Head shaking mystery continues

I was talking to some French students yesterday, and I asked about the head shaking thing that I mentioned in my last blog. They say a shake from left to right means “No”. Maybe it’s only different in Germany, or maybe my classmates got their facts wrong.

Charles (my American housemate) and I went to the large Leclerc’s grocery store outside town via bus yesterday. It was his first time riding the bus in France. The transportation system here is so advanced. The bus stops each have electronic displays which tell you how many minutes there is before the next bus departs. Inside the bus, another electronic display tells you what the next stop is, and the current time. All in all, it is light years ahead of Saint John’s relatively un-advanced transportation system.

I spent a bit of time redesigning the look of my gallery. The general look is not my own, but rather a widely available template which I simply customized. I added my digital photos from Canada that used to be in my “Digital Photography” section. The new system is much more powerful, and far easier to maintain.

This upcoming week is fairly easy with only one tutorial class where my group meets with the professor, and two other classes. I was checking my schedule for the semester, and each week has only 2-3 days of classes. However, lots of extra work time is expected in the form of group work.

To close, I’d like to share an example where lack of common sense in the news media has gone too far. I read an article on CTV News about possible social instability that could be caused by an imbalance of China’s birth rate of males vs. females. The article closes with the following statement: “China’s current birth rate is 1.8, meaning one woman of childbearing age gives birth to an average of 1.8 children.”

One must wonder how ANY woman can give birth to “1.8” children or any other such fraction. Are most children born without one leg or arm in China? I can understand that the number came from calculations that would seldom yield a whole number, but in discussion as this, I believe a different wording of the question is in order. Perhaps something like “1.8 children are born for every woman of child-bearing age” would be more appropriate. My wording not seem to imply that some or all of these women would have given birth to fractional children.

In the end, I know what they were trying to say, but I think the wording is still a bit odd.

Have a great week!

Party at rue de la Tranchée

For the first half of this week, my days have been busy with classes. It’s still quite difficult to stay awake for 3 hours, especially when I have trouble staying awake for 50 minute classes at UNBSJ.

Last Friday, there was a party at my flat attended by most of the international students as well as several French students of ESCEM, as you may have already seen in my gallery photos. Ben, one of my housemates, operated a bar where everyone pays 6â?¬ and then gets whatever they want. Contrary to popular belief, I did not drink at the party and am not drunk at all in the party photo of me.



The picture of me mentioned above is of course not right here. You can find it in my gallery.

Ben named our place the “Frog et Rosbif”. Anglophones tend to refer to speakers of French as “frogs”, and Francophones tend to refer to North American speakers of English as “rosbif” or “roast beef”, because we burn and change colour in the sun. The name was decently chosen. At the party, you could easily hear a mixture of English and French being spoken by everyone. I was able to speak in French with a few French students.
The sun finally showed its cautious self here in Poitiers, and I took a few more photos in the Parc de Blossac, which is right near my flat.


I also saw a funny looking traffic garage type of building. For some odd reason, it was quite entertaining to watch a car slowly ascend this thing.

Just today in class, I learned something new about Europeans from Christoph, my German teacher of Strategic Management. He was answering “yes” to a student, while shaking his head left and right as if to say “no”. Apparently, any shaking of the head in Europe always signifies a yes response, as opposed to North Americans who can say Yes or No by shaking the head. You can easily imagine the possible communication issues in conversations if a tourist visiting Europe is not aware of this.

A walk in the park

Yesterday, I didn’t have class until 2 PM, so I got up late, and looked out my window.

View from my room window in the morning

With the sun showing its face for pretty much the first time since I’ve been here, I left earlier and checked out the park near my flat. It has goats, birds, flowers, and everything imaginable it seems. Rockwood Park in Saint John is very nice too, but Poitiers has many parks strewn through the city that are well maintained by the city workers.


I had plans to meet Brian and the others at the university cafeteria at 12:30. Many students go there because of the cheap food. I’ve gone twice so far (again today), but the food choices don’t seem too good to me. Maybe I’m just fussy. I got very lost, and took about 30 minutes of walking around randomly before I finally found where I needed to go. Such is life.

On the way, I saw an interesting sign:


It says (in French of course) “If you take my parking spot, take my handicap”, which I assume is designed to bring about guilt for those who needlessly use handicapped parking spaces when there is nothing wrong with them.

I have started 3 of my classes now; the others will begin later. My three teachers are an American, an Irishman, and a German. The content is quite interesting for me, since I am totally new to business, and the large emphasis on Europe is a refreshing change. It is still a bit strange getting used to the fact that I am living in Europe at the moment, and not North America.

That’s all for now.

First few days

I have landed and settled in France. I regret that I haven’t blogged yet since being here, but I am slowly getting things into gear.

My trip was a total of 23 hours from Saint John to Poitiers. At the Saint John Airport, I was more emotional than I expected, and almost missed seeing my grandmother since she could not arrive as early as we did. Everything went fine and airport security was less intrusive than I expected. For the first time since I was 5, I got on the plane and was quite amazed by how small everything looked on the ground when the plane was high enough.

View from my seat in the plane from Saint John to Montreal

View outside the plane over Saint John area

After an hour and a half, I landed in Montreal for a 5 hour wait. I accidentally exited the secured area of the airport, and had to go through security again. Oops. On the flight to Paris, I spoke some French and some English to a Quebec woman from Montreal. At the Paris airport, I waited another 5 hours for the train, and everything was pretty smooth sailing. My luggage was very heavy, beyond the acceptable limits for flying, so I’ll have to lighten it up before coming home. It was very hard to carry it up stairs.

At the Poitiers train station, I met Mr. Gervis, my landlord. He’s a very nice guy as everyone says, and very easy-going. He took me to my apartment, and set me and the other students up with the appropriate forms. He also took me and another housemate for a drive around Poitiers to show us everything. Everything is very old and very crowded. Think of the narrowest street in Uptown Saint John, and then imagine if the whole city was that way. It’s very interesting because it seems unsafe, but it works, and no one gets hurt. They make it work, even with things like city buses running regularly through the narrow one-way streets.

Narrow Poitiers street

The place I’m living in is quite old, but my room isn’t too bad.

My room

Since I brought no food, Gerke (one of my housemates) and I went to a fast food restaurant similar to McDonald’s called the Quick. That wasn’t bad. We also went to a grocery store called Monoprix, but I didn’t actually buy anything there until the next day.

After arriving on Thursday, Friday was orientation at ESCEM Business School. It was mostly administrative, and quite boring. Lunch was provided, with French cuisine like Quiche and whatever else I am forgetting. It was good.

On Monday, I began actual classes. They are very long, at 3 hours each, compared to an average of 1 hour for UNB classes. However, I have 2 days out of 5 off this week, so I can’t complain too heavily. Most of the class is made up of French students who are learning English, so it is an interesting scenerio to be in.

Yesterday, I took the bus to a mall that is outside the main city core. I bought some groceries at the larger grocery store there, and also got a cell phone. I paid 99â?¬ (about C$150) for a phone, which comes with 25â?¬ free of prepaid credit. Not bad. In general, mobiles are more expensive to buy and use over here.

As far as getting settled, having to plan and make all of my meals is an adjustment. Luckily, the grocery store is just a 20 minute walk away, so I can always get whatever I need during open hours (which do not include Sunday at all, as I discovered already). Speaking French is also an adjustment, but I have enough to get by in most situations. I’m hoping I’ll be working with more French students at school, and that I’ll pick some up that way.

I’ll try to update regularly. Au revoir.

The adventure begins tomorrow

After working for about a week on my “Lego World”, it’s time to demolish it. All that remains is the pictures.

Yesterday, I set out to register my electronics with customs so I don’t have to pay duty when bringing them back to Canada in June. My mom and I went to the “Customs Building” uptown across from Saint John High School, but apparently Canada Customs in not there anymore, and instead are located in old post office building on Prince William Street. We went there to find that it is quite large inside. There was a security guard, an information, and another unmarked desk with someone sitting there. No one else was around, so we asked the security guard where to find the customs office. He told us to go up the stairs, and down a hallway. Another security guard was at the top of the stairs, and told us exactly where the office was, even though we didn’t ask him. He just magically knew. That was odd, but we didn’t realize how he knew until we left and he radioed the other guard to tell him that we were coming down the stairs (as if the sight of us walking down the stairs to face the other guard at the bottom wasn’t evidence enough). I’m not sure what else the government hides in that building, but they certainly have plenty of security guards and information people watching the place.

Innovatia has been very generous in allowing me to work remotely on a part-time basis while in France. Yesterday was my last of working in the office before I leave. We went out to lunch at the Saint John Ale House.

So this is it. The eve of my departure. I will fly to Montreal tomorrow, and then Paris. I’ll arrive in Poitiers at about 11 AM Atlantic time on Thursday. It feels a bit weird to be doing this. I am nervous about a few things, but I’m sure everything will be OK.

I expect my next blog post to be from Montreal, Paris or Poitiers – wherever I have enough time and internet access. I’ll be in touch.

8 days

I leave for France next Wednesday. The number of days before I go can now counted on two hands, which is something I clearly do all the time. My boss and I went to The Source today to buy a power adapter for my work laptop. It’s an interesting little device that’ll work in many countries, and has all the different plugs on it.


It’s that time of year again when I get out my Lego to work on while I watch TV. Here’s what I have so far. Think I’ll get anything worth seeing completed before I go?

I know these details may seem mundane, but hey, I’m still getting used to my blogging software.

Locally, an article in the newspaper discusses how Paul Zed is using the analogy of a car engine to discuss the region’s progress with the engine roaring ahead now, after running “clear in reverse” a few years ago. Pushing the gas pedal are new “developments” like a new oil refinery, Canaport LNG, new call centres and department store expansions. Clearly, the main engine which Mr. Zed describes is running on Irving gasoline, and the whole vehicle is being driven to wherever the Irving Empire wants us to go. Forgive my pessimism, but I don’t really believe that things like a new Wal-Mart or more call centres are something that are really going to define the city in a more positive way. These things may give us more jobs, but jobs alone don’t make the area more exciting and don’t really encourage many people to pull up stakes and move here.

In world news, I think the hanging of Saddam is a good thing. I heard the comments of some people opposed to capital punishment and also people who feel that hanging is a rather barbaric method. I have to disagree with all of them. In cases where authorities are absolutely sure that someone abused power to intentionally cause death of innocent civilians, I think capital punishment is appropriate in order to ensure that the person never has a chance to do it again. It also gives closure to all those who may come to fear such a person. As for death by hanging, it’s quick, clean and cheap. I wish those who fuss about this would instead stand up for the rights of the innocent and those who cannot defend themselves, before they cry for people like Saddam and other criminals.

If you agree or disagree with me, don’t hesitate to leave a comment. It’s the only way I’ll know if anyone else cares or not.

12 days

In 12 days, I will leave for France. I prepare myself in some way a little bit each day. I am particularly careful about making sure I have all the computer files I want, and that they are organized the way I want. I probably won’t want to spend a lot of time in France diagnosing computer problems.

Speaking of which, I noticed that my laptop was rather noisy today. The culprit? An M$ special, of course. Outlook 2003 was running at 100% CPU, and doing nothing useful of course. I am pondering the switch to Mozilla Thunderbird for email instead. I am a happy user of Gmail, but I’m a bit hesitant to rely entirely on a web-based e-mail solution. I’ll be using wireless access mostly in France, and my experience is that wireless can be unreliable when shared when others. But perhaps that’s only because I am used to UNBSJ’s wireless network which is crap anyway.

Today was a good day at work. I went in for a couple hours because today was the last day for one of my coworkers, and a bunch of us went out to lunch to wish her well. She’ll be missed.

And that’s it for my first real blog entry. Don’t hesitate to leave some comments!