So the Paris story continues…

February 25, 2008

The last Facebook note I wrote dated December 19, 2007… I was writing a lot that month – the rest will all be new content:

To recap, things haven’t been going exceedingly smoothly for me. Becoming ill upon arrival, difficulty with the apartment, and the agent who was supposed to help, starting a new job having to work for a guy I don’t like. Paints a pretty grim picture. Now I’m a month in, my apartment is more or less complete, I’m settled in with my job, so how are things going for me… not so good. One month, still no friends… I suppose this has become the greatest difficulty. My job… well… I’ll tell you about that in a bit, but so far… I’m a bit disappointed.

I had finally decided to go out this weekend. My first weekend in the new place, no visitors, no more cold, I was ready to go out and do something… but what? Have you ever tried going out by yourself on a Friday night? It just doesn’t feel right. I went to get some dinner at this Greek place, been there a few times already. Huge chicken pita with fries for 4.50e, I usually barely even touch the fries as the pita is massive. Afterwards I decided I’d try and find a bar/pub that looks inviting and maybe start a conversation with total strangers. For what better did I have to do that evening… One thing about where I’m living, there’s no shortage of bars. So I’m walking around and most of what I see are “club” looking places or just completely dead places. I don’t do clubs. Going to a dead place is of no use to me. I can drink alone in my apartment but that would put me a different category altogether. I came across a crowd of people circling a group of street performers. As I got closer I could see they were break dancing. I figured this could be entertaining. That lasted all of 3 or 4 minutes and I kept on walking. It was a bit cold out. I wanted to be indoors somewhere. As I was walking I saw an Irish pub. I don’t know why but something about an Irish pub just sounds inviting. I figured it would be a good atmosphere. It was… but it was really crowded and smokey.

On a side note, what is it with people in France, Europe as a whole and smoking? It’s like people just don’t care here. They’re aware of the negative health benefits associated with smoking. A lot of people here are into health, I see people jogging all the time, playing tennis (even when it’s 1 or 2c outside), yet everybody smokes here. Restaurants are 100% smoking section which really bothers me. Not just for health reasons but I find the smell interferes with the flavor of the food.

Even now I’m in my office writing this (you may wonder why I’m not working? I’ll get to that a bit later). But most of the staff here seem to smoke, amazingly, myself and the 5 other programmers/consultants here all don’t smoke, hmmm… are we just smarter than everyone else? Although I really think it’s just a coincidence. So because it’s cold outside, they just go smoke in the stairwell and I can sure as hell smell it from my desk. Unfortunately there are no laws against this in France. I’ve seen people smoking on the metro even. I don’t think it’s allowed but it’s clearly not enforced.

Now France is not as bad as say… Turkey? I was on several “non-smoking” overnight buses in Turkey, but the driver can smoke as he pleases, and they all did. But what really got me was the server. See buses in Europe have a server, like a stuart/stuartess on a plane. They bring you snacks and drinks. So this guy needed a smoke so badly, when the bus was in a bit of a traffic jam and moving slowly, he opens the rear door lights one up, doing his best to keep it on the outside. What the hell… The bus stops every hour or so, can you really not wait?

In general though, throughout my travels, I met a ton of Europeans and pretty much all of them smoked. From what I’ve seen, a European who doesn’t smoke is rare and I really don’t understand why this is.

I was willing to accept the smokey atmosphere as all the bars are like that here. However there was such a crowd around the bar I figured it was going to be at least a 10 minute wait to get a drink. The search continues. I continued wandering around somewhat aimlessly and I spotted something familiar. It was that piano bar I had walked into the first weekend I was here, “Relais de la Huchette”. I had only gone in there for a single beer the last time but the staff was pretty friendly and I like the live music. So I decided to check it out again. The same bar tender was working there and actually remembered me from the last time. We spoke for a bit, I had a few drinks, enjoyed the music, met some American tourists. I hadn’t drank in a while and didn’t realize how low my tolerance had gotten. I was actually kind of drunk after only 3 pints. So I didn’t really make any new friends, but it was a start. I at least got to talk to some people.

Saturday was a good day. It was nice out, no rain… did I mention it rains a lot in Paris? But I went out a bit and walked around. I hadn’t really had a chance to get to know my own area. So I just walked for a while. There really is a lot going on. I even found a Starbucks. I never thought I would be so happy to see a Starbucks. I honestly haven’t had a coffee in weeks now. I figured I may try giving up the coffee. It’s not that the coffee tastes bad or anything. But it’s just too damn small. Starbucks has their usual sizes. So I was walking by and thought to myself, how can I pass this up, a chance for full sized coffee. I ran over there, only to find there was a line up out the door. This tells me something, French people like big coffees too, yet all you can ever get are these mini coffees. This reminded me of a bit I saw recently on YouTube by John Pinette. I think he’s a great comedian, but anyway, I didn’t feel like waiting in line as Starbucks is slow and I handle lines about as well as John…

So eventually I ended up back at Jardin Luxemburg, where I had been with my cousin the first weekend I was here. This time I had my camera with me. It is a really nice park. It almost reminds me of Central Park (NYC) but not quite the same thing. I spent a good 20 – 30 minutes just walking around and taking pictures. After all the walking I decided to stop at a café for lunch. I have no issue with the food in France as it is superb.

Afterwards I met with my cousin, he actually helped me pick up the TV I had ordered. We went in his car to go pick it up and he helped me set it up. So now I have nice LCD screen in my apartment, and it turns out there was already an HD box that his girlfriend never used. But it was included in the Internet plan. So we got that thing set up, now I have 200+ channels of mostly French content. I’ve started to watch some French TV actually, thought it may help my vocabulary. So I was excited to have this new TV but I also didn’t, and still don’t want to just sit around in front of the TV all day.

So I decided to venture out again Saturday night. I went for dinner, alone as usual… I decided why not check out the piano bar again as the night before was enjoyable there. Unfortunately it was a bit crowded and I couldn’t even get in. Seems like a lot more people go out on Saturday night as I was seeing line ups everywhere. I don’t like lines… So this area is closer to the Seine and more touristy. Although in the other direction there are some university bars as there are 2 universities nearby. So I walked in that direction. There’s one bar just a few doors from my apartment. There was a group of Norwegians there. They were all wearing these red shirts with the flag of Norway, speaking a language I couldn’t understand (presumably Norwegian), these guys were drunk. One of them stepped outside and I could see he was zig zagging all over the place. Shortly after a friend followed and dragged him back. I think he would gotten lost and fallen asleep in an alley otherwise. So yeah I made my decision and kept walking. Sure enough I got to the corner of the street to find another one of these Norwegians urinating on the corner of a building. They’re not so discreet…

My continual wandering led me to a nearby bar that looked decent and not overly crowded. I walked in. They were playing music I liked. Looked like a university type crowd. But being there myself just felt awkward as everyone in this place was with friends. I had a drink at the bar and left. Going to bars by myself didn’t really work out that night. I decided to just screw it and go enjoy my new TV. I think it was already close to 12… I must be getting old as this seems late for me now.

Sunday was a relaxing day. I decided to stay in and relax for a change. I cleaned up the apartment, it desperately needed some cleaning. I was a bit bored so and heard my insane neighbor yelling at her dog. I couldn’t resist, I wanted to share this with people. I recorded this from my digital camera and just kept the audio part of it. It’s unedited. This is what I here more often than I’d like in my apartment… … enjoy.

So the weekend had some ups and some downs for me. I’m feeling more adjusted to the life in Paris. It just comes back to that friends thing. I’ve been getting a bit more friendly with people from work, but still nothing really outside of work. There is the weekly Quebecois get together. I may try that again but this week is no good as I have a work dinner thing Thursday night. I’ve been looking into online communities but all I seem to find are dating sites… I definitely need to get out more.

Here’s little story about work and some impressions on my new job after 3 weeks. I don’t know if I’m just unlucky but so far I’m really bored. This has turned out to be no better than my last job in terms of work interest. It is a million times better in other areas. I don’t hate this place like I did my old job, what was that place called, oh yeah PSL Group, that’s the one I hate. Here is a little history from my time at PSL. I won’t get into anything too specific. The first (and only) project I worked on at PSL was a major overhaul of one of their websites. As a developer in a large scale project you’ll often have to wait for certain tasks to be completed before you can proceed. I needed some design mock ups so I could incorporate them into the site. Without them, I don’t know what I’m supposed to make it look like. I can guess night and day or come up with my own design but it’s not my job. I thought this was urgent but I ended up waiting for 2 or 3 days for these mockups. So I was required urgently but had nothing to work on for 3 days… this just didn’t add up. Let me say though having nothing to do at work is boring. Eventually I was able to get started working on this. I don’t remember how long it actually took but I think it was around 2 or 3 weeks of actual work. Great, it’s done. Now it needs some QC feedback. Here’s a dialog between myself and my project manager (PM).

Me: “What should I work on now?”
PM: “We don’t want to put you on anything new because QC might come back with a lot of bugs and we want you to be ready to fix them without being occupied with something else”.

At the time this sounded reasonable… one week later.

Me: “So when is the QC going down?”.
PM: “Sorry there’s been some other priority issues.”
Me: “ok can I get started on something else?”
PM: basically the same response

This went on for a good month or so. That’s right, a month. You want to know what I did during this month, I got paid to sit in my cubicle and surf the Internet for a month. I did absolutely nothing. It’s not like I didn’t try, I told my manager/project manager repeatedly that I have no work to do and they should be giving me stuff to do. It started off subtly, but I think after 2 weeks I just came into his office one day and said “I have nothing to do. Give me some work to do”. I can’t tell you how boring it is to just sit there, especially when everyone around you is actually working.

I know what you’re thinking now. I’ve heard it a million times. “What are you complaining about? You’re getting paid to do nothing.” What you don’t realize is that doing nothing is really boring. It’s just a complete waste of time. I actually enjoy programming and working on interesting projects. That’s what I got hired to do. Not sit there and do nothing. When you have nothing to do time moves incredibly slowly. Being busy at least the day goes by at a decent pace. I’ll tell you the worst thing for me was feeling useless at the end of the day. I take great pride in my work and try to produce the best quality results no matter what the job is. I take no pride in watching YouTube videos and screwing around on Facebook all day. YouTube videos are for the most part retarded and Facebook… well I like Facebook but in small doses. So go ahead and call me crazy for not enjoying getting paid to do nothing. The money really doesn’t matter to me at that point. I spent most of my life up to this point in school. As a student you take what you can get, now that I hold a degree and some significant experience I want to develop my career. Sitting in a cubicle all day doing nothing does not help. Still not convinced? Try this one. If you had the choice to work some retail job at $10/hour or someone offered you $11/hour to watch paint dry which would you choose. Watching paint dry is easier, brain dead really, but which do you think will be more interesting and go by faster? Try watching paint dry for a week and you’ll probably want to shoot yourself. I’d go for the retail gig hands down. I might as well have gotten paid to watch paint dry. I used to joke with my friends that when I went for lunch I would always see homeless people and think to myself, they might as well give this guy my job. All he has to do is sit the cubicle and he can use the money more than me. Why am I bringing this up now? Read on as there is a point to this story.

Let’s fast forward back to the present and my new job at onePoint.. I was asked to come in to work after only being in France for a few days when I was initially told I’d have a week to settle in and all. They said they needed me urgently need on this project. This was sounding familiar, except I had hopes that I actually was urgently needed on things. So first day they got me set up with a development system and I was ready to work on it. Second day I did absolutely nothing. I was very unhappy about this as I was quite ill at the time. The third day I finally got to do some actual work. So it’s turned into much the same. I do a bit of work, get it done, then sit around and wait. I tell them I’m waiting, but they’re not exactly piling work on me here. I’ve had work to do here and there until this week. The guy who’s heading up the project I’m working on is on vacation now. I asked him before he left if there were more areas of this project I could work on. He said he’ll still be checking emails and will send me the information I need to get started on these other tasks. I’m still waiting. It’s only been 2 days, but I really hate just sitting here with nothing to do. I’m worried that I’ll have nothing to do for the next 2 weeks!

I don’t understand what it is with these companies. I’ve done a lot of freelance web design. There was never any waiting there since I did everything. I did development for IBM, but these were all internal applications and secondary responsibilities for me. This is not how I pictured full time software development. I’m now at 2 jobs in a row where the employer just fails to give me an adequate amount of work to do. Am I just too good a developer and get things done too fast? I can’t imagine so. I’ve heard so many horror stories of developers being overwhelmed with work. Having to work overtime to meet deadlines. They seem like really busy and stressed people, I’m so unstressed with my job, it’s the exact opposite for me. So here I am bored out of my mind at work browsing the web and writing these stories.

This whole experience has really got me questioning what I’m doing in this industry. Are all programming jobs like this? I don’t understand how I keep finding myself in these positions. For the moment I’m not overly excited about my job. I can only hope my upcoming project in January will not be like this. If it is, I’m quitting. I’ll either go back to freelancing or just try a different industry altogether. I was thinking about my traveling last year and it occurred to me that I should just go back to New Zealand and work in the tourism industry over there. It’s a complete 180 but that trip as a whole made me realize that enjoying what you do is more important than how much money it will make you. I haven’t given up on software development yet, time will tell.

About getting out more… Last night (which was a Tuesday) I decided to get out. Monday night I had actually cooked my own dinner (first time since I got to Paris, I feel so proud). It was just a simple spaghetti + Bolognese sauce, I’m not an extraordinary French chef yet… talk to me in a few months. I decided to go back to the Greek place for the “Extra Pita” as it’s called on the menu. It’s funny here how many things have English names. In Quebec pretty much everything is translated to French, but it’s not the case in France. For example, in Quebec we call parking “stationnement”, in France it’s parking (with a French accent). In Quebec the weekend is “fin de semaine”, a literal translation… end of week. In France it’s weekend (again with that French accent). There are many more. So after the pita, instead of just going back home I decided to check out the piano bar again? It’s right across the street. So I went in. It was a bit quiet that night, my bar tender friend (Ivan) was there as usual. I was going to just grab a beer but ended up staying for 2. The place was pretty quiet so I didn’t get to talk to many other people. But I like the place. I may have to stop by more regularly. Ivan suggested a good beer spot as I had mentioned I’m more of a beer than a wine connoisseur. I be checking that place out soon enough. Tonight I decided to check out a café. I was reading some American guy’s blog about French cafés and how the café is like a Parisian’s living room. He went on to say that the apartments here are so small that people rarely have guests but rather meet in the café. The one closest to me was pretty quiet though. I ended up having dinner there with a glass of wine. I had brought a book with me. It was an enjoyable dinner, but not as lively as I expected.

A bit about the French… I think the French are sadly misunderstood by the rest of the world. I actually don’t find them to be rude at all. I think this has to do with the fact that I speak French. But I’ve done some reading on the subject and it’s pretty unanimous that French people are just get upset when foreigners make no effort to learn the basics of the language and culture. For example, whenever you walk into a shop here, the clerk will always say “bonjour/bonsoir”. The customer does the same. I made the mistake myself in the first few days of entering s store and not saying hello and found the clerk a bit rude to me as compared to other customers. Although the truth is, I was the rude one for not saying hi in the first place. Even in elevators everyone says hi. I’ve found people to be generally friendly. At the workplace for example it’s customary to say hi to everyone in the morning. Some people come in and go around the whole office and shake hands with all the men, bisous (that’s the kiss kiss thing) for the ladies. These are some of the things I like at work. Despite my rant about being bored and all, I do like the workplace. Everybody mixes with everybody unlike my previous job in Montreal where every department was segregated and did its own thing. Despite some of the negativity here, I am enjoying the life in France. I’m to venture out of Paris soon. If not, there’s still plenty to see here.


Paris Arrival

February 25, 2008

Another Facebook note I wrote dated December 12, 2007:

November 21 I was on a plane to Paris. onePoint paid for the flight and had a driver waiting for me at the terminal. I also had a hotel room paid for 15 days. In fact I’m still in the hotel at the moment. I have many other benefits which are nice. So first day, I arrived at 6:30AM or so local time, pretty tired since I left at 6:00PM Montreal time and I didn’t really sleep on the plane. It took almost 2 hours to get to the hotel. Paris traffic is horrible and there was a transit strike at the time which made things ever worse. Unfortunately for me the hotel room wasn’t available until 3:00PM that day so I couldn’t even change or anything, but the driver took me to the onePoint office after I dropped off my bags. So I got a nice driving tour in all this. The office is simple, 4th floor in a small building. I met a bunch of people. There’s one girl from Ottawa who’s English speaking. Everyone else is French. There is one other guy from Quebec over there though. So they went over a bunch of stuff which I only sort of absorbed since (A) it was all in French, (B) I hadn’t slept for a while. They gave me a cell phone and said, ok, go rest at the hotel. You want a taxi or you want to try the transit. I figured I’ll try the transit (despite the strike that was going on). I wanted to walk around a bit and it would have been too early with the taxi.

So I started walking around Boulogne (the area where the office is). It was a nice walk, sunny and 10 that day. I took the tram which was fun. The metro was limited that day with the strike and all, but my hotel is on the tram line which was running. So once I got back to the hotel area it was only 2:00PM but lucky for me the room was ready. But first I saw a bakery across the street (bakeries are everywhere!). They like their croissants here, and eclaires and other goodies.

So I got up to my room and kind of fell asleep, I hadn’t planned on it, was going to stay up as late as possible, but I had a good 3 hour power nap. Don’t recall if I did much that night, just went to get some food from some Lebanese place near the hotel. I had a good sleep after that anyway.

Next day was Friday and I had an appointment with a real estate agent (also provided by the company). So I met her at 10, I had to get to the first place on my own. So I figured out where the nearest metro was and got over there, once in the metro system it’s pretty easy to get anywhere. However when exiting the metro system I’m always confused, there’s always five or six different ways to go, and I thought Montreal was complicated, we learned from the experts of complicated roads. So I was walking to the street looking for “Saintonge”, I eventually found it but not before walking into a hotel and asking a woman who I thought was a man. I later noticed a rainbow, I think maybe it was a gay neighborhood. But I walked in and saw her/him in the distance and said “bonjour monsieur”, but then as she came closer it was clearly a woman with a mens haircut. She didn’t seem offended though and gave me directions, turns out I was headed the right way, so I would have found it myself, but better to be sure.

So I made it to the first place with 5 minutes to spare… good timing. The agent was there, nice lady. We went into this first one and I immediately noticed a crappy odor. In my mind this was already not the place. It was 3rd floor no elevator. The apartment was a decent size, full size bathroom, but the furniture was really not so nice.

Next we got in her car a drove to the next place. Took her 10 minutes to find a parking spot. We were early so we ended up going to a bistro. I hadn’t eaten anything yet, so I got a little french breakfast, which was a half baguette with jam. Not exactly what I was hoping for but it will do. So the next place we get to, the woman finally shows up and lets us in, we get into elevator and she says “it’s on -1”. So right away I was thinking to myself, no way… I’ve done basements before, this is not happening. I looked at the place. Again decent size but not the nicest, and the whole underground thing didn’t really fly with me.

So far not looking so good. Next place was a gem. This is what I was looking for. Really nice looking building, antique looking almost, but modern on the inside. The lobby had some really nice looking carpeting. It had one of those old school elevators with the gate. Up top on the 6th floor, modern interior, nice furniture, nice kitchen, full size fridge, full size bathroom. Comes with a flat screen TV. I was sold. But we still had two more on the list to see so I figured why not, let’s go check the out. The next one I saw was alright, but the area seemed not so lively and the furniture was mediocre. The fifth one cancelled on us. So I said, number 3, I want it let’s make this happen. So she said for sure, no problem, but I had to go to the bank first and get a RIB number and insurance, standard thing in France. So she called the woman from the 3rd place and said I want it, she said it’s all good. So I thought it was settled. In the end I didn’t get that place. To be continued…

I got dropped off back at the hotel and reception said I had a message from Ari Rossner. He’s my father’s cousin’s son, so I don’t even know what the relation is but I had met him in Montreal a few months ago and had been meaning to contact him, but looks like he found me first. So I ended up having dinner at his place that night. He lives with his girlfriend and collectively they have 3 kids. They were both previously married and divorced, but they seem pretty happy together and they were quite hospitable. So turns out his girlfriend still has an apartment that she doesn’t really use anymore, and it’s a lot cheaper than the one from earlier, I said I’d take a look at it but I kind of really liked the one I saw.

So after dinner I went back to the hotel, dinner is late in France, we only ate at 9:45 or so, and that’s normal. So I got back to the hotel after midnight and I was a bit tired. I had an amazing sleep that night. Woke up at some ridiculous time the next day, like 2:45PM. My father’s cousin called me actually, he had asked the previous night if I’d be interested in seeing a museum. I said sure, why not… So I went to go meet him and the kids, as well as his brother. We went to the Luxemburg museum, and I also took a quick walk through the Luxemburg garden. Really nice to see but I forgot my camera that day. The museum had an art exhibition of an artist named Arciboldo, who I believe was Italian. I’m not really into art, but I was actually impressed by this guy’s work. Some very cool paintings. If anyone read my travel blog, you may recall my rant about the Sydney Opera House… well this was the exact opposite, I was pleasantly surprised.

Afterwards I went off exploring a bit on my own. The museum is near the Latin quarter which has all kinds of bars and restaurants. I walked around a while, had some food, stopped by a bar. So this area I noticed a lot of English being spoken so it’s definitely a bit touristy. I was talking to the bar tender who I was sure was from North America, he was… sort of, born in France, but lived in Montreal and Miami, English was perfect… no accent, most people here it’s painful to hear them speak English, but I shouldn’t talk, my French is far from perfect. I was talking to another bar tender a bit later, she was from Turkey, studying in Paris. So there are all kinds of foreigners in this area. Interesting to know. I didn’t stay out too late as I was still tired (even after my ridiculously long sleep). I figured I’ve got plenty of time to explore the scene, maybe after I’ve made some friends. I had another really long sleep. Didn’t do much the Sunday, I think that’s when the cold struck me. Here’s where things go downhill for me.

I had an appointment Monday morning at the bank, so I got up and managed to find the place on time. It was for 11:00AM so I didn’t have to get up super early. But I didn’t exactly know my way around or anything. I have a full on cold at this point, I’m on dayquill and probably advil, don’t remember now. Here’s the problem when working for a company in France and doing all these things in France. Everything is in French, turns out I suck at French. I thought I was good at it, sure I can speak, I’ve even fooled some people into thinking I’m a francophone, but when it comes to paperwork, forget it. Trying to understand legal documents and banking documents here is just killing me. Anyway, in the end I got out with my bank account and a 3000e credit line (this was all set up by the company). I also sent the necessary information to the real estate agent so she could get cracking on the paperwork for that.

At this point I went to get some food. I found my self in the area called “Neuilly Sur Seine”… Have fun pronouncing that one ☺ … it’s a nice area though. I found a general restaurant there and had some lunch. Afterwards I figured I’ll head back to the hotel, but looking at the map I saw the Eiffel Tower was on the way so I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t actually go up it but it was still pretty cool to see up close. I’ll go back there soon enough and actually go up. So at this point the pills were totally wearing off and my head was going to explode. Back to the hotel…
I didn’t do much else that day, felt pretty sick. Next day I was up at a reasonable time, something like 9 or 10. I figured I’ll call this real estate agent and see what’s happening with the apartment. I wanted to get out of this hotel and move into my own place. I call her, she says she’s waiting to hear back from the property agent. So there’s my agent, the property agent, and the property manager. We’ll come back to this in a bit.

So here’s where I get a bit annoyed. I’m violently ill at this point, I get a call on this phone that was provided to me. I answer it, it’s xxx from one point, I said hi and started talking to this person. It was someone I met on Thursday who seemed to be surprised I wasn’t sure exactly who he was, I only met like 15 people and hadn’t slept for 40 hours or so. But anyway this guy asks me why I wasn’t there the day before. Something about I said I’d be ready to start on Monday… He kind of caught me off guard here, I’m thinking to myself “who the hell is this guy… I never said anything about being ready to start on Monday”. I was mainly dealing with a woman and I had spoken to her on the Friday and said I found a place, I’m going to the bank Monday to deal with that stuff, there was no mention of me coming in on Monday. So anyway… I explain to this jackass on the phone that I’m trying to secure a place to live here, otherwise onePoint will have to keep paying for a hotel room. He insists I come into onePoint. I felt like shit that day, but I figure why not, I’ll go over there and see what they want. When I accepted the job I was told I have the first week to take care of things so I probably should have been more firm about this. I get there around lunch time, had a hell of time finding the place. I walked a distance that looked short on the map but was actually quite long. I finally arrive. Everyone was in the middle of having lunch so I joined them. Afterwords they say they have a high priority project they need my help on. I’m thinking to myself, ok as long as I’m getting paid for this. Which I am, so that’s not a problem, but I pretty much started working at this point. So they got me a workstation and all that. Got all kinds of things set up for me… they do a much better job at this than my former employer (PSL). So eventually I’m done and go home. I still have this really bad cold so I didn’t want to do anything, back to the hotel. I had asked my co-workers what time they normally start work, one of them says 7AM, I said I quit, but he was joking… so was I ☺ … in reality more like 9 – 10. Seems reasonable. So next morning, I really didn’t feel well since I woke up early and had the cold. It was one of those colds where your head is congested as well as your nose, your ears are blocked, sore throat… a really bad one. But how can I tell my employer I’m sick on the first week. So I forced myself to get up and go. Now I’m no expert on the transportation system here, but I thought I found a faster way to get there. Took a bit longer. The other thing is when you get out of a metro station for the first time, you have like 6 possible directions to go, it’s a bit confusing. I got a bit sidetracked, I won’t say lost since I found my way, but it was not the quickest route. So yeah I was a bit late, around 10:20 or so. Guess who’s the first person I see, that jackass I spoke to on the phone the day before. Guy starts telling me, oh you’re late, it’s max 9:30 here, giving shit and all… I felt like smacking this guy, lucky for him we work together otherwise I would have knocked him out, seriously. I’ve been in this city for what, 5 days, it’s my second time coming to this place. Not to mention I have soooo much work to do, I ended up surfing the Internet all day because the guy who was supposed to give me stuff to do was too busy with his own work. So yeah, I don’t like this guy… he’s sort of my manager, but not really, I don’t really have a manager since I’m a consultant, I’m supposed to be working for a client… it’s a long story but one point themselves are working directly on this project, which normally doesn’t happen. I’ve heard the expression first impressions make a difference, damn straight, I now have no respect for this guy at all. He’s actually been fine since then, truth is he’s probably an alright guy, but he just pissed me off and for the rest of time I have no desire to work with him. I’m pretty friendly with everyone at work except for him. I’m only talking to him for strictly business related things, otherwise, he can go jump off a cliff for all I care.

It’s now been about a week since I wrote up to this point, this always happens, I start off with great detail but then get lazy because it’s just too much to write, I also doubt anyone’s actually made it this far. So I’m going to fast forward a bit. That first week was shitty. I didn’t want to be working, I wanted to be sleeping because I was really sick.

So all week I’m calling this real estate agent for an update and all I get is, oh yeah I’m waiting for the other agent, which then became waiting on the building management, which eventually became, sorry you can’t have the place. I basically wasted a whole week where I could have been looking for other places. Actually I was anyway, but on my own since she kept saying no let’s wait on this one. Later Friday she calls and asks me if I want to see something Monday morning, I said not really since I’m already looking at other things. She says it’s great, 25 square meters, well what the fuck is that? Even smaller? She says it’s really nice and modern. I figured why not, I’ll go check it out, gives me an excuse to come late to work. So anyway, over the weekend I didn’t do much as I was sick. But I ended up talking to my father’s cousin and turns out that apartment was still available. I went to go look at it and it was a done deal. I left a message for the agent saying screw the Monday appointment and basically “I don’t need your service anymore”. Monday morning I get an angry call from the agent, this was almost laughable to me. She’s complaining “why did I cancel the appointment”, then started rambling on about what she’s supposed to tell the person over there, why I didn’t show up, then some other stuff, honestly I don’t know, I just kind of put the phone down for a minute and let her get it out. Truth is I really didn’t care as I was not so impressed with her services anyway. I kind of wanted to give her shit about why she wasted a week on that other one and didn’t even think maybe we should look for a contingency, but to come up with an effective sentence in French, well my French skills aren’t quite there yet. So anyway, she’s out of the picture. But I moved into the new place that night. So here I am.

I’ll have to continue this later, but basically first week I’ve just been getting things set up here. Not too much effort since it’s already furnished. Had my parents come visit already, I wasn’t expecting that but was nice to see them, even though I was only gone for 2 weeks. I put up some pictures. I promise future stories will be more interesting and less “rant” like. Although I kind of like the rants.

The story between world travel and France

February 25, 2008

This was originally a note I wrote on Facebook dated December 6, 2007:

Hello everyone,

This is the long overdue story of my life. I was going to just write about France but so many people ask my why I came here so here’s a bit of a background. I was going to talk about France too, but it turned out to be really long, so don’t worry, France stories are coming, but that will be a different note.

Some of the following is a bit of rant towards my former employer which doesn’t necessarily have a whole lot to do with the story, but I felt like talking about it, you may find it comical, or you may just think I’m nuts.

So after returning to Montreal for a few months figuring out what I want to do, I’ve somehow ended up working in France. How did it happen? Here’s the story…

After traveling around the world for 6 months the thought of sitting in front of a computer made me sick. I wanted to continue traveling, but of course this was not possible. I had to move on with life, so I figured why not work abroad, then I can at least see some other countries.

At first I had a potential position in Hong Kong which would have been cool, but it fell through in the end. So it turns out if you have some “IT” skills it’s really easy to get a job these days. I went on and created a profile. My phone was ringing like crazy. Problem was none of the recruiters bother to read your profile. I specified all kinds of countries around Europe, also Australia + New Zealand, even west Canada like Calgary or Vancouver. But probably 90% of the calls were Montreal based companies. France wasn’t even an idea, it was just one of many European countries but I got a call from this company (not the one I’m working for). They interviewed me and liked me but it didn’t work out. They hire consultants but then I would still have to sell myself to one of their clients. This process was slow and I didn’t feel like waiting.

Then came PSL Consulting, a Montreal company. Another case of the recruiter not actually reading the details of my profile. So the recruiter says this company, in Montreal, needs Java developers ASAP and they’re looking for a 3 month contract. Here’s a rough transcript of that conversation:

Recruiter: “can you go for an interview tomorrow”

I’m thinking to myself I don’t really want this job but it is only 3 months and I had been sitting on my ass for around 6 weeks at this point.

Me: “Umm… I guess…”

Recruiter: “It’s a really great company, they’ve been in business for over 30 years and are very successful”

Me: “Oh really, well I’d prefer to work for a successful company but I’m really looking for some kind of overseas work, but since it’s only 3 months I’ll check it out.”

Recruiter: “Ok, please see xxx xxx tomorrow at 2:30PM”

Me: “I’ll be there.”

Fast forward until 2:30PM the next day at the interview. So I don’t know how this happened, I was probably the most relaxed job candidate the guy has ever seen. I didn’t even want the job so there was really no pressure. I wasn’t sure why I was even at the interview yet somehow I ended up working there.

Manager: “Hi, nice to meet you ” … blah blah blah … “so we’re in a bit of crunch here and we’re looking for some Java developers”

Me: “Great, I have lots of experience with Java”

Manager: “Can you tell me about some of your previous work experience”

Me: <technical crap here>

Manager: “Wow, I think we can really use someone like you, can you start on Monday?”

So I’m thinking to myself, wow, that was easy, now this is a very abridged version, but I took the job.

Me: “Well I’d kind of like to think this over a bit, you think I can get back to you tomorrow”

Manager: “Sure but we could really use you, please get back to me as soon as possible”

So this guy was almost begging me to take the job. I should have seen this as a sign of a problem, but at the same time I was thinking my bank account was running low and the job did pay pretty well.

I won’t go into the incredible details of why I hated this job so much, but “hate” is the only word that describes it. By the end of it I felt very lied to about what my job was supposed to be. The way they run their “IT” department is just ridiculous. I don’t even blame that manager who hired me, he actually tried to improve on a lot of what I considered to be problems, but unfortunately the management above him have their heads up their asses.

So just a few bad signs which I kind of overlooked.

– Eagerness of the company to hire me
– Within the first week I find out that quite a few developers have left recently. In fact I even met one of them who happened to join the team for lunch one day and said “… I just had enough of PSL … ” and I could really sense that fed up feeling in the way it was said. But I thought, it can’t be that bad.
– Another discovery that week, most of the development team was new, no one had been there more than a year except for one guy who’d been there forever.

Had I known things like this beforehand I probably wouldn’t have taken the job.

So all I’m saying is do your research before accepting a job. Ask a lot of questions during the interview. Anyone watch Curb Your Enthusiasm? One of my favorite lines this seasons was when Leon is going for a job interview and Larry tells him to flip it, meaning to answer a few questions but then flip it and start asking the questions yourself, then Leon goes “yeah, yeah, topsy turvey that mother fucker”. If you haven’t seen the show it’s probably not funny to you, but I was on the floor when he said it. But it’s good advice. I should have asked things like:

– How long has this team been around? (not long)
– Do you follow any industry standards? (they don’t)
– How is this team regarded by the rest of the company? (shit, bottom of the barrel, useless, expendable… I think you get the point)
– What kind of system will I be working on? (a shitty one)

and that’s just scratching the surface. As much as I enjoy talking shit about this company, it’s not really the purpose of this note.

So one day at PSL I got a call on my cell from a company call s-one Canada. It was a voice message actually, it was in French but in English it would have sounded like “Hi Matt, I’m calling from s-one Canada, I found your CV on monster and wanted to know if you’d be interested in working in Paris, France, please call me back at 514….”. I was ecstatic, finally someone actually read my profile and saw, oh look, he wants to work anywhere but Montreal, and we have jobs in France, which is not Montreal. WAKE UP RECRUITERS!

I think at this point I was doing nothing at PSL… nothing important anyway. So I went outside to call her back. We had a nice chat and set up an interview, it was funny because when I asked where her office was she said 1250 Rene Levesque, I paused for a second, oh that makes it really easy, I work in 1250 Rene Levesque. At the time PSL was in that building although they moved about a month before I left. So after that interview and a technical phone interview they made me an offer. Their offer was similar to the other company, meaning I would go work for their clients but they were willing to fly me out to Paris before actually finding me a client.

I forget exactly when but the president of company was in Montreal at some point after I accepted the offer but was still working at PSL. He had organized a 5 @ 7 (happy hour for those non quebecers reading this). So I met him as well as many others from the company and a lot of them, including the president already knew who I was… wow, I like this company, you think the president of PSL even knew my name … ok enough talking shit about PSL, I’m bitter, end of story. So yeah, turns out the guy is jewish and so are his close associates there, this is a good thing 🙂

So now I’ve accepted the position in France. At this point I had about a month and a half to prepare myself for this trip. I really didn’t prepare much. Time just kind of passed, I spent day after day being miserable at PSL. I had finished that 3 month contract 2 weeks before it was actually time to go. So at this point things start to feel more real. Not much involved in packing. Mostly just clothes, and I didn’t pack until 2 days before (as usual). November 21 I was on the plane. The Paris adventure begins… part 2 coming soon.


February 23, 2008

So here’s my blog. This is my second one now. I originally resisted getting onto the blog wagon… but when I started traveling it was just easier than sending emails to everyone I know.

Now I’m not only traveling but living in another country. I’ve been writing some stuff on Facebook, but I felt that an actual blog would be more accessible to those who still don’t know what Facebook is (surprising but true).

On top of my usual rants about life I’ve been reading a lot of technology related blogs and feel I should contribute to this. So I’m going to make a technology category which will nothing to do with traveling. So if you’re not in “IT” you’ll probably find those boring. I put “IT” in quotes as I’m not particularly fond of the acronym. I have yet to write a rant about that one, I just haven’t got around to it.

Enjoy! Comments welcome 🙂