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Monday, June 10, 2013

Samedi

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Freedom!!! Finally we had the day to ourselves: no school, no company visits, no meetings. My friends and I put on our touring shoes and wielded our Metro maps to take the streets of Paris by storm. 

Several of my classmates and I chose to join a group to visit an art museum, Musee d' Orsay, across from the Louvre. At that point I had already decided that the Louvre, as much as I would love to visit it, would not be an option because I would prefer to dedicate at least one whole day to really experiencing the magnitude of it and its pieces. Anyway, I was still surprisingly impressed by the works at the Orsay. The museum houses (at least temporarily) Van Gogh's Self Portrait and several others of his paintings. The sculptures, especially the many by Rodin, and architecture pieces had me floored--the ornate attention to detail is unrivaled by any art or building of modern culture. My favorite exhibit was the impressionist section. Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cezanne, Sisley... I wanted to stay and state forever, imagining myself in scenes like a quiet bridge, a hill in a bright park, or a dimly lit dance classroom. I bought the visitor's guide to the museum just so I could return to some of the pieces I really favored. I really admire Impressionism simply for its dedication to imagination and personal vision of the artist based on real objects, rather than a realist rendition of the same things. To me, the memory and feeling you have about a place is much more resonating and important than a snapshot of it. 

From the front of the Orsay. 

The large clock at the front of the Orsay Museum. The museum once was a train station. 

In the afternoon, some of us decided I go to the north side of the city in Montmartre to shop and see the red windmill from Moulin Rouge. It started raining around 2 or 3, so a friend and I took shelter in a small cafe and had a three course lunch (yes, lunch) with the most charming waiter. It was easily my favorite meal out in France. The food seemed more authentic than anything I'd had yet (excluding dinner at the Beaujolais winery) and the server was very engaging. He asked us back for dinner in broken English; I wish we could have, because it was so cute! I tried real French onion soup, had a chicken dish in a delicious creamy lemon butter sauce, and chocolate mousse for dessert. 

The rest of our time in Monmartre my friend and I decided to visit the Sacre Coeur Basilica that is not only gorgeous, but offers a fantastic hill-top view of Paris. Can you tell I have an affinity for Catholic places of worship? The churches in France were top of my list of places to see. I was lucky to see so many. Another church at the bottom of the hill in Monmartre had an atypical stained glass window picturing a skeleton or reaper of sorts. 

View from Sacre Coeur of Paris. 

View from Sacre Coeur of Paris. 

View from Sacre Coeur of Paris. 

Inside the Sacre Coeur.

Inside Sacre Coeur. Here you can see the large organ and stained glass with skeleton. 

It's somewhat paradoxical that after visiting two churches we decided to visit a burlesque club. However, we only stood outside and took photos of Moulin Rouge for the sake of its infamy. 

The infamous Moulin Rouge. 

In the evening we took a short break at the hotel and gathered a group to go see the Eiffel Tower. We stopped for a few bottles of cheap French wine and boarded the Metro to the Tower. We arrived just in time to watch it sparkle. We were even charmed by a group of singers from a school in The Netherlands. I only wish my fiancée had been there. As cheesy as it may seem, it would have been incredibly romantic! 

The Eiffel Tower in Spring, among the blossoming trees.  

Daylight. 

Our lovely group of romantics. 

Candace being charmed by the singers from The Netherlands. 

All lit up!

Yours truly!

Our escorts... I mean boys. :)

One last glance.

The rest of the night was quiet. I had a late dinner (and some more wine) and made sure I had all my things together so I could take the Metro to the airport directly after Mass at Notre Dame in the morning. The full day left me feeling the old cliché, "Ah, France!" 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Vendredi

Friday, May 24 2013

Friday morning began with our first ride on the Metro! We then had to walk a little ways to get to the UNESCO building in Paris. On our way, we came across a great view of the Eiffel Tower. 


Yeah, we totally look like tourists. 

But the view was pretty legit. 

If you don't know anything about UNESCO, essentially it's like the UNICEF of the United Nations. UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. They work hard to promote peace across all continents and improve the world by implementing accessible education and preserving cultural places across the world. 

Unfortunately, during the first half of our visit I was battling a stomach bug and was busy searching for the nearest restroom... I wasn't able to pay as much attention to the introduction as I would have liked, but I did gather that the organization uses educational tools, peace promoting tools, technology, and many other means to bring the world closer to peace and betterment. 

The information hall at UNESCO in Paris demonstrating the many ways the organization works. 


Some of the sculpting work on UNESCO grounds in Paris. 

When we got to the lecture hall, we were introduced to several people who are currently working with UNESCO. Perhaps the most resonating piece of information we learned during our lecture session was that the United States has discontinued funding to UNESCO in the past year under President Obama. We were shown  the following video from the Daily Show describing how ridiculous, selfish, unnecessary, and outright detrimental it is for the US to have cut off funding to UNESCO. 



I encourage all readers to watch the video. This is only part one, but you'll get the gist. Something like $2 Billion is being denied by the US to UNESCO, which is already in the process of promoting education in small African countries and the like. Without such funding that makes up a large part (if not a majority) of the spending by UNESCO, these activities may have to be discontinued. I understand that we have plenty of issues on the home front that we need to take care of, I do. But I can't see how cutting this sort of funding is the ethical way to combat the deficit. I feel that this is yet another example of Obama and his regime... er, government... cutting the wrong costs and spending on the wrong things versus finding better, more efficient, ethical, and sustainable ways of reducing the deficit and improving our dwindling economy (i.e. reducing welfare dole-outs... hello, "freedom" is not the same thing as "free stuff"...). Think about it. If you had been a wealthy person all your life but had suddenly come upon hard times, are you going to discontinue your yearly donation to the Salvation Army, United Way, or weekly contribution to your church's offering plate? Or are you more likely to cut down on your own personal luxuries, like giving your kids $100 for shopping whenever they ask for it or eating out at fancy restaurants 4 times a week? I can only hope most of my friends and family would do the latter, making their own personal sacrifices but continuing to give whenever possible. So the Christian in me becomes evident. 

Not to mention, the US retracting from activity does nothing to help the global economy. Getting out of the GLOBAL economic crisis is going to take GLOBAL effort. If the big players like Germany and the US step out of the ring, the gap between those with some measure of success and those dwindling on bankruptcy (like Spain and other European countries) is only going to become larger. I'm not saying the US doesn't need to look out for its own skin first, but by the same token it cannot afford to isolate itself.... 

In an effort to avoid becoming too much more political, I'm going to stop here on the discussion of America's discontinued involvement in UNESCO. Our visit was concluded with lunch, then we divided into groups for company visits or to be part of the "Street Team." 

I was part of the Street Team, meaning I and 3 other group members were to approach Paris natives to ask them questions about how similar or different their daily lives are to our American lives. My group's topic was technology. We chose to concentrate mainly on internet use and cell phone service. Interestingly enough, their use of technology services are very similar to ours. While their service providers are different, their usage tends to be very similar, even across different demographics. 

The rest of the evening was spent relaxing and getting ready for a day full of tourism to follow. A couple friends and I decided to visit Notre Dame in the evening. 

In front of Notre Dame. 

To all my Harry Potter fans, I found Rue Nicolas Flamel, who was actually a French apothecary/chemist. Duh, I had to take a picture. If you don't understand the connection, go read/watch Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's (Philosopher's) Stone. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Jeudi

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Last day of school! 




On the bus after our last class at EMLYON

Entrepreneurship in Europe

Our final lecture covered entrepreneurship in Europe. 


Per usual, the French claimed to have invented entrepreneurship. They say it then proceeded to explode in America. Okay, but what does it take to make a country entrepreneurial? This was the question the lecture revolved around. Some of the answers given by the class were a sense of hopelessness, desperation, failure, necessity as the mother of invention, and a lack of consistency and homogeneity in business. The EMLYON lecturer gave a different answer: essentially, to become entrepreneurial a European country needs the mindset, skill set, and tool set to navigate out of the current crisis. He believes that entrepreneurship should be the key vector to improve the EU's socioeconomic conditions, because entrepreneurs see opportunities where others see problems. 


This is quite the challenge in Europe however, because Europeans tend to be risk averse. Historically, European governments have leaned toward socialism in that there is an inherent dependency on others and the government for survival. How can this and the decrease in EU self-employment be reversed? The intuitive answer is to create incentives, provide funding and capital, and reduce regulation. However, our lecturer believes the solution is the opposite: make becoming an entrepreneur more difficult and relieve the pressure on the idea of entrepreneurship as a necessity. His solution involves more focus on improving the tax and fiscal systems within the EU so that it is a better environment for creating and sustaining businesses. However, this is a delicate balance. The government cannot afford to lose tax revenue but it also holds an important role in helping the economy revive itself. 


Finally, we were introduced to a gentlemen who had moved to France from America and has a habit of building businesses. Essentially, his advice was to work hard, be prepared for long hours, and take advantage of luck and opportunity when it finds you. While this advice seemed somewhat underwhelming to many of my entrepreneur classmates, I think I may understand why. This guest was from America originally. We, also being from America, seem to have an inherent and ingrained entrepreneurial spirit within us. After all, entrepreneurship is what the American Dream is all about! So perhaps this is the difference in the challenge facing the EU and that facing the US. We Americans are lucky; we have been taught all our lives that we can build ourselves and our families around a success that we can create for ourselves through hard work, sound ideas, and a little luck. This is something I pray we never forget, and something we should never sacrifice in exchange for dependency on volatile government. 


An Afternoon in Lyon


After class we spent a rainy afternoon in the streets of Lyon, trying to squeeze out as much culture and enjoyment as we could in our few remaining hours in the town. A classmate and I made our way up the hill to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. The church was awe-inspiring. Tiny tiles no bigger than your thumbnail covered the ceilings and walls to create colorful representations of the heavens and saints. 



Ornately carved doorway

Statue of an angel

The Virgin Mary and tiled Biblical illustrations

The Basilica altar


I was lucky to be able to take photos inside, since many churches do not allow for indoor photographs. After taking the tram back down the hill, we had to hustle to make our way back to the Lyon silk district to find a shop to buy true Lyonnaise silk. After picking through colorful scarves and ties of 100% French silk, we sprinted to the bus and made our way to the train station to make our way to Paris. 


Paris

Our first evening in Paris was fairly uneventful. Everyone was hungry and tired, so we had dinner in an Italian restaurant and turned in somewhat early. 



Waiting for dinner




Mercredi

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Today, we started with yet more school at EMLYON and then another corporate visit. 

Class Time

Today's lecture revolved around the topic that may have intrigued our class the most--the financial crisis within the European Union and what is being done to alleviate the situation. This crisis involves the same sort of problems the US has faced (property bubbles, banking crisis, collapse of the building sector, etc).

At the heart of the problem is the fact that in the EU, most decision-making is first based on political reasons rather than economic reasons. Perhaps the over-arching reason that the Euro has failed to unify and strengthen the EU economy is that the countries of the EU are fundamentally different to begin with. As mentioned in my Tuesday blog, these countries each have their own identity they place primary to their membership in the EU. 

Take for example Germany and France. The two countries have long been at odds; for many years even after the fall of the Berlin Wall, France's foreign policy's primary concern had been "How to deal with Germany." France only supported membership in the EU with Germany for political reasons: they intended to undermine Germany's economic strength and somewhat equalize it over the entire EU. (Ironically, this plan backfired for France, because the EU has only bolstered Germany's economic power in that it is the strongest of all the countries in the union.) Since Germany has the most economic power still, they carry a lot of weight with their membership and the fate of the EU seems to point in Germany's direction. 

Several solutions have been proposed to address the crisis facing the EU. However, our lecturer was quick to point out that there is NO good solution. The four proposed solutions involve:

1. Lower costs in the Periphery countries (Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and Italy--all of which are poorer, less developed, and with small amounts of capital). This would lower wages and higher unemployment would follow. Such a solution is not politically or socially tenable. This is the solution proposed by Germany because it involves little loss to them. 
2. High costs in the Core countries (Germany, France, Austria, The Netherlands, and Finland). However, with its economic power, would Germany accept high inflation? 
3. Transfers of capital from the Core countries to the Periphery countries by way of Eurobonds or other forms. This would without a doubt cause a recession among all of the countries given conditions. Without conditions, there is significant moral hazard and a difficulty in valuation without adjustment. 
4. Finally, the Euro could break up. Would the Peripherals leave? Would Germany leave? Would the markets attack France? Essentially this would be very costly, and free trade would be endangered. 

Sound confusing? That's the point. There is no simple solution and it seems that none of these solutions are optimal. Just as the US and the rest of the world are facing tough decisions regarding the economy and fiscal policy, the EU's is just as tricky if not more so. The EU is hanging in a delicate balance between the strength of a continent and the individuality and solitary strength of each country in the union. 



Visit to Bayer CropScience

When you think of Bayer, you probably think of Aspirin. However, the company works in many other industries many are surprised to hear. This wouldn't be so surprising after a look at the company's mission: "Science for a better life."  Their focus on life brings together the following: 

Leadership
Integrity
Flexibility
Efficiency

The company operates in three segments:

Agriculture--Crop Science
Healthcare--Healthcare (Largest segment)
High-Tech Materials--Materials Science (Smallest segment)

We were visiting the company's middle segment, the crop science segment. This segment makes fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides that they sell to dealers and occasionally directly to farmers. Mostly they send their production to order-filling sites. 

Unfortunately this company did not seem nearly as advanced in LEAN or Six Sigma as the previous company (Aldes) is. However, the manager assured us that projects to improve operations are in motion and should be in full effect within the next decade. I was honestly shocked to hear that a company as large as Baylor seemed to have neglect to create a more cost-effective and efficient system for all of their business segments. 

Night-Life

Now for the fun part! This evening would be our last in Lyon, so we took the chance to really visit with some of new EMLYON acquaintances and see what Lyon's night life had to offer.

We first visited an authentic Lyonnaise restaurant. Now you may think you've tried Boudin if you've ever been to Louisiana, but let me assure you I doubt it's the same. The Boudin we had (after liver pate of course) was sausage cooked in pig's blood. I promise it's WAY more appetizing than it sounds, plus it's gotta be high in iron!! It was served over apples along with entire baguettes. We also had regular sausage with lentils and beef cheek (yes, like cow's face) over boiled potatoes. Luckily, I'm not shy of any kind of food so I tried everything. All of it was delicious. We were all really full so we skipped dessert, but one of our new friend convinced the waitress that it was one of our party's birthday. While this was false, it really created a party with the entire restaurant. There was a table of 6 old Frenchmen sitting at the table next to ours. Every 20 minutes or so throughout dinner they had raised their wine glasses and broken out into various French songs. It created quite the atmosphere, and upon beginning the fake birthday celebrations it became quite a party. The gentlemen came to our table, filled our wine glasses and sang "Happy Birthday" in French at the top of their lungs. By the end of it we were all belly-laughing and passing around a bottle of liquor the waitress handed us to send us off each with a throat-burning shot. 




After petting the tabby cat hostess goodbye we stepped back out onto the cobblestones and made our way to the hotel to pick up some more friends on our way to a nightclub. It was so much fun--not much different than an American nightclub. What I found funny was that several of the girls that had climbed on the bar to dance were wearing what they must have thought was true Texas garbs, complete with pseudo-Cowboy boots and hats. I promise we were all totally responsible! It was a great way to go out with a bang in Lyon.