Thursday, May 24, 2012

You've been waiting for it -- first week of work!

Bonsoir mes amis,

Sorry for the delay in posting -- it's been quite a busy week! I started at the firm on Monday and my dad and step-ma were in town Sunday through Tuesday evening, so I had dinner with them each night after work. Today I had dinner with a law school friend, her partner, and their son! It's been a much more socially active week than I had imagined it would be. I pictured myself all alone this first week and how hard it was going to be to transition to living by myself again and not having Husband around. But, although I miss Mr. H. like crazy, I've been pretty blessed to feel like I have a "normal" life here with friends and family. It's kind of just like home but people smoke more (even more than in Pittsburgh, which seems impossible to me) and I speak a different language at work. You know, little differences.

So, work. Which I know you are all dying to hear about. It's very cool and there are several things about which I am DORKILY excited. For instance, I have my own email address with the firm, and my own phone line, and my own key and badge, and there is pretty much all you can drink tea, coffee, Evian, and Badoit (like Perrier).

The environment is so collegial -- some staff and attorneys all go out to find food at like 1:30 and bring it back and we all eat what we've bought in the conference room. Everyone has made a real effort to include me in things, inviting me to go "chercher un manger" (look for food) with them, explaining legal concepts to me, etc.

That's probably been the biggest and most obvious difference -- I'm doing some work in French law but I have a very introductory background in it, so essentially I am starting from a very basic level. But again, people take the time to explain things to me and usually, there's at least some corollary in the US system that I can kind of compare a given concept to, and then things start to click. Mostly I have been working on non-billable business development things, but I have gotten to help on one big lawsuit, so baby steps, I say.

Speaking of business development, the firm is hosting a breakfast mini-conference in June sometime, and for the invitations we wanted to include a picture at the heading to give the e-cite a classier touch. We had some photos done, but the coffee cup with coffee (it's breakfast, get it? We had a croissant too) wasn't on a saucer and the photographer didn't have enough time to re-do because she's was going away for Memorial Day (US based photographer, obviously). The lead attorney on the project was...dismayed to say the least by the lack of saucer. Efforts were made to convince him that it kinda sorta looked like a mug so a saucer is optional, but to no avail.

So, we have a photo shoot the next morning. I am dispatched to find a pretty looking croissant. I complete my mission and we start cleaning the table we've decided to stage the shoot on. None of us have a good actual camera so we bust out our iPhones. After two little shoots, some cropping and some resizing, I can proudly say that I, avocat and budding photographer, took the photo that will be featured in the invitation. Not what I expected to be doing for part of my first week, but we'll just call it resourceful. We worked some fresh peonies into the shot, too. It came out quite well for 2 lawyers and one lawyer-to-be putzing around with their phones. All in the name of business development, I suppose.

But honestly, the biggest "little" problem has been my computer keyboard at work. In case you didn't know, the French do not use the "standard" QWERTY style keyboard that we have in the US.

Instead, it's AZERTY.

Just pause, and think about it.

All of a sudden apple becomes "qpple" and Aztec becomes "Qwtec." Also, the enter key is in a weird spot so I keep hitting the *. That's not a frequently used thing, so why is it there!!!!! Like why wouldn't you have to shift to get an asterisk? Having it be a basic keystroke is ridiculous. Anyhoo.

I am determined not to ask for a QWERTY. This is my hero quest, my Everest, my wilderness journey: become an AZERTY-proficient typist. I am getting better already, and it is quite handy for French because the commonly used accented letters are there already. So that's nice.

Well, I'll update more with some of the sight-seeing stuff later. Just thought it would be better to share some of this first week of work stuff while it is in fact still my first week of work.

Ciao ciao,


PS Everyone says ciao ciao and all I picture is the dog, chow chow. I have to stop from laughing every time. I have a feeling that breed has a different name in French...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Museum and Lunch with the Big Boss

Hi there,

Let's see. Tuesday, I sent a quick email to my boss in Paris to let him know that I had arrived, found my apartment, etc. and then Hubbiekins and I went to the Musée d'Orsay, which is probably my favorite museum in Paris. This statement does not mean much, as I've only been to Paris once before and I think I've only been to two museums. So, I guess I mean, d'Orsay > Louvre because, although the Louvre is très cool on the outside and has many of the world's masterpieces, it's SO freaking huge that I get the illness my family affectionately calls "museum head" very quickly after entering. Also, I'm not so much into antiquities and the Louvre has quite the collection of that stuff. So, d'Orsay it is.

We had to stand outside in line for 20ish minutes to get in and buy our tickets, and it was COLD. And started to rain, and neither of us had brought rain gear. But we made it inside to the ticketing area before the heavens really let go. I got us the reduced rate for being youngins under 25, so that was a nice use of my French as I like saving money.

We were kind of already a little worn out and frozen by this point from walking to the museum and standing in line, so we stopped at the cafe on the ground floor of the museum and took a little break with some water, Fanta and 2 "petits pains" or little breads, otherwise known as dinner rolls.

After our snack break, we started on the ground floor and worked our way up to the top of the museum. In hindsight, the opposite path might have been the better choice because by the time we got to the fifth floor -- which is room after room of Impressionist masters, we were kind of done. Anyways, I was particularly excited about a painting my Millet (another greatest hit is "The Gleaners") called L'Angelus, or I think something like "morning prayer" in English. It depicts two farm workers in the field gleaning after the harvest (I think) and they pause as the sun rises and the church bells ring for morning prayer. The map of the d'Orsay has a convenient legend of where to find its most renowned pieces, and Angelus is on the Millet hallway. Husbie and I walk the Millet hallway. Spot the Gleaners, but I can spy no Angelus. So, I go to information and (in French) say how we have just walked the length of the hallway, no Angelus, what's up. Response: it's on exhibition in Moscow and won't be back for two months. So I didn't get to see it this time, but the good thing about my extended stay is that I will still be here in two months, so hopefully I will see it when it returns.

After heading through the rest of the galleries that I was interested in, we walked to Les Invalides, the site of Napoleon's burial because I was under the impression that it was free. Wrong. The burial site in the church, and the entire church itself, has been incorporated into the Musée de l'Armée (Army Museum) and entrance to the whole museum was included in the fare. I may be completely wrong about this, but I thought that the last time I came to Paris (2004) it was free because it's a church and churches are free. That is no longer the case and Husband and I decided that we didn't really care about Napoleon that much. So, we took the metro home.

At home, I checked my email again only to discover that my boss had emailed me not 20 minutes after we left that morning asking me to call him so that we could set up a time to meet this week to go over my internly duties as he will be traveling for most of my first week of work. Problem: I didn't have a phone and the Skype test call I did over the 3G on my iPad didn't go so well, so we ventured back down the many stairs to the SFR store where I acquired a cheapo pre-pay phone. Then we tromped back up the stairs so that I could make my phone call. Set up lunch for the following day.

Wednesday, May 16 -- Lunch with the big boss

I am a little fish in this office that I will soon call my workplace, so boss is an unclear term because apart from the other interns, everyone is in some degree my boss. So by lunch with boss, I mean big boss, and by big boss I mean managing partner of the Paris office of the law firm. Husband and I took the metro out to my workplace, which was good to do because I have to change trains twice and this lunch presented a good opportunity to practice. We practiced a little too well and arrived an hour early, so we stopped into a restaurant so that Husband could eat as he would not be joining me for my work lunch. After a quick lunch for him, I headed to the office and he set up shop in a little ice cream cafe nearby.

The office is very very nice and it's in a very stately building with quite an impressive door. The firm has the entire second floor for its office suite. I introduced myself at reception and sat down to wait for lunch. I ended up going with both the big boss and a senior associate to lunch at a nice restaurant. I had the seared sesame soy tuna --yum! We had a good chat, and I got the new intern spiel over lunch. The three biggest points were to ask questions about anything at all that's unclear, to integrate myself with the firm, and to ride herd on my time sheets (which I will have to fill out to keep track of what time I am spending on which projects, etc.). After lunch, I got a quick tour of the office and was introduced to everyone who happened to be there, so several attorneys, some support staff, and a fellow intern.

After the tour, I wrestled with the stately door. It said to "ring and push hard." My apartment door is like that too -- there's a button that you push to unlock and then you shove on the door and out you go. Problem was, I could not f or the life of me find what I was supposed to ring/push. So I tried the other door with a big turns handle. I opened it, sort of, and shimmied out throught the crack. I discovered Hubbie turning the corner to come and find me. While we were chatting about what to do next, the building manager came over and fixed the door that I had opened incorrectly. So oops. I will have to figure that one out quickly. We ended up just heading home so that I could change out of mu suit. Did not end up going to church because by the time I got changed we would have been late to the English service and H didn't seem all that keen on going to the later French service.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Avocado has Arrived!!!

Bonjour mes amis, My husband and I have arrived in Paris! He's staying with me for a week before heading back to the States to do his summer internship. So, unfortunately that means I'm going to be all by my lonesome for 10 weeks after he leaves. :(

We took a direct flight (!) and arrived this past Monday. Remember all of my concerns about visas, uncomfortable border questions about interning and stuff? Yeah, that turned out to be a non-issue: we went through what is easily the least-questioning entry process I've ever seen. I handed the border police my passport and didn't say anything. He scratched his quite sunburned arm, looked at his watch, flipped through my passport and didn't say a single word. No "how long are you going to be here?" or anything, so I (likewise) didn't volunteer anything. He stamped my passport and I moved on. We did see the border police shuffling an African fellow into a back room, so they must be interrogating someone...just perhaps not US nationals as attractive as yours truly.

We journeyed our way to the RER (local train) station part of the terminal, which was a HIKE. But, we made it, up and down several escalators, some stairs, etc. We had a wee fight with the automated ticket purchasing machine -- either we couldn't get it to read our credit card or the machine was having a bad day. We changed machines, I tried a different card, and presto! tickets popped out. We hopped onto the waiting train and set off through the graffitied suburbs. The train was pretty empty, filled up a little bit with some school children and then some working types as we got closer to the city. Husband studied the graffiti as we went by and was telling me the most popular choices along the walls -- some repeating themes (or gang signs?), I suppose. 

We got off at our station and set forth on the 15ish minute walk to my apartment. The morning was really fresh, and there were lots of people jogging and speed walking in the the Luxembourg Gardens as we walked by. Looked like fun, and made me glad I brought some running shoes and clothes just in case. 

Finding the apartment wasn't too bad -- I had taken a couple of screen shots of some maps on my phone, so I checked those and they have maps posted at the bus stops so we checked our progress as we went along. The apartment door and lobby are pretty cool, but then to get to the actual apartment unit we have to go up the service staircase up 6/7 flights.

I've decided not to count. And looking up or down is really unpleasant. So you just have to keep trudging up indefinitely. You can kind of tell when you're halfway up because the lights are out for one flight, so that's nice. Not.

The staircase is a pretty narrow spiral one, so I was really glad I had Husband to lift the big suitcase up the stairs. I handled the little one and my purse, and I was still wheezing when I got to the top.

When we finally reached the top,'s not pretty. It's fine, I mean, but this is not a glamorous part of the building. It's a choppy, turning hallway that has been carved up along the way into little units, so there are doors up and down the hall, but only some have doorknobs and numbers. I think some have been combined into bigger units. Anyhow, our landlords there to greet us and show us around the apartment. They gave us some towels and there were sheets on the bed. It's pretty much as described in the pictures that I received a while back -- loft bed, funny shower in the corner, etc. There's all kinds of pots and pans, a little electric toaster oven thing, and a toaster. No microwave or actual oven. We settled everything in, I asked the landlords a couple of questions about where to get a phone and stuff, and Husband helped them get a storage unit door unstuck. And he fixed the window shade. He's a very handy person to have around.

Once the LLs left, I got unpacked and put my clothes on hangers and all that kind of stuff. The LLs had said we were welcome to use anything in the pantry (i.e. 3 shelves by the sink) so Husband cooked us some pasta on the stove while I did my unpacking.

Then we went out to investigate getting me a little go phone prepaid deal. We headed down the street to a little Orange store and were kind of surprised at the prepay prices. The phone is like €24 and it comes with a €5 credit of minutes on it, but that's only 10 minutes, said the store girl!! So, we didn't end up getting one there. We did, however, ask (and by we, I mean I) about getting a sim card for my iPad so that I would have 3G Internet access. And those plans were surprisingly cheap! But...we had left the iPad we went to get it and went back to the Orange store. SO MANY STAIRS.

But, as I said prices were not bad: SIM was €8 and the monthly plan (2GB, I think) was like €25. They were out of the 25 Euro credits so we bought the SIM, and headed down the the street another few blocks to the next Orange store where we got the credit, or the "recharge" as they say in French, and had the sales lady set it up for us because you have to call to activate it. Once I start work I can just call the activation number from there, but since I don't have a phone currently it was nice of them to do it for me. The sales person had just finished setting up another American's blackberry to pretty much do the same thing, so she was happy to do mine too, haha. We spoke in French though, and she kept throwing in some English (I think because she had just been speaking it with the Blackberry lady) and then she told me, "I don't know why I'm speaking English to you." So that was nice -- my French was good enough that she didn't feel like she needed to speak English to me! 

After that, we walked ourselves to Notre Dame, which was fun. Went inside and sat down for a little bit because it was a longer trek than I had thought (although we may not have taken the most direct route). We walked all around it, the Hubster thought it was really neat, and then we walked back and got lost a bit, but found our way by recognizing stores we had past before, haha. It was actually pretty warm by this point and we had both shed our coats. We went to the grocery store that's essentially next door to me and got some bread to toast, jam, goat cheese, cookie crackers, and 2 baguette sandwich things. By this point, it's 4pm and I am really really fading fast, so we get to the apartment and I head to bed. Husband emailed his mama, and I fell asleep immediately even though it was pretty bright in the room (there's a skylight in the room over the bed that you can open for air, and block off to keep out the light if you want).

Overall it's been good. I've had a few freak out moments where I want to go back home because: a) I'm petrified that I am going to absolutely BLOW at this job, and b) I don't know what I'm going to do by myself for 3 months, but I'm working on it. Husband is being very supportive. He reminded me that my butt is going to be quite awesome (he actually said, even more awesome than it already is, hahahahahah) at the end of the summer from all these ridiculous that helped.