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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. 


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mardi


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

For those of you reading for tales of experiences through France and touristy things, you may prefer to skip this post.

Here's a photo of me in front of the Basilica in Lyon to hold y'all over.

Class Time

Today we started school. Yes, school, in France. We traveled to the EMLYON School of business, a prestigious MBA school in Lyon. Our lecture (complete with delicious pastries) discussed European Business Systems and Their Diversity.

The part of the lecture that resonated most with me regarded religion’s effect on the history of France and its personality per se. For example, in countries where Protestantism is predominant, capitalist ideas reign. However in France there has been a strict separation between church and state since 1906. This lack of religion and total secularism leads them to a less capitalist point of view. Still, public holidays generally revolve around Christian Holidays. Overall in the EU, there is an anti-Muslim sentiment. Muslims are considered the European enemy, which is why Turkey still has yet to become a member of the EU.

Religion is considered one of the most diversifying factors among the countries in the EU. In fact, it is probably the most obvious and significant cultural issue that still holds EU countries apart. Language is also heavily influential in reducing diversity—most Europeans have a strong cultural identity that roots in their language. The Pan-European identity comes next.

Mobility and technology have brought the countries of the EU together since they have the necessary proximity. However, each of these countries still hold tightly onto their own culture. The resonating conclusion of the lecture offered a wavering statement: by bringing these countries together into the European Union, the identity of European countries is at stake.

This is an interesting sentiment to which some Americans may find difficult to relate. As a Texan however, I surely feel more tightly connected with my state than my country. By no means am I anti-American. Still, as I have met people from EMLYON or around Lyon and they ask me where I hail from, I always say Texas. It doesn’t even cross my mind to say “America” first. It is even more interesting that all of the people that I’ve talked to immediately recognize Texas and do not even question where it is. Texas has such a rich history, despite its youth relative to Europe. My culture as a Texan is something I hold very close to my heart; it is a part of me and is one the biggest factors in who I have become. I believe whole-heartedly that this is similar to how European countries feel in regards to their membership in the EU. The French will identify as French first and then as Europeans; just so, true Texans will always identify as Texans and then as Americans.

  
Visit to Aldes Groupe

In the afternoon, my group went to visit the Aldes Groupe manufacturing site. The company is in the market for products such as fire dampers, ductwork, motors, exhaust grilles, heat pumps, central vacuums, and casing fan units. They work especially in the indoor air quality market and have invented “Temperation,” which makes a room temperate without using air conditioning. The system involves ventilation, heating, cooling, and now hot water supply.

Throughout the factory, the lean system was obvious. We even came across a rack made for Kanban cards! The flow seemed to be seamless, however the inventory of parts and materials seemed rather large. The kinds of products made at the factory do not have a high inventory turnover, but the factory still works just-in-time.

Perhaps the coolest part of the line was the machine that the company invested in 2 years ago. The machine bends and curve large steel sheets in order to make the casings for the systems that they manufacture. It was so quick and seamless in its working; compared to the worker bending steel manually it was probably 4 times as fast. When asked about the workers’ reactions to the machine’s implementation, the plant manager expressed that while some workers were hesitant to accept it, many welcomed it and the challenge it imposed initially and the responsibility it offered.

Personally, my favorite part of the visit was watching how the manager interacted with his staff. He was infinitely friendly and when crossing paths with any of them he unfailingly said “Bonjour!” to each employee. If close enough, he even shook their hand. Anyone who questioned the friendliness of the French was mistaken; this was only one example of the generally friendly demeanor of the French people I have encountered on my visit.

Lundi



Monday, May 20, 2013

I thought I would be alright combating my jet lag and getting myself up in time for a 10 am tour on Monday. However, I was so backwards on time that I mistakenly set my alarm for 8 PM rather than 8 AM. When I woke at 10:35 AM to find my group already on the tour of Old Lyon on a route I couldn't hope to follow, I started to panic. Sure that I’d be in trouble, I frantically started to get ready. After a few minutes of overreacting, I decided to look into tours of Old Lyon that I could perhaps take on my own, since sitting around the hotel waiting for my chaperons would be pointless.

I found an audio-guided tour through the city online, so I headed to the Office of Tourism to get the mp3 player and map. The tour included Old Lyon and even other parts of the city, but unfortunately I would only have time for Old Lyon.

Catedral Saint Jean Baptiste de Lyon

I have little to no knowledge of how to speak French, so the map I had in hand was a challenge. Still, I found my way across the bridge and to the Cathédrale Saint Jean Baptiste de Lyon. This is what I came to France for—monumental Cathedrals with relics and detailing that take your breath away and humble you to your knees. Unfortunately it was closed, however I plan to visit if I have time on Thursday to see the inside.

The streets of Old Lyon

I made my way through the city, walking along the cobblestones passing historic doors and the former mansions of rich families. At least three times, I took a wrong turn. But each time I came across a more stunning view or something I wouldn't have seen otherwise. The whole time I was overwhelmed with the aged buildings, their height and how they towered over narrow cobblestone streets that seemed abandoned by cars until a small Renault came buzzing by towards the plaza.

The first half of the day was luckily changed from catastrophic to fantastic. I found a McDonald’s for a quick lunch (plus I just wanted to try real French French fries!). At last I was reunited with my classmates and we boarded a bus to the Beaujolais.

In my ignorance of European wines, I had originally thought that “Beaujolais” was a fancy restaurant in the city. How wrong I was. I had looked it up to know well enough that it was a wine region in central France just north of Lyon. Journeying there left me speechless. I have always wanted to visit the wine country of Italy, but I must say I was well enough floored by French wine country.

Beaujolais

The views were breathtaking, and the photographs don’t do them proper justice. We were lucky enough to arrive at a winery run by a family that has been producing in the Beaujolais for 8 generations or more, passing the proprietorship from mother to daughter. The family and the workers of the wine were beyond welcoming. At last, everyone seemed to feel more at home—welcomed and comfortable, with relaxed inhibitions and a sense of familiarity (we hadn’t had THAT much wine yet!).

We were offered aperitifs of wine from the home vineyard and pâté spread over fresh baguettes. We were shown around the working areas of the vineyard and allowed to play games. As it was a holiday, we were lucky enough to be invited to take our meal in the main room of the vineyard’s working building, complete with enormous barrels of fermenting wine and huge barn doors made of solid wood.

Most of us were confused that our appetizer was not the dinner itself, because it was so pleasing and delicious. We began with cous cous, tomatoes fresh off the vine, bread, and salad with hard boiled eggs. Shocked to hear we would be served chicken with legumes and pasta, we downed some of the table wine to try to settle our stomachs for the entrée. The chicken pasta was indeed delicious, and the meal was made even more phenomenal when the proprietor offered the winery’s 2003 red with our dessert. The gift marked the uniqueness and special-ness of the occasion, because 2003 was the year of the heat wave in which the dwindling grape crop had to be picked early to avoid shriveling to nothing. It was some of the best wine—perhaps it was because the entire event had been so extravagant, but I do know there was something special about it. We drank and clapped and chattered while devouring a myriad of aged cheeses and crème brûlée. Everyone felt gluttonous and perhaps a bit rosy-cheeked after the feast. It reminded me of a family celebration.



Barrels of Beaujolais wine!

The decade-old wine we had as a special treat!

Reflecting on the experience on the bus ride home, classmates and I expressed how welcomed and honored we felt by the owners and employees of the small business. Rather than feeling like a tour of a business, it had been as if we’d known them for years! A friend and I agreed that there is something inherently spiritual about wine to its growers and those he elects to share his or her pride with. It is a way of life and sustenance, a way of offering welcome and friendship, and a way of sharing some of the most basic feelings of humanity. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Take Off.


Fair warning: My next several posts are going to revolve around my trip to Lyon and Paris, France with my classmates from the UT Dallas Naveen Jindal School of Management Cohort MBA Class of 2013. We are required to blog about our trip and especially take time to reflect not only on what we do, but also on how it compares to business and culture within the US. This is my first trip to Europe, so let's hope it's a grand adventure!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

To say the least, I am on an adventure. Today marked my first arrival in a foreign country. The whole thing has been immensely stressful thus far not least because I have no idea what I am doing, but my biggest fear was that I would miss a flight to my next stop. Of course I chose a somewhat roundabout way to get to Lyon, France, but I had to do what was cheapest!



I flew out of DFW* to Chicago-O’Haire, with only twenty minutes to spare between the seat belt light going off and the boarding calls for my flight from Chicago-O’Haire to Madrid. Sweating slightly and exhausted already, I boarded my Iberia flight. Let me tell you—it was no picnic. That’s no insult toward the Iberia crew, they were excellent. But the full flight was crowded and hot, and I didn’t sleep a wink. Halfway through it I was almost wishing I had never left the ground (that was probably mostly due to nausea).

Still, I made it to Madrid. They may have the most confusing airport I’ve ever been to (even worse than Denver, and that’s saying something). I think I walked in 4 circles and did maybe 4 laps down and back in the terminals. I speak enough Spanish, and I still felt like I was on a wild goose chase to get from customs to security to the terminal for my next flight, which I felt was poorly marked even though it was just a letter and a number. Still, I found it and boarded my first flight that required walking out of the boarding tunnel and across the flight deck to the plane itself. The plane from Madrid to Lyon was small and unmarked, but was perhaps the most comfortable of the three considering it was short and not crowded with the friendliest flight attendant. At this point, I could have been too sleepy to care.

Upon arriving in Lyon, my first objective was to get my bag and some Euros. I have to applaud American Airlines and Iberia here—I was really shocked they got my bags from Dallas to Lyon with no errors, what with the short transfer times and flight delays. Having heard such negative things about AA and its operations, I was expecting that surely their operations would lose my baggage. I was pleasantly surprised that it was conveyer-ing toward me when I reached Lyon.

Getting Euros was more simple than I had imagined, then I grabbed a taxi and showed him the address to our hotel. Here I learned my first lesson in European tipping. According to my peers, I may have been overcharged for the taxi I took. Gratuity had probably already been added but I tipped a more than fair amount anyway and got at least 5 “Thank you!”’s from my driver. Oh well, as long as I was at my final destination I didn’t care.

Lunch in Lyon. Our first glass of wine in France--at an Italian Pizza Place. The irony!

Thankfully, most of all my peers had all just arrived as well. We met some of the EMYLYON students for a happy hour and some much needed wine, then spent the remainder of the evening in an English pub. Exhausted, I went to bed around 11pm France time. I found Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on TV, figured out how to play it in English, and put on my comfy sweater before curling up. Finally, I was able to relax, even if just for a little while….

One of my first photos of Lyon's architecture and statues. 

Happy Hour with classmates

Relaxing after our long trips in!


*I feel that DFW needs to adopt moving walkways. IAH and Madrid both have them, as well as many other airports. They’re very useful and at the very least offer the illusion that I’m moving faster…. Perhaps I’m just whining.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The REST of the Story: Petitioning Against a Wal*Mart at Coit and Arapaho

North Dallas Neighbors Fighting New Wal-Mart Supercenter « CBS Dallas / Fort Worth



Above you will find a link to the article and video that I was interviewed by CBS 11 DFW for regarding the plan to install a new Wal*Mart in my neighborhood.

Monday afternoon I was walking my dog, Jade, down Roundrock Street toward Coit Road. This is the last leg of the normal route that I take with Jade. At the intersection of Coit and Roundrock, there is a Neighborhood Wal*Mart in the shopping center. While this Neighborhood Wal*Mart is not the typical blue, overlarge, stand-alone Supercenter that are most Wal*Marts in the area, it is a convenient and busy store that serves the adjacent neighborhood. Many times, I've walked to this store and carried a bag of dog food or small collection of groceries home. I use this location as my pharmacy, complete with drive-through. This location carries the products consumers use on a regular basis, but omits those that may be attributed to a special trip. For example, I can do my grocery shopping here, pick up toiletries, and get the latest movie releases. There is even a RedBox movie rental machine in front and a CoinStar machine, as would be at a Wal*Mart Supercenter. If I need auto parts, craft supplies, home goods, or a wider selection of non-grocery products, I can venture 7-10 minutes down Coit or to nearby Belt Line and Montfort to a Wal*Mart Supercenter. I have never felt inconvenienced or that there is a lack of Wal*Mart in my life.

On this particular walk, I was stopped by Robbie Owens, a reporter for CBS 11 DFW, and her cameraman. She asked me if I had an opinion on the new Wal*Mart. My first thought: of course I do have an opinion on Wal*Mart.... but to be frankly honest I had no idea what she was talking about. I gave her a puzzled look and she told me about Wal*Mart's new plan to occupy an already-constructed shopping center at the intersection of Coit and Arapaho. OH BOY do I have an opinion!

As soon as I heard this, I consented to an interview. In the video, it's quite obvious that I consider implementing a Wal*Mart in such a location "unnecessary." As I've already explained, there is a suitable Neighborhood Wal*Mart just across the street (literally a stone's throw from the proposed new location) and there are two Wal*Mart Supercenters within a reasonable distance. What I did not have time to explain are the deeper reasons why a Wal*Mart is unnecessary at this location.

1. Another complication with this location is its proximity to school zones. There are at least 4 school zones I can think of off the top of my head that already create and suffer from morning and afternoon traffic on or near Arapaho and Coit. The very LAST thing needed here is a Wal*Mart with customers rushing in and out, creating more traffic, and putting youth in danger on their ways to and from school. Because the neighborhoods are so close by, a very many of these students are pedestrians. Kids are not like typical law-abiding pedestrians found downtown--they don't always use crosswalks, they ride skateboards across the street, and they walk and run down alleyways and in areas where visibility is already hindered. Traffic created from a Wal*Mart here would endanger these students even more. Can you picture the headline: "Child Pedestrian Injured by Wal*Mart Semi Truck While Walking to School." When I think about it, the other two busy Wal*Mart Supercenter locations I visit are not really anywhere near a school zone.
(Schools near Coit and Arapaho intersection)

While endangering students is my primary concern regarding traffic, I'm not a huge fan of the idea of increasing traffic anyway. Coit is already a busy road and rush hour traffic gets congested easily enough anyway. Not only that, but say I did want to get to that Wal*Mart--the location would not exactly be easy to navigate to through traffic anyway!

2. As mentioned in the report, this Wal*Mart will only be about 92,000 square feet. According to their 2010 annual report, Wal*Mart Supercenter stores are typically 98,000-210,000 square feet. If they want a Supercenter here, they don't have a big enough space. Putting a Discount Store here that does not include a grocery department seems illogical. I only wish the city could do something about it--but since the space is less than 100,000 square feet, they are rendered powerless to stop it.

3. I'm just going to go ahead and call Wal*Mart out on their stupidity. Whoever is in the growth and ventures division might want to pump the breaks. Wal*Mart is mimicking Starbucks by putting new locations everywhere you turn. Though part of it was the economic downturn, Starbucks is STILL having to reduce the number of stores they operate because of cannibalization. Rather than domestic growth, Starbucks has turned to growth in emerging and new markets.

What does Wal*Mart think they are doing putting a location here? This is not really an area of growth. The neighborhoods are older and well established and there really are not any new developments going up around the area that would not already be closer to a different Wal*Mart.

A store here would simply cannibalize the existing business they have at the Wal*Mart Supercenters they have on Coit near PGBT and at Belt Line and Montfort, and would probably kill the Neighborhood Wal*Mart at Roundrock. Any argument they give for job creation at a new location gets stomped here--closing the Neighborhood Wal*Mart due to cannibalized business down the street will eliminate any jobs created at a new Wal*Mart. I truly believe Wal*Mart is over-extending themselves here, and would do better to focus on newly developed areas and increasing their focus on the global market if growth is really their organizational goal.

4. By the same token, NOT having a Wal*Mart here would not likely hurt the company. As I said, I think they would be worse off investing here rather than in a new area where new neighborhoods are being developed. Robbie asked me if I thought boycotting the new location here would even hurt Wal*Mart. Is Wal*Mart still operating? DUH--so absolutely not, any boycott would be a mere scratch or tiny bruise on the company. Clearly, I don't see what the company has to gain here by inserting a new store. They could do a lot for their local reputation, however, if they shift their focus toward new developments and heed the wishes of this established neighborhood that already has their "Wal*Mart needs" fulfilled.

5. Would I boycott that location? Probably. For a while. Just like I boycotted Wal*Mart at their refusal to call Holidays (HOLY DAYS) like Christmas and Easter by their true names in the interest of being "politically correct," I could again boycott the company and take my business elsewhere. But the company is not stupid. Sam Walton's original idea of a price-leadership model and the creation of the supply-chain to implement it is STILL brilliance and they are STILL the market leader. No amount of boycotting is going to make this new location go away UNLESS it is nipped in the bud. Unless it is stopped before it is opened, I don't really see us stopping them. Unfortunate? Somewhat, but welcome to Big American Business.

I could probably come up with more reasons as to why a Wal*Mart here is NOT a good idea, but I think I've made my point. I do not see any reason why Wal*Mart should open a store at Coit and Arapaho. It does not seem profitable for them as a company, and it has already frustrated local residents of the surrounding neighborhoods.

To sign the petition against the building of a Wal*Mart at Coit and Arapaho, go to Change.org or follow this link:

http://www.change.org/petitions/no-to-a-walmart-at-arapaho-coit-in-dallas-if-walmart-builds-we-will-boycott-this-store

I encourage all my friends to sign--even those who do not live anywhere near here. I can say that my Fulshear family and friends are experiencing the same dilemma.... Your signature may only be a drop in the bucket, but a lot of drops become very heavy. Thank you!