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Posts Tagged ‘visa’

snailsDrive drive drive (S 402km) :: fields of sunflowers on all sides – all facing the same way :: dinner for five at the brand extension of a Michelin starred bistro. food is lacking but the bathrooms are fancy :: an INSEAD classmate is at a table next to ours. small world :: the city itself is gorgeous. i find myself wondering if i could live here :: 12:30AM :: drive drive drive (S 229km) :: staying awake by having ‘cultural exchange’ with travel companion whose parents mortgaged their house so he could attend INSEAD. he insists on the importance of Dean’s List. for him, this is a high stakes gamble. i wonder whether or not I should be taking myself a little more seriously as well :: 3AM. night guard at shitty hostel won’t let me park car inside the gate (his logic goes like this: “What is everyone who came in at 3AM wanted to park inside the gate?” Um… I guess you could do your job and open the gate for them too?) :: under the scorching sun set about discovering the alleyways of a medieval fortified city of the popes :: quaint, lovely. my parents were here just a few years ago. wonder if we noticed the same things :: soft serve for lunch – cassis melon swirl :: a visit to Les Halles makes me wonder if i could live here too :: drive drive drive (SE 260km) to try to make it to a hotel that won’t take reservations. we don’t make it but realize that we hate the town we’re in :: regroup, rebook, retrace steps :: get takeout lunch and sit on the beach :: drive drive drive (W 77km) :: check into adorable hotel on top of a hill overlooking the sea :: discover that the town has two streets and no one is serving food. beer and olives for dinner it is. the kids next to us are wasted – keep saying, “we love you, English.” we don’t contradict. their drinks are bright green. they tell us it’s called Jet (written Get) :: sleep like a rock :: the town is weird in the daytime. packed with old people. i keep thinking they know something. some big event is happening just on the outskirts of town, but no one is telling us. there’s a tiny circus in town. the cage with a plaster gorilla on top has a dog in it. :: drive (S 5km) :: beach is scorching hot. lots of topless old ladies :: drive (E 22km) :: soft serve break – Cola flavor. might be my new favorite. the rest of the trip is spent searching for it, to no avail :: I’m on a boat! Boat’s fun until it slows to a crawl in front of rich people’s villas so that the guide can fill us in on the gossip :: guide keeps making tacky comments at me, telling me which of the villa owners is single. the presumption of course is that i could never possibly do anything worthwhile enough to earn enough money to buy a fancy villa of my own – or at the very least rent one for 40K/week. he clearly hasn’t seen our NBV business plan :: a sunset walk through the vineyard and world’s biggest salad for dinner. rosé. mmm… :: hit the town and get some Get of our own (tastes just as foul as it looks – Mouthwash and ToiletDuck) :: more beach :: drive drive (NW 121km) :: bum around another old French town. they’re all starting to blur :: major strike out on both lunch and soft-serve :: drive drive drive (N 154km) :: sunflowers, lavender, windmills :: check into a hotel in a weird, nearly deserted town. there’s a brand new nuclear power plant on the outskirts of town, and the town is seemingly filled with single men who work at the plant. there are no women in town, so the attention we get will hopefully tide us over until P4 :: giant sundae to celebrate fourth of July. we say the pledge of allegiance to our sundae. a car backfires on the street and we jump, thinking the town is having fireworks. return to the hotel and watch the Boston Pops on YouTube as consolation. i’m crushed when i find out that Keith Lockhart divorced Lucia Lin (2 years ago). sing along with the Star Spangled Banner and call it a night :: at check-out have completely ridiculous argument over 4 EUR parking charge when told parking was free the night before (“Sir, why would we lie to you about this?” Full body shrug. “Perhaps you’re trying to gain 4 EUR”) we can’t decide if what transpired was very French of if this man’s brain is addled from living too close to the nuclear power plant :: drive drive drive drive (N545 km). time flies as my travel companion tells hilarious dating disaster stories and we compare notes on a certain classmate (closeted gay v doesn’t-know-what-he-wants debate continues) :: at home, i find my roommate gone, my visa still not here :: write blog entry :: resume existential crisis.

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P3 is done – we’re 3/5 of the periods through the (cheat-sheet propelled, for some) MBA and half way done with our year together. I snuck away from the Grand Cafe before the tearful good-byes because I’m not very good at those. A lot of people got last minute jobs – a lot are taking unpaid internships, hoping to make a career switch. Some are working 100 hour weeks in London. Suckers. The rest are sailing in Croatia/trekking in Kashmir/partying in Beirut/studying French in Nice, Mandarin in China, German in Munich/getting married in India and Israel.

One of my friends keeps saying that leaving the bubble for the summer will be a reality check – a real-world reminder to most of us who we are, what’s important to us, what we want to get out of the remaining year. I hope that’s true. P3 has been a blast, but I need to find some time to have a good think about what happens afterwards.

Since I’m still in visa limbo, I’ve been hanging out in Fontainebleau awaiting a verdict from the UK Border Agency. This respite from the frantic, intense, unrelenting P3 has been quite welcome, though I imagine it could get boring eventually. In the meantime I’ve been learning how to Artfully Communicate (I’m just as awkward as I suspected, now I have video footage to prove it), making a half-hearted attempt at some bouldering, picnicing by the reflecting pool of the Cheateau, wandering around sleepy French towns where in the 1800s Romantic Realists painted en plein air, seeking to capture the matte late evening light over the tranquil Loing.

At 10:45 it’s still light out – the days last forever, and on most nights I don’t even start to think of getting to bed until around 2. Not so good when you have class the next day. Perfect when you can sleep in until noon.

I’ve been cramming in q-time with my favorite(st) people before we disperse for the summer, and am thankful for the visa delays that are giving me a chance to get to know some of my classmates better. (That’s another shout out, yo.)

But being in Fonty also means that I can’t get the distance I feel I need to sum up the last 6 months in a meaningful manner.

A friend from home came to visit recently. When I say “friend” I mean it in the loosest sense of the word – someone I had classes with in undergrad, and would see about twice a year when visiting my parents who lived in the same town where he worked after graduation. He had been traveling the world for the past few months, and came to France (I suspect) because he’d have a free place to stay. Moocher. There are very few people I would feel comfortable crashing with for a few night, let alone an entire week. Someone more socially skilled and perceptive (or perhaps simply less selfish) would be self-conscious, but he has no compunction about imposing for an entire week. His world travels have produced little else other than a slew of complaints about lack of infrastructure in the developing world (umm, what did you expect?) and shallow generalizations about how the US is different from Europe because you don’t have to add tip and tax.

This guy is a complete downer, which makes me wonder what our friendship was based on some 8 years ago. Was I also like him? Did I look at the most negative aspect of every situation, complain about every trivial inconvenience? Is it just recently that I’ve changed so much?

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French visa is in-hand

Me: Um… I have a 10:10 appointment and you’re already calling names for 10:15.

Chick at consulate: Do you have an appointment?

Me: Yes.

Chick at consulate: Did you print your reservation number?

Me: Um… no

Chick at consulate: then I cannot help you

Me: Well, the guard at the gate had me on his list for 10:10.

Chick at consulate: Fine… [sighs] what’s your name?

The rest went smoothly, in comparison, with only the minimum requisite amount of French rudeness – sprinkled here and there for authenticity, really – and now the last clean page on my passport has been taken up by the French visa!

Voila!

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Really?

A conversation I just had at the French consulate when trying to get my visa for January.  

-You are too early.  It would be better for me if you came back in late November or early December.  

-Sorry?  What do you mean it would be better for you?  Can you not do it today for some procedural reason?

-It would be better for me.  I cannot do it now.  Please come back.  

-Uhh… but my friend in DC got her visa for January back in like July.

-That is impossible.

WHAT. THE. SHIT.

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Let me preface this [rant] by saying that plenty of my ex-pat friends from China and India have given me absolutely no sympathy on this.  When I complain about Campus France, they roll their eyes and ask, “do you have any idea what it took to get into the US?”  

I’m at the moment on a bus that has internet.  Now, we may not have high speed rail in America, our bridges may be on the verge of collapse, our 60-year old crumbling interstate highways may be over capacity with all our 12mpg SUVs, but we have buses with internet.  That’s 21st century.  Take that, Europe!

I’m taking this bus to visit some dear friends but also to attempt to defraud the French visa process by applying at a less meticulous consulate than the one in my current city.  When applying for the Visa, it’s not enough that you have to fill out multiple applications, notarize statements that your parents will support to the tune of $600 per month (what does 400 EUR/month get you these days?  a baguette?), plus provide their bank statement, take copies of your college diploma in addition to copies of your INSEAD admission letter (that one, with the typo about the tuition amount).  Blah blah blah…

You also have to register with a delightful organization called Campus France.  They help you pick out a program to attend!  

That’s great, you say, but I already have a program to attend.  

Oh, in that case, we’ll just take your money.  In fact, we’ll double the amount.  

As far as I can tell, Campus France is geared toward high school and college kids who are going on a year abroad.  This organization asks you to list all of your grades (since high school), list your awards and write essays about why you want to study abroad in France.  It wouldn’t be quite so painful, if the forms you had to fill out didn’t require another 5 page document just to decipher it and all the error messages didn’t come up in French.  “Next click on icon of pencil,”  then “click on paperclip”  Do you remember what internet used to be like back in the days when we had all-numeric addresses? 104621.1250@compuserve.com?  Well, that form may have been created by the same genius designers writing code for Compuserve.  And the best part, is that after you write essays about your future aspirations in a sort of omniscient future tense, you get to send Campus France a money order for $120 and wait two weeks to get a response.  A money order?  I thought money orders were for people who bought things on late-night QVC.  

It’s not the expense of it.  When spending 50K EUR on tuition, I’m not really worried about $120 for Campus France here, $700 for medical insurance there, some $2K for business attire and accessories.  The fee is small change.   It’s the principle of it all – an organization created with no other purpose than to take money without providing a single service.

I’m done ranting.  All better now.

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