I talk to you or should I…” Her finger raised at me.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Run: Together, With Purpose, With Me!

The team!
Running in Paris – the scenery is great, the parks are plentiful, and the bakeries are on every corner giving you just one more reason to go that extra kilometer (“If I run a bit more, I can get two croissants…”). But running in Paris can also get lonely and, sadly, monotonous. Listen -- it's time to change that!

Fortunately one French start-up called is making change happen. The guys behind it are launching an online platform that allows users to find other people in your area to jog with and to run with a purpose, ideally to raise money for a cause. The London marathon raised nearly 53 million pounds for charity in 2012 while Paris’s raised nearly 52 thousands euros. We can do better than will be able to help!

I met the team during our #BostonStrongParis 5k after April’s tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon. They were extremely excited to see a group of such dedicated runners coming together around an important cause, which embodied the spirit of their concept. Now, the team, including Théo Thomas, and Laurent, need a little boost to bring their idea to the starting line. They are raising money on a crowd funding site called KissKissBankBank. They are almost halfway to their goal so that they can make their concept a reality and go on to raise more money for more worthwhile causes.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Runner's World Cookbook Reaches Across the Ocean

Editor's note: Officially released October 1st, The Runner's World Cookbook can be, and was pre-ordered on Amazon, arriving well ahead of schedule. Its recipient, a young runner named Bridget, tells the tale from New York:

I had finished my long run for the week  ten miles – on a Friday, meaning the entire weekend lay blissfully ahead of me. There would be no needing to be in bed early, no 7AM wake up call, no spending literally the entire morning preparing for my run, running, and recovering. Still in a state of runner’s high, I had showered and stared into the fridge for approximately 10 minutes. Leftover Thai, a sandwich, veggie burger...

All normally OK choices, but nothing enough to satisfy the post-run craving of something filling, fresh, and good-for-you. So, though pressed for time, I boiled water for whole wheat pasta, tossed in some frozen peas, sliced up a leftover piece of grilled chicken, and warmed up my leftover roasted garden tomato sauce from a few days ago. Add some cheese, pepper, pepper flakes, and voila. The perfect meal for any runner. I sat down with my creation and began to type about my lunch to Bryan (c’est normal), when there was a knock at the door.

The mailman. He was gorgeous and young, wore Ray Bans, and probably wasn't abiding by the Postal Service dress code. But he was my nemesis. In May, the NY Road Runner "Run for Boston" shirts that Bryan and I ordered had gone missing. As in, everyone assured me they had been delivered, and yet I did not have them. I blame this on the mailman and his Ray Bans and lackadaisical ways.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

42.195 Kilometers of Wine

Marathon du Médoc 2013: A selfie at the beginning followed by a photo at each wine stop along the way. 

Starts off fun...
...still feels good...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Marathon du Médoc 2013: A Running Odyssey

It was probably around the 39th kilometer when the pirate handed me the jug.

“Is it really rum?” I asked.

“Yes, it really is,” he responded. “Go on, have some.”

He was pushing along a giant pirate ship and was appropriately barefooted, as any pirate running a marathon should be. I couldn’t say no. I took a swig and passed it to Heather, who hardly hesitated. Pirates of the Caribbean is one our favorite rides at Disneyland, after all. It was close enough to science fiction, this year's theme, but any reason for rum is reason enough for me.

The gentle burning down my throat was a nice distraction to the hammering of my feet along the pavement and the ever-creeping concern that I haven’t peed in a while. I was also mildly concerned that my teeth would be wine-stained for the finish line photo. And was the glitter and silver paint all over my body still visible? I needed to look as sci-fi as possible.

Such are the thoughts that run through one’s mind while running the infamous Marathon du Médoc.

And they're off!
Starting line...Space Cowboys and aliens....

Monday, September 2, 2013

Putting Ratatouille in Perspective...

The dish I ate...eventually...
We were sitting on the terrace of one of my favorite restaurants as the summer, in its death throes, tried to warm us with some late-August sun. It was working. Heather and I were chatting away, waiting for our food to arrive. Such bliss to be a Parisian.

Then, an audible gasp arose from the other diners as we all saw a giant rat hobbling through the street in the midday sun. Normally nocturnal vermin, we quickly realized something was wrong with this little guy as he made his way across the pavement. In Paris there are an estimated two rats per person (though no one can be sure) but they have their place, at least in the sewers. Grossness aside – this little guy was kind of cute.

Heather began recounting the time she saw a rat similarly dazed by the daylight get himself trapped in a scooter’s tire in a busy intersection.

“And then he got up on the scooter’s wheel, and the driver didn’t know. Then he hit the throttle,” she sat, leaving me to fill in the gaps. “But he wasn’t dead,” she continued.

As she went on to describe the gory details of the rat’s final moments, a car began to back up on the street, the driver attempting to parallel park or turn around – the exact memory takes a backseat to what happened next.